It's fair to say that we are now more aware than ever about toxicity in our daily lives, particularly when it comes to our beauty products. We are beginning to seek out clean, non-toxic options that are safe to use and don't pose any dangers to our health. One such area is nail polish, and the products and services we use on our fingers and toes. But should you use non-toxic nail polish, or does it not really make a difference? I spoke to experts to find out what non-toxic nail varnish actually is, and whether there are advantages to using it.
Let's start with what "non-toxic" actually means in terms of nail polish. A non-toxic nail polish is essentially one that eliminates certain chemicals from its ingredients list. "There are more than the three main harmful ingredients used in traditional polish, but Formaldehyde, Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP), and Toluene [are the] most toxic," explains Shelly Elson, the founder of non-toxic London nail salon STILL London. Non-toxic formulas, therefore, have to be free of these three at least, but can go up to as high as 7-free, 10-free etc., when removing further chemicals from their polishes.
However, there is a difference between a polish being non-toxic and being chemical-free, explains Laura Southern, founder of nail salon House Of Lady Muck: "There is no such thing as chemical-free gel polish," she says. "But it's incredibly important to be aware of the chemical content in all cosmetics, as this can have an impact on nail and skin health."
So why exactly should we be concerned about chemicals? "Our bodies, nails and skin are delicate, so there's no reason to aggravate them with harsh chemicals and practices," says Southern. Indeed, one study from Duke University and EWG has suggested that certain chemicals can actually enter the body through the nail beds. The research showed that a chemical called triphenyl phosphate (TPHP) (which is also used as a furniture fire retardant) was appearing to enter women's bodies through nail products.
Many nail salons, as Live Science points out, are not properly ventilated either, meaning chemicals can be breathed in by customers.
Luckily, the experts I spoke to agree going toxic-free will not affect the quality of your polish or gel, and may even promote longer wear. "Non toxic products give the same finish as normal polishes so you cannot notice the difference," says Elson. "They are also much kinder and last as long."
A representative at Nails Inc told me the same: "The polish can still have a high colour pay off, be glossy and long lasting whilst being non-toxic," they said.
There are potential drawbacks that should be considered, however. "Regulations are ever-evolving, meaning [there are] constant changes within products," explains the Nails Inc rep. This means that brands may change their formulations often in order to keep up with the industry standards for "non-toxic", meaning you may not have access to a product you love for too long.
So which brands should you be reaching to if you do your nails at home? Nailberry is one option that has long been non-toxic, and proud of it. They are 12-free, they do not use alcohol or animal derivatives, and are vegan, gluten-free, and certified halal. Their range of colours is beautiful, particularly the subtle nudes and greys.
Other great choices include Orly's Breathable line, which is impressively 13-free and contains argan oil, Vitamin B5 and Vitamin C, and Kure Bazaar, which is 10-free and 90% natural. Nails Inc also do a great NailPure range, which is 10-free as well.
If toxicity is important to you, it's worth doing your research before buying nail products, as you never know what could be lurking in the ingredients list.