Safe Nail Polish | 3-Free vs 5-Free vs Water-Based

How many times have you walked past a nail salon and held your breath?
How many times have to got a little mad on the inside at seeing Hello Kitty posters in the windows enticing people to bring in their kids?
How many times have you walked past and seen the staff wearing masks and wondered why it’s safe for patrons to be inhaling the fumes but not the staff?

For me, it’s EVERY TIME.

You can still have shiny & sparkly nails by using a water-based nail polish. We’re going to debunk the most common phrases around toxic free nail polish so you can make the safest choice for yourself and your kids. There are three common phrases used to advertise non toxic nail polish, and despite what some of our competitors are advertising, 2 of them are still solvent based.

1) 3-Free (solvent based)
2) 5-Free (solvent based)
3) Water-Based

Make no mistake, both 3-Free and 5-Free nail polish are solvent based. Here’s a run down on what the three terms mean to help you make the choice that’s right for you.

3-Free Nail Polish

This was the first phrase used. 3-Free nail polish is free from three harsh chemicals normally used; Toluene, Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP) and Formaldehyde. These chemicals help the polish go on smoothly & keep it from chipping. Regardless of what level of ‘detox’ you’re after, this should be your bare minimum.

The most popular 3-Free polish on the market is Butter London but they do not advertise their ingredients list on their website.

5-Free Nail Polish

The big three are gone, plus they also take out 2 other chemicals normally used in petrochemical based nail polish; Formaldehyde Resin and Camphor. The resin is a known allergen and camphor, when ingested, can be poisonous.

So what’s still left in 5-Free polish that you might want to stay away from? Below are the list of ingredients from a couple of 5-Free brands. Those highlighted in red are listed as questionable or not recommended by The Chemical Maze book. Those in green are listed as ok. Those in black we were unable to find data on (or still looking). As you can see, there’s a considerable amount of red below.

BRAND 1 (Priti NYC)Butyl Acetate, Ethyl Acetate, Nitrocellulose, Adipic Acid/Fumaric Acid/Phthalic Acid/Tricyclodecane, Glycol/Trimellitic Anhydride Copolymer, Acetyl Tributyl Citrate, Isopropyl Alcohol, Stearalkonium Bentonite, Acrylates Copolymer, Styreneacrylates Copolymer, Silica, Benzophenone-1, Trimethylpentanediyl Dibenzoate, Dimethicone, Trimethylsiloxysilicate.

BRAND 2 (100% Pure)Butyl Acetate, Ethyl Acetate, Nitrocellulose, Adipic Acid/Neopentyl Glycol/Trimellitic Anhydride Copolymer, Acetyl Tributyl Citrate, Isopropyl Alcohol, Styrene/acrylates Copolymer, Stearalkonium Bentonite, N-butyl Alcohol, Benzophenone-1, Silica, Alumina, Trimethylpentanediyl Dibenzoate, Polyvinyl Butyral. May Contain: Aluminum Powder, Bismuth Oxychloride, Oxides, Red 34 Lake, Red 6 Lake, Red 7 Lake, Yellow 5 Lake, Ferric Ammonium Ferrocyanide, Mica, Blue 1, Yellow 11, Titanium Dioxide, Violet 2, Polyethylene Terephthalate, Polybutylene Terephthalate, Ethylene/Va Copolymer

Other well known brands of 5-Free polish include Vapour, RGB, Chanel.

Water-Based Nail Polish

We have road tested a few brands, and so far, the only one that stood out for us on safety and performance was the Scotch Naturals brand. By comparison with our 5-Free friends above, here’s the ingredients list for the water based Scotch Naturals Nail Polish.

SCOTCH NATURALS POLISH – water, acrylic polymer emulsion, +/- CI15850, CI77492, CI77499, CI77289, CI77891, and/or mica

SCOTCH NATURALS REMOVER – methyl soyate, dimethyl adipate, dimethyl glutarate

Does this water based nail polish perform exactly the same as its 3-Free or 5-Free counterparts? No. When you use it, some preparation, a base & top coat plus some time for the polish to cure before you wet your hands is necessary.

Tips for successful & lasting application of water-based nail polish

  1. Remove any existing nail polish and shape as usual.
  2. Add a drop of jojoba oil to each nail and buff gently.
  3. Wash hands with soap and water to rinse remover residue and buffing dust.
  4. Apply 1 coat of base coat.
  5. Follow with 2 coats of polish allowing 1-3 minutes in between coats.
  6. Finish with our deluxe/top coat for a high gloss shine.
  7. Allow to dry overnight before wetting nails.

Please remember, this is a water-based nail product. While it dries to the touch in minutes, it needs a few hours to cure fully prior to prolonged exposure to water. We encourage painting tips and toes before bed, allowing polish to dry and adhere overnight.

What do we sell?

We have decided to only sell water based nail polish at this stage. Brands include Scotch Naturals and for the kids, Hopscotch Kids and Pure Poppet, who make a really lovely range of kids play makeup.