The Toxins Found in Nail Polish

Each season new shades of nail polish are released following the latest trends. Some of us have too many bottles of nail polish to go through in a lifetime while others choose to have their selections made in a salon. Whether you're someone who gets a weekly manicure or someone who only treats themselves once in a while, you have the right to know... what's really in our nail polish?

Ingredients to Avoid

Formaldehyde: a known carcinogen that has been banned in Europe and Japan. This neurotoxin is used in treatment products for nail hardening purposes. It's an eye and skin irritant and a poison if swallowed.

Toluene: a solvent used in nail polish to allow the color to glide on smoothly. It is often associated with causing dizziness, headaches or fatigue and has the potential to affect the central nervous system, as well as possible reproductive and developmental toxins.

Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP): makes nail polish less brittle and prone to chipping, but many concerns surrounds this ingredient that has been banned in Europe. DBP is a known reproductive and developmental toxin.  

Most brands have reformulated their polishes to remove the ingredients mentioned above because it has become a new standard for many consumers. Often times, the terms "3 free" or "toxic trio" will be associated with nail polish that does not include these ingredients. Some "5-free" brands have gone a step further and removed an extra two ingredients in addition to the toxic trio.

Tosylamide/Formaldehyde Resin: a nail strengthener that can sometimes be a allergen for some people. 

Camphor: can be toxic and cause irritation, nausea and headaches when exposed to large doses, especially through inhalation. 

Do Your Homework

While most brands will claim to be 3-free or 5-free, it's best to double check the ingredients on each bottle yourself to confirm this. Most nail polish brands will list the ingredients underneath the bottle in teeny print or on the brand's website. Our nails are porous and absorb much of the products we put on them so it's best to choose a formula we trust. However, some brands claimed to be 3-free, but this study by California's Department of Toxic Substances Control proved otherwise. There were a number of salon brands that were misinforming consumers about not using the toxic trio when in fact they were. These brands include: Sation, Dare to Wear, Chelsea, Baby's Breath, New York Summer, Paris, Sunshine, Cacie, Golden Girl, Nail Art and High Gloss.

After looking at the ingredients on all the polishes I own, I've disposed of my Seche Vite topcoat, which contained Toluene and replaced it with a Toluene-free topcoat by the brand, Zoya. What nail polishes have you replaced for cleaner formulas?


  1. A great, informative post! Good, clean nail polish has been hard for me to find. I love using Zoya polishes as the colors are great and they last a long time on nails. I also wanted to let you know I've nominated you for a Liebster Award. If you're interested, you can check out my blog post for more details. :) -Kasey

    1. Zoya is one of my favorites with so many colors to choose from. OH that is so exciting! Thank you :) I will definitely participate!

  2. If it's Toluene-free, like the Zoya polishes you mention, does it mean it smells less...strong? Great name for your blog, by the way :)
    Recycle Reuse Rejoice Challenge 2014