Eco-Friendly Nail Trends: Embracing Natural Beauty

The natural nail care market is booming, with a projected CAGR of 5.45% between 2023 and 2030. By 2030, this market is expected to reach approximately $2.78 billion in value (source). As consumers become more aware of the potential health and environmental impacts of mainstream nail products, interest in eco-friendly options has surged.

This article will explore the latest trends in natural, non-toxic nail care. We’ll look at plant-based polishes, water-based formulas, natural glitters and top coats, DIY manicures, and more. With creative innovation and concern for health and sustainability at the forefront, there are now more options than ever to embrace natural beauty through your nails.

Avoiding Toxic Chemicals

Many conventional nail polishes contain concerning ingredients like formaldehyde resin, dibutyl phthalate, toluene, and xylene that can pose health and environmental risks (see Harvard Health, The Cut). Formaldehyde resin helps harden the polish but can cause allergic reactions. Dibutyl phthalate makes polish more flexible but is an endocrine disruptor. Toluene and xylene allow the polish to evenly coat the nail, but they can irritate the eyes, skin, and respiratory system. Breathing in polish fumes may also have negative health effects over time.

These ingredients have raised enough concern that the European Union has banned over 1,000 chemicals from cosmetics, including some found in nail polish. Many health and environmental advocates are calling for more oversight and regulation in the U.S. cosmetics industry to limit the use of concerning chemicals.

The good news is that today there are many nail polish options formulated without these harsh chemicals. Choosing plant-based, water-based, or “free-of” polish allows you to enjoy beautiful nails while avoiding some of the most worrying ingredients.

Plant-Based Polishes

Plant-based nail polishes are made with natural ingredients like soy, corn, potatoes, and other botanicals instead of harsh chemicals. Brands like Sally Hansen Pure and Nail Magic offer polishes made with 80%+ plant-derived ingredients.

trying plant-based nail polish

The main benefits of plant-based polishes are that they avoid toxic ingredients like formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate (DBP). This makes them safer for nail health and reduces exposure to chemicals. Plant-based formulas are vegan-friendly and better for the environment.

On the downside, some report that plant-based polishes don’t last as long or are more prone to chipping compared to standard lacquers. The formulas may also be thinner and take more coats to build full opacity. However, brands continue to improve the quality and color payoff of natural nail polishes.

Water-Based Polishes

Water-based nail polishes are becoming increasingly popular as an eco-friendly alternative to regular polish. These polishes use water as the primary solvent, rather than harsh chemicals like toluene, formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate (DBP). According to Suncoat Products, water-based polishes release fewer volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air, making them gentler, near odorless, and better for the environment.

The key selling points of water-based polishes are their lack of toxic chemicals, low odor, and safety for use by pregnant women and children. Brands like Honeybee Gardens WaterColors market their polishes as free of nasty fumes, non-toxic and kid/pregnancy safe. Popular mainstream brands offering water-based lines include ORLY Breathable and Essie Treat Love & Color.

Overall, water-based nail polishes allow people to enjoy beautiful nails while avoiding exposure to the harmful toxins found in many traditional polishes.

Glitters and Top Coats

Glitters and top coats complete any manicure by adding some extra sparkle or protection. However, many conventional options contain harsh chemicals like formaldehyde, toluene, and phthalates. Thankfully, natural options exist that get the job done without the toxins.

For a non-toxic top coat, look for plant-based, water-based formulas like those from Kapa Nui Nails and Sally Hansen’s Good Kind Pure line. These seal in nail color while nourishing nails and cuticles with ingredients like vitamin E and keratin. Some even have a quick-dry effect to prevent smudging.

Glitters and shimmers made with minerals, mica, and biodegradable synthetic pearls give comparable sparkle to conventional ones laden with phthalates and solvents. Kapa Nui makes vegan, non-toxic glitters in a range of shades. For a sheer iridescent shimmer, try Sally Hansen’s Good Kind Pure Top Coat.

Opting for natural nail glitters and top coats allows you to add dazzle without dosing yourself in dangerous chemicals. Your nails will thank you!

Nail Polish Removers

Many traditional nail polish removers contain harsh chemicals like acetone, which can dry out nails and skin. Acetone-based removers also give off strong odors. However, there are some great natural options for removing polish without exposing yourself to these chemicals.

One easy DIY remover combines lemon juice and vinegar. Simply mix equal parts lemon juice and white vinegar in a bowl, then soak your nails for 10 minutes. The citric acid in the lemon will break down the polish. Rinse clean with water. See the full instructions in this Martha Stewart article:

You can also make a remover with baking soda and water. The abrasiveness of the baking soda helps scrub off polish without drying out the nails. Check out this recipe from Tom’s of Maine:

There are also great natural, acetone-free removers on the market made from plant oils and vitamins that moisturize nails. Using these over harsh chemical removers can help keep your nails in better condition.

Nail Salons

There’s a growing trend of nail salons using eco-friendly, non-toxic products and practices. Many consumers are now seeking out salons that avoid harmful ingredients like formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate commonly found in regular polishes and nail care products. These chemicals have been linked to cancer, reproductive issues, respiratory problems and more in nail technicians with long-term exposure.

Leading this wellness movement are salons like ECO FRIENDLY NAIL SALON in Sacramento, CA. They offer high-quality manicures and pedicures using only vegan, cruelty-free, “10-free” polishes made without the major toxic chemicals. Their salon focuses on eco-conscious practices and a relaxing, friendly environment.

Another option is The Nailtel in Sacramento. They are transparent about using non-toxic nail polishes and products that are better for technicians and customers alike. The Nailtel avoids dangerous ingredients while still delivering salon-quality manicures.

Consumers looking for a green salon can search for keywords like “eco-friendly,” “non-toxic,” or “wellness” when finding a nail salon committed to clean and safe products. It’s a refreshing trend that gives people the polished look they want without the worrying health impacts.

DIY Natural Manicures

Doing natural manicures at home is easy with a few simple ingredients. Some tips for creating your own non-toxic nail polish:

Opt for gentle, moisturizing carrier oils like olive, jojoba, or almond oil as a base. Add a few drops of vitamin E oil for extra nourishment.

Use all-natural powdered ingredients like alkanet root, beet root, cinnamon, or turmeric to tint the polish. Experiment with different combinations for custom colors.

Thicken the mixture with beeswax to create a polish-like consistency that dries on nails. Add essential oils like lemon or lavender for scent.

For an easy peel-off base coat, use honey. It allows polish to go on smoothly and removes cleanly.

Try a simple olive oil and vitamin E blend for a nourishing manicure, or go all out with custom colorful blends. Either way, DIY polishes avoid the toxic ingredients of conventional nail products.

The Future

The future of natural and non-toxic nail products looks bright. According to one report, the global non-toxic nail polish market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 5.45% between 2023 and 2030, reaching around $2.78 billion by 2030[1]. As consumers become more aware of the potential health hazards of traditional nail polish ingredients, the demand for natural options will likely increase.

New innovations in natural nail products are emerging to meet this growing demand. Some trends to expect include wider color ranges with improved performance from plant-based pigments, longer-lasting base and top coats infused with nourishing ingredients, peelable nail polishes that remove easily with water, and multi-purpose products that strengthen nails. Sustainable packaging and transparency about ingredients will also become more important to eco-conscious consumers. Major brands are starting to respond to the natural nail trend, so access and availability to quality products should improve.

Nail salons may also shift towards using more non-toxic nail polish lines and implementing additional health and safety standards. Overall, the future looks bright for natural beauty lovers who want gorgeously polished nails without harmful chemicals.


As we’ve explored, there are many benefits to embracing eco-friendly nail trends. By switching to natural nail polishes made from plant-based ingredients like corn, potatoes, and cotton, we can avoid exposure to the toxic chemicals found in traditional polishes.

Water-based polishes are another great option, using ingredients like tea tree oil and Vitamin E to moisturize nails while providing vivid color. Eco-friendly glitters and top coats allow you to add some sparkle without the harsh solvents. And natural removers like acetone-free formulas with plant oils get polish off safely and gently.

Opting for green nail salons or doing your own natural DIY manicures at home gives you greater control over what products touch your nails. As more demand grows for clean nail products, we’re likely to see more innovative options emerge.

Embracing these trends allows us to make small changes that benefit our health and the environment. With so many ways to achieve beautiful nails with less toxicity, everyone can feel confident embracing a more natural approach to their beauty routine.

Give some of these eco-friendly nail products a try for your next manicure. Your nails will thank you!

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