Non-toxic nail polishes: decoded and demystified

Sep. 24
You’ll sometimes hear people talking about 3-free, 5-free, 7-free, 8-free or even 10-free nail polishes. No, this is not some Fibonacci maths nerd meets nail polishes moment, and if you’re not clued up yet on what these terms mean, then for the safety of your nails and your body, should read on.
Nail polishes look awesome. They’re bright, they’re sparkly, they’re glossy, they’re fun. But traditionally, to get them to look that way, manufacturers of nail polish have had to use some pretty toxic chemicals. You might be wondering what does it matter, because if they sit on your nails, well, they just sit on your nails. But unfortunately, far too many people have a habit of biting their nails, and it’s when these toxic chemicals are ingested that bad things can happen. Thankfully, the beauty industry has heard consumers’ cries for a safer nail polish over the years, and by and large have begun removing some ingredients which are known to be harmful from their nail products. Depending on how many of these ingredients they’ve omitted, you call them “x-free”. So for example, if the nail polish is missing 3 toxic ingredients, it’s called “3-free”.
Before I crack on with some nail polish recommendations, we’re going to do a quick chemistry lesson so you can impress your besties with some trivia next time you’re out. 
3-free polishes
These nail polishes don’t contain the so called “Toxic Trio” of dibutyl phthalate (DBP), toluene and formaldehyde. Thank goodness because these are the most toxic and most commonly found ingredients in mainstream polishes. How toxic? See for yourself:
DBP: toxic; potentially dangerous effects on developmental growth, reproduction (US Environmental Protection Agency)
Toluene: found in petroleum, and a dangerous substance that could be toxic with prolonged exposure (US Environmental Protection Agency)Formaldehyde: a possible carcinogen (National Cancer Institute)
5-free polishes
In addition to leaving out the Toxic Trio, 5 free polishes also exclude formaldehyde resin and camphor. 
Formaldehyde resin: nail hardener that can cause contact dermatitis 
Camphor: when inhaled in large doses, can cause skin redness and irritation.
7-free polishes
These polishes leave out everything 5 free polishes do, and are also free from ethyl tosylamide and xylene. 
Ethyl tosylamide: not a carcinogen, but can cause headache, dizziness and nausea.
Xylene: when xylene vapour is inhaled in small amounts, it can cause headache, dizziness and nausea, and when inhaled in larger doses, it can cause sleepiness, stumbling, irregular heartbeat or even death.
Personally, I tend to go for 5-free at the very least, better safe than sorry right?
So what is a good, natural nail polish?
There’s so much stuff out there and it’s all dependent on personal choice, needs and tastes. But I thought it’d be useful to share with everyone examples of nail polish brands that I rate which are 5-free+. Just so you have an idea what to look for.
#1: Olive & June (7-free)
CV, OLIVE&JUNE, cherie
Just to show you that healthy and natural doesn’t mean expensive, I’ve picked Olive & June, which goes at $8 a pop. They’re an LA-based nail salon that makes 7-free nail polishes, because of all the good stuff they’re doing, they’re becoming a thing in the industry. Their salon itself is pretty much always booked out! The catch: there’s only less than ten shades out right now, but if you find your colour then these are absolutely great.
#2: RGB (5-free)
Dries super fast, the pigments are amazing. What’s more, it’s proudly made in the U.S. and cruelty-free too! I love the smooth and silky texture that makes this polish glide lightly across my nails. If you’re looking to make a statement, try the Oxblood colour, it’s an absolute fav. At about $18 a bottle, it’s enough to keep you going for at least a year. 
#3: Butter London (8-free)
Trend Nail Lacquer , butter LONDON, cherie
butter LONDONTrend Nail Lacquer
This has always been a great polish boasting a dense brush that lets you easily put on a professional-looking gloss from the comfort of your home. They have great staying power and don’t chip, which makes the Patent Shine 10X collection a very popular choice that many people love and trust.
When it comes to nail polishes, it’s more than just colour and feel. Because substance matter so much more than just good looks, when it comes to ingredients, staying free from toxic chemicals should be non-negotiable. What are your favourite nail polish brands and how do you choose what to buy? Share with us in the comments section below!
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