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Ditch the Nail Polish Nasties

by Tiffany in Beauty

Non Toxic Nail PolishI was surprised when I did some research awhile back on cosmetics, that nail polish is one of the worst offenders for nasty, toxic ingredients. I am not big on cosmetics or even nail polish but occasionally I did like to spruce up my toes with some candy apple red nail polish since my preferred footwear is the flip-flop. And my daughter, who is totally girly would love to wear it all times but I couldn’t in good conscious let her wear it too much if it were as nasty as some research has said. Also, some of the ingredients would be especially bad for little girls (see below).

Some of the ingredients of conventional nail polish are scary…Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP), formaldehyde and toluene. Dibutyl Phthalate is a plasticizing ingredient known to affect hormone function. Studies have linked phthalates to early puberty in girls, uterine problems in women, low sperm counts in men, and birth defects. Toluene is said to cause liver damage, reproductive and developmental problems, skin irritation and respiratory tract irritation. Formaldehyde is a carcinogen and inhaling the fumes can result in watery eyes, headache, burning in the throat, and labored breathing.

Just think about it…these toxins are dangerous when breathed in and nail polish is one of the smelliest beauty items around. Just think about how strong smelling it is in a nail salon. That stuff is potent. And this doesn’t address the toxins making their way into your body through your nail bed. Almost all brands of commercial nail polish contain toluene and formaldehyde and many contain Dibutyl Phthalate…except in progressive countries like the European Union which has banned all pthalates.

So are we Dying to Look Good? I kept thinking about this as I found my 4 year old daughter getting her nails painted by daddy the other day. Obviously she knew she wouldn’t get anywhere with me if she asked for nail polish so daddy got her some and he was painting her fingernails and toenails for her. After the initial cringe I decided to see if I could find some safer nail polish online. I was happy to find that there are a few options.

Just to be clear, there’s no such thing as “green” nail polish, at least not in the way we’d expect from, say, a skincare product. Ultimately, it’s paint that adheres to your nails and lasts for several days, so it’s not ever going to as easy as finding a polish that uses nothing but crushed berries. The best you can hope for is having it be free of the most common nasties. Many polish companies are now using verbiage such as 5-free for 10-free to show how many of the common nasties are NOT in their products. 10 free is about the best you can get.

Non Toxic Nail Polish

HoneyBee Garden Nail Polish – No Formaldehyde, Phthalates, Toluene or other petrochemical solvents. Completely Water Based.

100% Pure – 10-free nail polish. All natural, organic formula which is free of the common carcinogens in most nail polish.

Trust Fund – 7-free polish choice. Quick drying, long-wearing, super pigmented.

Habit – 5-free polish, vegan. I love the wooden lids!

Karma Organic Nail Polish – No Toluene, Formaldehyde, or DBP – and no harsh odors, chip resistant & durable.

Rescue Beauty Lounge – Free of toluene, formaldehyde, and pthalates and LOTS of hot colors including a red, my fave.

Piggy Paint – Non toxic nail polish for kids! Moms like it too though. ;) Fun colors…

OPI Nail Polish – This is a big nail polish company that removed toluene, formaldehyde, and pthalates from their formulations last year. Lots of options and colors.

Nubar Nail Polish – A healthy alternative for beautiful nails. These are free of toluene, formaldehyde, and pthalates. They also come in TONS of gorgeous colors.

See also:

Suncoat Natural Nail Polish Remover – Earth friendly product which is 100% Soya and Corn based. It is naturally derived from farm crops and does not contain any petroleum ingredients. Non-toxic, non-carcinogenic and is also readily biodegradable.

Sante Nail Polish Remover – Acetate-free Nail Polish Remover, based on organic ethanol and orange oil. Ingredients: Alcohol, citrus dulcis, ricinus communis, aqua (water), parfum (organic orange oil).

No more cringing when my daughter asks to paint her nails!

  • Kelly

    I had so been thinking about researching this, as I love having cute toenails in summer. Thanks for all the hard work you did researching! I got a pedicure for the first time last year with a friend and was disturbed by being unable to remove the polish myself with regular remover! Totally not natural.

  • Thank you so much! I had been looking for this. My 3yo loves to have her toes painted. How about non toxic polish remover? Where can you find this? The regular stuff is really nasty for you.
    Thanks for all your info! :)

    Sarahs last blog post..My Green Baby!

  • Sarah,

    Just added some. Thx!

  • Ted

    I think a directory of sources for your findings would be great.
    If you are saying that toluene, formaldehyde, and pthalates are bad for us, then where can I see the findings?
    I don’t disbelieve you, but I want the findings to back it up.
    I want to protect my little girl the same as everybody else, but I want more than just someone saying thus and such…:)

    Teds last blog post..Rooster’s Family Restaurant

  • Linda

    I’ve known about this for a while and have been hesitant to paint my toes because of it. In Dr. Greene’s “Raising Baby Green” he even mentions not polishing your fingernails as the polish chips and goes into your child’s mouth and food and yours for that matter. Also, are you sure about OPI? I know that they refuse to sign the Safe Cosmetic Act along with Orly so I am hesitant to believe anything they say. Although they are located in California and they have just banned the use of pthalates.

  • Carrie

    Awesome post Tiffany. I rarely polish my nails but I like cute toes in the summertime, and I was wondering about some of the brand names. I linked to your blog post from my article on natural manicures.

    Carries last blog post..My Dryer Smells Like Cod Liver Oil

  • I had heard this stuff was bad awhile ago, but I didn’t know there were any alternatives. THANK YOU! I’m excited for cute toes again: )

    Emily Childerss last blog post..Cinco de Mayo/International Midwife Day/my b-day

  • Ted, via an Internet search you too can find the side effects and dangers of each individual ingredient… toluene, formaldehyde, and pthalates.

    Also see Toxic Nail Polish:

  • Linda,

    I can only go by what they claim. I haven’t found anything to disprove it but OPI would not be my first purchase choice personally.

    • Michelle Bird


      I just read about OPI and their claims. Just recently purchased one of their nail polish and it has listed formaldehyde resin as one of their ingredients.

      I will be staying away from their nail polish and using an alternative!
      It just doesn’t seem to be safe to be using it on my two year old who wants to have her toes painted.

      Your blog has some helpful info, it has helped me with my own investigation. Thanks!

  • Thanks for the info!

    HappyYogaMamas last blog post..Camping – Day 2 – The Good One

  • Vicky Harper

    I’ve been using Honeybee Gardens Nail Polish with my DD, because it’s non-toxic and she bites her nails.
    It doesn’t taste good, but it’s OK if she eats it.
    I searched and searched for a non-toxic one when she first wanted her nails painted. Actually, it makes since for all of us, when you consider that we often touch what we eat, and what our kids eat, too.

  • Rachel

    I too just learned recently about the dangers of conventional nail polish. It was a “duh” moment. Now my 3-year-old daughter and I polish with some afordable non-toxic, odorless nail polish that is marketed to pregnant women. It’s called Polished Mama and they also have a nice, moisturizing nail polish remover. We sell both at my store at

  • nell

    Luckily, for me, I’m not into nail polish much at all. It never stays on long. Then I just have this chipped ugly nail thing going on.

    nells last blog post..Boy or Girl?

  • Jill

    Not sure if you’ve heard of this one but you might want to check out Their polishes are Fomaldehyde, Toluene and DBP free and their colors are oh so cute!

  • Hey, I don’t know if the skin deep site is not updated, but OPI is still listed w/ all the bad stuff.
    Any ideas?

    mama ks last blog post..I’m a night person.

  • Kate

    OPI has a toluene free line that is being sold at target I think it is called Nicole. And here is the blurb from the opi site but it’s their words… This is a serious weakness of mine but I try to be more strict with my kids….

  • Jen

    I discovered this awhile back and started checking out the bottles of color now. I don’t know if you can buy Wet ‘n Wild where you are but it’s about the cheapest stuff out there, great for kidlets and is free of the chemicals. I actually just bought from Revelon stuff too which stated that it was toluene & formaldehyde free.

    Big fan of your blog, by the way. First time commenting though!

    Jens last blog post..Where We Are At

  • thanks for the great resource. :) since my daughter is interested in having her nails painted now, i will be checking these out for sure.

    crunchy domestic goddesss last blog post..Raising Awareness about the Life-Shattering Condition of Obstetric Fistula

  • Carrie

    I got rid of all my nail polish (didn’t have much anyway) months ago for these very reasons. Honestly, I haven’t missed it.
    I rarely painted my nails and didn’t paint my toes that often, and when I did I was terrible about keeping it up!

  • Kris

    Thank-you for all the great info on this subject. There was alot of info I haven’t run across yet which saves me alot of search work. :) I usually keep to myself (for the the most part) but I felt since I ran across this issue 6 years ago and followed it a bit back then I could voice a concern. There have been great accomplishments acheived getting cosmetic companies to change their testing, manufacturing, and business management techniques over the last few decades. But there have been a few companies that even though they complied with the requests eventually only did so because of business and not for the “good” of the consumer. OPI was one of the very last companies to comply with requests from numerous advocates and concerned parents about the toxins they had in their nail polish. I myself wrote a letter to their company asking them to change the chemical makeup of their nail polish to make it more “green” or environmentally safe. I was only responded to with mass production letters expressing the company’s concern, but no real action was ever taken (as far as I noticed). If I could make the decision for the entire world, I would choose other than OPI because they had to be the last ones to make any changes for the benefit of humanity. They are just like every other corporate entity when they choose profit over safety. *step off soapbox*

  • Christine

    I have been doing some mild research myself – has anyone here heard or used PIGGY PAINT? The slogan is “pure as mud” and has really great reviews for both the polish and remover which are both a water base. There doesn’t seem to be any negative press or blog about it and I thought I’d check here before placing my order. Thanks for your insight…

    • LOVE Piggy Paints. My daughter has several colors.

      • Christine

        Thanks so much! Do you use the remover as well? Does it really stay on as well as they say?

  • We have the Piggy Paint remover as well and like it. I cannot comment on staying power though. I have a very active 5 year old, so nothing stays on for long with her. :)

  • Stumbled across this post after reading your salon day post. I also have a girly girl so I enjoyed reading that post.

    We also sell a non-toxic polish, remover, cuticle stuff, etc. It’s from a brand called Dr.’s Remedy. With a little girl who loves to paint her nails, I feel a lot better using this brand.

  • Safe Nails

    Free of Toxic Trio isn’t enough for some brands. Snails (safe nails) is 6-free
    First WASHABLE (no acetone required to remove) nail polish made in France