How to Find a Safe Nail Polish

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A friend recently asked me if I could recommend a safer nail polish brand. Since I first discovered Beautycounter in 2015, and learned about the lack of regulation in the US personal care industry, I have started taking a closer look at the ingredients in all my products.

The New York Times published an article a couple of years ago that highlighted the dangers of repeated exposure to the chemicals found in the polishes we have grown to know and love. As a nurse practitioner, I like to look at data. The science is where it’s at for me. So when I saw that a 2006 study from the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine linked manicurists to increased rates of cough and an overwhelming likelihood to develop job-related asthma, my ears perked up.

The three main chemicals in nail products that are associated with the most serious health issues (respiratory disorders, cancer, impaired fertility) are dibutyl phthalate (DBP), toluene and formaldehyde. They are commonly known as the “toxic trio.”

In Australia, DBP is required by law to be listed as a “reproductive toxin,” and was subsequently banned from use. It is also one of over 1400 banned ingredients in the European Union. However, there is absolutely no restriction it’s use in the US. Why is that?!

Toluene has also been linked to reproductive abnormalities and formaldehyde is labeled as a human carcinogen by the US Department of Health and Human Services. But note…there’s still no ban on its use in personal care products! Again, why?!

So if it’s proven to cause disease with repeated, long-term exposure, why use it at all?

I’ve put together a list of some safer nail polish brands as healthier alternatives.


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Photo from Cote’s Instagram

Côte is an LA-based company that set out to create a safer nail product. Their polishes are free of the major toxins and allergens that are often associated with nail polish: formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), toluene, camphor, formaldehyde resin, TPHP, xylene, ethyl tosylamide, parabens and gluten.

I’ve used Côte before and while it’s a good polish, I personally notice that it tends to chip pretty easily after a few days. Their polishes run $18/bottle and they have a good assortment of colors. They can be purchased directly from their site. One of my favorite things about this brand is that they are USA-based, they have their own free-standing salons in LA and NYC, but most importantly, they are transparent about their ingredients.


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Photo from Zoya’s Instagram

Zoya is an Ohio-based company (yay Ohio peeps!) and is by far my favorite of the “safer” nail polish brands that I have tried. I find that the polish lasts longer than others before it starts to chip, the color options are great, and they usually have pretty awesome deals online. They pride themselves on being “10-free” (free of 10 known harmful chemicals) and are completely vegan. They retail for about $10/bottle and often have BOGOs online. Who doesn’t love a good BOGO?? They can be purchased directly from their site or on Amazon.

Ella + Mila

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Photo from Ella + Mila’s Instagram

Ella + Mila is another great nail polish brand (they also make lip gloss now). They are 7-free (made without Toluene, Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP), Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde Resin, Camphor, TPHP and Xylene) and they are vegan as well. All their products are manufactured in the United States.  They have a huge variety of colors. I love their packaging, but that’s mostly because I’m obsessed with all things elephant. Their pastels are just gorgeous and the polishes wear really well. They’re pricing is pretty average at $10.50/bottle and they can be purchased from their site directly, or on Amazon.

Piggy Paint

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Photo from Piggy Paint’s Instagram

For those of us with kiddos, especially those who like to have their nails painted like mommy, having a kid-friendly option is always important. Cue Piggy Paint. They are a water-based polish, kid-friendly polish without the accompanying drawbacks (aka chemicals) associated with traditional nail polishes. Their products are free of formaldehyde, toluene, phthalates, biphenyl A, ethyl acetate and acetone and also manufactured in the United States. You can rest easy when you see those freshly painted finger nails go straight into their mouths knowing they are safe. Their polishes are the most affordable at $7.99/bottle and are available on their site or on Amazon.

This is just a small list of the safer brands out there. These are the ones I’m most familiar with. What are some of the safer brands you’ve found and loved? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments 🙂

*Note: There are affiliate links in this post. If you make a purchase I may receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you). Thank you for supporting Healthy Beauty Mama!