Like most kids my Little Lady loves a weekend comic.
Generally, it’s the lure of free plastic goodies on the front that swings it, rather than the actual content. But hey ho.
The other week though, my spidey senses were not at full capacity and I failed to notice a lurid purple nail polish hanging off the front of this week’s comic. (I’m not huge on make up on little ones).
My Little Lady of course was in raptures – Mummy had failed to notice said lurid nail polish.
So we opened it. And out came a kind of genie of FUMES. It STANK. In that chemically, this really can’t be good for you, kind of way.
This really got me thinking about what nail polish is made of?
Here’s what I discovered:
These can be particularly harmful to children.
There were 3 particular chemicals though that rang the biggest alarm bells:
1 – Toluene
A cheap adhesive, toluene is found in products such as paints, adhesives, fingernail polish and gasoline. It evaporates rapidly from these materials and becomes mixed with the air you breathe. Toluene has been linked with a host of potential health issues, including nervous system and reproductive issues.
2 – Formaldehyde
This suspected carcinogen is typically used as a preservative and steriliser. It’s often added to nail hardeners and coloured nail polishes.
3 – Dibutyl phthalate (DBP)
The European Union bans DBP in cosmetics, as well as in childcare articles and toys, as it is one of a range of phthalates linked to a host of possible adverse health effects, including asthma and male fertility issues.
Other chemicals often lurking in nail polish, which have been raised as ‘chemicals of concern’ by the California Safe Cosmetics Program, include:
- Carbon Black (Airborne)
- Cocamide DEA
- Methylene Glycol
Whist many brands are getting better and starting to remove ‘some’ of the dubious ingredients such as formaldehyde, you’ll still find the ingredients above lurking in many nail polishes.
Especially the cheaper products.
In fact, whatever claims a nail polish brand may make about their ‘natural’ or ‘non-toxic’ credentials, it’s best to do your research and check for the 3 ingredients above, (in particular), before you buy.
What I also didn’t realise (and was pretty horrified to discover) is that there is very little governmental review, or control, over the ingredients companies can use in their cosmetic products.
So many brands add what they like – especially chemical additives that make the product ‘better’ and more sellable through faster drying times or longer lasting polish.
Ever noticed that overwhelming (and very unnatural) smell when you pass by a nail salon?
It’s the chemicals.
Ever wondered why many nail salon staff wear masks over their mouths?
It’s the chemicals!
Chemicals which release a host of stinky VOCS (not good) into the air, which we then inhale.
What’s Nail Polish Made Of? – The Non Toxic Safer Alternatives
The good news though is that there are a variety of non toxic nail polishes out there.
Now that I know what nail polish is made of (yuck!), here are the non toxic ones I recommend.
These non toxic polishes are all free of DBP, formaldehyde and toluene.
6 of the Best Non Toxic Nail Polishes
1 – Acquarella
Acquarella produce water based nail polish that’s free from Formaldehyde, Phthalates, Toluene or other petrochemical solvents. The polish has practically no odour and comes in a range of colours.
Pre varnish nail preparation (cleaning and buffing) and 2 coats of polish are recommended for best results.
2 – Honeybee Gardens
Honeybee Gardens non toxic, water-based polish is again free from harsh chemical odours and fumes and comes in a range of 20 shades.
You can easily remove the polish with rubbing alcohol or Honeybee’s own nail polish remover, which negates the need for the more traditional smelly (and toxic) nail varnish remover.
3 – Piggy Paint
Piggy Paint is a non-toxic, hypoallergenic nail polish that is aimed at kiddies. Free of formaldehyde, toluene, phthalates, Bisphenol A, ethyl acetate and acetone, Piggy Paint dries to a hard, durable finish that can easily be removed with Piggy Paint’s eco friendly and low odour nail polish remover.
I love the fact that Piggy Paint was started by Melanie Hurley after she watched a blob of traditional nail polish bubble and eat through a foam plate! From that moment on she swore her kids would never use toxic polish again.
4 – Spa Rituals
Spa Rituals produce vegan nail polishes which are naturally colored and free of DBP, formaldehyde and toluene.
The polishes come in over 80 shades and are grouped into 4 unique categories using the principles of colour therapy.
5 – Suncoat
Suncoat’s water based nail polish comes in a range of 16 colours. It’s largely aimed at younger kids and girls, as it doesn’t tend to last for more than 2 days on nails. What’s great about it though (and another reason it’s great for younger kids) is that it requires no nail polish remover. Simply soak coated nails in warm water and peel off the nail polish from one corner.
This is a popular non toxic option with many 5* reviews on Amazon.
6 – Scotch Naturals
Scotch Naturals offer a range of great colours and are a popular choice with consumers. Most people seem hugely happy with the Scotch Naturals nail polish, but I did notice a few customers saying the polish starts to chip off a bit too quickly.
However, from what I can see, if you follow Scotch Natural’s own instructions and apply a Scotch Natural base and top coat, you shouldn’t have any problems.
The Bottom Line – What Is Nail Polish Made Of?
I’m a huge advocate of reducing the chemical load in our household.
I use eco cleaning products (or make my own) and avoid as many personal care products with chemical additives in as possible. This now includes toxic nail polish.
The water based and non toxic nail polishes (like the ones recommended above) are much safer both for you and your little ones, (who let’s face it, are quite likely to want to paint their nails now and again!).
Plus they are better for the environment too.
Are there any drawbacks to non toxic nail polishes?
You may find that some of the non toxic versions don’t last quite as long as the bigger brand products, but if you think about it – it’s the toxic adhesive substances above that make these nail polishes last so long in the first place.
So if you want to ditch the chemicals, you ‘might’ have to apply some non toxic options a little more often. Personally, I’m ok with this.
If you’re ever unsure about a personal care product’s potentially toxic ingredients (nail polish or otherwise), a good place to look is the Environmental Working Group Database (EWG).
EWG compare the ingredients on personal care product labels and websites to information in nearly 60 toxicity and regulatory databases. They then use their findings to give products a score based on their level of potentially toxic ingredients. The lower the score the better.
As for the lurid purple ‘comic’ nail polish, the product details are so insanely small, I found them impossible to read without an industrial strength magnifying glass.
So to be on the safe side, it’s been well and truly binned!
Have you ever tried non toxic nail polish? How did you find it?