Au Naturel Essence

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Is your nail polish safe to use?


Nail polish for your fingers and toes is all the rage these days.  Non-traditional colours, like blue and black, are in vogue and everyone seems to have their nails done these days!

Is Nail Polish Safe?

Most nail polish contains five chemicals that are considered toxic.  When you apply the polish, you are putting them on your body and also breathing them in as you apply. When wet, your nails can become quite porous, so it definitely matters.  In fact, given the presence of these toxic chemicals, you’re not actually supposed to throw polishes with these ingredients in the garbage!

What’s so bad about these chemicals, anyway?

Dibutyl Phthalate

Dibutyl phthalate is a plasticiser that is used to prevent chips and cracks. It’s an oily liquid and does not evaporate readily into the atmosphere.  This chemical is also known as an endocrine disruptor.  It can interfere with the reproductive system and has also been linked to obesity.


Toluene is a solvent that makes the polish easy to apply. It is used as an industrial solvent for the manufacturing of paints, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and rubber.  Toluene is found in products such as gasoline, acrylic paints, rubber cement and airplane glue.

Toluene is toxic to the nervous system, impairs breathing, and causes nausea.  It can also cause developmental damage to the fetus.

Formaldehyde and Formaldehyde Resin

Formaldehyde is a well-known carcinogen.  It is found in some nail hardeners, but not always in the actual polish.  Formaldehyde resin is what is found in polish and it makes the polish resilient.  Even where formaldehyde is not found in your nail polish, it is most likely in your accompanying nail products.  Formaldehyde resin is considered to be an allergen.


Camphor can cause irritation to eyes, skin, and nose.  It can also bring on nausea, vomiting, and uncontrollable muscle contractions.

If you’re like me, you’ve used regular nail polish for years and not yet experienced any of the side effects outlined above.  On the other hand, why put your body through the stress of having to process toxic chemicals unnecessarily?  Fortunately, there are lots of alternatives to regular nail polish.  You can still have great nails in great colours while avoiding the chemicals.

3-Free and 5-Free Polish

3-Free is nail polish that does not use Dibutyl Phthalate, Toluene, and Formaldehyde.

5-Free is nail polish that does not use Dibutyl Phthalate, Toluene, Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde Resin, and Camphor.

A few 3-Free and 5-Free brands that you can trust are: Hard Candy, Zoya, Nubar, Scotch Naturals, American Apparel, Butter London, CND, Deborah Lippmann, Essie, Honeybee Gardens.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, by any means.  If nothing else, it will give you a starting point if you start shopping for a safer nail polish.

10 thoughts on “Is your nail polish safe to use?

  1. Great information! Thank you!

  2. Thanks for the list of 3-Free and 5-Free brand names 🙂

  3. Wow I didn’t know that. I knew nail polish could contain toxic ingredients but I didn’t know what they’re called and that there are so many. Great you added a list 3-Free and 5-Free nail polish brands! 😀

  4. Pingback: The Most Common Toxic Ingredients in Cosmetics « Au Naturel Essence

  5. Pingback: 3-free Nail Polish! « Au Naturel Essence

  6. Pingback: Zoya’s Glamourous Nail Trio – Free Giveaway « Au Naturel Essence

  7. Free of Toxic Trio isn’t enough for some brands. Snails (safe nails) is 6-free
    First WASHABLE (no acetone required to remove) nail polish made in France

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