Nail Polish Ingredients to Avoid: The Furious Four (4)

Last week I shared with you how I was switching to safer nail polish. This week let’s take a closer look at the nail polish ingredients to avoid. I refer to them as The Furious Four (4) because of their quantity but also because the more I learn about the toxins that companies have been legally* putting in our personal care products, the more furious I become.


Nail Polish Ingredients to Avoid: The Furious Four (4)

  1. Toluene – a volatile petrochemical solvent that is toxic to the immune system and can cause birth defects
  2. Camphor – chemically manufactured from turpentine oil; readily absorbed through the skin, found in over the counter drugs, confirmed to be dangerous in large doses, used as a fragrance and plasticizer
  3. Formaldehyde – used as a preservative in cosmetics. A known carcinogen that is also linked to asthma, neurotoxicity, and developmental toxicity. Found in: shampoo, body wash, bubble bath and nail polish.  Also be on the lookout for Formaldehyde Resin, which is derived from formaldehyde.
  4. Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP) – A member of the Phthalate “family”. Belongs to a class of plasticizing chemicals used to make products more pliable or to make fragrances stick to skin. Phthalates disrupt the endocrine system and may cause birth defects. Found in: synthetic fragrance, nail polish, hairspray, and plastic materials.

Crazy right?! I am so furious when I read these descriptions!

At last count the US has banned about 30 different ingredients from personal care products, Canada around 300 and the EU over 1,400. So that means that it’s up to consumers to determine what ingredients to avoid.

Our health depends on it.

I’d also like to point out that sometimes when researching potentially harmful ingredients consumers may run across a “data gap”. A data gap indicates that not enough research has been conducted in order to definitively state the short or long-term effect an ingredient has on the human body (for example bioaccumulation). As a consumer I want to know if an ingredient is suspected of being potentially harmful – even if that ingredient has a data gap.

In addition to the Environmental Working Group Skin Deep Database you can check out Beautycounter’s Never List for reference. Beautycounter is what started me on my path as a consumer educator.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Mission to get safer products into the hands of everyone you can reach me at

Thanks for reading!

xo Whitney (The FIH)

*The last time the United States passed a major federal law to regulate the safety of ingredients used in personal care products was 1938.

  • Written by: