What’s in Your Nail Polish? Our Top Non-Toxic Nail Polish Picks

he nail salon can be a wonderful respite during pregnancy – a foot massage to help your swollen feet and some extra care to your nails to make you feel a little bit more beautiful can feel like heaven. That’s why the last thing you want to be worrying about are toxins in your nail polish that can be absorbed into your body. Unfortunately, many nail polishes contain potentially harmful chemicals that you want to avoid exposure to – particularly while pregnant or breastfeeding.Also known as the “toxic trio” –  formaldehyde, DBP, toluene – are used frequently in nail polish formulas. These chemicals have been linked to cancer and developmental disorders.


  1. Formaldehyde: Known as a carcinogen, it is also an irritant to the eyes, nose and throat, and can lead to skin irritation—an allergic rash called dermatitis. Formaldehyde is commonly used as an adhesive polymer that hardens nails and is a key ingredient in nail hardeners. Formaldehyde resin is found in nail polishes, making polish more tough and resilient. Take care when buying polish that boasts its longevity!
  2. DBP (Dibutyl Phthalate): This is a plasticizer used in nail polish to help prevent chips and cracks. According to a 2009 study, DBP is a suspected endocrine disrupter that has been linked to reproductive and developmental toxin and associated to feminizing effects in baby boys.
  3. Toluene: This is a solvent used to make the polish easier to apply and is the cause behind the “nail polish” smell we are all familiar with. Inhaling toluene can cause harm and short-term exposures may cause dizzyness, lightheadedness and drowsiness. Painting your nails in a well-ventilated area can mitigate the effects of toluene.

Not to fear – you don’t need to abandon your weekly mani/pedi sessions. Here are our tips for the nail salon:

  1. Bring your own “3-Free” nail polishes. Three-free nail polishes are free from the toxic trio, formaldehyde, DPB, and toluene, that we mentioned above. Our favorite lines are PritiZoya and Butter London.
  2. Make sure to go to well-ventilated salons. Finding a well-ventilated salon and going at less busy times during the day may help to mitigate inhalation of fumes. Also, more and more “green” salons that use safer products are sprouting up. They typically will have better ventilation and use non-toxic products. Look for one in your area.
  3. Consider buffing your nails over getting polish. It is great to give your nails some time to breathe if you regularly use polish. This will also minimize your exposures to chemicals.

For more reading, check out an article by The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and another article by the Environmental Health News about the effects of DBP.

Also, go to our Pinterest board for more nail polishes and nail art inspiration.