A Healthier Mani-Pedi: Nail Care Products That Nix the Toxins & Really, Really Work

March 21, 2021 5 min read

Long Healthy Nails

Any girl who has ever had a mani-pedi is familiar with the noxious odor of nail polish. It’s nauseating. It can aggravate nasal allergies. And it often makes you wonder, does polish really need to smell this bad in order to make my nails look this good?

Nail care products have long been plagued with chemicals. But thanks to the clean beauty movement and a world where natural is becoming the norm, the dial is finally starting to turn. The availability of healthier, toxin-free formulas for nail colors and treatments proves that, no, your polish does NOT have to suffocate you.

If you’ve ever been curious about which ingredients to avoid when buying nail polish AND how clean alternatives stack up against their chemical-filled competitors, this is your guide.


Which Nail Polish Ingredients Do You Really Need to Avoid?

The research around cosmetic ingredients is ongoing and ever-evolving. But the brightest minds in the business (and science) of beauty agree that when shopping for nail care products, you’ll want to make sure that the product is free of the seven most concerning ingredients. They are:

Formaldehyde — This known carcinogen and skin irritant is used in polish to make nails shine and resist chipping. When reading the ingredient label, beware of formaldehyde’s other names: formalin and methylene glycol.

Toluene — A solvent used in paints, lacquers, thinners, glues, correction fluid and nail polish remover, toluene is concerning because it may be a neurological toxin. Exposure to toluene can have unpleasant effects such as headaches, dizziness and cracked skin, as well as more serious consequences such as reproductive damage and respiratory issues.

Phthalates (including DBP, or dibutyl phthalate) — This plasticizer, used to make polish flexible and less brittle, has been banned from polish by the European Union. In the past few years, 1 researchers have linked phthalates to an astounding range of health issues, from asthma to neurodevelopmental issues.

Formaldehyde resin — This byproduct of formaldehyde is used in some nail polishes to make the coating tough, shiny and resilient. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and can cause respiratory symptoms and allergic reactions.

Camphor — According to WebMD, inhaling camphor is “likely safe” for most adults and “likely safe” when applied to the skin low concentrations, although it may cause some skin redness and irritation. However, camphor-containing products are “likely unsafe” when applied to broken or injured skin. Camphor, an ingredient that is used to give nails a glossy appearance, is easily absorbed through broken skin and can reach toxic levels in the body.

Triphenyl phosphate (TPHP) — Used to make polish flexible and durable, this chemical also is used in a controversial flame retardant added to furniture cushions. Animal studies indicate that TPHP is an endocrine disruptor, meaning it can mimic natural hormones and affect the healthy development of cells.

Xylene— This strong, smelly liquid is primarily used as a solvent (a liquid that can dissolve other substances) in the printing, rubber and leather industries. In addition to inhalation risks,xylene poses skin allergy risks, resulting in redness, scaling and itching around your nails.

Eliminating the ‘dirty seven’ from your beauty routine is a good start. But listen, we all know there’s plenty more chemicals lurking out there. So if you’re looking for a brand that has really done its homework, keep reading. One key player in the nail niche actually eliminates an astounding 17 chemicals from its products! More on that in just a minute, but for now, let’s address the elephant in the room: Can cleaner treatments really improve the look of your nails as effectively as their toxic competitors?


Slashing Through the Stigma: How Does Non-Toxic Nail Polish Perform?

Rose water, salt scrub, milk baths...if natural beauty rituals were good enough for Cleopatra, why do many consumers believe that natural means “poor results”? Fortunately, the beauty industry is working to beat that myth and demonstrate that exquisite nails and clean beauty do go hand in hand. In New Beauty magazine’s 10th Annual Beauty Awards issue, the editors judged clean beauty against every other product in their respective categories. The result? Products with the “Clean Beauty” badge beat out their not-so-clean competitors more often than not, proving that non-toxic beauty can hold its own. In fact, the award for best longwear nail polish, nail treatment and nail polish remover went to clean beauty solutions.


What Actually Works?

Let’s cut to the chase. In the search for the cleanest nail care formulas that solve our biggest nail dilemmas (cracking, splitting, weakness and lack of growth), one brand really lives up to its claims while making your digits look like they’ve been Photoshopped to perfection. With polishes that promise extended wear time and strengthening treatments that boost nail health to the next level, the beauty brand Ella+Mila proves to be more than just a genius creator of chemical-free formulas.

For gorgeous nails without the nasty ingredients, here are three of Ella+Mila’s
highest-performing products:


First Aid Kiss

Frist Aid KissNails need moisture to repair themselves and thrive. Many women whose “nails were weak and broke easily after having gel extensions and dip powders” have reported success with Ella+Mila’s First Aid Kiss . This nail strengthener contains super-hydrating Vitamin E to end the peeling, splitting and cracking and make way for longer, more resilient nails.




Damage Control

Damage ControlFor those with thin, flexible nails that are prone to damage, fans have called Damage Control an “A+ nail hardener.” Formulated with the healing herb horsetail, this nail conditioner restores health to your natural nail plate, helping to stimulate the development of firmer nails that resist breaking.





Firm Foundation

Firm FoundationThis 2-in-1 nail strengthener works as a smoothing, long-wear-promoting base coat, either alone or under nail polish colors, and as a revitalizing primer. Fans have reported that Firm Foundation helps “nail polish colors to stay on longer” and is “great for fragile, damaged nails,” even those that have been subject to acrylic nail treatments for years.





Clean Beauty That Goes Above and Beyond

In the competitive world of clean beauty, it’s important to note that Ella+Mila products aren’t just seven-free. They’re actually 17-chemical-free, which means they exclude an additional ten ingredients: Acetone, Animal-Derived Ingredients, Bisphenol-A, Ethyl Tosylamide, Gluten, Glycol Ether of Series E (Gycol ethers derived from ethylene oxide), Nonylphenol Ethoxylate, Parabens, Styrene and Sulfate. By making its nail products 17-free, Ella+Mila has gone above and beyond the call of beauty duty. The brand also scores beauty bonus points for being vegan
and cruelty-free.


To a Healthier Mani-Pedi

Beauty should be fun, but it should also be safe. To clean up your beauty game, one of the best places to start is to swap nasty-smelling nail products in favor of respiratory-friendly alternatives. Free your nails from the chemicals listed herein and give them a chance at a healthy new beginning. Luckily, with super-safe, extra-cautious and powerfully effective solutions from brands like Ella+Mila, you no longer have to sacrifice your well-being for beautiful results.

Ready to clean up your nail routine? Ella+Mila products can be purchased at www.ellamila.com as well as CVS, Rite Aid, Target, Ulta Beauty and Walgreens.