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Why Conventional Nail Polish Is Actually Controversial

Pretty Pure

Well, it’s true.. even putting nail polish on your nail beds is absorbed straight into the blood stream within two hours of being applied. Most conventional nail polishes contain the following chemicals:

Formaldehyde: Known human carcinogen and is known to cause cancer of the blood, throat and nose.

Toluene: Fumes are highly toxic and can result in decreased brain functionality, neurological damage, respiratory problems, nasea and hearing loss. Can also cause abnormal fetal development in pregnant women and when studied on animals, has been linked to several types of blood cancer.

DBP (Dibytl Phthalate): Phthalates, which are found in a lot of products, are a group of chemicals that mimis estrogen in the body and has shown to impair fetal development in pregnant women, as well as cause organ damage and early onset menopause.

Camphor: This chemical can cause allergic reactions, severe skin irritations, as well as headaches, nausea and dizziness when fumes are inhaled. Other studies also link it to occurrences of liver failure and organ damage. Europe is working to phase this ingredient out of all of their personal care products entirely.

Formaldehyde Resin: This one is a by-product of formaldehyde and is one of the top 3 toxic chemicals in nail polish. It can cause allergic reactions, skin irritations as well as discoloration and loss of nerve sensation.

Xylene: The horrible odor you notice when painting your nails. This can cause eye irritation, skin irritation, headache, dizziness and nausea. It can also lead to liver and kidney damage, respiratory issues and potentially death.

Parabens: Another extremely common chemical in personal care products, this preservative has been highly linked with breast cancer in women.

Lead: This one is obvious. Super toxic and affects the liver, kidneys, reproductive system and nervous system. Not always listed on nail polish ingredients. Hope you’re not a nail biter!

TPHP (Triphenyl Phosphate): Known as an endocrine disruptor, which means that it messes with our hormones and has been linked to infertility, abnormal fetal development, hormonal imbalances and several types of cancer.

Ethyl Tosylamide: Has been banned altogether in Europe.

I could tell you what each ingredient is for, however, when the potential hazards are this high, it really doesn’t matter to me. Since I’ve started looking into this as my next part in the How To Rid Your Life of Toxins series, I have discontinued getting my nails done and had bare nails for at least a month now. As someone who enjoys having painted nails (especially when I go to a horse barn everyday where dirt under the nails in inevitable and probably the #1 reason that I wear polish in the first place), I was hoping that I might be lucky to find something that wouldn’t be so toxic since I’m pretty committed to the non toxic lifestyle.

NOW, if you start to do some research, you’ll notice that there ARE polishes out there that are advertised as 3-free, 5-free, 7-free and even 10-free as safe options without harsh chemicals.. HOWEVER, even the 10-free polishes contain the following ingredient:


This chemical is in all of these “safer” polishes, it is still known as an endocrine disruptor as well as found in studies to stimulate growth of certain cancers (ovarian and breast). While it is up to each individual to choose what they want to put on their body and what risk is worth taking to get pretty nails, this is not worth it to me. And, hey! Look on the bright side.. I’ll save about $90-100 on 2 gel manicures and a pedicure per month.

Here are the brands that are advertised as “Safer” 3, 5, 7, 9, 10-Free & Cruelty Free + Vegan Nail Polish that still contain Benzophenone-1 or other harmful chemical:

100% Pure
American Apparel
Beauty Without Cruelty
Deborah Lippmann
Ella + Mia
Gabriel Cosmetics
Honeybee Gardens
Jenna Hipp
Jin Soon
Karma Organic Spa
Kure Bazaar
Mineral Fusion
Nailing Hollywood
Obsessive Compulsive
Piggy Paint
Poofy Organics
Priti NYC
RMS Beauty
Sally Hansen
Smith & Cult
Trust Fund Beauty
Wet ‘n’ Wild

That’s a LONG list… What CAN you use?

This one took a lot of research, because honestly, there aren’t many. And you can’t expect them to be as perfect as conventional nail polishes, but they are sure a whole lot better for you in the long run.

Non Toxic Nail Polish:


Acquarella + Remover

That’s right… that is it! And even then, this is not 100%, however is considered fine under restricted use. I would not recommend putting polish of any kind on children that will most likely still their fingers in their mouths.

This took quite a bit of research as there are SO many brands claiming to be safe. I ordered the Acquarella remover, a very light color called French Vanilla, since it’s been a LONG time since I painted my own nails (gotta crawl before you walk!), and the recommended conditioner to use every couple of days to keep your nail beds healthy.


I ordered on Monday night and it arrived to my mailbox on Wednesday. They offer OVER 65 colors of polish, which is pretty amazing. You can definitely tell that it is water based when you put it on, and my light color took a couple of coats. The polish had NO smell to it, which I liked. The remover (that you use before you apply polish to remove any particles or dirt) also had no smell.

I look forward to trying some additional colors!

A non toxic lifestyle can still include pretty nails!


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