While there’s a lot of beauty buzz surrounding skin and hair care products that are free of parabens, phthalates, and other potentially harmful ingredients, what you put on your nails should be an equally important part of the conversation. The best non-toxic nail polishes are formulated without at least the three main aggressors found in traditional nail polish formulas: dibutyl phthalate (DBP), toluene, and formaldehyde — otherwise known as “three-free” polishes. But these days, the market is flooded with polishes that are free from up to 16 potentially harmful additives. And beyond leaving unfavorable ingredients out of the picture, a truly great non-toxic nail polish will have a high-performance formula (read: long-lasting, chip-free, applies smoothly, and has great color payoff), and come in a wide range of gorgeous shades.
While the three substances mentioned earlier were the very first that many nail polish companies recognized as toxic (and which many, if not most, nail polish companies removed from their formulas), that “no-go” list has since expanded. Now — as Mary Lennon, co-founder of non-toxic nail polish brand côte, recently told Elite Daily — companies have identified at least eight substances found in traditional polishes that are potentially harmful or allergenic: formaldehyde, toluene, DBT, formaldehyde resin, camphor, triphenyl phosphate, xylene, ethyl tosylamide/epoxy resin, and parabens.
When you see a nail polish listed as “5-free,” “7-free,” or “10-free,” for instance, that means the formula doesn’t contain that number of toxic additives. It’s important to note, however, that this type of labeling isn’t overseen by an official regulating body such as the FDA; rather, it’s up to individual companies to decide how to label their nail polishes, and what, exactly, those excluded ingredients are. So it’s always a good idea to read the ingredients list — or, at least, double-check which of those toxic ingredients a formula doesn’t include — to better understand what you are (and aren’t) putting on your nails.
Still not sure where to begin? The 10 non-toxic nail polishes ahead are available in tons of colors and finishes, so you can find a polish free of common aggressors that's still loads of fun to apply.