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.
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.
Good morning everyone! Meet Andreína and her Alaffia…she is a huge fan of this brand! She also has some great tips–check out her DIY mask recipe. She’s a recent transplant to California, and is certainly making the coast even more lovely with her presence. Read on!
In the shower…
Outside the shower…
Thanks, Andre! Happy to hear you are happy :) Anyone else using Alaffia for the hair? Siobhan reviewed one of their conditioners awhile back here.
Here we go again. Ever since Siobhan asked how everyone’s preparing for the heat, my brain’s been on a one track loop that goes: highlights highlights highlights…
It’s a serious conundrum for a clean girl this whole hair dye thing, one we’ve talked about here and here and here (and about ten other places). There are many reasons not to do it of course. Par example, much like nail polish, there’s just no such thing as a totally clean dye.
Specifically for moi, getting highlights means: 1. some toxic exposure; 2. getting my hair washed and living with the subsequent frizz for a month; 3. feeling like a bit of a hypocrite. On the plus side the place I go to is sorta-natch, the highlights I get don’t touch my scalp, and freaking-A, they’re pretty!
A bit of a late bloomer on this, highlights were something of a revelation when I finally tried them last spring, lightly painted on in places where the sun would naturally lighten (if I surfed, like everyday). For a thick mop like mine, a little caramel color can go a long way in making my head look like less of a curl-helmut, as I’m sure some of you can relate.
And while I know I’m a grown woman who can make her own decisions and all that, S and I have really taken to asking you guys for your (strong, ahem) opinions and advice! So let’s hear em.
More interesting still: What do you do with your hair? Highlights? Au naturelle 4life? And how weird is this picture choice?
Oh, bother. We can’t say we’re terribly surprised about this, and we know that even when nail polish is free of toluene, DBP and formaldehyde, it’s still usually as far as you can get from natural, but yup:
A new report from the California Department of Toxic Substances Control found levels of these harmful chemicals in 10 of the 12 “nontoxic” nail polishes it tested.
From the Washington Post:
Investigators found that 10 of 12 products that claimed to be free of toluene actually contained it, with four of the products having dangerously high levels.
The report also found that five of seven products that claimed to be “free of the toxic three” actually included one or more of the agents in significant levels.
As I type this, gazing at my chipped coral manicure (OPI, don’t hate—it was for an important occasion), I’m sort of faced with that “I knew it but I didn’t want to know it” feeling. It’s similar to how we felt when we were writing the book and had to part with some of our favorite products. Like my “all-natural” defrizzer that was aloe-based, but also contained no fewer than three parabens—as well as fragrance.
But back to polish. Among those tested and mislabeled were: Sation 99 basecoat, Sation 53 red-pink nail color, Dare to Wear nail lacquer, Chelsea 650 Baby’s Breath Nail Lacquer, New York Summer Nail Color, Paris Spicy 298 nail lacquer, Sunshine nail lacquer, Cacie Light Free Gel Basecoat, Cacie Sun Protection Topcoat, Golden Girl Topcoat, Nail Art Top-N-Seal and High Gloss Topcoat.
Glad that none of the brands I use are on the list, but there’s little comfort in that, obviously, since the Tox department only tested a random sample.
Show’s to go ya you never can be too sure you’re getting what you’re buying, no matter how careful you are. That’s why we try to only shop from brands we know very well, whose transparency and authenticity we trust. But blah all the same. Are you going to stop getting your nails done?