FEMAIL reveals the six non-toxic nail polishes to try at home

Are you painting the ‘toxic trio’ on your nails? As brands introduce polishes without harmful chemicals, FEMAIL reveals the six non-toxic products to try at home

  • Polishes often include chemicals toluene, dibutyl Phthalate and formaldehyde 
  • These ingredients are collectively known among experts as the ‘toxic trio’ 
  • Research suggests there may be an impact on health from long-term exposure

When you spot a chipped nail and start thinking about your next manicure, all that’s likely to be on your mind is which colour to go for, matt or gloss polish, and should you splash out on a gel coat?

What you won’t be thinking about is whether getting your nails done could affect your health. But maybe you should.

Take a look at the ingredients of your nail varnish bottles, and you’ll be met with a list of indecipherable chemicals likely to include toluene, dibutyl Phthalate (DBP) and formaldehyde – ingredients collectively known among experts as the ‘toxic trio’.

Polishes often include chemicals toluene, dibutyl Phthalate and formaldehyde. These ingredients are collectively known among experts as the ‘toxic trio’(stock photo)

Formaldehyde hardens nail polish once it’s applied, DBP keeps it flexible and reduces the chance it will chip, and toluene helps it dry quickly.

But toluene is also found in glues and paint thinner, while formaldehyde is best known for its use in embalming fluids. DBP is mainly used in floor polish.

Which makes you wonder, should we really be painting them onto our fingertips?

Research suggests there may be an impact on health from long-term exposure to some of these chemicals.

Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen, and one 17-year study of professional manicurists linked it to elevated thyroid and lung cancer. Other studies found inhaling toluene, a ‘neurotoxicant’, causes nausea, dizziness and irritation to skin, eyes, throat and lungs.

The risks of short-term exposure to DBP include nausea and irritated eyes, skin, nose, mouth and throat, while long-term exposure may lead to reproductive and hormonal problems. And acetone, used to remove nail polish, is capable of disintegrating plastic.

Though studies have yet to determine the level of exposure needed to adversely affect your health, a study led by Duke University in the U.S. suggests we absorb at least one potentially hormone-disrupting chemical from nail polish every manicure.

The good news is that fears about the toxic trio have shaken the industry and brands are introducing polishes without harmful chemicals.

Look out for bottles labelled ‘3-free’, without the toxic trio. Some varnishes even proclaim they’re up to ‘13-free’ — all natural, basically.

So here are the non-toxic brands to try at home…

Orly (13-free)


Non-toxic and cruelty free, the breathable Orly (pictured left) range — better for nails as it allows moisture and oxygen to penetrate — is available in 53 shades. Manufactured in the UK, Cienna Rose (pictured right) polishes give a gel-like finish

Non-toxic and cruelty free, the breathable range — better for nails as it allows moisture and oxygen to penetrate — is available in 53 shades. It is infused with nourishing argan oil, Vitamin B5 and Vitamin C.

£12.75 for 18ml, orlybeauty.co.uk

Cienna Rose (12-free)

Manufactured in the UK, this independent brand’s polishes give a gel-like finish. They also offer an extensive range of treatment products enriched with vitamins and lemongrass oil.

£9 for 13ml, ciennarose.com

Nailberry (12-free)


Nailberry (pictured left) range was designed as a healthier, breathable alternative to normal polish by Sonia Hully. Paris-based Kure Bazaar (pictured right) contains potato, cotton, bamboo and vitamin E and has more than 90 shades

The L’Oxygéné range was designed as a healthier, breathable alternative to normal polish by Sonia Hully, the owner of a Chelsea salon who kept seeing clients with dry, damaged nails.

£14.50 for 15ml, nailberry.co.uk

Kure Bazaar (10-free)

Paris-based Kure Bazaar contains potato, cotton, bamboo and vitamin E and has more than 90 shades. It was launched by former model Kartika Luyet in 2012 — she had the idea while she was pregnant and wanted a safer polish. There’s also a remover that replaces acetone with natural acid from sugar cane.

£15 for 10ml, lovelula.com

SensatioNail (10-free)


SensatioNail’s Nailtural (pictured left) range promises a high-shine, long-lasting manicure and is cruelty free. Butter London’s (pictured right) toxin-free polish uses a patented ‘Shock Resistant Polymer Technology’ to prevent chipping and peeling

SensatioNail’s Nailtural range promises a high-shine, long-lasting manicure and is cruelty free.

£9.90 for 11ml, sensationail.com

Butter London (8-free)

Butter London’s toxin-free polish uses a patented ‘Shock Resistant Polymer Technology’ to prevent chipping and peeling, as well as bamboo extract for stronger, healthier nails.

£15 for 11ml, lookfantastic.com

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