The Green Guide To Gorgeous Nails: Eco-Friendly Products To Try

Standard nail products like acrylics, gel polish, and conventional nail polish often contain concerning ingredients like formaldehyde, toluene, and phthalates. When these chemical-laden products are discarded, they end up in landfills and can leach toxins into the environment (Source). There’s growing awareness about the negative impacts regular manicures and pedicures can have.

Eco-friendly nail products provide a better alternative by using plant-based, non-toxic ingredients. Brands are formulating polishes, base coats, top coats, removers, and more with sustainability in mind. Going green doesn’t mean sacrificing style or longevity either. This guide will cover the best eco-friendly nail products to try for gorgeous, guilt-free manicures.

We’ll explore toxic ingredients to avoid, natural replacements to look for, recommendations for eco-polishes, tips for DIY green nail care, and sustainable salon options. The goal is to leave readers informed on how to reduce the environmental footprint of their nail routine.

Toxic Ingredients to Avoid

Many conventional nail polishes contain ingredients that can be harmful to our health. Some of the most concerning toxic ingredients to look out for include:

Formaldehyde – This is a known carcinogen that can cause allergic reactions and respiratory issues (Source 1). Formaldehyde exposure has been linked to cancer and adverse reproductive effects.

Triphenyl phosphate – This plasticizer has been associated with endocrine disruption and reproductive toxicity (Source 2). Some studies have found it can cause neurological and developmental damage.

Toluene – This solvent can cause issues like respiratory irritation, headaches, dizziness and nausea. Prolonged exposure may affect the central nervous system (Source 3).

Xylene – This solvent is associated with toxicity to the brain, liver and kidneys. High exposure can cause headaches and irritate the eyes, nose, throat and skin.

Parabens – These preservatives may disrupt hormone function and some studies link them to breast cancer and reproductive issues.

Phthalates – These plasticizers are considered endocrine disruptors and have been linked to developmental and reproductive issues (Source 2). They can be absorbed through the nail.

Natural Ingredients to Look For

When searching for eco-friendly nail products, look for these natural ingredients:

Water – Water acts as a natural solvent and carrier for other ingredients. Opt for nail polishes with a high water content.

Plant oils – Non-toxic nail polishes often contain nourishing plant oils like soybean, sunflower, and argan oils to condition nails and cuticles. These plant-derived oils are more sustainable than petroleum-based ingredients.

Natural waxes – Natural waxes like beeswax and candelilla wax give nail polish its thickness and shine while being environmentally friendly.

Vitamin E – Many eco-friendly nail polishes include vitamin E. This antioxidant helps strengthen nails and moisturize cuticles.

Tea tree oil – With its anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties, tea tree oil is an ideal natural additive to help prevent nail infections in nail polishes and treatments.

When scanning product labels, keep an eye out for these plant-derived ingredients. They are signs that the formula steers clear of harsh chemicals in favor of greener options.

Eco-Friendly Base Coats

When choosing an eco-friendly base coat, look for products formulated without harmful chemicals like formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate (DBP). Some great options include:

Kapa Nui Nails Base & Top Coat – This 100% non-toxic, vegan base coat is free of formaldehyde, toluene, DBP and other harsh chemicals. It’s water-based and actually nourishes nails. The formula is thin yet provides a smooth application.

woman getting eco-friendly manicure

Zoya Anchor Base Coat – Certified toxin-free by the Leaping Bunny Program, this base coat is formulated without the “toxic trio” and other harmful ingredients. It bonds to the nail plate to prevent staining and helps polish adhere better. Some find it leaves nails feeling a bit dry.

Free Life Non-Toxic Base Coat – Long-lasting and chip-resistant, this base coat nourishes nails and smoothes ridges. It’s vegan, cruelty-free, and made without hazardous chemicals. The wide brush makes application easy.

Overall, look for nourishing plant-based formulas free of harsh toxins when choosing an eco-friendly base coat. Check certifications and ingredients for assurance. The best options provide a smooth, even base for polish without compromising health.

Eco-Friendly Top Coats

When it comes to top coats, you want maximum shine and durability without harmful chemicals. Here are some of the top options for eco-friendly top coats:

Tenoverten – The Top Coat

Tenoverten’s top coat is 11-free, vegan, and cruelty-free. It goes on glossy and smooth to lock in color and provide up to 10 days of chip-free wear. The formula is also fast-drying. Some pros are the high shine finish and long-lasting hold. A con is that it can be prone to shrinkage if applied too thickly.

Ella + Mila – Stronger Top Coat

Ella + Mila’s top coat is vegan, PETA-certified, and 7-free. It helps strengthen nails and prevent chipping while providing a super glossy finish. It features a wider brush for quick application. Pros are the quick-drying time and natural ingredients. A con is that 2-3 coats may be needed for maximum durability.

SUNCOAT – Water-Based Top Coat

SUNCOAT’s top coat is water-based, vegan, cruelty-free, and 10-free. It goes on smoothly for a shiny, salon-quality finish. It locks in color for up to 10 days of wear. Pros are the non-toxic formula and ease of removal. A potential con is that it may not stand up to heavy use as well as traditional top coats.

Eco-Friendly Nail Polish

There are several great options when it comes to eco-friendly nail polish. Here are some top picks:

Kapuani Nails

Kapuani Nails ( offers a non-toxic, vegan and cruelty-free nail polish line made without harsh chemicals. The Little Poni Starter Set comes with 6 mini polishes made from natural ingredients like corn, potatoes and gum arabic.

Pros: Non-toxic formula, cute packaging, wide range of colors

Cons: Small bottle size

Zoya Nail Polish

Zoya makes a big range of nail lacquers that are vegan, cruelty-free, and “5-free” (no formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, camphor or formaldehyde resin). Their polishes are long-lasting and come in many beautiful colors.

Pros: 5-free formula, chip-resistant, many colors and finishes

Cons: Mid-range price point

Gabriel Cosmetics

Gabriel Cosmetics offers water-based nail polishes made with natural ingredients and essential oils. The polishes are vegan, cruelty-free and 7-free. There are classic and trendy shades to choose from.

Pros: Natural formula, wide shade range, fast-drying

Cons: Can be prone to chipping

Eco-Friendly Nail Polish Remover

When looking for an eco-friendly nail polish remover, you’ll want to avoid products with harsh chemicals like acetone, ethyl acetate, and formaldehyde. Instead, look for natural ingredients like soybean oil, sunflower oil, vitamin E, and lemon and orange oils.

Some top options for natural nail polish removers include:

Ella + Mila Soy Nail Polish Remover

This popular acetone-free remover from Ella + Mila uses soybean oil to gently take off nail polish without drying out nails and cuticles. It has a light, pleasant scent and doesn’t require soaking cotton pads in the formula (source).

Côte Take Off Towelettes

These individually wrapped towelettes from Côte infuse sunflower oil, vitamin E, and other plant-based ingredients into a small pad that can break down nail lacquer. They are gentle on nails and provide easy on-the-go removal (source).

Mineral Fusion Nail Polish Remover

Mineral Fusion makes an acetone-free remover with extracts of lemon, orange, seaweed, and aloe vera. It has a light citrus scent and is gentle even for those with sensitive skin. The formula is vegan, cruelty-free, gluten-free, and packaged in BPA-free bottles (source).

When using eco-friendly removers, you may need to soak cotton pads a bit longer to break down polish. However, the natural ingredients are safer for you and better for the environment.

DIY Eco-Friendly Nail Products

Making your own eco-friendly nail products at home is easy, affordable, and ensures you know exactly what’s going into them. Here are some recipes to try:

DIY Base Coat

Mix together:

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon beeswax
  • 1 teaspoon shea butter

Melt ingredients in a double boiler. Let cool slightly and apply to nails as a base coat. The oils help condition nails while the beeswax creates a protective barrier.

DIY Top Coat

Whisk together:

  • 1 teaspoon beeswax
  • 3 teaspoons fractionated coconut oil

Warm slightly to melt the beeswax. Let cool slightly before applying over nail polish as a glossy top coat. The beeswax helps seal the polish while the coconut oil lends shine.

DIY Nail Polish

A simple nail polish can be made by mixing together:

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon beeswax
  • 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
  • Food coloring or mica powder for color

Melt ingredients except color over low heat. Remove from heat and stir in color. Test out shades by painting on a piece of paper. Pour into a bottle and let cool completely before using. The cornstarch helps thicken the polish.

For a more advanced recipe see:

DIY Nail Polish Remover

Mix together equal parts:

  • Olive oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Lemon juice

Apply to cotton ball and rub gently over nails to remove polish. The oils help break down polish while the lemon juice cuts through stains.

Nail Salons Using Eco-Products

More and more nail salons are switching to eco-friendly products due to consumer demand. Here are some top options in the Sacramento area:

Eco Friendly Nail Salon ( uses only vegan, cruelty-free polishes and nail care products. They offer manicures, pedicures, waxing, facials and more using non-toxic ingredients.

The Nailtel ( is a green nail salon offering organic sea salt scrubs, organic sugar scrubs, non-toxic polishes, essential oil infusions and more during services.

Eco Friendly Nail Salon in Sacramento ( uses only “10-free” polishes made without the most harmful chemicals. Services use all natural ingredients.


Going green with your nail care routine is not only better for the environment, but also your health. This guide covered safer, plant-based ingredients to look for when shopping for nail products, along with eco-friendly recommendations for base coats, top coats, nail polish, nail polish removers, and DIY options.

The key takeaways are to avoid the “toxic trio” chemicals – formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate (DBP) – found in many conventional nail products. Seek out polishes, base coats, and top coats made with ingredients like corn, potato, wheat protein, bamboo, and other natural alternatives.

When removing polish, skip acetone-based removers and choose plant-based options with gentler ingredients. You can even make your own homemade remover. Many nail salons now offer polish lines free of harsh chemicals too.

With some simple swaps to your routine, you can have beautiful, healthy nails while reducing your use of toxic ingredients. Eco-friendly options are readily available today. Go green for your nails and the planet!

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