I don’t know about you but when my nails are done I feel so much more complete…..I love that feeling of freshly manicured painted nails, it just feels so pretty and it’s so nice to pamper yourself when you’re pregnant or a busy mum who doesn’t get much time to herself….

There is a HUMONGOUS range of nail polishes out there for us to choose from, what you may not know is the nature of the nasty ingredients lurking in them that could be causing harm to your health and if you are pregnant, your babies!

I am going to be super useful now and outline the toxic ingredients to look out for and why:

  • Toluene – Added to nail polish to create a smooth finish on the nail, toluene has a strong odour most commonly associated with paint thinner. Inhaling it can cause headaches and dizziness in the short-term, but repeated exposures can result in damage to the nervous system and cognitive function. Pregnant women are well-advised to avoid products containing toluene since breathing it can cause birth defects.
  • Formaldehyde – A known human carcinogen, formaldehyde is found in an array of consumer products, including nail polish. Used as a nail hardener in this instance, it is a strong-smelling gas that can be inhaled and absorbed through the skin. Repeated exposure to formaldehyde has been linked to the development of leukaemia; other studies on this chemical have shown that it can initiate and promote the growth of tumours.
  • Formaldehyde Resin – Formaldehyde resin is a by-product of formaldehyde that makes its way into many nail polish formulas that include formaldehyde. Studies show that it can cause severe skin irritation and allergic reactions, skin depigmentation and loss of nerve sensation.
  • Dibutyl phthalate (DBP) – Used a plasticiser to prevent nail polish from becoming brittle, dibutyl phthalate  is a man-made chemical that can irritate the eyes and lungs. Animal studies have shown that DBP can cause reproductive problems and interfere with hormone function. Although it is not a mutagen, it can react with other substances to cause genetic mutations.
  • Triphenyl phosphate – A fire-retardant and plasticiser, triphenyl phosphate (TPhP) is used in nail polish to make it more flexible and durable. Though more research is needed on the physiological effects of TPhP, it is a suspected endocrine disruptor. Its effect on animals has shown it can interfere with reproductive and developmental processes, even at low doses.
  • Xylene – Irritating to the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract. It can cause systemic toxicity by ingestion or inhalation. The most common route of exposure is via inhalation. Symptoms of xylene poisoning include CNS effects (headache, dizziness, ataxia, drowsiness, excitement, tremor, and coma), ventricular arrhythmias, acute pulmonary oedema, respiratory depression, nausea, vomiting, and reversible hepatic impairment.
  • Camphor – Camphor is the ingredient used to give conventional nail polishes their glossy, shiny appearance. It is less toxic than the other ingredients listed above, and is sometimes used in cold remedies such as vapour rubs and nasal sprays. However, the safety of camphor has recently been called into question as it has been shown to trigger severe skin irritation and allergic reactions when applied topically. Inhaling its fumes can cause nausea, dizziness, and headaches. Observational studies have also linked camphor exposure to organ damage, such as liver dysfunction. Camphor in personal care products is limited to a concentration of 11% in the US, and it is being phased out in markets within the European Union.

Seeing what toxic ingredients are in main stream nail products is pretty scary, but do not fret! There are some awesome, well performing brands out there which are way safer to use. It did start out you would look out for the ‘3 free’ label, where certain brands would exclude the 3 major toxic players (formaldehyde, toluene or DBT) from their formulas but now some brands have gone further up to ‘9 free’!

My favourite non-toxic and cruelty free nail polishes:


Formulated with out formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, DBP, toluene, camphor, TPHP, parabens, xylene, ethyl tosylamide and lead.


Formulated without parabens, phthalates (dibutyl phthalate), toluene, xylene, camphor, formaldehyde and formaldehyde resin.


Formulated without toluene, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, camphor and DBP.

Ella + Mila 

Formulated without toluene,DBP, Formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, camphor, TPHP and Xylene.


Formulated without the use of formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, DBP, toluene, camphor, xylene & parabens, TPHP and gluten.


Formulated without dibutyl phthalate, toluene, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, and camphor. All products, formulas, and packaging are conflict free, meaning they are produced under fair trade conditions.

Priti NYC 

Free of toluene, dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, and camphor, xylene, parabens, and TPHP.


Water based! Free from formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, toluene, ketones, any petrochemical solvents, DBP, parabens, camphor, mercury, lead, coal-tar and gluten. It takes 6 hours to fully dry so best applied before bed!


So much choice for non toxic, beautiful nails! You can use these and feel assured in your choice, especially if you’re pregnant or have any children that are experimenting with nail polish!


If you try any of these out let me know how you get on! Each of these brands are great to use during pregnancy and beyond. However as nail polishes can never be completely non toxic, if you are worried about your health and the baby’s health it is best to use them sparingly or not at all. Your nails can still look great with a naked manicure/pedicure!


Laura x






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