7 Toxic Nail Polish Ingredients You Should Avoid
Did you know that nail polish ingredients can actually be bad for your health? The effects range from an allergic reaction to birth defects or cancer.
While writing my nail polish guide, I became aware that animal testing is minor compared with these harmful ingredients.
So, I want to share more information about toxic nail polish ingredients you should avoid. But also give you a list of non-toxic nail polish options.
Let’s get started!
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What Nail Polish Ingredients are Banned?
The EU, the European Union, have banned almost 1400 ingredients for use in cosmetics. Compare that to the US, where the FDA, Food and Drug Administration, has only banned a measly 11 ingredients.
Many nail polish brands are proactive and choose to follow EU guidelines. So, they do not include some, if not all, of the banned EU ingredients in their nail polish formulas.
The companies then label the polish to be 3-Free, 5-Free, 7-Free, etc., depending on the ingredients that are excluded.
7 Toxic Ingredients in Nail Polish
This is a list of the most common ingredients nail polish brands avoid using in nail polish manufacturing.
Yes, this is the same formaldehyde they use to embalm dead bodies. It is commonly used as a nail hardener but has been linked to nasal and lung cancers.
Because of this, it is banned for use in cosmetics in the EU but not in the US.
Formaldehyde may be listed on cosmetics labels by the following names:
- DMDM hydantoin
- Formic Aldehyde
- Imidazolidinyl urea
- Methyl Aldehyde
- Methylene Glycol
Toluene helps nail polish be applied in a smooth and even layer. It can cause irritation, breathing issues, and nausea.
Toluene has been linked to birth defects and has a possible to link to blood cancer. The EU has restricted its use in nail polish because it can risk or harm an unborn child.
3// DBP or Dibutyl Phthalate
DBP is used to help prevent nail polish from chipping or cracking. Prenatal exposure has been linked to birth defects in baby boys. DBP is banned in the EU for use in cosmetics.
4// Tosylamide Formaldehyde Resin
Tosylamide Formaldehyde Resin is used to give nail polish its shiny, high gloss appearance and durability. However, it can cause an allergic reaction in some people.
Camphor gives nail polish its shiny and high gloss appearance. It is a natural ingredient from the wood of the camphor tree, Cinnamomum camphora, but has a synthetic alternative.
The EU has banned 3-Benzylidene Camphor (UV filter) in cosmetic products. Also, Canada has banned Camphor for use in cosmetics due to potential allergic reactions.
6// Ethyl Tosylamide
Ethyl Tosylamide helps prevent nail polish from cracking and helps retain the color for longer. The EU considers this a sulfonamide and it it’s banned in cosmetics and personal care products marketed in Europe.
Xylene is a solvent that helps prevents the grainy effect you get if nail polish dries too quickly. It can cause irritation to the skin, eyes, or lungs. The EU has classified xylene as a toxic or harmful irritant and is banned for use in cosmetics
What is the Toxic Trio?
The toxic trio is:
- DBP Dibutyl Phthalate
These three ingredients have earned their nickname ‘The Toxic Trio’ for a damn good reason. All of these ingredients have been banned for use in cosmetics or personal care products in the EU.
So, I suggest that any nail polish that you use be at least 3-free.
List of Non-Toxic Nail Polish Brands
All of the nail polish brands on this list are at least 3-Free, non-toxic, and cruelty-free.
3-Free Nail Polish Brands
These nail polish brands are free of the toxic trio: Formaldehyde, Toluene, and Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP)
5-Free Nail Polish Brands
These polishes are free of the toxic trio and Tosylamide Formaldehyde Resin, and Camphor
- *hype nail
- Black Dahlia Lacquer
- LAW Beauty Essentials
- Passport to Organics
- Pure Anada Natural
7-Free Nail Polish Brands
These are free of Formaldehyde, Toluene, DBP, Tosylamide, Formaldehyde Resin, Camphor, Ethyl Tosylamide, and Xylene.
- All Heart
- Base Coat
- Keeki Pure & Simple
- L’ Fiori Lacquer
- Lady V Lacquer
- LaPierre Cosmetics
- Nail’d at Tiffany’s
- NCLA Beauty
- Oh Tiff! Professional Lacquer
- Sienna Byron Bay
- Taylor Made Cosmetics
9-Free or more Nail Polish Brands
These nail polish brands are free from all of the 7 toxic ingredients on this list plus various other ingredients. Like animal ingredients, fragrance, or parabens. Just click on the brand for more information.
- 10 Free Chemistry
- 100% Pure
- Adesse New York
- Blu Ink Nail Lacquer
- Dimension Nails
- Elevé Cosmetics
- Espionage Cosmetics
- Gabriel Cosmetics
- Hanami Cosmetics
- Honeybee Gardens
- Kester Black
- Kolors by K
- Madam Glam
- Nail & Bone
- Paint Nail Lacquer
- Passport Polish
- Pretty Woman NYC
- Priti NYC
- Sambora Beach Toes
- Spela Cosmetics
- Wailani Beauty
Wrap Up: Toxic Ingredients in Nail Polish
It’s scary to think that my monthly manicure could have been slowly damaging my body.
I personally believe it’s irresponsible for the FDA to let cosmetic manufacturers continue to use ingredients that are proven to harm us.
WTF is the point of having cosmetic regulations that don’t ban horrible ingredients.
Luckily, all the brands on this list are pretty transparent about what is in their nail polish.
How do you feel about the FDA not banning cosmetics ingredients known to cause allergic reactions, cancer, or even birth defects? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.