The Quest for a Safe Nail Polish

 It seems like I’m kinda’ on a roll about fingernail health. It’s probably my obsessive nature that makes me hang on like a bull dog when I want to find a solution to a problem. The problem is how to keep fingernails (and toenails) looking great in a non-toxic way; thus the quest for a safe nail polish.

Here’s the problem. Fingernails are porous therefore what you put on them can penetrate its way into your body. To make matters worse, the fumes from fingernail polish and remover have yet a second entry into your body when you breathe them.

Have you ever visited a salon where the fumes are so strong they almost knock you out? I have and that’s what inspired this post. It was so bad I turned around and marched myself right back out. I knew that those fumes had to be hard on the customers and staff.

The goal then is to have beautiful nails, but do it safely and without those awful toxic fumes. So, I went on a quest for products that contains no dibutyl phthalate (DBP), formaldehyde or toluene. It appears that the water based enamels are the safest. These include Piggy Paint, Acquarella and Safe Nail Polish. There may be other products out there, but these are the three that I researched for this post.

Ingredients of the top three safe nail polishes

Piggy Paint:

Polish: Water, acrylates copolymer, butoxy diglycol, Neolone 950. May contain mica, red 34 lake, ultramarines, titanium dioxide, iron oxide pigments.

Remover: Corn alcohol, butyl diglycol, Aloe Vera extract, Vitamin E, embittering agent.


Polish: Acrylic polymer emulsion, Water, Drying Retarder, and Other Ingredients (colorants at 2%)

Remover: “Water, tall oil fatty acids and alcohols (plant based), non-ionic surfactant, organic buffer” Note: tall oil fatty acids are a by product of making wood pulp. They are used in making soaps and lubricants

Safe Nail Polish:

Polish: Water, Acrylic film thickeners and formers (water-miscible), diglycol ethers Note: diglycol ethers are not the same as ethylene glycol.

Remover: Corn alcohol, butyl diglycol, aloe vera extract,
Vitamin E, embittering agent, D&C green #6.


After reading all the information available on all three of these products, I believe Piggy Paint and Safe Nail Polish to be the best choices. Unfortunately, Piggy Paint suggests a base coat and a top coat with their products to avoid chipping. The product I will be using is Safe Nail Polish. Two coats and you’re done. I like that. Another thing worth mentioning is that these products (all three from above) dry in 3 – 5 minutes, but polymers need extra time to actually cure to achieve maximum hardness. In my book this is a tiny price to pay for safety.

The salon I go to fortunately is fumeless, but my manicurist doesn’t use what I consider a safe product. So the next time I go see her, I’m going to take my own polish and remover. Who knows, maybe I can convince them to switch to a nontoxic product.

Related articles:

Save Your Fingernails with Nail-Aid Base Coat

Fingernail Ridges – Make Them Go Away

Quick Manicure at Home

Three Quick Fixes for Hangnails and Four Ways to Prevent Them

3 thoughts on “The Quest for a Safe Nail Polish

  1. My wife and I have MCS, and it has taken a huge health toll and has negative affects on our appearance as well (perhaps a minor thing to some, but it changes how your treated). I have been trying to find a safe alternative nail polish for ages (basic makeup is out there already) but none of these cut the mustard for me. For starters, “Piggy Paint” (far better than most choices) has butyl diglycol in it (on the hazardous materials sheet).

    Here is what the materials hazard people say about it : MODERATE CONCERN ; Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs); Other MODERATE concerns: Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive)

    People with MCS nearly always react to things that irritate the respiratory system as well as organ systems, and it is usually the synthetics that cause more trouble than the natural forms (like pure organic alcohol).

    I just keep seeing that so many of the “green” choices use SOMETHING unneeded to get the quality of result they company wants (they compromise). This is how we got in this mess – everyone who made ANYTHING compromised just a bit … a tiny amount at first (acting like that would be safe because nobody else did it – except everyone did it). Then they compromised more and more because nobody stopped them.

    In mail polish (the good ones) we still see the addition of plastic acrylic polymer particles to produce the coverage that they prefer, WITHOUT the long wait from much older methods. However, plastics are very dangerous. Most plastics (nearly all of them) mimic estrogen, and they mess up reproduction, the entire endocrine/thyroid axis – and cause a higher cancer rate. What gives? They had safer nail polish in ancient China. We can do better than this.

    1. sorry about the typos. I still say we deserve better, although they are at least TRYING now. However the plastics and (other) petrochemicals have to go (all of them).

      1. So sorry you’re having problems. I know folks with CMS seem to often be more sensitive to odors. The only way I know to escape the problem you are having is avoid the products. At least, if I suffered with CMS that’s what I would do.

        Good luck to you and your wife.


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