Something fishy...the realities of nail polish

Posted by Customer Services on

The first thing you notice about nail polish is the smell. The overwhelming scent makes it unsurprising to know that most nail polishes are full of chemicals. After all, you need basically pure alcohol to get it off your nails! But hasn’t always been this way, in fact polish has existed in China since circa 3000BC. Interestingly the Ming dynasty created nail paint with natural ingredients – beeswax, egg whites, gelatine, vegetable dyes and gum Arabic, and the next polishes we had in the 1920’s  were created using basic ingredients such as lavender oilCarmine, oxide tin, and bergamot oil.


Although modern polish is not quite as earthy, there is a big push in the last few years to abandon chemical laden products and embrace lines which are ‘Big 5 Free.’ But what does this mean?

The big five include formaldehyde (you may recognise this chemical from the embalming process…) used as nail-hardening agent and a known carcinogen, and formaldehyde resin, a skin allergen. DBP (dibutyl phthalate) is very common also, a plasticiser that stops polish turning brittle, and has been linked to reproductive abnormalities. There is also toluene, which whilst helping you have a smooth finish, is the ingredient that causes you the headaches while you do your nails. There’s also camphor, which helps keep your nails looking glossy but, when inhaled, can leave you feeling dizzy and nauseous. As the skin around your cuticles is sensitive and absorbent, so non-toxic polishes tend to be kinder to nails, which can result in less drying out of our nails and skin, and irritation, inflammation and exposure. Our Treat nail polishes and nail polish remover have none of these ingredients!

For those who are vegan, or concerned about animal by-products, nail polish has a few more surprises in store. Let’s say you want shine, sparkles or anything luminous, it might be listed as 'pearl essence' on your nail polish bottle, but guanine is really just derived from fish scales and acids that are located in animal tissue. Keratin, present in human hair, nails and skin is sometimes sourced from rabbits, pigs, cows and horses to be used in cosmetics as a ‘strengthened’, the top coat often which hardens the polish.

But is the quality of the nail polish poorer? In short, no. In an experiment done by The Independent, 25- to 70-years-old, over the course of a month. All were painted without base and top coats. They found that “After non-toxic nail polish is a genuine competitor to regular varnish, with most showing little to no difference in colour, shine or durability compared with chemical-based products.”[1]

Our therapists at PURE Spa Lothian Road have loved the new vegan manicures, and say that it ‘goes on really nicely, with a great finish.’





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