IN WITH THE NEW: Nail Polish

Welcome to my weekly featured ”IN WITH THE NEW” CLEAN SWAP! This week we are taking a closer look at Nail Polish!

I’m always fielding questions from clients and friends about how they can swap out some of their favorite products for safer, toxin-free options without a loss in quality, taste, or performance (depending on the product). Every week, I cover food, cosmetics, personal care, cleaning and laundry products, and even behavior, so if you enjoy these Clean Swaps, please follow me on Instagram and sign up for my 360° OF WELLNESS Newsletter (⬅️by clicking on this link to the left) so that you never miss a new one.

Let’s talk nail polish💅

I don’t know about you, but you will rarely find me without a fresh, glossy coat of nail polish adorning my digits. A girlie-girl without a mani and pedi? Inconceivable!


If you’ve ever inhaled the noxious fumes wafting out of an open bottle of nail polish, it may have occurred to you that it’s probably super toxic.

And super toxic it is!

The chemicals in nail polish are harmful to everyone who uses them, but especially to those with repeated and consistent exposure, such as manicurists and people like me, who get their nails done regularly. What’s even worse is that these toxins are even more dangerous for and should be completely avoided by pregnant and nursing women, as well as CHILDREN who have not yet passed puberty! That’s right! You aren’t doing your daughter any favors, health-wise, by taking her to the nail salon with you.

To keep yourself and those around you safe, you can choose to abstain from nail polish altogether (yeah, I know… that wouldn’t work for me either) or choose a polish that is formulated without the most harmful six, listed below:

🚫 DBP (dibutyl phthalate) is used to minimize chipping. It’s a member of the phthalate family of chemicals. If you aren’t familiar with phthalates, they can generally be found in anything containing “fragrance” or “parfum.” They are classified as endocrine disruptors and mimic estrogen in your body. They have been shown to impair hormonal development of male fetuses, cause organ damage, and may even instigate early-onset menopause. Animal studies show similar results to human studies, including decreased fertility, hormonal disruption, bioaccumulation, and liver damage. DPB is banned from being in cosmetic and personal care products in the EU, and the Australian government currently classifies DBP as a risk to the human reproductive system. It is classified as a reproductive and hormonal toxicant in California, but not (yet!) by our U.S. federal government.

🚫 TOLUENE creates a smooth application and finish. It has a sweet, pungent smell, but its fumes are highly toxic. Studies have shown that exposure to toluene can cause neurological damage, decreased brain function, impaired breathing, hearing loss, and nausea. When inhaled too frequently by pregnant women, it may result in impaired fetal development. Animal studies have shown that toluene is linked to reproductive impairment, immune system toxicity, and blood cancers (e.g., malignant lymphoma). Its use in personal care products (including nail polish) is restricted in the EU and it is on California’s Prop 65 list of chemicals that are harmful to fetal development. Toluene can also found in most conventional nail polish removers.

🚫 FORMALDEHYDE is a preservative that protects against bacterial growth, but it’s also used to harden and strengthen nail polish. Exposure to formaldehyde in the air or on the skin may cause cancer of the throat, nose, and blood. Nail salon workers and their children are especially at risk for chronic health problems caused by formaldehyde, including asthma, convulsions, nausea, and miscarriages. Repeated exposure can cause a build-up of fluid in the lungs and cause abnormal fetal development in pregnant women. The EU allows only limited use of formaldehyde in personal care products, while it’s totally banned in Japan and Sweden.

🚫 FORMALDEHYDE RESIN is a by-product of formaldehyde that makes its way into many nail polish formulas that contain formaldehyde. Although it has been the subject of fewer human tests than the other four chemicals, preliminary studies show that can cause severe skin irritation, allergic reactions, skin depigmentation, and loss of nerve sensation.

🚫 TPHP (Triphenyl Phopshte) makes nail polish more flexible and durable, but it may disrupt hormones in humans, and animal studies have shown that it upsets the reproductive and development processes. Regularly painting your nails can lead to long term exposure and this is a particular concern for kids and teens, for whom nail polish is the first introduction to cosmetics. But before and during puberty, they’re especially vulnerable to hormone disruptors.

🚫 CAMPHOR gives nail polish its glossy, shiny appearance. It’s less toxic than the ingredients listed above, and is sometimes used in cold remedies such as vapor rubs and nasal sprays. However, the safety of camphor has recently been in question. It has shown to trigger severe skin irritation and allergic reactions when applied topically, and inhaling its fumes can cause nausea, dizziness, and headaches. Observational studies have also linked camphor exposure to organ damage, such as liver dysfunction. The EU is currently in the process of phasing out the use of camphor in personal care products.


Zoya Non Toxic Nail Polish Colors


Long Wearing, Non-Toxic Nail Polish

As I already mentioned, the best solution to maximize health is to eschew the use of nail polish altogether, but the reality is that it’s not going to work for me or the millions of other ladies who’d rather go down with the ship than quit painting their nails.

So I’m happy to tell you that there is a solution that we can all live with. I’ve searched high and low a safer nail color that looks great and doesn’t chip in an hour and I think I’ve found it!!!

Check out ZOYA! It is as long wearing as any nail polish I’ve used in the past, a clean nail polish brand that is as long wearing as any of my favorite salon brands, but made safer! Not only is it formulated without any of the chemicals I mention above, but it’s also free of dibutyl phthalate, parabens, Xylene, ethyl tosylamide, and lead!

With over 1,000 five-star reviews on Amazon and over 400 colors to choose from , you no longer have any excuse to layer on the toxic stuff. After a lot of trial and error, I can confidently state that ZOYA is the best clean nail polish brand I've tried to date.


Want some more advice on avoiding contact with the toxic ingredients in nail polish? Here’s what the EWG has to say about it:

  • Use less. Paint only your fingers or toes, not both – or better yet, skip the polish and buff your nails to a natural shine.

  • Read labels. Look for red-flag ingredients on the label or check products in EWG’s SkinDeep database. Of the more than 3,000 nail polishes in Skin Deep, 49 percent list TPHP among ingredients. Also avoid products that contain toluene, formaldehyde or dibutyl phthalate.

  • Talk to your kids and model good behavior. If your children wear nail polish, talk to them about smart choices. Limit use – say, only during sandal season – and help them pick polishes that are free of harmful chemicals. Remind them not to chew polish off their nails. Then practice what you preach.

  • If you must paint your nails, do it yourself! The air in nail polish salons can be hazardous to both customers and workers. Avoid them, and never take your kids to the salon.

  • Don’t inhale. That strong, recognizable nail polish smell can be a sign of airborne toxic chemicals. Apply polish in a well-ventilated room.

Do you have a favorite clean brand? 

Send me a message or leave a comment below and share what it is. If I feature it, I’ll give you credit and may even send you a free gift!

If you enjoyed this weeks’s Clean Swap, share it with a friend and sign up for my 360° OF WELLNESS Newsletter (below) so you never miss a new one.e.

Victoria Malin Gregory, Integrative Nutritionist and founder of NEWTRITION NEW YOU

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Victoria Gregory is an Integrative Nutritionist and founder of NEWTRITION NEWYOU. Her focus—whether with private clients, readers of her blog, or her followers on social media— is whole body wellness, incorporating whole-food nutrition, supplementation, exercise, toxin-free living, and mindset coaching. Victoria’s personal mission is to help make the world a healthier place, one person at a time, and she has helped thousands of people find joy and self-love through better eating habits and mindfulness. Learn more about Victoria.

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