What is Non-Toxic Nail Varnish and How To Have A Vegan & Eco Friendly Manicure at Home?

zao eco friendly and vegan nail polishes.

Choosing an eco-friendly nail varnish is unexpectedly difficult when many contain harmful chemicals and animal derived ingredients. We have done the research for you and put together our guide explaining what ingredients to avoid so you can have an eco-friendly manicure at home including cuticle oils, 10 free nail polish and natural nail varnish remover.

What makes nail varnish non-toxic?

Traditional nail polishes are typically full of nasty chemicals that are not only terrible for the environment but contain harmful chemicals and toxic ingredients that are reportedly bad for your skin and nails. Chemicals found in nail lacquer can enter your body through your nail beds causing irritation which is why we support switching to a free from nail polish. 'Toxic free' nail varnishes usually start at a minimum of 3-Free which generally means they do not contain formaldehyde, toluene and dibutyl phthalate, however for the nail varnish to be vegan there are additional ingredients you need to avoid. Opting for 10 Free nail varnish like our Zao 10 Free Nail varnish excludes the worst 10 ingredients listed further below.

Vegan & cruelty free nail varnish

For a nail varnish to be vegan-friendly, it means that it's free from animal derived ingredients and there has been no animal testing on the product nor individual ingredients. You can look out for certified logos such as the Leaping Bunny by Cruelty Free International or Peta's Beauty Without Bunnies.

Common animal-derived ingredients that can be found in nail varnish include:

  • Carmine is one animal ingredient that is commonly used as a red pigment in nail polish, it is taken from the shells of the female Cochineal insect which are killed during the process.
  • Guanine, a crystalline material obtained from fish scales, this is commonly used in nail polish for its shimmery effect.
  • Oleic acid which is made from animal fat or tallow, which helps thicken formulas.
  • Shellac (that's all shellac nail varnishes), a resin that female lac bugs secrete and are killed for.

    Why 10 free nail polish?

    10 Free nail varnish is currently the best available, free from nasty chemicals and  animal ingredients however it is important to check each brand to ensure a free-from nail varnish has excluded all vegan ingredients.

    Toxic ingredients that 10-Free nail polishes avoid are:

    • Dibutyl Phthalate (also known as dbp): DBP is used in nail varnish to prevent chipping however DBP is reportedly an endocrine disruptor and can mimic the hormone estrogen in your body. It can cause irritation to the eyes and upper respiratory tract and f it is ingested or inhaled you may suffer a headache, nausea, vomiting etc.
    • Toluene: Toluene is a common solvent. It is nerotoxic and so it's vapors can cause central nervous system depressiona and can be irritating to the upper respiratory tract and eyes. Following repeated or prolonged contact, this product can seriously dry your skin out and can cause redness, peeling and cracking.
    • Formaldehyde and Formaldehyde Resin: Used as an ingredient to harden and dry nail varnish, however this harsh ingredient is a known carcinogen (in higher concentrations).
    • Paraben: A common ingredient found in most beauty and cosmetics products that are on the market and is an umbrella term for a range of chemicals. In the past these chemicals have been linked to breast cancer as they are present in people with this diagnosis, however it has not yet been proven. Let's be honest though anything that can affect our hormones or the natural rhythm of our bodies is probably best left alone.
    • Styrene: This ingredient is used as a resin to harden the nail varnish. Short term exposure to this toxic chemical can cause irritation to the eyes, skin, and nose, gastrointestinal effects and respiratory effects. 
    • Xylene: This ingredient is used to stop your nail polish going gloopy. However, the vapors in these kinds of harsh chemicals can cause eye irritation, skin irritation, headache, dizziness, and nausea.
    • Colophony (rosin): A cause of irritating / respiratory disorders: Several cases of skin sensitization are also reported. The cases are isolated but quite varied.
    • Camphor: This is usually used as a preservative in certain cosmetics and beauty products. However, camphor is known for irritating the eyes & upper respiratory tract.
    • Benzophenone: It is used to prevent UV light from affecting the colour or shade of the nail varnish. It can cause irritation to skin, eyes and respiratory tract much the same as the other toxic ingredients listed above. The vapors can cause coughing, sneezing and shortness of breath.

    In short, the above chemicals are not really ones you want to risk coming into contact with any of your body just for the beauty of your nails when you could use another polish that is so much kinder instead.

    How to have an eco-friendly home manicure

    We are fully aware of how nice it is to be able to head to your local nail salon or nail bar however the vast majority do not use eco-friendly or vegan nail varnish.

    Now you know what to avoid, the good news is that you can have an entire eco-friendly manicure at home with five natural and vegan products from our favourite two nail beauty brands Fresh Therapies and Zao that are of course vegan, cruelty free and free from toxic chemicals.

    1. Tampico Fibre Nail Brush, £4

    a slice of green small nail brush.

    This nail brush is a great alternative to the plastic brushes you may get in typical high street stores. If you are a gardener, painter, carpenter or just enjoy getting a little muddy every now and then, this fsc wooden nail brush will remove dirt from under your nails and get them looking as good as new again. Kind to the planet and kind to your hands. This can be teamed with any of the soap that we stock.


    2. Glass Nail File, £7.25


    Glass nail files are so much kinder to your nails. They file your nails much more evenly and help to prevent splits, cracking, chipping and peeling. They are also much more hygienic and do not wear out. This red glass nail file by Zao comes packaged in a cardboard sleeve during transit however it is not designed for long-term use.

    3. 10-Free Nail Varnish, £11.50

    zao 10 free nail varnish collection.

    These Zao nail polishes are '10-free' and as discussed above this means that 10 known toxins and animal derived ingredients traditionally found in nail polish have been replaced; without any toxic ingredients and enriched in silica from bamboo oil, you can use them without limitation. Organic water-based nail polishes chip and flake very easily, so Zao has devised a nail polish that delivers the quality of traditional nail polishes but without the toxic chemicals, resulting in an effective and long-lasting nail polish that does not compromise your health.

    4. 10-Free Duo Top Coat and Base Coat Nail Varnish, £11.50

    clear top and base coat nail varnish plastic free and natural by zao.

    This as described above is also 10-Free and so is a non-toxic nail polish that is guaranteed to be free from toluene, formaldehyde, synthetic camphor, rosin, dbp, benzophenone, parabens, styrene, animal ingredients and xylene. A fantastic alternative to the traditional top and base coat stocked in shops that are full of harsh chemicals.

    5. Natural Nail Polish Remover, £19.75

    natural nail polish remover in glass bottle.

    Gently remove nail polish without drying skin or damaging nails. Natural nail polish remover by Zao works perfectly to remove all types of nail polish. Made with natural ingredients, it will not damage the natural oil within your nails and will help them stay healthy. Free from: formulated without acetone and ethyl acetate. 100% natural formula, vegan, certified organic by Eocert’s Cosmos label. Plus, unlike normal nail varnish remover which is known to dehydrate the skin making nails dry and brittle, with some ingredients also irritating the eyes and nose.

    So guys, I hope that this has helped you understand and pick the best nail polish, one that is vegan, natural, cruelty-free and that is kind to nature, the creatures we share this world with and good to your skin.

    The Kind Store team try and test all products that we stock, so you can be certain that what you are buying is high quality, works well and loved by us. We source all products using our ethos via our sustainable principles, so you can trust that what you are buying is kind to animals, people and planet. We stock items from UK independent makers and suppliers to ensure our products are eco-friendly. Discover hundreds of vegan, natural, sustainable and cruelty-free products.

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