How To Not Kill Animals, Earth, or Yourself With Your Nail Polish

Painting your nails is one the most therapeutic and confidence-boosting things you can do for yourself! I've been doing it since the 90's during sleepovers with my friends, and still do it in my twenties today. But as sustainability became a priority to me, I started looking more closely at the things I bought and researching them myself. I was appalled at the impact of nail polish.


Nail polishes are made of compounds that are absolutely horrendous for our health (common theme, eh?) and we are not told about it. Many of the ingredients have been associated with health problems like:

  1. Cancer

  2. Thyroid dysfunction

  3. Birth defects and other reproductive problems

  4. Neurological issues

  5. Allergic reactions

  6. Obesity

These toxins are absorbed through our skin, cuticle, and nail and go directly into our bodies. A study by the Environmental Working Group concluded that we absorb at least 1 hormone disrupting toxin every time we get a polish. This is why some nail polish brands started adopting the label of "3-free," or "5-free," where they openly announce their nail polishes don't contain the chemicals that are strongly linked to the above health problems, such as:

  • Dibutyl phthalate (DnBP)

  • Toluene

  • Formaldehyde

  • Camphor

  • Formaldehyde resin

Animal Welfare

Another issue with nail polish is that most are actually made using animal products and animal testing.

The animal testing sounds downright unbearable, like dripping substances into their eyes and forcing inhalation of large amounts of nail polish fumes. I'll spare you the worst animal testing they use for nail polish, but if you're curious, look it up yourself and cry. Literally.

I was aware that animal testing was common in the beauty industry, but the amount of animal derived products actually found in nail polish was astonishing:

  1. Guanine - derived from fish scales and tissues to make nail polish shimmer. Think pearl colored nail polish.

  2. Carmine - derived from boiled and crushed insects to create a rich, red color

  3. Oleic Acid - derived from general animal oils and fat to thicken the polish

Environmental Impact

Nail polish uses ingredients that are derived from fossil fuels, like oil. These ingredients give it the liquid texture you see come out of the bottle, and are depleting our fossil fuels and contributing to climate change. Not only that, but many nail polishes are made of single use plastic that can never get recycled.

So what's the solution?

Who would honestly buy basic nail polish if they knew all these terrible things they do to us and animals? If you don't support brands that are hurting us, animals, and the planet, you'll need to start supporting ethical nail polish companies that care. With your money.

Nailtural is a brand I came across when I researched this topic. They make nail polish that is not only cruelty free and entirely vegan, but it uses reusable zero waste packaging and a applicator made of wood.

But my favorite part of Nailtural is that they have completely revolutionized the manufacturing process. Instead of fossil fuels, they use bio-based ingredients like beets, potatoes, and cassava to create the polish. That means, in the process of making their polish, they are using plants that take carbon out of the air instead of fossil fuels that put carbon into the air!

So next time you want to buy nail polish, remember that you have a choice. You can choose to support brands that are making the planet safer and healthier, or pay $1 less for a brand that's harming us, animals, and the Earth.

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