For the last several years, I have been on a furious hunt for safe nail polish brands. I have never understood my teenage daughter’s obsession with nail polish. I never painted her nails when she was little because I always worried about toxic nail polish ingredients. She discovered nail polish on her own once she hit about 4th grade and has been crazy about it ever since. I have learned over the last few years of having teenagers that it is best to pick my battles carefully. She happily washes with my organic, locally made soap and uses an aluminum-free, natural deodorant. I haven’t fought too hard about the nail polish up until now because…well, there are only so many hours in a day, right?
Why Choose Safe Nail Polish Brands?
Triphenyl phosphate, or TPHP, is a common ingredient in most nail polish. Apparently, this chemical can leach through the nail bed and into women’s bodies. It then acts as an endocrine disruptor, interfering with normal hormone functioning. Read more about the endocrine disruptors in nail polish on the Environmental Working Group website. I spent a lot of time reading the article and then doing a bit of follow-up research. That research now has me even more confused. I don’t want my daughter using toxic nail polish brands but how do I figure out which ones are really dangerous?
Avoiding Toxic Nail Polish Brands is HARD!
There are a number of sites that claim the Environmental Working Group is nothing more than an alarmist fringe group doing it’s best to make sure we are all thoroughly freaked out on a daily basis. Are they a believable source of information or not? Honestly, I can’t tell you that! I do know that I was uncomfortable with my daughter’s nail polish habit for quite some time so I started looking for safe nail polish brands to replace some of her stock with. But, when I started doing my research I kept coming across terms like 9 free nail polish and 5 free nail polish brands. Do I need to find formaldehyde free nail polish brands? Who the heck can really break this down for me?
Here comes the Frustration!
Finding the best non toxic nail polish is next to impossible because there are conflicting opinions on multiple sites. I found some websites that said O*P*I nail polish was safe and others that said it wasn’t. Some places said I needed to find 3 Free products like Essie Nail Polish and others insisted that 5 Free nail polishes like Zoya Nail Products were safer. But neither of those classifications included the new study saying that TPHP was dangerous. So, even a ‘5 free’ nail polish could contain TPHP. (For more information on harmful chemicals in nail polish check out Black Cat Nails). I think the conflicting advice on so many prominent websites is just making this research even harder!
According to the Environmental Working Group, most nail polish brands don’t even list TPHP as an ingredient even if they include it. So, what’s a concerned mom to do? Besides throw away every single container of nail polish and incur the wrath of a teenage girl like none ever seen before?
Mom’s solution to her daughter’s toxic nail polish habit:
So, I decided that I needed to find a balance between my daughter’s love of nail polish and my paranoia about toxic nail polish ingredients. Here is the happy medium I came up with during our search for safe nail polish brands.
- Have daughter sort nail polishes by brand. Get rid of brands the EWG says definitely has TPHP in it. (see graphic here http://www.ewg.org/research/nailed) Try not to worry about brands not listed quite yet.
- Replace toxic nail polish with water based nail polish. A lot of the articles I read suggested that water based nail polishes are safer than conventional nail polish.
- Buy non toxic nail polish remover….hoping it smells better than the conventional stuff.
- Try not to cringe at the astronomical price you just charged to your credit card. I’ll be honest with you…safe nail polish is not cheap. I found prices ranging from $8 per bottle to $16 per bottle. I let my daughter pick out 6 new polishes to replace the 20 we just threw away. She seems to be fine tossing out the polishes as long as she knows that new polishes will be replacing them. She could care less about the hormone disruptors or cancer-causing chemicals in them as long as they look pretty on her nails. We’ll see how she likes the new polishes when they get here.
Organic, Natural, or Vegan Nail Polish? Does it Matter?
There are so many labels out there on safe nail polish brands. They claim to be vegan and all natural. Never tested on animals and ‘free from harmful chemicals’. They have natural sounding names like Honeybee Gardens and you can even find organic nail polish. I am going to try to replace more and more of my daughter’s nail polish with safer alternatives over the next few months. I may go broke. I may not be protecting her from any real dangers. But at least I will feel a tad bit better every time she whips out the nail caddie and nail art tools!
If you want a seriously informative look at what is in nail polish, check out this video from National Geographic. Seriously an awesome look at nail polish both THEN and NOW!
Have any tips for choosing safe nail polish brands?
(post updated from previously published date)
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Diane is a professional blogger and nationally certified pharmacy technician at Good Pill Pharmacy. She earned her BS in Microbiology at the University of New Hampshire and has worked in cancer research, academics, and biotechnology. Concern over the growing incidence of human disease and the birth of her children led her to begin living a more natural life. She quickly realized that the information she was learning along the way could be beneficial to many others and started blogging and freelance writing to share this knowledge with others. Learn more about her HERE.
5 thoughts on “The Frustrating Search for the Best Safe Nail Polish Brands”
I really just wish my daughter didn’t want to use nail polish. I’m all for avoiding the chemicals entirely.
I absolutely looooove water based polish. I’ve been using it for two years. It takes a little bit getting used to because the process of applying it and removing it is a little different, but for safety and health it’s totally worth the effort. I have 3 brands that I’ve settled on that I use regularly and there are as my colors available as with conventional polishes. My favorite thing about them is that they don’t smell so no offensive odors while applying! 🙂 Which water based polishes do you like best?
I can totally relate to this! I threw away my entire nail polish collection out of frustration with the chemicals in them ALL. I just decided to swear off using store-bought nail polish altogether and I actually prefer the natural look. I will admit that I do “treat” myself to the very occasional nail salon manicure. I know it’s probably the worst toxic exposure of all but my 4x/year exposure is much better than my daily exposure when I would do my own nails. The things we do to feel pretty!
I usually keep my fingernails unpainted but I love painting my toes! I have been trying hard to swap out the older stuff for the newer, safer options but it gets expensive!
I am in the same situation as you. I have a bunch of natural nail polishes, but I need to check all of them. We like Zoya and it seems like that is free of TPHP. My girls love nail polish and it is hard not to give in sometimes! Thanks for sharing, this is important!