The New Nail Trend: Natural, Organic & ‘Free From’ Polish (And Why It’s Worth Understanding What’s In Your Varnish)

Organic, natural and ‘nasty free’ beauty products have never been more popular, as we turn away from the harsh chemical ingredients that can irritate our skin and seek out something gentler – without compromising on efficacy. Gone are the days when shopping organic meant picking up a slightly smelly, slightly gloopy and slightly separating formula; now you can turn to the natural side of the market and never know the difference between that and the most expensive and scientifically advanced cream available. I’m a firm believer in organic and natural beauty being part of an individual’s lifestyle choice, but I’m also a firm believer in helping others to make an informed purchasing decision so they can be sure to do what’s best for them – and their family. For years ‘natural’ nail polish was the one product that evaded brands, as they just couldn’t get the formula to perform without all of the chemicals that our usual £2.99 brands are pumped full of; but times have changed. You may have to pay three times the amount of your favourite Barry M polish, but it is now possible to buy products that are natural, organic and free from a lot of the chemicals that the Daily Mail would have us believe are going to give us all cancer. But why is it so important to understand what’s in your nail polish, and why should we be avoiding certain ingredients – particularly if you’re pregnant or have small children?

Jacava London (£15.50) are a quintessentially British brand that produce nail varnishes that are formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, toluene, paraben, camphor, phthalate, xylene, ethyl tosylamide and lead free. They’re the only brand in the UK that can claim they’re ‘nine free’, as well as being vegan friendly. In addition, Organic Pharmacy have their own range of Organic Glam (£11.50) polishes that offer a long-lasting, chip-resistant and safe formula that’s free from toxins including camphor, phthalates, toluene and formaldehyde. Eliminating toluene, camphor, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin and DBP from its polishes, Zoya (£11.00) are probably one of the most well known ‘organic’ nail brands with a contiual up-to-shade shade offering, while Little Odine (£8.40) have revolutionised the way we think about nail colour. Composed of natural resin, organic colourants and water, they’ve sourced the best minerals from around the world to provide a pure organic colour, a smooth texture, hydrating formula and a peel-off result (reducing the need for chemically-saturated nail varnish remover – something that can also be absorbed into our bloodstream.)

With more and more of these brands popping up, and more and more of these ‘normalised’ chemical ingredients being banished, why should we be so worried about a little bit of nail polish? It’s easy to assume that applying chemicals to your nails is far less to be concerned about than applying chemicals to your face, but our hands are the part of our body that comes into contact with almost every other part of us. We itch our eyes, pick our noses, scratch our bums, bite our nails, lick our fingers… All of these things easily transfer chemicals around our bodies and can cause irritation. One of the most common causes of irritation around the eyes (and of conditions such as conjunctivitis,) is nail polish; but it’s the one cause that people don’t seem to be able to identify when they come across a problem. Similarly, with pregnant women refusing to east cheese and seafood, it seems crazy that they’d happily apply their favourite polish and nibble their nails without a second thought. There’s no right or wrong answer; it’s all about personal choice – but it’s also about understanding what those choices are.
Formaldehyde is linked to asthma, neurotoxicity and developmental toxicity, while formaldehyde resin is known to cause contact dermatitis. From inhalation toluene can cause drowsiness, headaches and dizziness, while in high doses and exposure it can impair memory, vision and hearing. Parabens can cause skin sensitization and contact allergies. Xylene and lead can cause skin, eye, nose and throat irritation, as well as potentially memory problems, gastro-intestinal discomfort, kidney, blood, central nervous system and liver effects. Camphor is swiftly absorbed into the skin, crosses the placenta and has been implicated in feotal and neonatal death, while foetal exposure to chemicals such as phthalates in the womb have been linked to fertility problems, child deformities and cancer. Although a slick of your favourite polish every now and again isn’t going to kill you, it is worth understanding the potential impact these commonly used ingredients can have on your well-being – and the well-being of your children (pre-birth or otherwise.)
Although I’ve never been particularly fussed about organic food, natural beauty or leading a hippy lifestyle, as I get older and enter a new phase of my life I am becoming more and more aware of all the chemicals I’m applying to my skin. If I can avoid overloading my body with more chemicals than is absolutely necessary, why wouldn’t I make that choice? There’s no way I’m going to be chucking in the Rimmel nail polish any time soon, but it does make me think twice about the nail polish I apply before setting off to spend the day with my best friends and their babies. I know that (hopefully) in the future when I’m growing my own little human, I’ll be opting for a safer alternative just as I’ll be passing on that large glass of rose. What’s great about these brands is that they offer a huge spectrum of shades, a great colour result, an easy-to-apply formula and the knowledge that there’s simply nothing nasty on your nails. I’m not one for compromise and the brands now available ensure you can get the result that you need, without loading up on chemicals that could impact you in more ways than one.

How do you feel about natural, organic and ‘free from’ nail polish? Is it something you’re concerned about, or are you willing to stick to your usual brand and ignore the hype? I’d love to know your thoughts…

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  1. Ashly Rae
    August 31, 2015 / 1:10 pm

    Interesting post! A lot of people have been asking about Vegan nail polish so I will point them in the direction of your post.. thank you xx

  2. Saloca
    August 31, 2015 / 2:05 pm

    I'm really interested in these natural, free from nail varnishes. It makes sense, I can't believe I never stopped to think about the chemicals in nail varnish. I paint my nails a fair bit – I also cook food, touch my face, put my fingers in my mouth, and an often around small children, and whose nail varnish doesn't chip off all over the place? I never stopped to think about the chemicals and subsequent harm it could potentially be doing to me. Much like yourself, I see myself growing tiny humans one day and the safer a place my body is for them the better I say! I'll certainly be looking into these varnishes when I next come to pick up a polish!Sarah :)Saloca in Wonderland

  3. Abigail Alice
    August 31, 2015 / 2:16 pm

    wow I had no idea that nail polish could have such a big effect on other areas of my skin. Thanks for this eye opening post!

  4. Stephanie
    August 31, 2015 / 2:21 pm

    I think it's fantastic that brands are starting to create these friendly formulas. I'm lucky that I don't seem to suffer any effects from nail polish, but I'm all for buying these new products. I think the market needs to thrive to supply those who need them!Stephanie xxx

  5. Lauren Powers
    August 31, 2015 / 2:30 pm

    Thank you for this post. I am allergic to Formaldehyde, so this has finally helped me find the nail varnishes I need to be purchasing!Lauren

  6. Becky - The Lifestyle Blogger UK
    August 31, 2015 / 2:43 pm

    Really interesting post! I hadn't really ever thought much about what was in nail varnishes.

  7. Philippa
    August 31, 2015 / 4:24 pm

    I never realised there were more natural alternatives available! Great post (:Philippa – ByPhilippa

  8. Penny
    September 1, 2015 / 7:24 am

    I had a bad reaction many years ago to formaldehyde in nail varnish although it wasn't worked out until a second asthma attack. I did not use varnish for YEARS until last year when I very cautiously tried Butter London. No bad reaction although it did smell very strong to me so I tried Zoya which has a slightly less 'chemical' smell and is great quality lasting 3 weeks on my toenails. I just take mine to my beautician and she is very happy with the quality of it too.

  9. Tea, Cake and Make
    September 1, 2015 / 12:08 pm

    Another great post Hayley! Need to have a nose at this brand – my friend runs a salon which has the only fully Vegan mani-pedi in Brighton, and I'm sure she'll be interested in learning more about another brand to add to her collection! I'll shoot this post over to her so she knows a bit more about the brand as she's currently sourcing polish from the US (Flossgloss). Thanks!

  10. Ana B
    September 2, 2015 / 4:47 am

    hmmm…interesting. I am open in trying out this product. I love the idea of using organic products even on my nails.

  11. Anonymous
    September 9, 2015 / 7:51 am

    Great, something else for pregnant women to feel guilty about.Really think that this is quite a scare-mongering article regarding pregnancy – linking to foetal death without mentioning any studies which back this up isn't very responsible in my opinion.

  12. Hayley Carr
    September 9, 2015 / 9:54 am

    It's not scare-mongering when it's reporting fact. It's educating people to make informed decisions; it makes no sense to me that pregnant woman avoid cheese like it's the black death but don't think twice about putting chemicals on their body. Surely it's irresponsible to ignore facts and scientific evidence that I'm provided with?

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