Quick question: How many natural beauty products line your vanity right now? The clean beauty industry is growing by the second with skincare, makeup, and hair products getting most of the glory. But it’s only, well, natural to be interested in removing potentially toxic ingredients from nail care products too. And whether you DIY your manicures or frequent the nail salon, there’s a lot to break down when it comes to non-toxic, natural nail polishes.
We’re separating nail fact from nail fiction to explain what makes a nail polish “toxin-free”—if it can be at all—as well as the best non-toxic polishes to try, according to our very own IPSY beauty editors and reviews from past Glam Bags.
About the Expert:
Here are the hard facts: As of right now, there is no such thing as a truly natural nail polish. “All nail polish is made up of chemicals, it’s lacquer,” explains celebrity manicurist Michelle Saunders. But don’t freak out just yet. “Some chemicals are less harsh than others, and many ‘harmful’ ones have been removed.” Included in that list of harmful chemicals? Toluene, formaldehyde, and dibutyl-phthalate (or DBP), AKA the three chemicals that are referenced in nail polish formulas labeled “3-free.”
Ultimately, this ingredient regulation is more vital for nail salons than at-home use. “The most important reason that these three chemicals have been removed is not for the safety of consumers’ nails, but for the health of manicurists who would breathe in these chemicals daily,” explains Saunders. “Nails are dead, and are not permeable, like a horn or a hoof of an animal,” Saunders says, who concedes, “Sure, nail polish is drying to the nail just like heat and chemicals are drying to hair, which is made up of the same thing as nails, keratin.”
However, 3-free formulas are just the beginning; there are formulas labeled up to 12-free, all of which refer to the additional ingredients that aren’t in the bottle (such as parabens, camphor, formaldehyde resin, xylene, ethyl tosylamide, and triphenyl phosphate). However, again Saunder stresses that the most harmful thing about nail polish is inhaling the fumes from the chemicals, and it all comes down to personal preference—in formulas, colors, and ingredients. (Also, those with celiac disease will want to look for gluten-free products, as gluten is present in some nail strengtheners.) “I recommend going on the Environmental Working Group website and looking at every ingredient in every nail polish,” says Saunders.
Ready to give non-toxic polishes a try? Keep reading to find out the polishes IPSY beauty editors and Glam Bag reviewers love most.
The rich, shiny nail color is gorgeous for fall weather and the formula is 10-free and vegan. Ipsters love that it “goes from day to evening” and “dries so fast."
Perfect for brides, sunny spring days, or just about any other occasion, this soft hue also offers the nail polish brand’s 10-free, vegan benefits. “I don't normally like pink, but this light shade is beautiful,” one reviewer raved.
You can’t go wrong with this pair of polishes, whether you use the dusty rose, the glitzy gold, or both together, which Ipsters call a “beautiful combination.” Did we mention they’re 5-free, vegan, and cruelty-free as well?
This 5-free, barely there hue is like the nail version of lip gloss: high shine, high reward. Reviewers also love its staying power, saying it lasted “over a week” on nails.
Not only is the silver cap chic as can be, it also removes easily to reveal a smaller, easier-to-handle applicator. “I foresee myself going through the whole bottle before the end of the year,” said one user of this 8-free nail polish.
Somewhere between gray, beige, and lavender, this shade is perfect if you want something muted but not boring. Reviewers call it a “beautiful earthy color” and claim it’s “chip resistant.”
This 10-free formula is deep, bold, and lasts forever without chipping. One Ipster even swears it “looks like I came from my salon and stays a full week.”
Navy is unexpected, and this opaque, 10-free lacquer is one of the best we’ve seen. But don’t take our word for it: “Perfect for when I want something dark that's not black,” confirms one reviewer.
Sometimes we just want a pretty, goes-with-everything pink, and this 10-free polish is it. Even better, one Ipster says it is “hands down the longest nail polish has lasted on my nails.”
Reviewers especially love this “fabulous” 10-free shade for pedicures, but it’s great for an eye-catching mani too.
So many Ipsters said they “love” this deep, flattering color, we lost count. Plus, it’s 10-free and super long-lasting.
This “shiny and smooth” polish is gorgeous on its own, but also makes a great blank canvas for French manicures and fun nail art.
We love a moody blue, but add a little sparkle and safe to say we’re obsessed. One reviewer even called it “MAGICAL,”—caps theirs, not ours.
Is there anything more fun than a cobalt-blue mani? And pro tip from our Ipster community, who add that it’s the “perfect color for toenails.”
Not only does this 10-free polish leave out the ingredients you don’t want, but it also infuses nails with strengthening biotin. “Very cheerful for the winter months and I think it will wear well in spring, too,” said one reviewer of the pretty hue.
Classic, trusty, and flattering, this slightly sheer shade is almost like foundation base coat for your nails. “This is the best nail polish I have ever used,” raved one Ipster, adding, “It lasts for days without a clear top coat.”
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