If you’re like most beauty devotees, you probably have quite the collection of nail products: base coats, ALL the colors, top coats in various finishes, speed dry setting coating, nail strengthener, nail oil, polish removers... It’s an arsenal of self indulgence and fun! But it is likely also an arsenal of chemicals you would not choose to expose yourself to if they were prominently labeled.
The nail industry experienced a bit of a revolution with the public desire for “3 Free” polishes. 3 Free refers to the lack of formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate.
Formaldehyde, while frequently present in cosmetics as an impurity tied to their preservatives, is instead a more concentrated ingredient in nail products that use it to harden and strengthen the polish. It’s also toxic and linked to cancer, reproductive harm, and breathing problems.
Toluene is included in nail polishes to create a smoother finish. It’s also used in most traditional polish removers. But it’s also bad for your health. Toluene can impair fetal development, affect neurological function, and is even linked to blood cancers and lymphoma.
Dibutyl phthalate finds its way into nail polish formulations to extend wear time by reducing chipping. But, similar to the parabens we discussed earlier, it also mimics estrogen and functions as a hormone disruptor. Phthalates are receiving an increasing amount of attention and concern given their potential effects on our health.
So what is “5 Free”? Nail products that bear the status of being 5 Free do not include any of the aforementioned ingredients as well as a commitment to lacking formaldehyde resin and camphor.
Formaldehyde resin is a plasticizer that serves to harden the polish while also making it flexible and resilient. Research on this ingredient is ongoing, but it is known to have a high rate of allergic reaction, causing everything from severe contact dermatitis to skin discoloration.
Camphor is something you might remember from the old days of Vick’s Vaporub. It’s come under fire in recent years for causing severe reactions for skin and respiration (headache, dizziness, airway irritation/swelling).
Some brands of nail products will tout their 3 Free status while simply replacing the 3 recognized chemicals with similar or less-tested substitutes, so it’s important to choose your nail product brands carefully. A company that we can’t stop raving about (or painting our fingers and toes with) is the phenomenal Maggie Anne. Hailing from the UK, this brand’s deep commitment to the beauty of clean nail products is to be lauded. In fact, they are not 3 Free, not 5 Free, but 6 Free!
The 6th ingredient Maggie Anne does not use in their products is an important one: ethyl tosylamide (THTP for those in the know). This is used to create the speed coat finishes that supercharge dry time. But with that convenience also comes some antibiotic behaviors, which has led the EU to ban it in an effort to combat antibiotic resistant super bugs. Not something we want on our nails or floating around in the environment!
With summer right around the corner and warmer days translating into sandal season, it’s time to commit to nails that are as healthful as they are beautiful (their finish is like a gel polish - without the UV light or annoying soak off time!). You can see all of our gorgeous Maggie Anne colors in stock here and pick up some polish remover while you’re at it - because you know you’ll want to indulge in all of these colors!
Written by Danielle Gatto