Natural Nail Polish Review - What is the safest option?


by Pure Complexions

  In this fast-paced world, 100% chemical-free nail polish formulations don't seem to be a realistic option. Truly chemical-free nail polishes used in ancient times required long overnight drying times and produced low to no-gloss finishes. In order to be practical, current formulations require the use of synthetic polymers or resins. Each synthetic ingredient brings different safety issue to the table.

We frequently get inquires about which polish is the safest, so we decided to review the "natural" nail polish choices to offer more guidance for our health conscious consumers. Below is a summary of our findings;
  • What are the major safety concerns of mainstream & "natural market" nail polish ingredients?
    1. Chemical Fumes: Solvent-based nail polish formulas use aromatic chemicals that quickly evaporate, leaving behind a hardened coat of paint. Most people realize it is probably unhealthy to inhale nail polish fumes, but few people understand why. So, a simple explanation may be in order. Environmental chemicals do not simply bounce off our bodies in a neutral fashion. In order to prevent damage, our bodies have to efficiently process them. Most chemical that you inhale, will be absorbed into your blood stream, deactivated by your liver and expelled from your system (via your colon, urine, or sweat). Noxious chemicals like the ones found in solvent-based nail polish can place an increased burden on your liver. The more chemicals you are exposed to, the harder it is for your liver to function efficiently. Overwhelmed livers can set the stage for a variety of health problems. It is generally recommended to limit your toxin exposure when possible - switching to a safer nail polish brand is a great start.
    2. Dibutyl Phthalates: Prevents nail polish from chipping. Prenatal exposure to phthalates has been shown in animal studies to cause birth defects.  Phthalates also improve absorption of topical ingredients into the skin (this is a negative quality when used in formulas that contain other chemical ingredients).
    3. Toluene and xylene: Petroleum-based organic solvents that are toxic and may be linked to cancer.
    4. Formaldehyde: Noxious chemical - highly toxic to the liver and carcinogenic.
  • Which "natural" nail polish brand is the safest?

    We compared the ingredients of several "natural market" nail polishes and determined that Honeybee Gardens Water-Based Nail Polish was the safest currently available. Their are two types of nail polishes; water-based and solvent-based. Solvent-based formulas exist in both the mainstream market and natural market. Due to the volatility of their chemical fumes we automatically eliminated the solvent-based types as safe options. Water-based formulas seem to be a much healthier choice. As of this writing, there are two water-based formulas available; Honeybee Gardens (USA) and Suncoat (Canada). We posted the ingredients of each nail polish we reviewed below;
    • Water-based "Natural" Formulas: (Found at local health food stores)
      1. Honeybee Gardens Water-Based Nail Polish (Safest Nail Polish Formula): Contains: water, water-miscible acrylic acid, polyurethane film formers and thickeners (soy-based film formers), non-ionic soaps (coconut-based). May Contain: iron oxides and/or titanium dioxide.
        • Pros: Odorless, No nasty fumes, non-toxic earth-friendly formula, long wearing fabulous colors, No FD&C colors, toluene-free, dibutyl phthalate-free, paraben-free, xylene-free, formaldehyde-free, and acetate-free. Acrylic acid base: an organic, odorless, colorless blend that is non-toxic to both humans and animals (clinical studies show no dermal reactions or irritations).
        • Cons: Contains polyurethane - There are many types of polyurethane, some of which have been linked to cancer in animals. However, Honeybee Gardens uses a soy-based less toxic polyurethane blend.
      2. Suncoat Water-Based Nail Polish: Aqua (water, 65%), acrylate copolymer + styrene-acrylate copolymer (28%), other ingredients (all under 4%); Dipropylene glycol, n-butyl ether dipropylene glycol, diethylene glycol, dibenzoate, mica, iron oxide, titanium dioxide.
        • Pros: Chemical fume-free, Odorless, Phthalate-free, Paraben-free, Toluene-free, Formaldehyde-free, Acetate-free.
        • Cons: Contains acrylates copolymers. Acrylates copolymer improve the absorption of surrounding ingredients into the skin (this is a negative quality when used in formulas that contains chemicals). Contains other chemical irritants such as dipropylene glycol, diethylene glycol, and dibenzoate.
    • Solvent-based "Natural" Formulas: (Found at local health food stores)
      1. Sante Nail Enamels: A solvent-based nail polish. Contains: Ethyl Acetate, Butyl Acetate, Phthalic Anhydride/Trimellitic Anhydride/Glycols Copolymer, Nitrocellulose, Acetyl Tributyl Citrate, Isopropyl Alcohol, Stearalkonium Bentonite, Acrylates Copolymer, Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Palmitic Acid, [+/- Mica, Titanium Dioxide, Iron Oxides, Tartrazine, D&C Red 7 (FD&C Color), Carmine, Chromium Oxide Greens, Ferric ferrocyanide, D&C Red 34 (FD&C Color), Tin Oxide].
        • Pros: Free of Dibutyl Pthalate, Toluene and Formaldehyde. NO colophony (rosin); NO synthetic preservatives; NO synthetic fragrances; NO color lakes.
        • Cons: It is a solvent-based nail polish (acetate) which creates chemical fumes during application and while drying. Also contains acrylates copolymers and artificial dyes. Acrylates copolymers improve the absorption of surrounding ingredients into the skin (this is a negative quality when used in formulas that contains chemicals).
      2. Earthly Delights - Classic Collection (toluene & formaldehyde-free): Contains: Ethyl Acetate, Butyl Acetate, Nitrocellulose, Polyester Resin, Dibutyl Phthalate, Isopropyl Alcohol, Stearalkonium Hectorite, Camphor, Benzophenone. May Contain: Titanium Dioxide, D & C Red #6 Barium Lake, D&C Red #7 Calcium Lake, D&C Red #34 Calcuim Lake, FD&C Yellow #5 Aluminum Ferrocyanide, Mica, Bismuth Oxychloride, Guanine.
        • Pros: Free of Toluene and Formaldehyde. No acrylates copolymer.
        • Cons: It is a solvent-based nail polish (acetate) which creates chemical fumes during application and while drying. Contains dibutyl phthalate (can cause birth defects). Also contains artificial dyes.
    • Mainstream Nail Polish Formulas (solvent-based): Provided for comparison.
      1. Revlon Super Top Speed Chrome Quick Dry Nail Polish: Contains: Ethyl Acetate, Butyl Acetate, Ethyl Alcohol, Nitrocellulose, Isopropyl Alcohol, Amyl Acetate, Sucrose Acetate, Isobutyrate, Ethyl Tosylamide, Camphor, Stearlkonium Hectorite, Diacetone Alcohol, Dimethicone, Diemthicone Copolyol, Triacetin, Dipropylene Glycol, Dibenzoate, Phosphoric Acid, Citirc Acid. May contain: Mica, Aluminum Powder, Red No. 7 Lake, Iron Oxides, Titanium Dioxide, Red No. 6 Lake, Red No. 34 Lake, Ferric Ammonium Ferrocyanide, Yellow No. 5 Lake, Bismuth Oxychloride, Guanine, Carmine, Chromium Oxide Green, Manganese Violet, Violet No. 2.
      2. OPI Classic Shades Nail Lacquer: Contains: Butyl Acetate, Toluene, Nitrocellulose, Ethyl Acetate, Tosylamide/Formaldehyde Resin, Dibutyl Phthalate, Isopropyl Alcohol, Stearalkonium Hectorite, Camphor, Benzophenone-1, Mica, Cl 77163, Cl 77019, Cl 77891

Go Back to Natural Cosmetics: Nail Care