Best Non-Toxic Nail Polish Guide

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Best Non-Toxic Nail Polish Guide

I start researching non-toxic products when they become relevant in my life. Truthfully, before I had children, I never once thought – oh, this nail polish smells terrible, maybe it’s off-gassing VOCs and has other toxic chemicals that I shouldn’t inhale or have near my body. I just, you know, thought that’s how nail polishes are supposed to smell and it’s the price I had to pay for wanting painted nails.

How things change after we have kids…

Anyway, I am very minimalist when it comes to makeup and the last time I got a manicure was before either of my kids were born. So let’s just say I was more than a little surprised when Max came home from school telling me he wanted to wear nail polish. But here we are and, after extensive research, it’s time for me to share what I’ve learned about non-toxic nail polish.

Serious health issues related to exposure to nail polish have come into sharp focus recently. Multiple studies have found that nail salon workers may be more susceptible to respiratory ailments, reproductive health issues, and cancer. And, even if you are not a manicurist, working with nail polish fumes on a daily basis, there is still cause for concern because another study has found that nail polish chemicals can leach into the body.

In this post, I have compiled a list of some of the safest and most non-toxic nail polish brands that I could find. In the writing of this post, I consulted with Debra Lynn Dadd, who I consider to be one of the leading non-toxic bloggers in the community and an actual authority on the matter. While she found my analysis of the nail polishes and its ingredients to be sound, she felt that extra emphasis must be placed on the fact that no nail polish is truly non-toxic.

We are actually in complete agreement on this issue. But we do not live in a bubble and it is impossible to live a completely non-toxic life unless you do, in fact, live in one.

I am a mommy blogger so, of course, this guide was created with children in mind. However, it is certainly worth highlighting that children are far more vulnerable to toxics than adults. Handle your children’s exposure to even “non-toxic nail polish” as you would to other toxics, i.e., avoid altogether or with careful consideration.


Nowadays, you will hear about a nail polish being marketed as 5-Free, 7-Free, 9-Free, etc. What that means is that it does not contain many of the ingredients that I will list below.

Editor’s Note: The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is my favorite resource to use when researching cosmetic ingredients. I have included the score for nail polish ingredients from EWG with a score of 10 considered to be the most toxic. I have also attempted to list the ingredients in an order such that if a nail polish says 3-Free, for instance, it does not contain the first three listed chemicals (a.k.a. toxic trio).

Top Nail Polish Chemicals to Avoid:

1. Formaldehyde [EWG Score=10] – a known human carcinogen. Its vapors can be irritating and trigger asthma.

2. Toluene [EWG Score=10]  a volatile petrochemical solvent and paint thinner. Toluene is a potent neurotoxicant that acts as an irritant, impairs breathing, and causes nausea. A woman’s exposure to toluene vapors during pregnancy may cause developmental damage in the fetus. In human epidemiological studies and in animal studies, toluene has been also associated with toxicity to the immune system and a possible link to blood cancer such as malignant lymphoma.

3. Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP) [EWG Score=10] – a reproductive and developmental toxicant. The European Union banned the use of this ingredient in cosmetics and personal care products. In animal studies, exposure to DBP during gestation causes infertility, cryptorchidism and problems in sperm development, adverse effects similar to human testicular dysgenesis syndrome. Prenatal exposure to DBP has been associated with anatomical changes in the reproductive system development in baby boys. In adult men, DBP has been correlated with changes in serum hormone levels, lower sperm concentration and motility, and decreased fertility.

4. Formaldehyde resin [EWG Score=4] – a derivative of formaldehyde. Although it is not nearly as toxic as formaldehyde it can be an allergen.

5. Camphor[EWG Score=2] – a poison that can cause seizures and disorientation if used in large doses. This chemical acts as a cover on your nails, depriving them of nutrients and causing yellow staining on your nails. (Yes, I know it has a low EWG score but it is considered one of the ingredients to avoid in nail polish.)

6. Ethyl Tosylamide[EWG Score=3] – a sulfur-based antibiotic. It has been banned in Europe or use in cosmetics since it can cause mild to severe allergic reactions. It is also known to be an endocrine disrupter.

7. Xylene [EWG Score=8] – an irritant to the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract. Xylene can cause systemic toxicity by ingestion or inhalation. The most common route of exposure is via inhalation. Symptoms of xylene poisoning include central nervous system effects (headache, dizziness, ataxia, drowsiness, excitement, tremor, and coma), ventricular arrythmias, acute pulmonary edema, respiratory depression, nausea, vomiting, and reversible hepatic impairment.

8. Triphenyl Phosphate (TPHP) [EWG Score=5] – a chemical used in plastics to improve flexibility and as a flame retardant. A handful of animal studies and in vitro studies have suggested that it could be an endocrine disrupter which could potentially affect reproductive health and lipid metabolism.

9. Parabens [EWG Score=1-8] a preservative. Parabens mimic estrogen and can act as potential hormone (endocrine) system disruptors, an effect that is linked to increased risk of breast cancer and reproductive toxicity.

10. Acetone [EWG Score=3] – a neurotoxin that can get stored in the fatty tissue in human body.


Now that we have gotten the toxic nail polish ingredients out of the way, the following are nail polishes that have safer ingredients.

Safest Non-Toxic Nail Polishes:

Questionably Non-Toxic Nail Polishes (but free from the main no-no’s):

*I have written short reviews for several of the listed nail polishes that I have in my possession. These nail polishes were either purchased by me or gifted to me.*

Safest Non-Toxic Nail Polish

Piggy Paint

Safest & Best Non-Toxic Nail Polish for Children & Pregnant Women - Piggy Paint

I love Piggy Paint! Their nail polishes have a very light scent – reminiscent of the smell of acrylic paint but even lighter. There is a wide selection of bright and cheerful colors, perfect for little kids. The nail polish brush is long and thin, easy to maneuver on tiny fingernails. I have found that the polish can chip rather easily but I’ve also found that kids don’t care about that at all.

Ingredients: water, acrylates copolymer, neem oil

May also contain the following colorants (depending on shade):  red 34 lake (CI 15880), ultramarines (CI 77007), iron oxide (CI 77499), titanium dioxide (CI 77891), mica (CI 77019), red 28 (CI 45410), yellow 10 (CI 47005), violet 2, zinc sulfide/copper, copper flake, orange 5, and/or red 22 (CI 45380)

SOPHi

Safest & Best Non-Toxic Nail Polish for Children & Pregnant Women - SOPHi

SOPHi is Piggy Paint for grown ups. The formulation for the nail polish is the same except that there is a more “mature” selection of colors. SOPHi also has a prime + seal + shine system for longer lasting coverage. The polish does dry a bit flat so if you like glossy nails, the prime + seal + shine system is a must. I like that the brush is flat and wide so that fewer strokes are needed but the brush may be a little too wide for smaller nails. Finally, SOPHi recommends blow drying the nail polish on a warm/low setting for best results.

Ingredients: water,  acrylates copolymer, neem oil

May also contain the following colorants (depending on shade): mica (CI 77019), red 7 (CI 15850), red 34 , red 28 (CI 45410), red 17,  iron oxide (CI 77499), titanium dioxide (CI 77891), ultramarines (CI 77007), chromium oxide green (CI 77289), and/or violet 2 (CI 60725)

Honeybee Gardens

Safest & Best Non-Toxic Nail Polish for Children & Pregnant Women - Honeybee Gardens

Honeybee Gardens has a light scent – also similar to lighter-smelling version of acrylic paint. They have a smaller color selection but do feature colors that are suitable for both children and adults. The nail polish brush is long and thin, similar to Piggy Paint. However, the thin brush has a tendency to create streaks because the polish is on the thinner side. The streaks were less apparent after a second coat, though.

Ingredients: water, acrylates copolymer

May also contain the following colorants (depending on shade): iron oxides (CI 77490), mica (CI 77019), titanium dioxide (CI 77891), and/or ultramarines (CI 77007)

Suncoat Girl

Safest & Best Non-Toxic Nail Polish for Children & Pregnant Women - Suncoat Girl

Ingredients: water, acrylic copolymers

May also contain the following colorants (depending on shade): mica (CI 77019), titanium dioxide (CI 77891), carmine, iron oxide (CI 77499), ferric ferrocyanide , chromium oxide green (CI 77289), ultramarines (CI 77007), and/or polyethylene terephthalate (plastic glitter)

Keeki

Safest & Best Non-Toxic Nail Polish for Children & Pregnant Women - Keeki

Ingredients: water, acrylate copolymer emulsion, glycol ethers

May also contain the following colorants (depending on shade): mica (CI 77019), red 6, red 7, red 7 lake (CI 15850), ultramarines (CI 77007), titanium dioxide (CI 77891), chromium oxide green (CI 77289), and/or iron oxide (CI 77499) pigments

Acquarella

Safest & Best Non-Toxic Nail Polish for Children & Pregnant Women - Acquarella

Ingredients: water, styrene acrylates copolymer, acrylates copolymer

May also contain the following colorants (depending on shade): mica (CI 77019), orange iron oxide (CI 77489), yellow iron oxide (CI 77492), titanium dioxide (CI 77891), and/or iron oxide (CI 77499) pigments

Questionably Non-Toxic Nail Polish

Suncoat

Safest & Best Non-Toxic Nail Polish for Children & Pregnant Women - Suncoat

Ingredients: water, acrylate copolymer/styrene-acrylate copolymer, propylene glycol [EWG Score=3], n-butyl ether, dipropylene glycol dibenzoate

May also contain the following colorants (depending on shade): mica (CI 77019), titanium dioxide (CI 77891), ferric ferrocyanide, iron oxide (CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499), chromium oxide (CI 77288), carmine (CI 75470)

Suncoat Polish & Peel

Safest & Best Non-Toxic Nail Polish for Children & Pregnant Women - Polish & Peel

Ingredients: water, polyvinyl acetate [EWG Score=3], acrylate copolymer

May also contain the following colorants (depending on shade): mica (CI 77019), titanium dioxide (CI 77891), carmine, iron oxide (CI 77499), ferric ferrocyanide , chromium oxide green (CI 77289), ultramarines (CI 77007), and/or polyethylene terephthalate (plastic glitter)

ZOYA

Safest & Best Non-Toxic Nail Polish for Children & Pregnant Women - ZOYA

Ingredients: butyl acetate, ethyl acetate, nitrocellulose, adipic acid/neopentyl glycol/trimellitic anhydride copolymer, acetyl tributyl citrate, isopropyl alcohol,  stearalkonium bentonite, acrylates copolymer, styrene/acrylates copolymer, dibenzoate, benzophenone-1 [EWG Score=4]

ella + mila

Safest & Best Non-Toxic Nail Polish for Children & Pregnant Women - ella + mila

Ingredients: butyl acetate, ethyl acetate, nitrocellulose, adipic acid/neopentyl glycol/trimellitic anhydride copolymer, acetyl tributyl citrate, isopropyl alcohol, acrylates copolymer, stearalkonium bentonite, n-butyl alcohol [EWG Score=3-4], benzophenone-1 [EWG Score=4], silica, alumina, trimethylpentanediyl dibenzoate, polyvinyl butyral, polybutylene terephthalate, polyethylene terephthalate, ethylene/vinyl acetate copolymer

May also contain the following colorants (depending on shade): aluminum powder (CI 77000), iron oxides (CI 77499 / CI 77491), red 34 lake (CI 15880), red 6 lake (CI 15850), red 7 lake (CI 15850), yellow 5 lake (CI 19140), ferric ammonium ferrocyanide (CI 77510), mica (CI 77019), titanium dioxide (CI 77891), ultramarines (CI 77007), red 28 (CI 45410), red 22 (CI 45380), and/or yellow 10 (CI 47005)

Priti NYC 

Safest & Best Non-Toxic Nail Polish for Children & Pregnant Women - Priti NYC

Ingredients: butyl acetate, ethyl acetate, nitrocellulose, neopentyl glycol/trimellitic anhydride copolymer, acetyl tributyl citrate, isopropyl alcohol, stearalkonium bentonite, acrylates copolymer,  styrene/acrylates copolymer, silica, benzophenone-1 [EWG Score=4],  trimethylpentanediyl dibenzoate

May also contain the following colorants (depending on shade): mica (CI 77019), calcium aluminum borosilicate, calcium sodium borosilicate, synthetic fluorphlogopite, polyethylene terephthalate, polybutylene terephthalate, etylene/vinyl acetate polymer, acrylates copolymer,  aluminum powder (CI 77000), titanium dioxide (CI 77891), red 6 lake (CI 15850), red 7 lake (CI 15850), red 34 lake (CI 15880), yellow 5 lake (CI 19140), red iron oxide, black iron oxide, bismuth oxychloride, manganese violet, chromium oxide green (CI 77289), ultramarines (CI 77007), ferric ammonium ferrocynanide, black 2, blue 1 lake, aluminum hydroxide, tin oxide, calcium oxide, sodium oxide, and/or polyacrylate-4

AILA

Safest & Best Non-Toxic Nail Polish for Children & Pregnant Women - AILA

Ingredients: butyl acetate, ethyl acetate, adipic acid/neopentyl glycol/trimellitic anhydride copolymer, acetyl tributyl citrate, isopropyl alcohol, styrene/acrylates copolymer, stearalkonium bentonite, n-butyl alcohol [EWG Score=3-4], benzophenone-1 [EWG Score=4], silica, alumina, trimethylpentanediyl dibenzoate, polyvinyl butyral

May also contain the following colorants (depending on shade): aluminum powder (CI 77000), iron oxides (CI 77499 / CI 77491), red 34 lake (CI 15880), red 6 lake (CI 15850), red 7 lake (CI 15850), yellow 5 lake (CI 19140), ferric ammonium ferrocyanide (CI 77510), mica (CI 77019), blue 1 (CI 42090), yellow 11 (CI 47000), titanium dioxide (CI 77891), violet 2 (CI 60725), polyethylene terephthalate, polybutylene terephthalate, ethylene/vinyl acetate copolymer


Many of the nail polish brands that claim to be non-toxic (notably, ZOYA, ella + mila, Priti NYC, and AILA) are 5-Free, 7-Free, 9-Free, etc., but contain benzophenone-1, which is an ultraviolet light absorber and is designed to prevent nail polishes from fading. It’s a controversial ingredient because benzophenone-1 has been found to be a possible carcinogen and endocrine disruptor. However, this ingredient is still heatedly debated amongst the beauty and health community as to its safety for cosmetic use.

I, for one, am wary of  this ingredient but it would  appear that the brands that contain benzophenone-1 tend to perform better than the other non-toxic nail polishes I’ve listed. Many of these nail polish brands do NOT perform as well because they contain less toxic ingredients. The less toxic nail polishes tend to take longer to cure, are not as long-lasting, and may chip more easily, especially the ones that I’ve listed in the safest non-toxic nail polish category.

Personally, I would never use nail polishes that contain benzophenone-1 for young children, or while pregnant and/or nursing. However, if you are a nail polish lover and want better performing nail polish with more color options, then it may be a risk and exposure you are willing to accept.

What are your thoughts on the nail polishes that I have listed? Let me know if I may have missed any other great non-toxic nail polish brands!

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  1. Shirley July 5, 2018
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