How Safe Is Your Nail Salon + 7 Best Nontoxic Nail Polish Brands You Need to Know

BY Alexis Farah · July 18, 2016

The official arrival of summer can only mean one thing for your polish game: It’s time to get your hands and feet ready to see the light. But before walking into in any old nail salon, do some investigating to make sure the place is clean. Why? Recent reports have linked poor air quality and exposure to certain nail-polish chemicals with various health concerns. “Inhalation of toxic fumes that can cause breathing problems are linked to cancers and reproductive and developmental irregularities,” says Ruth Kallens, founder of New York City’s new eco-chic nail salon Van Court. Here, the green-beauty whiz shares her cheat sheet for ensuring a healthy and safe nail appointment. (P.S.: If you’d rather just go the DIY route, use this handy guide to master an at-home manicure and pedicure.)


1. Get the scoop on their ventilation system.

It is absolutely crucial for a nail destination to have a proper air-purification and ventilation system to ensure a healthy visit. “Ventilation is mandatory, but many salons don’t put one in,” explains Kallens, “and if they do, it’s not moving enough air volume.” The best way to check their policy? Just ask.

2. Nix the cuticle clipping.

Your safest bet is to let the nail technician push back, but not cut, cuticles. “New York State actually bans cuticle clipping and sees it as minor surgery,” says Kallens, who goes on to say that we actually need our cuticles—they’re the body’s barrier and help keep infection and bacteria out. If you absolutely must nip hangnails (pieces of non-live tissue) at an appointment, bring your own tools. That way you know where they’ve been.

3. Check for an autoclave.

There are three forms of cleanliness that will get your nail spa a seal of approval: sanitation (washing of hands), disinfection (Barbacide + UV filters) and sterilization with an autoclave.An autoclave is what your dentist uses to sterilize his/her tools and implements,” explains Kallens. Identify the autoclave at your appointment, which uses steam pressure to sterilize tools.

4. Ask the tough questions.

While no one even likes to think about foot fungus, athlete’s foot, ringworm and warts, it’s important to ask the salon about their policies regarding these conditions. “Many nail salons will treat every customer that comes in the door,” explains Kallens. The reason why some salons are considered “dirty” is because they are the source of spreading those kinds of infections and bacteria.

5. Be picky about nail polish brands.

To dodge any health risks, find a salon stocked with 5-free or higher nail polishes, which means the hue is made without toxic ingredients like dibutyl phthalate (DBP), toluene, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin and camphor. “The less toxins in the nail polish, the better,” says Kallens. “And “less toxins” does not mean a lower quality of nail polish either,” she stresses.

Looking for nontoxic nail polish brands? You’ve come to the right place. Check out our top-selling nontoxic nail polish brands below.

1. Essie

Essie Nail Color delivers professional quality color with a durable, flawless finish. As an on-trend hue, this lacquer offers rich pigment suited for any wearer or occasion. Its chip-resistant formula is free of toluene, formaldehyde and DBP as not to weaken your nails. Apply multiple layers for a more opaque appearance.

2. butter LONDON

Inspired by the glamour of Great Britain Rock & Roll and high fashion, butter LONDON has created a nail lacquer line with an expert, high-octane color palette. Since introduction, butter LONDON has rapidly become a cult favorite while being coveted by those who walk down the runways. Their unique luxury formula was the first to bring non-toxic nail polish to the United States. All colors are made without formaldehyde, toluene, DBP or parabens.

3. 100% Pure

Founded with the purest intentions possible, 100% Pure strives to create all-natural, cruelty-free skin care products with an environmentally conscious mindset. All formulations are made without any chemicals, synthetics, fragrances or dyes, to ensure what reaches your face is safe and pure. All products are also biodegradable and feature labels printed with nontoxic soy ink. Its range of nail polish colors delivers a powerful punch of color with a seamless application. Rich, saturated colors offer a long-wear time with a chip-resistant, five-free formula that doesn’t include formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, camphor or formaldehyde resin so nails stay strong and healthy.

4. SpaRitual

SpaRitual is a vegan-based brand that focuses on the mind, body, spirit that connect with healing spa traditions. SpaRitual encourages women to approach beauty as a “holistic connection” and are deeply devoted to ethical business practices, with a socially responsible philosophy, environmental consciousness and compassion. They’ve developed top-grade, 100% vegan products that are formulated with sustainability in mind to ensure the formulation and packaging process remain responsible to benefit the environment. The SpaRitual line features products free of synthetic dyes and parabens. The nail lacquers and nail care treatments are also free of toluene, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, camphor and DBP.

5. deborah lippmann

deborah lippmann Luxurious Nail Color coats each nail in long-wearing color. An infusion of strengthening camellia oleifera extract promotes healthier, more fortified nails. Formulated without toluene, formaldehyde or DBP. Worn by celebrities and down the runway of the hottest designers, this luxury nail color goes hand-in-hand with the latest trend-setting fashions.

6. Caption

Caption is a line of innovative nail lacquers and effects with advanced technology and nail health benefits. Created by Young Nails Inc., an industry-leading provider of professional products and services for nail technicians, Caption developed the first nail polish to ever incorporate the multi-patented LacQ3 technology and is revolutionizing the modern manicure. The triple-layer, dual polymer technology goes beyond gel, providing the high-shine and staying power of a gel manicure without the difficult removal or harmful UV rays. Its 3-free formula is blended without DBP, toluene or formaldehyde.

7. Vapour Organic Beauty

Vapour Organic Beauty products offer a natural alternative to harmful chemically based cosmetics and skin care. Ranging from foundations, eyeshadows and concealers to nail polishes and skin care formulas, this line always comprises of at least 70% certified organic ingredients with 30% natural vitamins. Its wide range of nail lacquers gives your nails a seamless manicure with every stroke. Brushes on smooth, the silky chip-resistant formula dries quickly and is mixed with non-toxic ingredients to promote healthier nails. With a high-gloss finish, this polish delivers a salon-quality manicure that you never have to leave your house for.

Alexis Farah

Before becoming a freelance writer in Los Angeles, Alexis was the Senior Beauty Editor at Everyday Health in New York City. She started her career as the Associate Beauty Editor at Women’s Health magazine and... Read More >

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