Water Based Nail Polish

Water-Based Nail Polish: Bye-Bye Despicable Chemicals

A new coat of nail polish gives your nails a trendy, attractive look and also happens to be an amazing way to look dashing. But did you know that many brands of this colorful liquid contain upwards of 30 chemicals? These chemicals are harsh and extremely hazardous to the environment.

Not only are they an environmental hazard, but they’re also harmful to your health.

Isn’t it rather obvious that nail polish is just a mixture of chemicals? I mean, really, haven’t you ever smelled the heavy and harsh fumes? Even though most women constantly expose themselves to toxic chemicals every time they get a fresh coat of paint on their nails, many don’t even stop to think about the risks.

Most of us have been there at one time or another. Information leads to action, and there’s an abundance of data regarding the harmful chemicals in nail polish.

Nail Polish Dangers: The Problems With Mainstream Nail Polish

Nail polish contains some very harmful chemicals and additives. The three most notorious chemicals found in nail polish are Formaldehyde, Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP), and Toluene. Over the years, these chemicals have really taken quite the beating in the media and on countless websites and blogs.

1: Formaldehyde – 

Out of all the chemicals found in nail polish, this particular chemical is one that almost everyone has heard of before. As an intermediate in the combustion of methane, formaldehyde is “known to be a human carcinogen.”

Formaldehyde Human Carcinogen

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) first released an updated carcinogenicity profile on formaldehyde in their 12th Report on Carcinogens (RoC) in 2011, affirming it as a definite human carcinogen.

Furthermore, formaldehyde has been linked to lung and nasal cancer. So, while this chemical might be excellent for embalming bodies, it’s really not something I’d prefer putting on my nails.

On a serious note, this chemical is hazardous, period. While this may offend, you are being irresponsible if you’re lackadaisically painting your nails (or anyone else’s) with nail polish that contains this chemical that is known to cause cancer. If you aren’t sure whether of not your nail polish contains this ingredient, it’s likely that it does.

Don’t take any chances here; it’s already been proven that chemicals easily leach into the bloodstream when applied to the nails. Properly dispose of your dangerous nail polish and never use it again, especially since safer alternatives exist.

2: Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP) – 

As a chemical that most are probably unfamiliar with, Dibutyl Phthalate is a synthetically manufactured chemical that’s useful for making plastics more flexible. This chemical does not occur naturally and is an oily and odorless substance. Furthermore, applications of this chemical include its use in carpet adhesives, insect repellants, glue, and rocket fuel.

I know we all want really stunning nails. But for goodness’ sake, I don’t want a rocket fuel additive in my nail polish, do you? I’d be far more comfortable with brittle-cracking nail polish all day long rather than being exposed to such a questionable chemical as this. It’s also said that DBP has neurotoxic effects.

Thankfully, this chemical has been banned in Europe. Dibutyl phthalate has also been classified by authoritative bodies as a “reproductive and developmental toxicant”. Worse yet, the Environmental Working Group (EWP) has given this chemical a hazard rating of 10, the highest possible danger level.

3: Toluene – 

We all love nail polish that goes on smoothly, right? Well, that’s what this particular chemical is used for in nail polish. However, this chemical has also been banned in Europe for its adverse health effects.

So, what’s the problem with Toluene? As a chemical that’s used in gasoline as an octane booster, toluene is listed as a developmental hazard.

It’s said that it may harm an unborn child if exposure happens during pregnancy. Also, it’s been associated with low birth weight, birth size, hearing loss, and other learning disabilities. Refrain from using any nail polish that contains this terrible ingredient.

That’s not all…

As if the three previously mentioned chemicals weren’t reason enough to be extremely cautious regarding what you’re putting on your nails, keep in mind that there are plenty of other chemicals we didn’t mention. Perhaps you read a news story about triphenyl phosphate. 

If you haven’t read about the above chemical, you also don’t know that findings from a study administered by Duke University revealed that all women participating in the study had a metabolite of the chemical in their bloodstream just 10-14 hours after painting their nails. The levels of diphenyl phosphate (a metabolized form of TPHP) increased by a factor of 7 in the test subjects.

Worse yet, as a chemical not part of the “big 3” dangerous chemicals we listed earlier, triphenyl phosphate is an endocrine disruptor that also causes reproductive and developmental problems. Though we’ve listed four toxic chemicals in nail polish, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The Scary Reality:  You may be poisoning yourself with your nail polish.

“Non-Toxic” Nail Polish Blunder

That was all very depressing, and I’m sure you’ll want to take a deep breath in anticipation of happier things. But wait, before we move on to the good nail polish alternatives, we need to discuss one important detail about “non-toxic” nail polish.

A 2012 study by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control proved that companies claiming to be “toxic-free” were, in fact, quite toxic based on laboratory studies. Thus, while these companies claimed to be non-toxic, they added chemicals they knew to be toxic.

In essence, they were claiming that they weren’t using toxic ingredients, that they, in fact, were using. This demonstrates the sad reality that many companies are perfectly willing to mislead consumers as long as they make acceptable profits.

Truly Safe Non-Toxic Nail Polish Alternatives: Water Based Nail Polish

This growing concern about the toxicity of nail polish has pushed manufacturers to come up with water-based nail polish solutions that do not contain the slew of toxic ingredients we mentioned earlier. This new, non-toxic trend in the nail polish industry is a refreshing reminder that if consumers have the right information, they will cause the market to shift in the right direction.

While not all the companies were honest about their “non-toxic” claims, there are some valid companies that make truly non-toxic nail polish products.  The most non-toxic nail polish solutions are water-based as opposed to solvent-based.

Since these alternatives are water-based, water evaporates into the air during drying instead of volatile fumes from solvents (like in regular nail polish).

Generally, water-based nail polish comprises ingredients like acrylics, colorants, and water. How refreshing. I remember using acrylic paint in my 5th-grade art class.

Advantages of WaterBased Nail Polish

Water-based nail polish has many advantages, aside from being completely free from toxins. Water-based nail polish is quick-drying, durable, and is available in many various long-lasting colors. It doesn’t stain the fingernails, dry them out, and usually lasts about a week.

It should be noted that this stuff won’t perform quite as well as the toxic and solvent-based varieties we discussed earlier. But it also won’t poison you. The lack of performance should be expected, considering that solvent-based nail polishes have rocket fuel additives. It can’t get much more well-performing and toxic than that.

Water-based nail polish is removed without acetone, another chemical harmful to the environment and health. While many water-based nail polish solutions aren’t quite as durable as their toxic alternatives, their durability is quite impressive for what they are.

While you may need to paint your nails more often, at least you won’t be feeding your body chemicals it never wanted in the first place.

Popular Water-Based Nail Polish Brands

The growing popularity of water-based nail polish has threatened traditional chemical-based brands. Water-based nail polish is far safer and affordable, with prices ranging from seven to fourteen dollars per bottle. The following options are just two water-based nail polish brands that you can choose from.

Piggy Paint Water-Based Nail Polish

Piggy Paint

Piggy Paint was originally released as a fun, non-toxic, and eco-friendly nail polish for kids. Today, it’s a solid, non-toxic, and cruelty-free nail polish choice for health-conscious grown-ups, too. Better yet, they now have an entire adult line of nail polish called SOPHi.

Also, the durability and performance of this naturally non-toxic nail polish can be greatly improved by using their base coat + sealer product. Piggy paint is free of formaldehyde, toluene, phthalates (DBT), ethyl acetate, acetone, Bisphenol A, and many other harmful chemicals found in normal nail polish.

Ingredients –

Piggy Paint Comparison
Look at how the solvent-based nail polish eats through the foam!

Its main ingredients include water, copolymer, acrylates, and neem oil. It also contains colorants, depending on the shade: Red 34 Lake, iron oxide, mica, ultramarines, titanium dioxide, red 28, violet 2, copper flake, and others. Remember, none of the harmful and harsh ingredients found in normal nail polish will be found in Piggy Paint. With all these non-toxic ingredients, It’s as natural as mud! 

Application –

To apply Piggy Paint, first wash your hands with soap and water. Dry them before applying 2-3 thin coats of nail polish. In between coats, you can blow dry polished nails on warm heat (low setting) until dry. While not necessary, blow drying with warm heat will harden the nail polish more efficiently for maximum protection against chipping. Also, as we mentioned before, using the basecoat + sealer will provide superior results.

Advantages and Disadvantages –

The great thing about Piggy Paint is that it usually lasts up to a week or more without chipping. However, just remember that your results will be best if you use the recommended application practices.

Applying safe nail polish can also be a great bonding activity for mother and daughter, except with Piggy Paint, you won’t have to worry about toxic chemicals. The only disadvantage of Piggy Paint is that it likely won’t be quite as durable as traditional toxic nail polish.

Piggy Paint can also be a fun learning tool for kids. Developmentally, painting nails will improve your daughters’ fine motor skills and allow them to express creativity while becoming familiar with different colors.

All of this being said, just remember that it’s always a good idea to help your kids paint their nails and never leave them unattended. If you do, you may return to a room of new and interesting impressionistic art on your bedroom walls.

Honeybee Gardens Nail Polish

Honeybee Gardens

For those who are looking for a solvent-free and safe nail polish alternative, Honeybee Gardens is another great solution for you. Like the Piggy Paint, Honeybee Gardens doesn’t make use of harmful chemicals and irritating fumes. Its ingredients are water, acrylates, and non-ionic soaps, and may contain iron oxide, mica, titanium dioxide, and ultramarine blue.

It comes in many different colors, which look great. But again, durability will largely depend on how you apply this nail polish.

Application – 

Honeybee Gardens becomes tack-free in about 15 minutes, just as quickly as regular nail polish. However, it requires substantial additional drying time. The trick is to apply two thin coats instead of one thick coat because they dry up quickly. Natural factors such as humidity and temperature can also affect drying time.

Honeybee Gardens states that 75% hardness will generally occur after 1 hour. Moreover, 100% hardness will occur after roughly 4-6 hours of drying time. Therefore, care needs to be taken in the hours following nail polish application. For best results, apply Honeybee Gardens nail polish at night so that it will harden properly. 

Honeybee Gardens Nail Polish Removal – 

Honeybee Gardens Ingredients
The first ingredient in water-based nail polish is… Water!

Removing this water-based nail polish can be tedious at times since the nail polish bond will strengthen over time. So, it’s recommended that the nail polish is removed at or just after a week of wear. The nail polish can be effectively removed with the Honeybee Gardens felt pad and Honeybee nail polish remover. It can also be removed with alcohol.

For removal, hold the wet felt pad (or cotton ball) on the nail for a few seconds. Then, with gentle pressure, wipe off the nail polish.  It may take a few swipes before the nail polish is completely removed, but remain patient during this process. Depending on various factors, it may take longer or shorter to remove. Just keep rubbing gently, and the nail polish will come off.

After removal, wash your hands with soap and water. You should also know that acetone-based nail polish remover won’t work because Honeybee Gardens is not a solvent-based formula.

Advantages and Disadvantages – 

Honeybee Gardens water-based nail polish ensures a safe and quality nail polish. It’s made of natural ingredients and doesn’t make use of harmful substances. It’s also water-based and without any of the offensive odors of solvent-based nail polish.

It’s safe for adults and kids and can be easily removed with a bit of patience. However, Honeybee Gardens nail polish will likely chip off or scratch easily if a longer curing time is not given. Also, people with dry, porous, or ridged nails may have a more difficult time removing this nail polish.

There are many brands of water-based nail polish that you can choose from. Healthy beauty experts always suggest opting for non-toxic nail polish alternatives instead of their solvent-based evil twins. The toxicity of traditional nail polish isn’t worth it for you or your family.

Do you want to check your current nail polish brands for toxicity? Check out EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Database

Water-Based Nail Polish FAQs

What makes water-based nail polish less toxic?

Water-based polishes skip harsh chemicals like formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate.

Does water-based nail polish last as long?

Yes, new formulas last just as long, up to 7-10 days without chipping or smudging.

Is the application different than regular polish?

Water-based polish glides on and dries fast like other polishes with no difference in application. Warm heat can help with the hardening process.

Does water-based nail polish limit color options?

No. You can find just as many trendy colors and finishes like matte, glossy, sheer, glittery, and more.

Are water-based polishes better for nails?

Yes, the water allows nails to breathe and reduces exposure to damaging chemicals, many of which were addressed earlier in this post.

Does water-based nail polish have a bad odor?

No, most water-based polishes have little to no odor compared to the strong smell of solvents.

Is water-based nail polish more expensive?

Prices are comparable to regular polish, ranging from $6-$18 based on brand and quality. Affordable options are available.

Where can I buy safe water-based nail polish?

Popular natural brands include Honeybee Gardens, Zoya, Suncoat, Piggy Paint, Acquarella, and Klee Kids.

Any tips for transitioning to water-based polish?

Use a base coat for smooth application and test out various brands to see which works best for you.

Scroll to Top