Natural Beauty: The Non-toxic Manicure

November 14, 2013

As someone on a quest for clean beauty and body care products, I’ve made a lot of trades—I said goodbye to traditional perfume and welcomed phthalate-free fragrances; I dumped my old lipsticks, full of parabens and possibly lead (!), and picked up some fun, healthy lip tints.  There are a few conventional products, however, that I’ve kept around.  Nail polish is one of them.  I know it’s not doing my already brittle nails any favors, but gosh darn it—painting my nails is just too much fun!  For me, there’s nothing like finding a good maroon to echo the fall foliage; wearing bright red makes me feel classic and glamorous; and sporting a deep plum (“it’s not black!”) gives this otherwise non-edgy girl a little sass.

Zoya Polishes

Zoya–my favorite non-toxic nail polish.

Non-toxic manicure

Wearing “Erika” by Zoya. I was in the mood for a soft, sweet color.

That being said, I still do my best to find less-unhealthy polishes.  Often dubbed “three-free,” these nail polishes are free from the three most toxic ingredients in conventional nail polish: formaldehyde, toluene, and DBP (dibutyl phthalate).  Popular drugstore brands like Revlon, Sally Hansen, and Essie have switched over to three-free formulations.  Zoya, my favorite nail polish, produces “five-free” polish, also free of formaldehyde resin and camphor. Zoya is long-wearing and comes in oh-so-many pretty colors.   (I’m currently lusting over their Zenith Holiday collection.) Priti NYC is another stylish, long-wearing, non-toxic polish.

If you like to have your nails done at a salon, call ahead to make sure they offer three-free polishes.  Or better yet—bring your own! This is safer for both you and your nail technician.

There are several even cleaner polish brands out there, including Suncoat, Honeybee Gardens, and Aquarella, all of which are water-based. I have yet to try water-based nail polish, but I look forward to doing so! If you’re like me and wear nail polish almost daily, it’s important to invest in three-free polishes for, well, three reasons:

-According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), Formaldehyde is a human carcinogen.  It contributes to immune system-toxicity and liver problems.  If that weren’t enough, formaldehyde may cause rashes. Plus, it stinks.

-Aside from making you feel nauseous and lightheaded if inhaled, Toluene is nasty business.  The Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR) links long-term exposure to this toxin to depression and memory loss.

-On Peaceful Dumpling, we’ve spoken about phthalates before.  These nasties—including DBP—are endocrine disruptors associated with birth defects.

When it comes times to take it all off, I absolutely love Nutra Nail Odor Free Non-Damaging Polish Remover. While acetone-based polish removers are the most effective at removing polish, acetone strips nails and surrounding skin of any natural moisture.  It’s also highly flammable while Nutra Nail’s variety is not.  It usually takes a bit more time and effort to remove nail polish with non-acetone removers, but, for me, it’s worth it.

Nutra Nail Polish Remover

A gentle, non-flammable nail polish remover.

Also by Mary: Luna – A Story of a Rescue Kitten

My Beauty Detox Journey

In Beauty: DIY Face Massage Using Almond Oil

5 Trustworthy Brands for Vegan Beauties


Photo: Mary Hood; Nutra Nail


Peaceful Dumpling Beauty Editor and creator of Bisou du Jour, Mary Hood Luttrell lives with her husband in Corpus Christi, Texas. Mary is a freelance writer and writing and blogging consultant. A lover of whole foods, Mary delights in learning new ways to prepare vegan dishes. Mary also enjoys reading and writing poetry, art journaling, running, and practicing yoga and ballet. Follow Mary on her blog Bisou du Jour, Instagram and Pinterest.


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