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10 Best Non-Toxic Nail Polishes for a Healthy Mani

What 10-free actually means.

best nontoxic nail polish brands
Jinsoon/Oroso/Aila/Zoya

We updated this article in August 2022 to ensure all picks vetted by the Good Housekeeping Institute were in stock, available and correctly priced.


Traditional nail polish has acquired a bad rap, largely due to chemical ingredients and a harsh odor. Besides irritating your senses with a pungent scent, "nail polishes contain solvents and some ingredients that can potentially cause health issues and irritation if inhaled in large quantities," says Sabina Wizemann, a senior chemist in the Health, Beauty & Environmental Sciences Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute.

The strong aroma may not be the only thing that's harsh about some nail polishes: Chemicals in common nail lacquer formulas could potentially enter the body through your nail beds. A 2015 study by researchers at Duke University detected evidence of a common nail polish chemical called triphenyl phosphate, or TPHP, in the bodies of every woman who volunteered to paint her nails for the study.

The good news: Many advancements have been made in nail polish formulations since this study. There are options without that particular harmful chemical and other potentially dangerous ingredients, which brings us to so-called "nontoxic" or "natural" nail lacquers. "Natural," much like "clean beauty," is a marketing term that is unregulated by the FDA for consumer products, so the term itself doesn't have a solid definition when it comes to beauty products.

That said, most non-toxic nail polishes are 3-free, meaning they do not contain formaldehyde, toluene or dibutyl phthalate, three known disrupters. You can find more information on what these terms mean below, but in the interim, these are the best natural nail polishes reviewed by our Beauty Lab. Wizemann ensured the below picks, selected by our editors, are formulated without potentially harmful ingredients. Here, the best natural nail lacquers available right now:

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10-FREE
ZOYA
Professional Nail Lacquer
Zoya
Made without Formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, toluene, dibutyl phthalate or camphor, ethyl tosylamide, TPHP, xylene parabens, lead
Number of shades 583
10-FREE
JINsoon
Nail Polish
Jin Soon
Made without Formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, formaldehyde resin, camphor, xylene, ethyl tosylamide, triphenyl phosphate, parabens, lead
Number of shades 90
10-FREE
CÔTE
Nail Polish
Côte
Made without Formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), toluene, camphor, formaldehyde resin, TPHP, xylene, ethyl tosylamide, parabens, gluten
Number of shades 129
16-FREE
Pacifica
Plant Magic Polish
Pacifica
Made without formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, formaldehyde resin, camphor, ethyl tosylamide, xylene, parabens, acetone, TPHP, animal, bisphenol A (BPA), sulfates, e-series glycol ethers, benzophenone 1, 2, nonylphenol ethoxylate
Number of shades 26
14-FREE
OROSA
Pure Cover Nail Paint
Orosa Beauty
Made without Formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), formaldehyde resin, toluene, camphor, triphenyl phosphate, ethyl tosylamide, xylene, MEHQ/HQ, MIT, palm oil, parabens, animal-derived ingredients, gluten
Number of shades 4 per season
14-FREE
AILA
Nail Lacquer
Aila
Made without Parabens, sulfates, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, camphor, dibutyl phthalate, toluene, triphenyl phosphate, xylene, bismuth oxychloride, ethyl tosylamide, methylisothiazolinone hydroquinone monomethyl ether, plant derivatives
Number of shades 47
10-FREE
SUNDAYS
Nail Polish
Dear Sundays
Made without TPHP, dibutyl phthalate, toluene, xylene, ethyl tosylamide, camphor, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, parabens, tert-butyl hydroperoxide
Number of shades 70+
8-FREE
Smith & Cult
Nail Polish
Smith and Cult
Made without Dibutyl phthalate, toluene, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, camphor, xylene, ethyl tosylamide, triphenyl phosphate
Number of shades 66
8-FREE
TENOVERTEN
Nail Polish
Ten Over Ten
Made without Dibutyl phthalate (DBP), toluene, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, camphor, ethyl tosylamide, xylene, triphenyl phosphate (TPHP)
Number of shades 44
WATER-BASED NAIL POLISH
Piggy Paint
Nail Paint
Piggy Paint
Made without Formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, formaldehyde resin, camphor, ethyl tosylamide, xylene, parabens, acetone, TPHP, animal, bisphenol A (BPA), sulfates, e-series glycol ethers, benzophenone 1, 2, nonylphenol ethoxylate
Number of shades 43
How we choose the best natural nail polishes
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We selected these products based on expert advice, extensive research and top reviews. The Good Housekeeping Institute's Beauty Lab is constantly testing the newest nail and makeup products, including hand creams, nail polishes and more, and our beauty pros shared their favorite picks for natural nail polishes based on years of industry experience and product testing.

After we gathered the top picks, GH Institute Beauty Lab's Senior Chemist, Sabina Wizemann, combed through the selections to ensure they are each formulated without potentially harmful ingredients, so the included nail polish brands have been vetted not only for performance, but safety as well.

What does "non-toxic" nail polish mean?
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"Products are crossing off 'toxic' ingredients from formulas at rapid speed, and some brands offer vegan and gluten-free options," says Wizemann. Many "non-toxic" polishes are 3-free, which means they're formulated without formaldehyde, toluene and Dibutyl phthalate. Here's why:

  • Formaldehyde, an intense smelling and colorless gas, typically used as a nail hardener in nail polishes, has been linked to some types of cancer, including leukemia, in humans when exposed in high amounts, according to the American Cancer Society. Though formaldehyde does occur naturally in the environment and is present in small amounts in most living organisms, it is recognized as a carcinogen by International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as well as by the Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Toluene is a colorless, sweet-smelling industrial solvent that temporarily affects the nervous system and can cause strong eye and nose irritation as well as dizziness and fatigue when inhaled, according to the EPA. It is not characterized as a carcinogen, but is a teratogen, an agent that can disturb the development of the embryo or fetus after prolonged exposure.
  • Dibutyl phthalate (DBP) is commonly used as a plasticizer to promote material flexibility and reduce brittleness, and it can cause irritations, headaches and dizziness when inhaled.

Beyond that, polishes go as far as being 10-, 14- or even 16-free. Here's the breakdown of what's missing (thankfully!) from those formulas:

  • 5-free contains no formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, formaldehyde resin, camphor
  • 7-free contains no formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, formaldehyde resin, camphor, ethyl tosylamide, xylene
  • 9-free contains no formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, formaldehyde resin, camphor, ethyl tosylamide, xylene, parabens, acetone
  • 10-free contains no formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, formaldehyde resin, camphor, ethyl tosylamide, xylene, parabens, acetone, TPHP, TBHP, gluten
  • 14-free contains no formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, formaldehyde resin, camphor, ethyl tosylamide, xylene, parabens, TPHP, gluten, MEHQ/HQ, MIT, palm oil, animal-derived ingredients.
  • 16-free contains no formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, formaldehyde resin, camphor, ethyl tosylamide, xylene, parabens, acetone, TPHP, animal-derived ingredients, bisphenol A (BPA), sulfates, e-series glycol ethers, benzophenone 1, 2, nonylphenol ethoxylate
  • "Water-based formulas incorporate non-synthetic pigments and aqueous acrylic polymers, plus they are also odorless," says Wizemann. Though easy to apply, they are often not as long-lasting.
Why trust Good Housekeeping?
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Sabina Wizemann has coordinated makeup and nail product tests by collaborating with professional makeup and nail artists, lab testing and performing large consumer studies. She has tested and assessed makeup foundations, concealers, mascaras, liquid lipsticks and tinted moisturizers during her tenure as a senior chemist at Good Housekeeping.

Beauty writer Dori Price has over 15 years of experience researching and writing nail stories, combining her knowledge with the expertise of top industry professionals including nail artists, technicians and dermatologists. She is an expert in all nail product categories, including nail color, nail treatments, nail art, professional services and more.

Paige Stables also contributed to this article; she was a former Assistant Beauty Editor at Good Housekeeping, where she regularly covered beauty products, including nail colors, tools and care.

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