Choosing A Non-Toxic Nail Polish & The Importance Of Doing So

A beauty ritual for many women all over the world since 3000 BC during the Ming Dynasty in China, made from combining beeswax, gelatin, egg whites, and vegetable based dyes. It has developed to the 21st Century form- a toxic concoction of ingredients such as toluene and xylene. Egyptian women applied it to their fingernails as a way of expressing their hierarchy in the class system. You guessed it, we’re talking about nail polish. But it wasn’t until the 1920’s was it invented as we now know it today. This was the time when the United States patented the common nail polish chemical, nitrocellulose, and it was able to be mass-produced in pink and soon eventuated to the rainbow of colours that stock the shelves, and different brands and types of nail polish popped up as the ‘latest and greatest’ technology and produced.

So what’s the issue, you may think?

Everytime a nail is chipped, or maybe you want to freshen up the colour of your nails, you remove the old and then reapply the new. This could be repeated every week or two, possibly even a month after painting. As a result, everytime this process is repeated, you are exposing your nails to harmful chemicals that could be leached into your body through cuticles and under the nail. Maybe you bite your nails- you are directly putting those harmful ingredients into your mouth. But by looking past the many toxic brands that take the shape of the industry, you are able to choose a less toxic nail polish that helps to keep both your nails and body healthy and happy. Below we discuss a few nail polish terms and what they mean for the products that brand produces (plus a few brands you can try to get that perfect mani!)

5 Free Nail Polish

So you may have seen a ‘5 free’ label on a bottle of polish before and wondered what it meant? ‘5 Free’ is a nail classification for all nail polishes without 5 of the most common chemicals, as the name suggests. These include Toluene, Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP), Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde Resin, and Camphor.

Have you ever opened up a jar of polish, the strong smell hits you and you soon feel a little light headed? Well that is likely to be Toluene.

Have you ever noticed your nails have this oh so shiny finish, but through reapplying often your nails turn brittle and form a yellow tint? The answer to that is Camphor.

DBP binds and changes the plastic in the polish to prevent it from becoming brittle for the perfect lacquer without cracking, though it has been known to disrupt the reproductive system.

What about Formaldehyde? It is used to harden the nail to create that sought after long lasting manicure, though it comes at a cost. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen, and according to, ‘National Cancer Institute researchers have concluded that, based on data from studies in people and from lab research, exposure to formaldehyde may cause leukemia, particularly myeloid leukemia, in humans’.

These five ingredients are all associated with a myriad of other internal issues that could affect you personally.

Instead, a ‘five free’ nail polish option is Ginger and Liz. Founded by two vegan/vegetarian friends, they implemented that into the products by creating a ‘5 free’ vegan nail polish. According to their website their nail polish has been ‘made for style setters’, and it truly lives up to that with fun colours (and polish names too!) for any look.

7 Free Nail Polish

‘7 Free’ nail polish reaps all the benefits of a ‘5 free’ one, only better. It is also void of Xylene and Ethyl Tosylamide.

Xylene is used to thin down nail polish to prevent hardening in the bottle, though similarly to Toluene, it has a strong smell that can cause brain and respiratory issues when inhaled.

Ethyl Tosylamide is the ingredient that transform your nails from wet to wonderful as it assists in the drying process, though thankfully it has been banned in Europe as it is linked to causing antibiotic resistance. But, you can still get a long lasting mani pedi from a ‘7 free’ nail polish that looks great!

Sienna Byron Bay is a brand making a difference with their ‘7 free’ nail polishes. I personally love their products and their extensive colour range (you may have seen some other posts featuring Sienna Byron Bay on the bold before). They have multiple cruelty free and vegan certifications, including Halal Australia, PETA, Vegan Action, and Choose Cruelty Free.

Read: Non-Toxic Nail Polish From Sienna Byron Bay

10 Free Nail Polish

‘10 Free’ is the term for the Ultimate Nail Polish with a pretty extensive cut list. It excludes all the harmful chemicals mentioned above as well as no animal products- yay for all the vegans out there, fragrances, or parabens and phthalates. These nail polishes can give you peace of mind of a beautiful manicure without compromising your health.

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Cumulus & Bleu. Regram via @so_nailicious

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Kester Black is a game changer when it comes to nail polish. Obviously nail polish cannot be void of all, however the Kester Black nail polish products are ‘10 free’ and cruelty free. They are also B Corp certified (you can learn a full rundown on what that means here) and support charities by donating $1 from every purchase. It can’t get much better than that if you ask me!

To all the mani-pedi people out there, it’s time to make the switch. Try out some of the nail polish brands above that are changing the industry through the ingredients used in their products, and how in turn that affects your nails and your body. Trust me, your nails will thank you for it!


Founder + Blogger

Hey there! I'm Brodie, the passionate blogger behind Ethically Engaged. My mission is to find ethical lifestyle options to lead you in the direction of conscious consumerism. I hope you enjoy coming along this journey with me x

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