There are so many buzzwords in the beauty industry that it can be difficult, if not not impossible, to keep up. More and more of these terms revolve around clean beauty: the idea that toxin-free cruelty-free products are better for you and the environment. Skincare has been pushing it for a while. But now the trend has moved to nails. While plenty of brands offer "healthier" varnishes, finding the best non-toxic nail polishes can require a little research.
Three chemicals kickstarted the trend. As Time reports, they are the carcinogen formaldehyde, a plasticiser called dibutyl phthalate that has a possible link to reproductive and developmental health issues, and toluene, which can potentially affect the nervous system. Removing the big three, as they are now known, from their formula allowed brands to use the "three-free" title.
Over the years, some have eliminated more and more potentially hazardous chemicals. Now, it's common to find 8- or even 13-free polishes. Although the level of exposure that provokes a detrimental health response isn't clear, industry insiders believe non-toxic varnishes are positive in more ways than one. “The skin around our fingers and cuticles is sensitive and absorbent, so non-toxic polishes tend to be kinder to nails, meaning less chance of drying out our nails and skin, which can cause irritation and inflammation," Sherrille Riley, founder of the Nails & Brows boutique, told Refinery29.
However, authors of a 2018 Environmental Science & Technology study into non-toxic nail polishes have advised wearers to do their research. After testing 40 polishes from 12 different chemical-free brands, researchers found that, in some cases, hazardous chemicals were being swapped for similarly risky ones. "There’s no clear information on whether these nail polishes are actually less toxic," co-author Anna Young told Time.
If in doubt, double check the ingredients list. Here's a few top-rated brands that will let you try out the non-toxic look.