A new era of super-clean nail polishes
Like this story? Subscribe to Well+Good, and we’ll send you insider news and invitations to our fitness and beauty events right to your inbox!
The three big, bad chemicals banished from nail polishes—those would be formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), and toluene—now have some company.
That brings the grand total of toxic ingredients to avoid painting onto your fingertips to five. At least for now.
What is formaldehyde resin? It’s a strengthener used in polishes, while formaldehyde proper has been a staple of nail hardeners. Both are skin allergens, according to the Food & Drug Administration, and only truly toxic if you bite your nails. (“Many nail products contain potentially harmful ingredients, but are allowed on the market because they are safe when used as directed. For example, some nail ingredients are harmful only when ingested, which is not their intended use.”)
As for camphor, it might be taking a toll on manicurists regularly exposed to its fumes, according to the Center for Disease Control. That comes as a shocker since the oil, which is tapped from tree bark or synthetically made, is used in aromatherapy and Vicks VapoRub.
“Camphor is a lovely example of how natural doesn’t always mean non-toxic, explains Spirit Demerson, founder of the all-natural Spirit Beauty Lounge and a professional ingredient-label reader. “Like clove and citrus oils, camphor can be toxic if ingested or even inhaled or absorbed in large amounts,” she says.
But don’t go cancelling your mani-pedi appointment just yet. Because polish dries on the nails and isn’t repeatedly applied and absorbed through the skin the way, say, a moisturizer is, explains Demerson, polishes probably don’t pose the same kind of cosmetic health concern as “wet” beauty products containing suspect ingredients that are applied to your pores.
So is the 5-free claim just manicure marketing then? A way that super-natural brands can differentiate themselves from the growing competition? After all, many mainstream polishes are now 3-free (OPI and Essie) and a handful of fashion-focused brands are even 5-free (NCLA and Chanel).
“Since nearly all polishes are now 3-free, I imagine they will all eventually be 5-free as well,” says Demerson.
What’s actually exciting to her are brands like Scotch Naturals and Kure Bazaar, which she stocks. “They’re really trying to break the rules in formulating and pushing toward something we’ve been told would never be possible—a nearly-natural nail polish that actually lasts.” —Melisse Gelula
For a list of brands, check out Top 12 nail polishes that are 5-free
How particular are you about your nail polish? Tell us in the Comments, below!