Nailed It

Is your nail polish toxic?  Well, that is a tough question.  After all, what is nail polish but a collection of resins, plasticizers, solvents, film forming agents and coloring agents?  None of that sounds healthy or remotely like it comes from nature.  So should we give up on nail polish? Who wants to look down at their toes this summer when you are sitting by the pool with a cool drink in your hand and see their natural nail glaring up at them?  Nobody, that’s who!  I want a fun pop of color to make my little piggies dance in the sunlight!


There are many websites lately alleging those of us in the green community are trying to “create fear and panic” in people about chemicals in health and beauty products.   There is no fear or panic here, just awareness.  I want people to think about what they are putting on their body and to know exactly what is in it.  Especially as you are sharing those products with your children.  You know the saying, an EDUCATED consumer is a SMART consumer.  If a product has the potential to cause cancer or mess with your hormones, why wouldn’t you want to find a better option?  At the very least, you should be informed of the possibilities.  As the mother of 2 girls, I don’t want to risk using anything that can potentially interfere with hormones or their reproductive systems.

When I was experiencing periorbital dermatitis (irritated, inflamed eye area), the first thing each dermatologist did was check my nails.  They all said nail polish was usually the culprit, particularly red nail polish.


So let’s talk nail polish.  This is probably one of the last products that people change when they are trying to “green up” their beauty products.  You are not applying it to your skin after all, just your nails.  There have been some highly publicized studies that have shown links between many chemicals used in nail polish and cancer, infertility, hormone disruption, and skin irritation.  The first three to be identified as carcinogens and removed from most nail polishes today are Toluene, Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP), and Formaldahyde (usually listed as Methylene Glycol/Formalin).  Polishes that claim to be 4 or 5 free also take out  Formaldehyde Resin and Camphor.  As companies tried to create cleaner and greener forms of nail polish, they started removing Triphenyl Phosphate (TPHP), parabens, and sulfates.  The newest trend is being 10 free.  You have to be careful, however, because sometimes companies are claiming to be free of chemicals that haven’t been used in making nail polish for quite some time to increase their quotient of “-free“.

All that being said, what difference does it make if it is only going on our nails?  Well, I am here to tell you!  Some of these chemicals, as well as any used to prepare the nail for polishing, can make the nails more permeable.  Which means they will end up in your bloodstream.  You can also absorb products through your cuticle or any minor tears in the skin.


A study was done in 2015 by Duke University and the Environmental Working Group to see if the chemical TPHP was absorbed through nail polish.  TPHP is a suspected endocrine disrupting chemical that has shown reproductive and developmental irregularities in animal studies.  It is metabolized in the body and turned into diphenyl phosphate (DPHP).  Along with nail polish, TPHP is found in many household products, particularly as a fire-retardant in foam cushions.  We are exposed to it daily, so should we try to limit our absorption as much as possible?  I say, absolutely!

You can read the specifics of the study here, but the basic conclusion is that TPHP does enter the human body through nail polish, as evidenced by DPHP levels spiking after women painted their natural nails.  This was a small study, but the results were impressive.  Another interesting lesson learned from reading this study is that 2 of the 8 nail polishes tested positive for TPHP even though it was not listed as an ingredient.  Frustrating, isn’t it!


So what is a girl to do?

Read your labels.

Know the brand and their philosophy.

Decide what matters to you.

What polishes do I use?  I am so glad you asked!  Since I don’t live in LA or NYC, where there is an abundance of nail salons that use healthier alternatives, I always bring my own polish to my favorite salon.

Most 8 free and 10 free polishes are very expensive.  Not Christian LouBoutin nail polish expensive ($50), but usually they are in the $15-18 range.

If you are looking for some healthier choices, I use the following brands.  I collect nail polish just like I collect skincare and makeup.  I have 2 daughters, so there are lots of nails to paint!  What I look for in a polish is for it to go on smoothly, last and have a good color selection.  I lean toward neutral colors, dark reds, oranges and I love the super dark purple and black colors.  I also want a wand that is easy to use. The little square bottles are super cute, but not practical when you see the tiny little wand inside!


Zoya (least expensive at $10) states that they are 10 Free.  This polish lasts the longest for me and they have a huge selection of colors.  My biggest collection.

RMS is 6 free, has a smaller selection of colors, but they match other RMS beauty products.  It goes on really well and lasts pretty well.  The wand is easy to use.

TREAT is 5 free, they have a nice selection of colors.  I find the little square bottles with short wands difficult to work with, but the polishes go on nicely and last pretty well.

PRITI NYC 8 free and has a large selection of colors with a line of colors specifically with little princesses in mind.  Stays on well.

AILA 8 free, smaller selection of colors, but they have a great top coat called ‘Batter than Gel” that I really like.

JULEP 5 free (Sephora carries a limited selection), they have a large selection of colors.

100 Percent Pure 5 free.  My kids use this product more than I do.  I haven’t found a color that I love in this line.  The colors are a little more festive than I like to use.

There are some other healthy brands out there that I have not tried like TenoverTen and Kure Bazaar.  I am sure I will try them soon.

Show off your colorful fingers and toes this summer, just know what you are putting on your nails!

2 thoughts on “Nailed It

  1. Great post. I appreciate the focus on promoting awareness and not using fear tactics! On my list to try are 100% Pure, Pacifica, Tenoverten, Smith & Cult, and Priti NYC. I have never heard of Kure Bazaar before, but I’ll have to check into them. Thanks!


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