You are here

Is Your 'Toxin-Free' Nail Polish Really Safe?


You may think that you're doing the right and healthy thing by opting for nail polishes with the words "toxin-free" on the label when you get a mani or pedi, but new research is questioning just how accurate those words really are.

According to a new study by the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) in California, numerous nail care products sampled in the San Francisco Bay Area make toxin-free claims that aren’t supported by laboratory testing. DTSC examined 25 products (mostly nail color or lacquer but also some top coat, base coat, thinner, nail art, and a top coat-base coat combination) in May 2011, and were looking for the so-called toxic trio—dibutyl phthalate, toluene and formaldehyde. These toxins have been linked to various health problems, especially of concern with salon workers. Dibutyl phthalate and toluene are toxins that may cause birth defects, and formaldehyde is a carcinogen.

"Nails are porous and anything that goes onto your nails or skin will be absorbed into the blood stream," says Erika Katz, beauty expert and author of Bonding Over Beauty. "Also when you inhale these toxic compounds, they can hurt your lungs." 

The researchers found that many of those who said they were toxin-free actually weren't. However, none of them included formaldehyde and some of them that were not labeled as toxin-free actually were. 

In order to be safe, Ron Robinson, cosmetic chemist of, recommends taking a few easy steps when getting a manicure or pedicure.

"Consumers should be buying from well-known brands and those that are made in the United States," he recommends. "When going to the salon, bring your own nail polish from home to make sure you know what's being used on you."

A few of his favorite toxin-free nail polish brands are Butter London, Priti NYC, Ginger & Liz, and Scotch Naturals.

And the best news of all of this? Robinson says that the toxic trio are unique to nail polishes and not found in other beauty products. Whew...

Do you bring your own nail polish to the salon? Will you now? Do you have any favorite toxic-free brands that you trust? Tell us about it!


Jennipher Walters is the CEO and co-founder of the healthy living websites and A certified personal trainer, lifestyle and weight management coach and group exercise instructor, she also holds an MA in health journalism and regularly writes about all things fitness and wellness for various online publications.


Add a comment