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Article: What's the deal with 'non-toxic' nail polish?

The Best Nontoxic Nail Polish

What's the deal with 'non-toxic' nail polish?

We see 3-free, 5-free, even 10-free on nail polish descriptions, but what does that even mean? Can you make nail polish non-toxic? Will they even work without all the chemicals in conventional nail polish? It's kind of a weird place to live in when you are trying to make safer beauty choices. Simply put, nail polish is paint, so there is no way to make it 100% natural or plant-based. Even the marketing of "non-toxic nail polish" and "10 million-free" is confusing because the FDA and the FTC have very limited regulation on nail polish products, and these products do not need premarket approval before being sold. 

côte nail polish

Our skin, including our nails, can be damaged by harsh chemicals and toxins. Many of these chemicals which give nail polish the high-shine and long-lasting finish, should actually be avoided. 

There are five main chemicals to look out for and avoid:

Formaldehyde: Classified as a known carcinogen, formaldehyde is often used as a preservative, nail hardener and strengthener in conventional polishes. But it’s also a strong preservative, sterilizer, and embalming chemical.

Toluene: Derived from petroleum/coal tar, included in some polishes as a solvent to smooth application, is has been linked to impaired human reproduction and development, impaired breathing, being harmful to the nervous system and nausea.

Dibutyl phthalate (DBP): Shown to affect the reproductive system and linked to cancer, DBP has been used as plasticizer and solvent to increase wear.

Formaldehyde Resin: A derivative of Formaldehyde, this variant is used to help keep a polish hard and smooth however it is also a carcinogen and allergen.

Camphor: Added to some polishes for high-shine, camphor can cause allergic reactions in large doses, cause irritation, dizziness, nausea, and headaches.

We will also add to the list Benzophenone -1 which is a UV blocker that is used in sunscreens as well as cosmetics to stop discoloration of products. Just to be clear, there are some studies that show it is relatively harmless in small quantities, however, it has also been linked to breast cancerovarian cancerprostate cancer, and has been found in human placental tissue. Even though exposure may be in small quantities and for some may be deemed harmless, we like to follow the latest research coming out and if there is a shadow of a doubt, we'd rather avoid it. This ingredient though is the subject of controversy because many 7-free, 10-free and ‘non-toxic’ nail polish brands still use Benzophenone-1 in their formulas.


On Paris Laundry, we are proud to carry côte nail polishes. In the interest of full transparency, the entire côte line is not Benzophenone -1 free although the ingredient is being phased out for the brand, so on Paris Laundry, we will only be carrying their current products that do not contain Benzophenone -1. Our main purpose is to always do the vetting for you so you can purchase products with confidence on our site. Hopefully, this answers some questions regarding nail polish in the "clean" beauty space. For the nail polish lovers, we encourage you to shop our collection of côte polishes, as we will be adding more and more colors from their impressive lineup. 


If you have any additional questions please feel free to chat with us online, or email us at 


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