So, right up front: in my opinion, there’s no such thing as a truly clean nail polish. Not even those water-based (and, in my opinion, entirely useless) polishes.
Fig + Sage wrote a great piece about this some time ago, and I don’t think I can really add anything to their points. That said, I love me some pretty nails, and after many years of going sans polish to keep away from toxins in the pregnancy/baby years, I found Zoya. This is in the category of “clean enough” for me* (remember this post?). Normally I won’t use anything on my body that I couldn’t eat, but there is something about nail polish I really love, so I break the rule occasionally. I’ve been “doing my nails” on a weekly basis since I was 11 years old, and it’s a very important ritual for me. It was the one girly thing I did as a youngster. It’s quite meditative, and I always do it myself – no salons. Sometimes it just means a nice file and buff routine, but these days it often includes Zoya. It’s the only brand I regularly use, and they have all the bases covered, including remover. The polishes are much less expensive than other clean-ish brands, typically $8-9.00 a bottle.
Their more recent collections are 5-Free (missing the five most toxic chemicals typically in polish) and wear like crazy. I have tried some of the older formulas, and the ones from the last couple years are definitely superior. If I use their “regular” shiny finish polishes, I always do the base/top coat to maximize wear. Some of the polishes, especially the ones with some sparkle, can go 5-7 days with only minimal tip wear. I love the new matte finish polish look, but until recently the wear time was only a few days. Well, no more! With this new collection, I have gone a SOLID WEEK with fabulous looking nails. That means dishes, laundry, brain dissections (hey, I’m a science teacher), and a generally active lifestyle without trying to be careful. Seriously. I’m in love.
Zoya PixieDust: They describe this line as textured, matte, and stunning. Agreed. The first group that came out was so tempting, I had to buy the full collection. When the summer palette debuted recently, I bought a few of those, too. They all look great with 2 coats, but 3 is better to give the full impact with saturated, rich color. There is no need for any base or top coat, and they dry super fast. Typical of my tastes, the black and grey are my favorites. But they are all beautiful. The finish is like sparkly colored sugar sprinkled on your nails. My favorite part is the layering of color. I almost never wear pink or red polish, but the red over the black is just so delicious. Really, any of the lighter colors layered over the darker ones look good. The pic above is one coat of Liberty over two coats of Dahlia (after 6 days of wear!), and the photo doesn’t do the color justice. I get tons of compliments when I use these polishes. My current obsession is with the beige shade (Godiva). My toes are sporting it right now, and they look like I dipped them in sparkly gold-beige sand. My first time removing the PixieDust polish involved a lot of rubbing (much more so than regular Zoya). But I figured out to pour a little remover in a tiny glass bowl and dip for just a minute, and it comes off fairly easily. Toes are harder to dip, so I just let the remover-soaked cotton pad sit on the nail for longer than I would with regular polish.
*I received a full list of polish ingredients from the company, and entered all the info at Skin Deep, including the “may contain” stuff. The polish rates a 5, the remover a 3. I tend to think the polish number is a bit high, because not all the “may contain” ingredients are in every polish.
Let me set this up properly, before I get stoned out of the natural beauty community.
Last Sunday I got home from a two-week work and family bonanza in Canada. First we launched Everlane in Toronto with a big party, which brought together family, old friends, and coworkers. Then it was onto Montreal for Passover/Easter, for lots more eating, drinking, and socializing. In true Canadian form, the company was great and the weather sucked.
Cut to two weeks later: I get back to LA, a shell of a human because, like many, I’m a bit of an introvert and need alone time to feel sane, plus which (and maybe because of?) I tend to overdo it when I’m being a social animal. So, booze+work+all that social energy+no exercise+crappy cold weather… And now I have a nasty cold, which basically happens every time I overextend. But this story is not about my champagne problems. It’s about my nails.
I have a thing for long nails. Always have, since the first set of Lee Press Ons my mum let me buy as a girl. I’ve also been watching that Rhianna Stay video on loop—where a bathing, makeup-free Rhianna wears nothing but her fake nails and some diamond earrings—so that might be clouding my judgement as well.
Anyways, I got home from Canada—nails cracked from the cold, skin dry, energy low, in search of some kind of fix. But instead of going for a Thai massage, I couldn’t shake the idea of getting gels!
I’d never tried them, and in fact didn’t even really realize what the process was. I knew the UV drying machines were bad for you, but I figure one trip to the hand-tanning-bed wasn’t going to kill me. And the chems? Well, we know the chems are bad. But I’ve had about three manicures since we wrote the book and gone for semi-natch highlights twice, so I figure I’ve got some salon treatments in the bank I can use.
The mani itself was less of a to-do than I imagined. I think I had some notion that this would be more like the acrylic nail process I’d peeped at nail salons in days past. This was just a manicure really, with gel polish instead of the regular stuff, and the addition of the mini tanning beds. Which isn’t to say I think this is no big deal—as I said, I’ve actually sworn off all manicures for some time— it was just more familiar than I’d anticipated. The worst part of it was having my cuticles cut—a ritual I’m a bit horrified by now.
So there it is. Yours truly, who gets upset when she has to use hand soap in a public restroom because of the phthalates and triclosan, has a hand full of gels.
Do I love them? I mean, kinda.
They definitely look fake-ish, even in the most subdued color I could find. It’s nice to feel “polished” for once. Conventional manicures usually chipped on me within a day. And it definitely makes me feel like more of a lady…
Have you ever tried gels? And what natural beauty “cheats” have you committed of late?
I’ve been on a big manicure kick lately and now I have a question…
Can someone please explain to me why, for the love of God, a basic manicure requires about four scrubs with a super-harsh nail polish remover? Question not rhetorical.
Seriously, this stuff is terrible for your nails and is super toxic in a not-really-up-for-debate kind of way. Other aspects of the salon experience are far from natural as well—including that three-free polish—but I suck it up for the most part because manicures are fun, they make me feel put together and I can’t be bothered at this moment in time to perfect my shakey left-hand-on-right application technique.
So I bring my own polish or I cave and use OPI, I don’t let anyone cut my cuticles, and I make sure to take off my polish before I got to the salon.
With what, you ask? Scotch Naturals’ nail polish remover. It’s touted as a remover for water-based polish but I’ve used this stuff for just about every brand under the sun—even Essie one time, shh!—and it works perfectly well. Some people apparently like to apply it and then let it sit for a few minutes then wipe it off. I used to do that with Suncoat’s remover, but I don’t find I need to do this with Scotch’s, nor do I think that technique works that well. Instead I spray a paper tower or cotton round with the stuff, then rub the polish off.
No, it doesn’t come off in one sweep like the industrial strength stuff at the nail spot, but it requires minimal effort for the result.
One bottle has lasted me the better part of a year, and it costs $11.99. I like it so much that I have a bottle at home and at the office.
What’s your favorite nail polish remover? And do you do anything to minimize your exposure to garbage at the nail salon?
Last weekend I got married, and for the sake of transparency here, no, it was not an all-natural affair. Siobhan and I have long conceded that industrial strength antiperspirant, waterproof mascara (we all had a good cry), and long-lasting foundation have their place at special occasions. And while the smell of the super-hold hairspray gave me pause, I was very happy not to worry about my do’ collapsing mid-evening.
The other thing I did for the event, which I have not done in nearly two years now, is polish my nails. If you read the book you know that nail polish and remover are among the worst offenders when it comes to nasty chemicals. While many brands have taken out the big three—formaldehyde, toluene and DBP—it’s pretty impossible to make functional nail polish from clean ingredients.
At a certain point during our research for the book I began to buff instead, and I’ve just never turned back. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I have a weird obsession with long nails, and when I stopped polishing mine something incredible happened: They stopped breaking.
Recently though I’ve wondered if that phenomenon was a figment of my imagination. Maybe it wasn’t the nail polish, but a change in my diet that had strengthened my claws? Not so.
While I loved the ritual of having my nails done last Thursday with my mom and sister, and the manicurist used OPI (which is big-three free), almost every single nail on my hands has since chipped, peeled or broken.
So, of course, now we want to know: Do you polish your nails? Did you stop because of chemicals? Have your nails changed? Telltell.
It’s true. It’s not that I went all that often, but going to get your nails or hair done with a girlfriend is nothing short of heaven, am I right? If you’ve read the book you probably know that that’s what got Siobhan and me in trouble in the first place.
Last time we were together in New York we went with our friend Anna, a real green beauty, for supposedly nontoxic manis. Well, the whole experience was a huge letdown. Not only were they not clean—they carried Essie and Chanel, and the polish remover was certainly not Suncoat—they were terrible! In Los Angeles I sometimes treat myself to a manicure at Recess, a luxey green nail spa on Beverly. The prices leave me gasping for air (but at least it’s not fumes I’m choking on).
Anyway, I was rather excited to discover via NPR that there’s a new clean hair and nail salon in Los Feliz, my usual stomping ground. I’ll have to report back once I’ve gone, but not only are Primrose Organics’ prices reasonable, it looks like they use John Masters products for the hair care. Hello!
I know we’ve asked you ladies a lot this week but if you love a clean salon in your area, please share. We only have each other for guidance!
Image via Life Magazine