15 Toxic Nail Polish Ingredients to Avoid in 2022

Do you support all things natural? Then you must have thrown away all the harmful chemical baddies from your home. But what about the toxic chemicals present in your nail polish? 

Chemicals found in nail polish are extremely harmful to those who use it daily. For example, beauticians, manicurists, or those who get their nails done frequently.

That’s why it is better that you stay away from these toxic chemicals. But, how to know which ingredients are unsafe and which are not?

In this guide, we will discuss the top 15 harmful Nail Polish Ingredients to avoid. So, let’s get started.

Related: Makeup Ingredients to Avoid

Harmful Nail Polish Ingredients to avoid:

After doing research, we found that Toulene, Formaldehyde, DBP, Parabens, Camphor, and Triphenyl Phosphate are the toxic nail polish ingredients to avoid.

Are you still thinking about why you should avoid these and a few other Nail Polish ingredients? Well, let me provide the reasons.

Nail Polish Ingredients to Avoid

 1. Toluene

Toluene is one of the top toxic ingredients used in nail polishes to have a smooth finish and application. That’s why it is at the top of our nail polish ingredients to avoid list.

Apart from being used in nail polishes, it is also used in nail polish removers. The sweet, pungent fumes of Toluene are highly toxic.

As per the Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety, long exposure to Toluene can lead to decreased brain functionality, respiratory problems, hearing loss, nausea, and neurological damage.

Pregnant women may potentially suffer from abnormal fetus development as a result of this.

As a result, Toluene in personal care products is prohibited in the EU (European Union)

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Causes decreased brain functionality and neurological damage.
  • Leads to respiratory problems, nausea, and hearing loss.
  • Linked to different types of blood cancer.

Similar: Fast Fashion brands to avoid

2. Formaldehyde

In certain nail hardeners and nail paints, you’ll find formaldehyde as well. You might see this chemical product label as formaldehyde, formalin, or methylene glycol.

This nail polish ingredient makes the nails brittle, and as a result, their chances of breaking and peeling increase.

In addition, formaldehyde-based nail products may cause allergic responses and skin irritation, which is why you should avoid this nail polish ingredient.

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Makes the nails brittle.
  • This leads to breaking and peeling of the nails.
  • Chances of skin irritation and allergic reaction increase.

3. Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP)

Also known as DBP, Dibutyl Phthalate is used in nail polishes mainly as a solvent for dyes.

It is also used as a plasticizer to prevent the chipping and offer an extra long-lasting formula to the users. However, you will not find this ingredient listed on the label.

Although DBP is not a mutagen itself, it triggers other chemicals to cause genetic mutations.

According to laboratory experiments, it can cause changes in prostate and taste, lead to developmental defects, and result in a lower sperm count. 

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Causes changes in taste and prostate.
  • Results in a lower sperm count.
  • Leads to developmental defects.

4. Parabens

Paraben is a category of preservative chemicals used in nail polish to prevent the growth of bacteria, fungus, and mold.

Apart from nail polishes, it is also found in shampoos, conditioners, makeup, moisturizers, shaving products, and other personal care items.

This preservative is easily identified on the label as all the chemicals contain the suffix’ paraben’.

It also includes propylparaben, ethylparaben, methylparaben, and butylparaben.

According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, paraben is described as endocrine-disrupters and linked to breast and skin cancer.

In some cases, it might lead to reproductive and developmental toxicity too. Not only this, it also blocks your nails from receiving natural nutrients and vitamins from the sun and air.

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Blocks the nails from receiving natural nutrients.
  • Linked to breast and skin cancer.
  • Leads to developmental and reproductive toxicity.

5. Formaldehyde Resin

Even though many people disregard it, formaldehyde resin is also a very serious toxic chemical substance found in nail polishes.

As the name implies, this ingredient is the bi-product of formaldehyde and should be avoided too.

According to early studies, formaldehyde resin in nail polishes leads to skin irritation, allergic reactions, and loss or discoloration of nerve sensation.

So, if you want to steer clear of this product, try buying the nail polishes specifically labeled ‘5 Free.’

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Causes skin irritation.
  • It might give rise to allergic reactions.
  • Leads to loss or discoloration of nerve sensation.

6. Camphor

While camphor is originally extracted from the wood of the camphor tree, it can be synthetically produced too.

It is used as an ingredient in nail polishes to provide a glossy and sheen look. This substance is also found in some cold remedies, including vapor rubs and nasal sprays.

However, according to experts, the oral use of camphor might lead to severe skin irritation and allergic reactions.

If you inhale the fumes in large quantities, you might also face headaches, dizziness, and nausea. 

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Causes skin irritation.
  • Leads to allergic reactions.
  • Linked to headache, dizziness, and nausea.

7. Triphenyl Phosphate

TPHP or Triphenyl Phosphate is used in nail polishes to make them more durable and flexible.

This ingredient is also used to create plastic and prevents foam furniture from catching fire. It was used in nail polishes to replace phthalates. 

According to studies, TPHP is a known endocrine disruptor. This means that it can interfere with your hormones and might also lead to reproductive issues.

What’s more, scientists also believe that this ingredient is linked to weight gain, but it has not been proved yet. 

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Messes with your hormones.
  • Leads to reproductive issues.
  • Linked to weight gain.

8. Ethyl Tosylamide

Used as a plasticizer in nail polish, ethyl tosylamide is known to increase the longevity and durability of the product.

Also, it prevents the nail polish from wearing and chipping off. But, this ingredient is linked to antibiotic resistance.

As a result, the fungi and bacteria present in your body will defeat the drugs designed to fight them.

This can be extremely dangerous as it can mess with your entire immune system.

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Linked to antibiotic resistance.
  • Messes with your immune system.
  • Leads to allergies.

9. Xylene

Xylene is a solvent present in your nail polish that prevents it from getting floppy. It is most commonly used to provide nail polish with its distinguished odor. It is also used to thin it so that you can apply it with ease. 

It is possible to be exposed to xylene through inhalation, ingestion, skin contact, or any combination of these methods.

Sometimes, the exposure can lead to headaches, nausea, dizziness, or vomiting.

Moreover, the ingredient is also known to be a common allergen. As a result, the chances of eyes and skin irritation increase.

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Causes headaches, nausea, dizziness, and vomiting.
  • Leads to skin irritation.
  • Might become irritating for the eyes.

10. Colophonium

Colophonium is a sticky or sap substance extracted from pine and spruce trees.

Due to the sticky property of this ingredient, it is used in a wide category of products, including nail polishes. But, despite its useful property, it is considered a strong allergen.

Some common reactions to this ingredient include difficulty breathing and acute allergic contact dermatitis.

Even though dermatitis occurs 1 to 3 days after coming in contact with colophonium, occasional reactions might start appearing after 24 hours only. 

Initially, the skin starts getting red and itchy. As time passes, it might get inflamed and blister.

If the exposure continues for a long time, it may become chronic, along with lichenified and thickened skin.

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Causes acute allergic contact dermatitis.
  • Leads to difficulty in breathing.
  • The skin might start getting start red and itchy.

11. Organic Halides 

Organic halides serve the purpose of thinners in nail polishes. It gives the nail polish a smooth texture and helps the users in the smooth application.

This compound is made up of different chemicals such as iodine, bromine, chlorine, and fluorine. 

According to various studies, organic halides are known to damage the nerves, and some of them are even considered to cause cancer.

So, if your nail polish consists of this ingredient, you should stop using it as soon as possible.

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Cause nerve damage.
  • Leads to cancer.
  • Linked to skin allergy.

12. Silicone

Dimethicone is the most common type of silicone used in nail polishes. It is used to speed up the drying process of the nail polish so that it does not smudge.

However, it might sometimes cause allergic reactions too. These allergic reactions include itchiness, nausea, and vomiting.

Furthermore, silicone is also known as a non-biodegradable element considered toxic to the environment.

That’s because its production utilizes hydrocarbon derived from petroleum which is not suitable. What’s more, it is difficult to recycle too. Thus, it is placed among the nail polish ingredients to avoid.

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Causes allergic reactions.
  • Toxic for the environment.
  • Considered difficult to recycle.

13. Synthetic Fragrances

If there is a fragrance listed in the ingredients of your nail polish, then you must watch out for it.

This synthetic fragrance is not made of natural flowers and fruits. Instead, the company uses a combination of hazardous chemicals that can be toxic to human health.

Synthetic fragrance is known to cause asthma attacks, cancer, and reproductive issues. Not only this, but it might also affect the health of your nails and leads to their breakage. 

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Leads to breakage of nails.
  • Causes cancer and reproductive issues.
  • Linked to asthma attacks.

14. Synthetic Colors

Almost all the nail polishes use synthetic colors to give them different shades. However, these artificial colors can be extremely harmful as they use petroleum or coal-tar substances.

In fact, some of the sources used in the making of synthetic colors are known to cause cancer.

This is why the majority of these sources are declared illegal by the authorities.

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Cause skin allergy.
  • Linked to cancer.
  • Lead to many diseases.

15. Guanine and Carmine

Guanine and Carmine are animal-derived ingredients that are used in the majority of the nail polishes out there.

Even though these ingredients have no major side effects, they are considered non-vegan.

So, if you care for animal rights, it is top among the nail polish ingredients to avoid.

That’s because you would not want any ingredients in your products where animals were killed or harmed in any way.

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Non-vegan ingredients.
  • Might cause rashes or allergies.


Healthy and happy nails start with natural ingredients. So, if you also want your nails to be healthy, make sure to avoid the ingredients mentioned above in your nail polish.

We hope you enjoyed our article and learned about which nail polish ingredients to avoid.

However, if you still have anything else to ask, feel free to contact us. Our team is ready and willing to help you in every manner possible.

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