3-free: What you need to know about nail polish

If you’re as obsessed with nail polish as we are, you need to be in-the-know when it comes to the ingredients found in some of those pretty polishes. Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP), Formaldehyde and Toluene are three of the super creepy chemicals included in a number of nail polish formulas. And, not until just recently have established brands started changing their formulas to be free of them. Wondering what those chemicals do and why they’re so bad? Kick your freshly painted toes up and get comfortable, because we’re here to break it down for ya.

Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP):

DBP is a plasticiser that helps reduce chipping (aka the most annoying thing ever).

Why it’s so bad:

Long-term exposure can affect hormone function. Which means that it could mess things up in your changing-daily body. Eek.


Formaldehyde is used in nail hardeners to ensure the polish bonds to the nail’s surface.

Why it’s so bad:

Although this resin is most often found in nail hardeners, not nail polish, it can cause allergies, skin abrasions and respiratory irritation in sensitive individuals.


Toluene is a solvent that makes nail polish super slick and simple to apply.

Why it’s so bad:

Inhaling toluene can cause severe harm—which is why you should always paint your nails in well-ventilated areas!

So, there are serious risks and bad effects caused by exposure to each of these chemicals; but you don’t have to shy away from nail polish completely, girlies. Instead, check out our fave 3-free brands, all formulated without any of the chemicals listed above:



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    Baby Blue

    Go subtle with this cute baby blue lacquer.

    Deborah Lippmann Flowers in Her Hair Nail Polish, $18,

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    Neon Bright

    Spruce up your spring with this neon yellow nail color.

    Butter London in Wellies, $15,

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    Pretty in Pink

    Prettify your look with this sweet shade of pink.


    Essie ‘Neon Collection 2013’ Nail Polish, $9,

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    Red Hot

    Go big or go home with this vibrant orange hue. 

    Opi Nail Lacquer in Cajun Shrimp, $7,

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    Purple Punch

    Add a pop of color to your outfit with this purple nail polish.

    Insta-Dri Fast Dry Nail Color, $5,

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by Jillian Terry | 2/1/2016