You've probably seen the term "5-free" on some of your nail polish bottles, and that's a good thing. It means that it's free of the five known carcinogens (formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate, toluene, formaldehyde resin and camphor) that are typically found in lacquers. Luckily, many brands have eliminated these ingredients and more from their formulas while finding ways to maintain the quality and wear of their conventional counterparts.
That said, it’s important to note that not all regular polishes are harmful. “It depends on the brand, but some regular polishes have chemicals in them that can get into your bloodstream through contact with your skin or your respiratory system,” explains manicurist Tina Wang. “Side effects from this exposure can range between experiencing skin irritations or mild headaches to damaging internal organs over time. Some of these chemicals can also cause damage to the environment.”
To help us better understand what constitutes a “healthy nail polish” and why it could be helpful for your next manicure, we asked Wang our most pressing questions, and culled together a shopping list of our 12 favorite non-toxic nail polish brands.