Two years ago I wrote a post about non-toxic nail polish and my decision to use only polishes that were ‘3, 4 or preferably 5-free’; in other words free from the most harmful ingredients commonly found in conventional nail polishes. Now I’m taking it to the next level…

In recent months I have had cause to go through my nail bag a number of times and most of the time my daughter (aged not quite 2) has been present. She has been fascinated by the little bottles of colour and even more fascinated when she realised that these little bottles were in fact the source of my own colourful nails.

With her pleas for me to paint her nails ever increasing (it is amazing how she communicates this to me with very little language), I realise that before long I am going to have to give in and paint her nails too. But what with? Nail polish by its very nature is full of toxic ingredients and even the 5-free options in my kit contain more chemicals than I personally would feel happy with her coming into direct contact with – the smell alone is potent enough! So I have started researching and sourcing water-based nail products; specifically ones designed for children…

There are a number of non-toxic, water-based brands on the market; some designed with children in mind and others for the adult market. But what is a water-based nail polish?

(From this point onwards I will use the abbreviation WB for the ease of writing)

In a nutshell (for I am no scientist) WB nail polish works by a process of evaporation. Minute particles of coloured acrylic polymer (a non-toxic plastic that is rated 0 on the EWG Skin Deep database) are suspended in water. As as the water evaporates you are left with a hard shell of colour. Voila! A coloured nail.

When it comes to ingredients, good WB nail polishes are of course produced without the main offenders (Formaldyhyde, Toulene and dibutyl phthalate) but they are also (generally) free from ethyl acetate, butyl acetate, nitrocellulose, acetone, alcohols and heavy metals; instead relying on just three main ingredients – water, acrylic polymer and colorants.

There may be some brands available on your local high street (if tou look very hard) however there is a much better selection online. It is worth noting that when looking for a WB polish, do check the ingredients very carefully – I have have found a few polishes on the high street advertised as non-toxic and water-based that are still packed with many of the chemicals best avoided (a well known hair and accessories store aimed at young people sells one such product).

Being free from many of the toxic chemicals of conventional polishes does mean that you don’t need to use an acetone or chemical based remover to clean your nails. A soy-based or other natural remover is plenty enough and in most cases a bowl of warm water or a wet wipe would remove any colour with ease. Long term this is better for the condition of your nails, not just for the your health!

As clean as they are WB polishes aren’t without their flaws. The first issue I found with the polish I have been trialling is that my nails have felt slightly drier on removal than with most conventional polishes. Although this tends to fade after a little while it is a little irritating, however also easily rectified; a liberal coating of oil (avocado/olive/almond etc) will get the moisture back pretty quickly. Many of the brands do tell you to use a nail conditioning products on removal, so more fool me for not reading the instructions!

The second and possibly bigger issue is chipping. WB polishes don’t have the longevity of wear of conventional brands so if you are one who is a little hard on your polish (I am one of these people – I am lucky if I manage a full chip free day with any polish!) then this may be worth considering. Chips, cracks and general scrapes are common place so regular maintenance is need for lasting wear.

The final issue to note is that WB nail polish is well, water-based. Surprisingly enough this means that when you wash your hands/pick up a wet wipe etc it will come off. This, I can assure you is particularly irritating when I am at work! Note to self: don’t wear WB polish to work – it lasts less than two minutes!

Despite these more negative points, one thing has become patently clear whilst I have been trialling the polish – I must keep a stock of WB polishes in my kit. I often find myself working with young people on commercials and shows and on ocassion nail polish is required. Children aside, these polishes would be perfect for photo and fashion shoots when there often needs to be some quick changes to the make-up and nails so WB would be a quick and easily removal option.

The price of WB polish is generally a little on the steep side with prices averaging £6.00 a bottle for the cleaner children’s brands; a scout around the web will bring you up some cheaper options so it is definitely worth looking around.

My first water-based polish post will be out in the next couple of weeks, so keep an eye out.

N.B The website Inspirationail is a great resource for everything nail related. Containing all you need to know about different nail polish and products (water based or otherwise), it lists many of the WB brands available on the market.

Main Image courtesy of: Bjorn Laczay via Flickr
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