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.
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?