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In-depth, informed beauty reviews and advice from a professional makeup artist & lover of all things natural and organic

  • Writer's pictureShelley Scott

NON - TOXIC NAIL POLISH & REMOVERS (The difference between 5, 7, 8, 9 & 10 FREE)

Nail polish & polish removers are pretty toxic stuff, just thinking about the smell makes my stomach turn. If you're someone who gets regular gel manicures & therefore expects polish to last for a couple of weeks without chipping then the majority of the products I'm about to discuss probably aren't for you (instead skip straight to the end of the post to read about new non-toxic gel manicures that some salons are beginning to introduce).

However, if you paint your own nails at home and like to switch up your colours often then it's pretty straightforward to switch to less-toxic polishes without noticing a difference in performance. I also say 'less toxic' rather than 'non-toxic' (even though many brands advertise themselves as this) because if there is a 100% natural organic nail polish in existence, then I'm yet to hear of it and don't think I will any time soon...but there are certainly better alternatives!

When buying less toxic polishes look out for 3 FREE / 5 FREE / 7 FREE etc. This number refers to known toxic ingredients that the polish is free from. In the last 2 years or so, a number of brands have started to introduce 4, 6, 8 and even 10 FREE which just goes to show how quickly consumer demand for less toxic products affects the industry itself. The list below is a general outline of which ingredients 'Free from' refers to, however, different brands often use the term to refer to their choice of 'free from ingredients.

So here is a general list of the most suspicious ingredients in nail polishes accompanied by the brands you can buy that are FREE from those ingredients. Many of these brands are also vegan & cruelty free (click on the product links for more info)

Hope it's helpful x

3 FREE generally means it's free from the following ingredients:

Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP) an ingredient often used in plastics to make them more flexible. The EPA suggest it could have effects on reproduction and a number of other health concerns.

Formaldehyde (are you thinking abou dead bodies right now?) The National Cancer Institute state it is possible cancer-causing carcinogen.

Toluene Found in petroleum, it's considered highly hazardous.

3 FREE BRANDS: Not even going to bother recommending any as if you're concerned enough to go 3 FREE then why not 5, 7, 8 and 10 etc.

5 FREE generally means it's free from the 3 above and is additonally free from:

Formaldehyde Resin: See Formaldehyde

Camphor: Causes nails to yellow & dry out

5 FREE BRANDS: Nowadays more prominent brands are now 5 Free such as Chanel Le Vernis Longwear, Dior Vernis Gel Shine , OPI Infinite Shine and many more.

6 FREE BRAND: RMS Beauty (£14) is 6 Free and they state they're free from all 5 listed above as well as:

  • Petrochemicals

  • Parabens

  • TPHP

  • Xylene

  • Animal Products

To me, this adds up to being 'free from' more than 6 toxic ingredients so I'm not quite sure what's going on with the math there but it's a great product either way!

7 FREE generally free from all of the above and is additonally free from:

Ethyl Tosylamide: a plasticizer that helps transform polish from drippy to dry in minutes; the ingredient has already been barred from personal care products in Europe due to its antibiotic properties and concern over antibiotic resistance

Andxylene: Xylene, a solvent that keeps your nail polish from getting gloppy; it's also a known allergen and possible carcinogen, according to research from the International Agency on Research For Cancer Scientific Publications

7 FREE BRANDS: Intensea Asaam (£9.95) & Pacifica (£8 -£10)

8 FREE generally free from all of the above and is additonally free from:

Triphenyl Phosphate: Used in plastics to improve flexibility. Links to developmental & reproductive toxicity.


Butter London (From around £10-£12) This is may favourite brand as the polish lasts well and the range of colours is second to none. I've read that not all are 8 Free though so do check when buying. Available from multiple online stores as well as being sold in good old Marks & Spencer.

Smith & Cult (usually around £19) is another 8 free brand available online and in John Lewis.

10 FREE generally means it's free from all of the above and is additonally free from:



animal ingredients


Not that I'm advocating this but if you have younger children & teenagers who love to play with your makeup etc then this is an option. Generally these formulas are water based and can either just be peeled off or wash off with soap & water. I did find full ingredients list were not as easy to come by but once I contacted the brands they were happy to oblige (**Update to follow with details of ingredients)

As well as the nail polishes they also do a polish remover and it contains just four simple ingredients: corn alcohol, aloe vera, vitamin E and an embittering agent. And the container is biodegradable too.

Lallabee (£4.95)

Pure Poppet An Australian brand who also do nail polish for kids as well as non-toxic play makeup. They aren't available in the UK yet but after contacting them, they said they hoped to be soon.


remover is 100% biodegradable. It is non-toxic and derived from farm crops and with no petroleum ingredients. Available in Lemongrass and Unscented.

Fresh Therapies Nail Polish Remover £11.99. Available at Lovelula or Naturissimo. A no toxin & no nasty chemical smell product. Just a fresh lime scented, plant based formula that nourishes nails and cuticles beautifully. Safe for pregnant women, sensititive skin and children.

Treat Collection: A German based brand do a gentle soy based remover.Ingredients include Vitamins A, C and E to promote healthy, moisturized nails. Product does not contain acetone or harsh acetates which will damage the nail, cuticles and dry out your skin. Treat collection nail polish remover is non-flammable and contains renewable plant resources.

If none of the above tickle your fancy, you could always try this DIY recipe from

Please let me know if you've come across any other great brands like those above!

Shelley x

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