I’ve written about how to make just about every natural beauty product I can think of, from deodorant to mascara, but one thing I’ve never been able to find a DIY recipe for is nail polish! While I still believe consuming gelatin is the best way to get beautiful nails, I do love a nice manicure or pedicure (usually administered at home with my girls).
Conventional nail polish can be one of the most toxic beauty products around and many contain a host of harmful chemicals. These chemicals are especially harmful to children and pregnant women, so I set out to find some safer alternatives that would help us keep our pretty pink toes.
Problems With Nail Polish
So how do chemicals get from your nails into your body? Well for starters, there’s a real mix of toxic chemicals in the nail polish.
Nail polishes often include:
- Toulene– A chemical known to cause reproductive harm and dizziness. It is also found in gasoline and the CDC warns that it can cause central nervous system problems.
- Formaldehyde– This known carcinogen is found in many nail polishes. It is also used to preserve dead things and when used in lab preparations, there are strict warnings to avoid inhalation or skin contact.
- Dibutyl phthalate (DBP) -This chemical is banned in Europe and is known to cause reproductive problems, especially in boys. The Environmental Working Group classifies this chemical as the highest danger level and warns that it can cause organ problems and endocrine disruption.
- Assorted other chemicals.
Nail polish removers are equally problematic and the fumes are especially harmful.
Are There Safe Options?
I stay far away from conventional nail polish, but with three daughters, I wanted to find some less toxic options that they could use occasionally. Many brands claim to be safe and natural, so we did a lot of research to narrow down to a few to try.
My daughters and I tested some of the top options that had a safe rating in the Environmental Working Group database. We had great results with several of the brands we tried, while some didn’t work well at all.
I’ve shared our top picks below, but it is important to note that even these safer options still have some chemicals in them and I wouldn’t use them all the time.
If you’ve been using conventional nail polish, not only would I suggest stopping right away, but also to dispose of conventional nail polish carefully. The EPA classifies nail polish as household hazardous waste (perhaps a hint we shouldn’t be using it) and requests that it is disposed of in a proper hazardous waste disposal site. You can use this directory (in the US) to find a hazardous waste disposal site near you.
It is also important to note that nail salons typically do not use non-toxic nail polish options. This means the air in nail salons is usually highly contaminated with chemicals. I suggest avoiding nail salons entirely, but if you do go to one, ask about the nail polish and removers they use and look for safer options.
Non-Toxic Nail Polish Options
These are our favorite nail polish options of all of the brands I researched and all of the ones we tried. I enlisted my daughters as testers on these since they are typically very active and tough on their nails.
Acquarella ranked a 1/10 on the EWG database. It is definitely pricey so it isn’t one I would use regularly, but it stayed on nails and didn’t have a strong chemical smell. It is available in a lot of colors and my daughters wanted all of them.
Aquarella nail polishes are water-based, free of the chemicals listed above, and even vegan and wheat free. They also make a non-toxic nail polish remover.
2. Honeybee Gardens
Another favorite with my tiny testers. This brand is also water-based, free of the three dangerous chemicals, and has a low rating on the EWG database. It is available in 25 colors, including this lovely hibiscus.
I like how you can remove this nail polish with vodka or rubbing alcohol and not have to buy nail polish remover at all.
3. Piggy Paint
Definitely gets the award for cutest name and these were a favorite with my kids. This brand didn’t seem to stay on nails as long, but that was fine with the kids since they want to change nail colors often anyway.
Piggy Paint is also one of the least expensive brands. We tried this sampler trio and it was less expensive than a single bottle of some of the other brands we tried.
Fun fact: Piggy Paint also sells cute little nail art stickers in a variety of designs. They are tiny, so they’re the perfect size for little fingers and stay on really well when covered with a top coat or sparkly polish.
This is another non-toxic option with an EWG rating of 1. The interesting thing about Suncoat is that it peels off easily, meaning you do not need nail polish remover. This ended up being fun for the girls, but it also didn’t last long on their nails since they had so much fun peeling it off.
While I haven’t tried it personally, this nail polish brand avoids the 7 worst chemicals in conventional nail polish. It is also available in a enormous range of colors and finishes (including sparkles!). They also claim to be chip resistant, fast drying, and vegan. I also think my girls would love the adorable little elephant on the bottle. If you try it, let me know what you think!
Want more natural nail care? Try this homemade cuticle cream to get nails looking their best before a natural manicure!
Do you use nail polish? Have you ever looked at non-toxic nail polish options?