Polish Up: The Toxic Trio

Hi everyone,

A couple years ago, the public was outraged to find out that nail polish was made with some potentially harmful ingredients.  As a result, most mainstream brands changed up their formulas and now label themselves as “3-Free”.  But what exactly does that mean?  This might be a refresher for some people, but I think it’s still an important topic to discuss (especially now that there are new nail polish brands emerging left and right):




  • Toluene: This is used to help nail polish go on smoothly.  Unfortunately, inhaling high levels of toluene is said to be harmful to your nervous system, and can cause light-headedness and nausea.


  • Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP): DBP may have kept your nail polish from chipping, but it’s also been linked to cancer and birth defects.


  • Formaldehyde: Are you ready for this? Formaldehyde is commonly used to preserve and embalm dead animals (and humans).  Oh, and it’s a known carcinogen. Now imagine putting this chemical on your nails.   No thanks!


Some polishes by brands like Chanel and L’Oreal go even farther and label themselves as “5-Free”.  The two extra ingredients they eliminate are Formaldehyde Resin (a derivative of Formaldehyde that isn’t as toxic but can be an allergen) and Camphor (some say that ingesting a large dose can be poisonous and cause seizures). 

Some 3-Free Nail Polishes include American Apparel, Butter London, Deborah LIppman, Essie, OPI, Wet ‘n’ Wild, and Zoya (which is actually 4-Free!).  A few companies that label themselves as 5-Free are Chanel, Dior, L’Oreal and Revlon.

I know it all sounds really scary, but before you go dump your entire polish collection in the garbage, make sure to take all of this information with a grain of salt – there’s still a lot of research being done on the topic.  For now, I would recommend sticking to brands labeled at least “3-Free” and use this trick when applying polish!

Have you ever heard or read anything about this topic? Tell me what you think in the comments.

<3 Mish


Photo source: Erica Fae

1 Comment

  1. hliston says:

    Jamberry Nail Lacquers are 5 free. The nail wraps are vegan and gluten free.

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