Making The Switch: Transitioning To Eco-Friendly Nail Products

Conventional nail polish often contains harmful chemicals like formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate. These toxic ingredients are linked to cancer, reproductive issues, and organ damage ([California EPA]). Many people are unaware of the health and environmental risks posed by these ingredients. There are safer, eco-friendly options available that deliver salon-quality results without the toxic chemicals. Switching to non-toxic nail products benefits your health and the environment. Eco-friendly polishes are free of endocrine disruptors and other concerning chemicals found in standard polishes ([EWG]). Making the switch protects yourself, salon workers, and the environment from exposure to hazardous ingredients.

Toxic Ingredients to Avoid

Many conventional nail polishes contain concerning ingredients that can impact human health and the environment. Some of the most problematic ingredients to avoid include:

Formaldehyde – Formaldehyde resin is added to nail polish to help it dry quickly and form a hard finish. However, formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and can cause allergic reactions. Exposure has been linked to cancer, respiratory issues, and contact dermatitis [1].

Triphenyl phosphate – This plasticizer is added to make nail polish more flexible and durable. However, it may disrupt hormones and is toxic to aquatic life.

Toluene – A solvent used to thin nail polish and allow it to apply smoothly. Toluene is a neurotoxin and respiratory irritant that can cause organ damage with prolonged exposure [2].

Xylene – Another solvent that helps nail polish spread evenly. It is an irritant and potential neurotoxin.

Parabens – Preservatives like methylparaben and propylparaben can disrupt hormones and may be carcinogenic.

Lead – Trace amounts of lead can contaminate some nail polishes. Lead is a neurotoxin that builds up in the body over time.

Health and Environmental Impacts

Certain ingredients commonly found in regular nail polishes and nail care products can have concerning health and environmental impacts. Formaldehyde, in particular, has been flagged for its potential cancer risk. According to Harvard Health, exposure to high concentrations of formaldehyde can increase cancer risk, especially of myeloid leukemia and cancers in the nasal passage and throat.

Other ingredients like dibutyl phthalate (DBP) have known reproductive toxicity and may disrupt hormonal function and development, as noted in an assessment by Kwon et al. published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

Ingredients like toluene and formaldehyde can also cause pollution when rinsed down the drain. The US National Library of Medicine outlines how toluene has been frequently detected in effluents and surface waters. Exposure to toluene can adversely affect aquatic organisms and wildlife.

By making the switch to eco-friendly nail products formulated without concerning ingredients like formaldehyde, DBP, and toluene, individuals can reduce their personal health risks and environmental footprint.

Choosing Eco-Friendly Brands

When selecting nail polish brands, look for those that are certified eco-friendly. Many eco-conscious companies will promote certifications like vegan, cruelty-free, 10-free, or 21-free on their packaging. According to The Good Life with Amy French, these certifications indicate the nail polish formulas avoid harsh ingredients like formaldehyde, toluene, and phthalates.

Always check the full ingredient list as well. Eco-friendly nail polishes will use plant-based, non-toxic ingredients. Stay away from brands listing chemicals like xylene, triphenyl phosphate, ethyl tosylamide, and parabens which can be toxic. Focus on choosing polishes made from ingredients like corn, potatoes, and bamboo.

Eco-friendly nail polish does come at a slightly higher price point since it uses premium natural ingredients. However, it’s worth investing a little more into clean nail products that are better for your health and the environment. Look for companies that prioritize ethical and sustainable practices in their branding and mission statements.

According to Sustainably Chic, some top eco-conscious nail polish brands to look for are Zoya, Piggy Paint, Suncoat, and LVX. These companies avoid harsh chemicals and aim to create quality plant-based nail polishes.

Making the Switch

non-toxic nail polish bottles labeled vegan, organic, cruelty-free

Switching to eco-friendly nail products can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing approach. Consider going cold turkey and getting rid of your old nail polishes all at once to make a clean break. Or take a more gradual approach by using up your existing polishes first while slowly integrating new eco-friendly options into your routine. Here are some tips for making the transition:

Stock up on eco-friendly replacements. Swap out toxic polishes for plant-based, non-toxic options. Look for brands that use ingredients like bamboo, soy, cornstarch, or other natural sources. Don’t worry, you can still get vibrant colors and long-lasting wear. Stocking up on these polishes makes it easy to ditch the old and commit fully to green.

Recycle old nail polish and empty bottles. Leftover toxic polishes shouldn’t go in the trash or down the drain where chemicals can leak into the water supply. Instead, find a salon or recycling center that accepts nail polish for proper disposal. Or mail back empty bottles to some eco-friendly brands for recycling. This keeps dangerous ingredients out of the environment.

Consider going to an eco-friendly nail salon for services. Salons that use green products and practices are a great option while transitioning. Get manicures and pedicures with plant-based polishes and treatments. This allows you to experience the eco look before recreating it yourself at home.

Making small changes over time can make a big difference. With some preparation and commitment to recycling, you can feel good about greening your manicure routine.

Top Eco-Friendly Nail Product Picks

When it comes to choosing eco-friendly nail products, there are some key things to look for:

Non-toxic polish: Many conventional polishes contain toxins like formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate (DBP). Look for polishes that are free of these chemicals. Some good options include Sienna, ZAO, Pacifica, and Ella + Mila.

Natural nail strengtheners: Instead of formaldehyde-based strengtheners, look for natural options made with herbs, oils, and extracts to improve nail health. Rooted Woman and Piggy Paint make great natural strengtheners.

Plant-based removers: Avoid acetone-based removers which are drying and harsh. Eco-friendly options use plant oils and extracts to remove polish gently. Try removers from brands like Karma Organic Spa and Savvy Boheme.

Eco-friendly tools: Look for reusable metal nail files and buffers instead of single-use emery boards. Eco-friendly options like glass nail files and bamboo orange sticks are also readily available.

Doing your research and reading labels is key to finding non-toxic nail products that are better for you and the environment. With so many options now, it’s easier than ever to make the switch.

DIY Recipes

Making your own eco-friendly nail products at home is a great way to avoid toxic ingredients. Here are some simple recipes to try:

DIY Non-Toxic Polish

Create your own non-toxic nail polish using natural ingredients like olive oil, beeswax, and vitamin E oil (Source). Simply mix together:

  • 8 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 drops vitamin E oil
  • 1 tsp beeswax
  • 1 tsp jojoba oil

Melt the beeswax first before adding the other ingredients. You can add micas or pigments for color. Store in an airtight container.

Natural Cuticle Oil

Keep cuticles hydrated with a nourishing oil blend. Combine equal parts jojoba oil, vitamin E oil, and sweet almond oil. Apply generously around the nail bed.

Baking Soda Scrub

Exfoliate and refresh nails with a simple scrub made from baking soda. Mix together 1 tbsp baking soda with enough water to form a paste. Gently scrub nails to remove discoloration and shine.

Salon Services

When getting your nails done at a salon, it’s important to ask about the ingredients used in their nail polishes, treatments, and tools. Many standard nail salon products contain harmful chemicals like formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate (DBP). Ask your nail technician for polishes that are “3-free” or “5-free,” meaning they don’t contain those toxic chemicals.

You can also bring your own eco-friendly nail polishes from home. Many salons will allow this, as long as you pay their standard manicure fee. Call ahead to ask about their policies. When you bring your own polish, you know exactly what’s being used.

Look for nail salons that focus on using organic, non-toxic products. Places like Greentoes in Tucson, AZ use vegan, cruelty-free polishes without harsh chemicals. See if there are any “green” nail salons in your area that align with your values. You can also search on sites like Well + Good and mindbodygreen that list eco-friendly salon options.

Spreading Awareness

Educating others about the health and environmental impacts of traditional nail products is key to driving change. Salon workers are on the frontlines and can help raise awareness among clients by having conversations, sharing educational materials, and promoting eco-friendly options.

Advocacy groups like the Nail Salon Collaborative are campaigning for safer workplaces and products. Getting involved with local chapters or partnering organizations can help amplify your voice. Collective action and pressure on companies and policymakers is needed for systemic improvement.

There have been some policy changes like California’s Healthy Nail Salon Recognition Program that aim to incentivize safer ingredients. Advocating for stronger regulations on allowable chemicals in nail products could drive change across the industry. Educated and engaged citizens contacting representatives could make an impact.


As we’ve discussed, conventional nail products often contain a range of toxic chemicals that can be harmful to both our health and the environment. By making the switch to eco-friendly nail polish, removers, treatments and more, we can avoid exposure to these hazardous ingredients.

Key points covered include choosing certified natural and organic brands, trying simple DIY recipes with safe ingredients, and seeking out green salon services. While it may take some adjustment initially, you’ll likely start noticing improvements quickly, from healthier nails and cuticles to reduced headaches or other side effects.

The switch also makes a positive environmental impact by reducing demand for nail products loaded with toxins that pollute the air, water and soil. Spreading awareness and recommending greener options to family and friends helps drive change through the whole nail industry.

With so many excellent eco-friendly nail products available today, there’s no reason to settle for risking your health and the planet. Take the leap and enjoy beautifully polished nails guilt-free!

Similar Posts