The Nail Polish Debate Continued—Maybe Concluded? [UPDATED]
Unless someone is getting married, you probably won’t see me with nail polish on. It’s not really because nail polish contains toxic chemicals, though it does, or that it’s near impossible to find natural brands that either 1) work the way we’ve become accustomed to, or 2) aren’t still filled with suspect chemicals despite clean claims.
It’s mostly because I rather get a massage than a mani, when it comes to pampering, and I’m just a bit of a wildling (Game of Thrones, anyone?) with regards to maintenance. Whether I’m using the so-called naturals, or mainstream three-frees (like OPI and others) my nails usually chip within a day of getting painted, and I wait way too long to take it off. That’s partially because remover makes me want to die, but also because I always seem to have something more pressing to do.
The other reason I rarely polish is that, in my experience, it destroys and weakens my nails and—because I’ve always been self-conscious that my hands are a little bit manish—I love keeping my nails just on the longer side of good taste. Paint pour moi equals breakage, so I go long rather than colorful, and this works for me because it saves time, money, and the (literal) headache that comes when I sit in a nail salon. The clean one I sometimes frequented sadly went out of business, because like many things green or pretending to be, prices were unreasonably marked up.
The last time we talked polish, many of you asked us to further comment on the big debate: Are any of them clean, or just greenwashed and overpriced? There’s a diligently researched piece on Fig+Sage about this that’s totally worth a read, but the way I see it, debate is a misnomer. There’s not a whole lot to argue because it comes down to choice, and most of us clean gals fall into one of three categories.
1. You know that no polish is totally clean, but continue to get your nails done because it makes you happy and you’ve found a three-free, or better, brand you love. It’s a risk you’re willing to take here and there for the feeling of joy/relaxation/self love/ritual/insert your own, that it gives you. We’ve stated in the past, and continue to believe that as long as a choice is informed, it’s yours (and ours) to make! Whether it’s a hamburger, a cocktail, highlights, or regular mani-pedis.
2. You used to love it, but you can’t abide putting mystery chemicals on your body so you’ve learned how to use the water-based naturals like Scotch (again, not totally “natural” but as Fig+Sage points out reluctantly, better). G-bless! You’re also one of those people who whips up DIY recipes, and we love you. We know some women like you, and we admire them (Rebecca Bailey, I’m looking at you.)
3. You don’t love nail polish enough for either the risk, effort, or cost, so you sport bare nails and do your best to keep them looking clean, maybe buffed, possibly long. This, clearly, is my camp.
Will we review cleaner polishes on occasion? Probably. Does that mean we think that they’re perfect? No. Do we think that some are overpriced and greenwashed? For sure. But we’ll always present the facts available to us.
Ultimately, if you’re from camp polish, we want you to choose from cleaner versions and continue to push the market that way. The fact that some of the biggest brands have gone three-free isn’t nothing. And this happens to be a category—like hair dye—that just does not have a perfect option right now, and maybe never will.
So, which are you: polish never, on special occasions, weekly? Is your choice informed by cost, chems, something else?
UPDATE: Blah! Sorry guys, I forgot to mention that an unfortunate study revealed that some supposed three-free brands are, in fact, not. Siobhan covered it back in April, and lists the guilty parties in this post. Just to further confused matters.