Ready to make the switch to non-toxic? Follow these tips to nail your next mani. Photo / Kester Black

Why You Should Make The Switch To Non-Toxic Nail Polish

Give your next DIY manicure a makeover with the new wave of free-from formulas that deliver on colour, wear and shine

If lockdown served as an ideal opportunity to sort through your bathroom cabinet, ditching chemical-laden cleansers in favour of their “cleaner” constituents, chances are your box of nail polishes was overlooked.

For a product so small and so pretty, traditional nail lacquers are among the worst offenders when it comes to including harsh chemicals to achieve the high-shine and long-lasting finish we’ve come to expect from our at-home manis.

Yes, turn over any of these fun-sized glass bottles and you’re likely to find a list of unrecognisable ingredients and toxic chemicals listed on the back.

“Traditional nail polish is packed with seriously harmful chemicals. The weird thing is, there’s actually no need for them to be there,” says Anna Ross, founder of local beauty brand Kester Black.

Non-toxic nail polish is free from the "toxic trio" — dibutyl phthalate, toluene or formaldehyde. Photo / Kester Black

In 2010, the New York Times published an article about the health risks of the nail polish industry, citing scary insights including interference with reproductive hormones, asthma, and in some cases, cancer.

In response, many nailcare brands have successfully eliminated the three most harmful chemicals from their formulas — formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate and toluene (also known as the toxic trio).

Other offenders include camphor, xylene, phthalates and parabens, which can cause skin allergies, nausea and liver damage.

READ: Nail Artist Tanya Barlow On How Nails Can Encourage Conversation

“The good thing to note is that while a lot of other ingredients get a bad rep when being used in skincare (like ethyl and butyl acetate) they are actually 100 per cent safe to use in nail polish.

“Because your nails are made up of around 150 layers of keratin cells, it’s almost impossible for any ingredients to be absorbed into the bloodstream when applied properly,” Anna explains.

“The dangers of toxic nail polish are most problematic after the application process, like when you put your fingers in your mouth.”

And while the cleaner version of nail polish is known as being non-toxic, it can never be completely chemical-free. Think of it as being “low toxic” instead.

“Most non-toxic nail polish will be labelled 3, 5, 7, or 10-free. This refers to the number of commonly found nasties your nail polish is free from,” Anna adds.

The upside is that these cleaner and safer alternatives don’t compromise on the performance or appearance you’ve come to expect from traditional polish — delivering on colour, wear time and shine.

Left to right: Kester Black Nail Polish in the shade Petal, $28, Jinsoon Nail Lacquer in the shade Dolly Pink, $31, Hanami Nail Polish in the shade Ritual Union, $25. Photos / Supplied

1, 2, FREE?

Confused? Don’t be, follow our handy guide to non-toxic nail polish and meet the free-from brands worthy of dressing up your digits.

3-FREE polish does not contain dibutyl phthalate, toluene or formaldehyde.

4-FREE polish does not contain the above or formaldehyde resin.

5-FREE polish does not contain dibutyl phthalate, toluene, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin or camphor.

6-FREE polish does not contain the above or parabens.

7-FREE polish does not contain dibutyl phthalate, toluene, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, camphor, ethyl tosylamide or xylene.

8-FREE polish does not contain the above or triphenyl phosphate.

9-FREE polish does not contain dibutyl phthalate, toluene, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, camphor, ethyl tosylamide, xylene, triphenyl phosphate or parabens.

10-FREE polish does not contain the above or tert-butyl hydroperoxide. 10-free nail polishes are also said to contain no animal-derived ingredients.

Left to right: Deborah Lippmann Gel Lab Pro in the shade Fade To Black, $34, Smith & Cult Nail Lacquer in the shade Sugarette, $35, Sally Hansen Good. Kind. Pure. Nail Polish in the shade Pomegranate Punch 310, $18. Photos / Supplied

POLISH PICKS 

10-free: Kester Black Nail Polish in the shade Petal, $28.

10-free: Deborah Lippmann Gel Lab Pro in the shade Fade To Black, $34.

10-free: Hanami Nail Polish in the shade Ritual Union, $25.

10-free: Sally Hansen Good. Kind. Pure. Nail Polish in the shade Pomegranate Punch 310, $18.

8-free: Smith & Cult Nail Lacquer in the shade Sugarette, $35.

5-free: Jinsoon Nail Lacquer in the shade Dolly Pink, $31.

STOCKISTS: Deborah Lippmann from Forme Spa locations nationwide and Formespa.co.nz; Hanami from Healthpost.co.nz; Jinsoon from Mecca and Meccabeauty.co.nz; Nz.kesterblack.com; Sally Hansen and Smith & Cult from selected department stores and pharmacies.

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