green beauty: natural nails

What woman doesn’t love a great mani/pedi? Whether do-it-yourself or salon-applied, a pretty polish makes you feel, well, pretty and polished!  But did you know that nail polishes and removers are among the most toxic cosmetics in the U.S.? 


The nail industry uses thousands of chemicals, but the biggest baddies are formaldehyde, toluene and dibutyl phthalate (DBP). 


DBP, which has been banned in the European Union, may cause nausea, dizziness, headache and irritation of the eyes, nose and throat when inhaled. Long-term exposure could lead to liver and kidney damage, menstrual disorders and miscarriages. 

Toluene is a neurotoxin that may also cause liver and kidney damage over time as well as spasms, speech impairment, fatigue, nausea, weakness and confusion.

Formaldehyde, in addition to producing respiratory problems, has caused cancer in animals and may be carcinogenic to humans.


Think fake nails are the answer? Think again. The application and removal of acrylic nails requires the use of toxic chemicals with effects too numerous to mention, and the glue in press-on nails can cause dermatitis, eczema, dizziness and headaches. Plus your nails need to breathe, otherwise they will become weak, brittle and susceptible to fungal infections.


The industry has been slow to remove these toxins, and without federal encouragement, that’s unlikely to change. However, the natural nail movement is growing, and smaller, boutique companies are rushing to meet demand.


Of course the safest manicure is one that’s polish-free. Martha Stewart’s peeps describe an easy DIY method on her website (if you don’t like milk, water works fine.)   But for those special occasions when you want a splash of color on your ‘tips or toes, check out these purveyors of low-toxic paints and removers: 


  • Peacekeeper Cause-Metics is the first cosmetic line to give all of its after tax distributable profits to Women's Health Advocacy and Human Rights organizations. }
  • SpaRitual: Buy their new color “Aware” and a donation will be made to the Go Green Initiative which provides environmental education in schools nationwide. } 
  • Honeybee Gardens } 
  • Zoya } 
  • Suncoat Naturals } 
  • Priti } 
  • Acquarella } 


When shopping for new shades, beware of misleading labels – as of now there is no such thing as a non-toxic, organic or all-natural nail polish. Avoiding brands with any or all of the Big Bad 3 we mentioned above is a good place to start. And always make sure to have sufficient ventilation when using any nail product.



Environmental Protection Agency } 

National Institutes of Health } 

Agency for Toxic Substances study on Toluene }

Women’s Health Campaign for Safe Cosmetics } 



[400-500 word for green beauty blog]

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash