Still looking for a reason to stop biting your nails? In case your goal-oriented manicures aren’t working, here’s a fact that might get you to quit cold-turkey: Nail polishes have chemicals in them. They’re essentially miniature Behr paint cans for your nails (though Behr, please consider expanding into beauty—irresistible mini packaging could be in your future). And seeing that interior household paint options are trending non-toxic as of late, why not consider the same sort of options for your fingers?
The most convincing “why should I care?” argument here is just to do a quick primer on “The Big Three' chemicals—dibutyl phthalate or DBP, toluene, and formaldehyde—that are (or were, rather) finding a home in nail polish bottles everywhere and how they work. For example, dibutyl phthalate is used to make plastics malleable—essentially what your shower curtain is made out of (great for your nails in theory, not so good when it comes to clean living). According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, DBP could have harmful developmental and reproductive effects. While there’s no conclusive research on humans, it’s enough of a concern that the European Union has banned the chemical from cosmetics and skincare and California targeted DBP as toxic for reproductive and developmental growth. It’s also banned in children’s toys. Additionally, toluene is considered a high hazard by the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database and is found in gasoline. Lastly, formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and suspected environmental pollutant (and this is just the Reader's Digest version of this paragraph).
But the good news: Nearly all consumer-available nail polishes are at least three-free—so no need to chuck your OPI, Essie, Wet 'n' Wild, American Apparel, or Sally Hansen. Just be wary of your wholesale or generic brands, if that's what you're using.
But why stop at three? There are the nail polish lines that have gone above-and-beyond to consider, too. Coming in on five-free are brands like Priti, Tenoverten, RGB, Chanel, Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics, Deborah Lippmann, and Zoya, which remove formaldehyde resin and camphor from their ingredients in addition to the Big Three mentioned above.
But if you really want to commit to toxin-free, escalade up to the Big Kahuna of the fewer-harmful-chemical pack: Butter London. With their new Patent Shine 10x collection, the brand went from being the original three-free nail polish to the first to ring in the age of seven-free options. Not only is the new collection (as well as a reformulation of all their other lacquers) free of DBP, toluene, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, camphor, ethyl tosylamide, and xylene, it’s also the answer to vinyl-shower-curtain-shine nails. Turns out, you can have it all.
Photographed by Tom Newton. For more on nail polishes, click here.