For me, there’s something deliciously feminine about having painted nails. I really like a good paint job, but most salon and cheap pharmacy brands have a lot of undesirable chemicals which not only are we painting on our bodies, but inhaling as we do!

But don’t despair. We can choose better.

In the last few years, companies have been becoming increasingly conscious about consumer demand for cleaner beauty and so many have been reformulating to remove the traditional toxic chemicals harmful for human health.

When looking for a lowtox nail polish, (and yes I said low tox, not no-tox) my tip is to look for brands that market ’10-free’. There will be others that claim to be vegan, plant based etc, which is good but look for the list of what they’re NOT including.

Here’s some common nail polish ingredients to avoid:

FORMALDEHYDE & FORMALDEHYDE RESIN: commonly used to harden and preserve nail polish, but its primary, original use is to embalm dead bodies. Formaldehyde is considered a carcinogen, linked to nasal and lung cancers, by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, as well as contributing to problems such as asthma, convulsions, skin reactions, abnormal foetal development and miscarriage.

TOLUENE: used to help keep nail polish smooth and even when applied. However, this chemical has been linked to issues affecting the nervous system with symptoms that include dizziness, headaches, nausea, and eye irritation. It has also been linked to birth defects and developmental problems in children whose mothers were exposed to the chemical during pregnancy.

CAMPHOR: used to keep polish looking glossy, when inhaled this chemical can lead to skin irritations, nausea, headaches and dizziness.

DIBUTYL PHTHALATE: DBP added to nail polish to make it more flexible and less prone to cracks, chips, and other annoyances. DBP is linked to reproductive issues and has been banned for use in cosmetics in Europe.

ETHYL TOSYLAMIDE: primarily used in nail polish as a plasticiser and film former, this chemical can cause severe allergic reactions and in extreme cases cause liver damage. This chemical is banned in the UK due to its anitibacterial properties and concerns over antibiotic resistance.

TRIPHENYL PHOSPHATE (TPHP): widely reported as an endocrine disruptor and causes possible developmental and reproductive problems in animals. TPHP is known as a plasticiser, used in nail polish to improve its flexibility and durability.  The causes of TPHP has been linked with endocrine impacts, reproductive, and even development irregularities.

XYLENE:used as a solvent to thin the polish (preventing lumps). Xylene vapors can cause eye & skin irritation, headaches, dizziness and nausea.

COLOPHONIUM: is a sticky substance that naturally exists in pine and spruce trees, however, it is one of those strong allergen compounds which is associated with acute allergic problems, like it causes dermatitis as well as breathing issues.

ORGANIC HALIDES (AOX): used as thinners. These chemical compound consist of various substances like bromine, iodine, fluorine, and chlorine. They cause various serious disorders, including nerve damage.

BENZOPHENONE-1: used to prevent ultraviolet (UV) light from damaging colours, Benzophenone-1 has been linked to breast cancer, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, and has been found in human placental tissue. Many 5free/7free/10free nail polish brands STILL use this ingredient in their formula!

PARABENS: used in many cosmetics to prevent bacterial growth and extend shelf life, there are some major concerns around parabens as endocrine disruptors, able to mimic the hormone oestrogen – potentially causing reproductive problems.

PHTHLATES: a solvent used to soften PVC plastics, these industrial chemicals can damage the liver, kidneys, lungs, and reproductive system.



Brands I love and choose:


12-free. Founded by Kiwi Anna Ross, who now resides in Australia, Kester Black polishes are not only free from 12 of the common nail polish nasties including toluene, DBP, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin and camphor, but they were the first beauty brand in the world to achieve a B Corp certification – the only certification that measures a company’s entire social and environmental performance.  Their products are also organic, vegan, cruelty free, palm oil free and 100% certified carbon neutral. Their latest innovation, water permeable polish, enables oxygen and H2O to pass through the polish to the nail bed, allowing breathability without compromising on the finish or longevity.


Plant polish, a formula made from naturally derived ingredients (such as corn, cotton, sugarcane and potato) – rather than petrochemicals. Plant Polish contains 82% plant sourced, sustainable ingredients, is breathable, water permeable, 10 free (non toxic), as well as certified vegan, cruelty free, and Australian made. You can buy from HealthPost in NZ.


Certified Vegan, cruelty free, halaL. Their new formula is the cleanest yet. You will find renewable, plant-based ingredients on the ingredient list and are vegan, cruelty-free, breathable and free from Benzophenone-1 and micro-plastics. They have also removed aluminium and nanoparticles. I buy through Oh Natural in NZ


Started in NZ in 2018, an affordable, high quality, non-toxic and cruelty-free gel nails solution. 10-free, vegan, kind to your nails, your wallet AND the planet.

Nicky10 for 10% off storewide


10 -free. One of the first to be lower tox, always cruelty-free, vegan and paraben-free. 


12-free. Certified vegan, gluten free, cruelty free and halal. Their L’Oxygene range is breathable, oxygenated and moisture permeable.


Nail polish removers

Skip the acetone, which dehydrates the nail plate, cuticles and the surrounding skin – nails can become dry and brittle, and cuticles can become dry, flaky, red and irritated. Go for either the Sienna strengthening nail remover or the unscented acetone remover from Hanami.

I prefer to make my own as it’s cheaper and easy!

Here’s my DIY recipe: 

In a 30ml dropper bottle (or spray bottle)

  • 25ml rubbing alcohol (like what you’d use in hnad sanitiser)
  • 20 drops lemongrass essential oil

Spray or drop on nails, wait 45 seconds for them to soften before rubbing off with a paper towel.


Nail Care:

What to do when your nails become brittle or dry? Moisturise!

Nail and cuticle serum:




An empty amber bottle with a dropper or an empty nail polish bottle

  • 2 Tbsp of argan oil, sweet almond or jojoba oil

  • 4 drops of vitamin E oil (optional)

  • 4 drops of Frankincense essential oil

  • 4 drops Lavender essential oil

  • 4 drops Mhyrr or sandalwood essential oils



Add all the ingredients into a small bowl and mix until well combined, or mix straight into bottle you choose, mix thoroughly. Massage 2 to 3 drops onto the nails and cuticles as needed.

I hope this has been helpful and that the next time you’re in the market for some fresh nail polish, you’ll support one of these brands that are choosing to do better. Let me know in the comments what brands you love.