Getting the Gloss on Eco-Friendly Nail Polish


When I sat down to write this article, I admit I was a little stumped. So I watched a little bit of reality television, to which this Jersey girl asks, “Why must every other reality show depict New Jersey as a spray-tan haven of big hair and bad accents?” Sure I saw some big hair in high school, but that’s when Bon Jovi had lustrous locks and Madonna still had fat on her body. Does this mean a lifetime of bad jokes about your homeland perpetuated by women who like to flip tables or do back handsprings in a thong? We’re talking about nail polish, right?

So back to the article and why it gave me pause. Yes, I’m writing about eco-friendly nail polish. But to call any nail polish eco-friendly seems a little like calling biodiesel a great lawn fertilizer. Okay, so maybe this nail polish is not friendly to the earth. But it is certainly a healthier option to gloss onto your toes than some of the other nail polishes out there. Yes, some nail polishes are less toxic than others, and here’s the how-to and why on them!

First, let’s look at the ingredients in traditional nail polishes. Many contain an evil triumvirate of chemicals – toluene, formaldehyde and BDPs. Toluene can cause rapid breathing, blurred vision, dry skin and can affect the kidneys and nervous system. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and a volatile allergen and irritant. Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP) is linked to reproductive problems and underdeveloped genitals in newborn boys. In Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry, Stacy Malkan writes “the CDC reports that women age 20 to 40 have the highest levels of phthalates in their bodies.” Further, more than half of nail polishes Malkan found in a neighborhood drug store had DBP listed on the labels.

Okay, so that’s the bad news. The good news is that I’m kicking the green reaper off my computer screen right now. There are great brands of nail polish out there that do not contain these ingredients. I’ve tried a few and was handily impressed. (Get it? Because it was on my hands?) And here’s what I found.


This vegan line of polishes is free of DBPs, formaldehyde, toluene. They’ve got hip, cool colors that last. I received a manicure of Spa Ritual Lacquer at Primrose Organics Salon in Los Angeles. It lasted a good two weeks before major chippage occurred. My nails felt strong and dare I say, they even grew faster? Okay, that part was probably in my head. But if you’re looking for a line that’s close to what you’re used to – but without the bad chemicals – this is a good go-to. Not to mention, the bottle is made of glass and contains 50 percent recycled product.



This is another vegan line made without toluene, DBP or formaldehyde. It includes 100 different shades of “metallics, mattes, bright neons, rich darks, classic nudes, and everything in between.” And they rack up a lot of certifications – Priti Nails are USDA Organic, cruelty free, certified vegan, among others. You can get a complete list of their ingredients here.


How do they go on?

I found them to be pretty standard – a couple coats and a gloss will get you a professional manicure-worthy look. Like Spa Ritual, they get big props. If you’re looking for something that feels traditional but doesn’t infuse quite so many chemicals into your system, you can’t go wrong with Priti.


In high school, I had to compile a huge bug collection for science class. Know how I sent the bugs to their death? I dropped them in a jar next to a cotton ball doused in nail polish remover. After closing the lid, the bug was usually a goner within minutes.


My karma for this? I’ve been afraid to use nail polish for about two decade now. That and the fact that nail polish remover feels like it is searing the little hairs off the inside of my nose. Priti’s nail polish remover is more like a scented candle, than a scent from hell. I found this product to be a joy. Okay, you might not want to wear it as a perfume, but it has a pleasant lemony scent to it that doesn’t feel like it’s going to kill you.

How does it work?
Just fine, thank you. And best of all, I didn’t feel like I had to put my hands through several rounds of washing after wards. I will continue to use this nail polish remover as long as I’m painting my nails. It’s a biodegradable soy nail polish remover that contains lemongrass essential oils, is ompletely acetone-free and comes in a bottle that is completely recyclable.

And this isn’t the end of less-toxic nail polish – next week we’re going to look at water-based brands. Will they stand up in the wash? Stay tuned”¦

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Images: jemasmith, makeupandbeautyblog

Katherine Butler

Katherine Butler is the Beauty Editor of EcoSalon and currently resides in Los Angeles, California.