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Where Do You Stand on More Natural Nails?

Do you wear nail polish regularly? Do you think it’s time to give your nails a break? Or at least a little “less toxic” love? 

Recently, I’ve been paying a bit more attention to what’s in my beauty products. Are they bad for me? If so, why? What are the better alternatives and how much better are they?

I’m not new to more responsible fashion, and I’ve explored many more sustainable options in my kitchen. Yet I’ve been consciously reluctant to dig through the ingredient lists of my beauty products. Simply, I just didn’t know where to start.

Ingredients on Beauty Products

Have you ever tried to read the ingredients on a typical moisturizer or foundation? I can’t even begin to understand what they’re comprised of. Forget the anti-aging products; those ingredients are even more complicated. Eye shadow and mascara… do those even come with ingredients?

I left this stone unturned because it seemed entirely overwhelming to try to figure out for myself which ingredients were “bad”, who offered better alternatives, and which companies appearing to offer better options were more of a marketing ploy than a real solution.

Additionally, products are often expensive. I wouldn’t know if they actually work until I tried them, and it would take months to find out if they really worked well.

I didn’t stand a chance.

Resources Started to Show Up

Then a few things happened over the course of a couple weeks that gave me some confidence. I might be able to make some sense of enough products to find some things I liked that were cleaner than what I currently used.

First, I listened to April Manring of Be Pure Beauty talk about her shop and site on the Business With Purpose podcast. Manring’s store offers a collection of better beauty products from brands she’s researched and come to trust. She’s spent years learning about what makes beauty products safer and cleaner, and now she’s using her experience to curate a collection of trusted products we can try.

It’s a bit of a surprise I didn’t think to start with a clean beauty “curator” earlier. I recently mentioned that I use niche retailers to find other types of products, so why not clean beauty products. Duh??? Better late than never.

Then I read Landen’s first post about her cleaner health and beauty efforts. In her post, she talked about an app she uses called Think Dirty. It’s not particularly new but it was new to me (maybe I’ve been living under one of those rocks I chose not to overturn).

I use this app to search a database of countless products that are rated for cleanliness and toxicity by Think Dirty’s team. They rate products 0 – 10 (0 is the cleanest and 10 is the dirtiest). While I’m sure the ratings systems aren’t perfect and don’t necessarily apply to every person the same, they provide directional guidance about which products are really bad for us, which claim to be good, and which actually are better.

In the podcast, Manring also discussed the Environmental Working Group (EWG)’s Skin Deep database. I haven’t used it a ton yet, but it’s on my radar and I’ve searched for a couple products to get an idea of how it works. The Think Dirty app and the EWG’s Skin Deep resource have been really helpful in providing some general guidance on which products are worth trying and which are not.

What About Nails?

For the most part, I’m entirely on board with trying better products to see how they work and if I like them. To date, I purchased new deodorant, face wash, lotion, and mascara, among other things. Yet I haven’t bit the bullet on nail polish yet.

To begin, my nails are a mess. A royal mess. I’ve been biting them or picking at them for as long as I can remember. They’ve endured some pretty harsh treatment and have battle scars to show for it. While I still haven’t quit my nail “torture” entirely, I’ve been getting much better. To that end, having freshly painted nails and groomed cuticles really helps me avoid the picking.

I’ve tried loads of nail polish brands and fallen in love with Essie. It’s seriously the best for me. It’s the only brand I’ve ever used that doesn’t chip in hours (seriously, hours…). I’ve become pretty loyal to Essie and won’t really wear much else.

I know nail polish isn’t great for my nails (and I do give them a break for a day or two here and there). When I first started using Think Dirty, what was one of the first products I looked up? You guessed it. My Essie nail polish. And it scored a whopping 10 out of 10. No good (but no surprise either).

With that knowledge, I started to scope out of a few “better” alternatives. Think Dirty almost always offers cleaner alternatives when you look up a product, so I started with the brands the app recommended. Scotch Naturals seemed alright, but it was sold out everywhere (which probably means it’s pretty good, but that’s not helpful for me).

I looked into a brand called Acquarella. As I dug through their site, I couldn’t get past their two full pages of application instructions that took nearly three days to work through and required precise application timing. I would never succeed with that level of maintenance.

I saw a couple bloggers post about brands they had tried and inquired about how quickly they chipped. I don’t remember the brands, but I know their experiences weren’t all that amazing. They may have been good for more ‘natural’ alternatives, but they didn’t compare to my Essie. And with my nails already a pain in my butt and especially distracting when paint begins to chip, I haven’t yet come to terms with parting from the only brand that’s been remotely useful in helping me curb my nail-picking habits.

So… on a journey to find more responsible and sustainable everyday alternatives in a mainstream world, I’m sticking with my “toxic” nail polish for now. As more options come to market and brands better manage inventory, I might change my tune. I’m definitely open to trying better nail polish alternatives that don’t require a full-time commitment to maintain. For now though, weighing pros and cons of each, Essie still wins the battle for my finger nail decor.

Have you found any really great cleaner and healthier nail polish brands? If so, I’d love to hear about them.

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  1. I’m coming to nail care from the opposite end. I used nail polish as a kid, but I always hated the smell of remover so I never wore it as an adult. In fact, I’ve never done anything to my nails except trim them. I’d like to do a little more to make them a bit more polished, but I still don’t want to have to use remover or other chemical-smell products. I was thinking of trying some nail oil.

  2. Natural, no nail color is my answer! My nails are much stronger that way. Toxic or not toxic I say “go naked”

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