Nail Polish Ingredients to Avoid

Nail Polish Ingredients to Avoid

When picking out your next shade of polish, be sure to take a look at the contents in addition to the color. Keeping an eye out for harmful ingredients is important because what we put on our body can affect what occurs in our body. We’ve provided a list of nail polish ingredients to avoid.


Camphor is used in nail polish to give it a shiny and glossy appearance. However, inhaling it can cause dizziness, headache and nausea. It has been shown to trigger severe skin irritation and allergic reactions, and some studies link it to organ damage.

Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP)

DBP is another ingredient that gives nail polish its shiny look and also helps to improve polish durability. This chemical is known as a plasticizer and is classified as a reproductive and hormonal toxicant in California.

Ethyl Tosylamide

This liquid helps form a coating to hold polish color to the nail plate. Ethyl tosylamide has antibiotic-like properties and due to concern over antibiotic resistance, it has been barred from personal care products in Europe.


Formaldehyde is a chemical that is used to harden, strengthen, and protect against bacterial growth in nails. Exposure to larger doses of formaldehyde may cause nose, throat and blood cancer.

Formaldehyde Resin

Formaldehyde resin is a by-product of formaldehyde that contributes to the shine, hardness and depth of nail polish. Some preliminary studies show that formaldehyde can cause severe skin irritation, allergic reactions, skin depigmentation and loss of nerve sensation.


Steer clear of nail polish that lists fragrance as an ingredient. Fragrance is typically used to mask the negative odor of nail polish but has been linked to reproductive and developmental toxicity, allergies and cancer.


Watch out for polishes with ingredients ending in paraben, for example, methylparaben. Parabens are preservatives that are used in many cosmetics products to protect against bacteria. Derived from petrochemicals, parabens have been associated with hormone disruption.


Unfortunately, Toluene can be found in a variety of cosmetics and can cause neurological damage, impaired breathing, hearing loss, decreased brain function, damage to fetal development and more. Despite creating a smooth application and finish, its fumes are highly toxic. 


Xylene is used to thin nail polish, but even low levels of Xylene can cause headaches or dizziness. On the other hand, a high frequency of use can affect the respiratory system, kidney, and gastrointestinal toxicity.

Animal-Derived Ingredients

Guanine and carmine are common nail polish ingredients that indicate that animal by-products were used. This means that animals were harmed or killed during the process of making the product, so try looking for labels that are labeled cruelty-free or vegan.

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