Safer Nail Polish Review

March 27, 2020

I feel like clean, nontoxic beauty is really taking off in today’s market. It’s everywhere, and honestly, it can be overwhelming. Where do you start? Are some items really worth paying a higher price tag just so that they’re “clean,” whatever that means? I’ve been there before, and I totally get it. Honestly, in order of importance, “clean” nail polish probably falls lowest on the totem pole of things you need to switch out. I would definitely start with cleaning up my skin and makeup items first. Since we know that chemicals can be transferred into your body through the skin, it’s imperative to have a squeaky clean skin and makeup routine, in my opinion. Only once you have that piece in place, would I seriously consider what products you’re using on your nails.

In common formulations of nail polish, there are numerous ingredients that are known carcinogens, flammable and toxic compounds, endocrine disrupting chemicals, as well as skin irritants. Some would argue that it’s such a tiny amount of toxic chemicals on top of essentially dead cells (aka, your nails) does it really matter if it’s clean or not? What if someone gave you a bottle labeled, ‘POISON’ with warning labels ALL over it and said, “Just drink a tiny sip, it won’t kill you…” of course no one is going to do that. Why do we approach our personal care products the same way?

So, what’s the deal with nails? Is it even important that we try to find safer products for them? I did some research and found that nails are porous, and anything you put on them can be absorbed into the bloodstream. One website even claimed that nails are even more permeable than skin because nails have a 7-12% water content…now I have no idea if that’s true, but bottom line, what I learned is that yes, toxic ingredients can get into our body through our nails. Not only that but think of how many times your nails touch your face, or you pick up food that then goes into your mouth. Personally, I felt I needed to find better, safer products. 

Fortunately, we live in 2020 and there were so many more options than I thought there would be. I researched and pared them down to what I thought looked like the four best recommendations and thoroughly tested them…and I mean thorough…over the course of several months. I tried them with and without top coats, I tried using systems and not, I also took price, color selection, wearability, and claims into consideration. I feel like I know these polishes extremely well!

All these brands listed below claim to be safer and cleaner nail polishes. Notice that they don’t claim to be toxin free. The truth is that it’s nearly impossible to create a polish that’s completely chemical free, but still performs like actual nail polish. As long as they are formulated with cleaner and safer ingredients, I’m okay with that because I know it’s better than the alternative. When approaching better beauty, I live by the motto, ‘Progress, not perfection.” These aren’t perfect (because no nail polish really is,) but they are better, which is what I’m striving for!

**This is not a paid/sponsored post. I purchased all these with my own hard-earned money, and these are my completely honest reviews/thoughts/opinions!

Zoya: Their website claims that they were one of the first nail polish formulas on the market made toxin free. I mean, that’s cool and all, but I’m more interested in how the product performs. According the website, they have 400 colors available to choose from. However, one word of warning: I ordered 4 polishes from them and the colors were not what was depicted on the website. They were similar, but I was just a little disappointed at what the colors actually were. For example, I thought I was buying an orange-y red color, but when it was delivered, it’s straight neon orange…not a color I’m exactly drawn to or will get a ton of use out of. So, moral of the story: Buyer Beware!

Price: Zoya’s price actually came in at the lowest at only $10 per bottle. This is totally on par with any conventional nail polish out there on the market.

Application: Goes on smoothly but when it dries, it tends to goop up a bit and show a good amount of texture. Also, it makes the nails looks really dry without that nice sheen on top. 

Wearability: This is where Zoya really fell apart for me. I noticed some chips at the end of day 1, and honestly, by Day 2, it needed to be taken off. If I’m going to spend the time to paint my nails, it needs to last longer than 48 hours.

Ease of removal: Came off fairly easily with regular acetone nail polish. I didn’t really have to scrub or use 20 cotton balls to get the color off.

Summary: I hate to give a negative review, but honestly, Zoya did not live up to my expectation. From the colors being “off” from what was pictured, to not having any staying power whatsoever, this brand was a big fail for me. Sorry, Zoya. 

Aila: On their website, Aila claims, “gorgeous color without common ingredients.” They claim that they are vegan, cruelty-free, and gluten-free. They also provide a lengthy list of 16 common ingredients found in nail polish and why they aren’t good for your health. Although, not expressly stated, I would assume they don’t use these chemicals in their formulations…but again, I’m inferring. Of the four brands I tried, Aila has the least in color selection, having only about 45 colors to choose from. HOWEVER, they are adding and expanding their color range. When I got on their website to do some research, I noticed they had added several new colors since I purchased mine a few months ago. 

Price: $14 per bottle, however this was the largest bottle of all of the polishes I purchased. Aila is the same size of Essie nail polish, which, for comparison, is sold in the $9-11.50 price range.

Application: Goes on smooth but requires 2 coats. The 1stcoat applies a bit sheer.

Wearability: Wears well, but doesn’t wear long! Mine started to show significant wear after 3 days and had to be removed at that point.

Ease of removal: Extremely difficult to remove with regular acetone. I purchased two colors, and the dark color was extremely messy when removing. Also, I didn’t use a base coat the first time I wore it, and the polish left a remnant of color on the nail that I could NOT get off, and ultimately, it had to wear off on it’s own. I tried the same dark polish again with a base coat and while the removal was still incredibly difficult, I was able to eventually get all the polish off. For this reason, I would definitely recommend purchasing/applying a base coat with these polishes.

Summary: Good product for the price. Other than it’s a beast to remove, I don’t necessarily have anything “bad” to say about it, but I wasn’t necessarily wow-ed by this one either. Overall…MEH!

Cote: On their website, Cote claims to be 100% free from the following ingredients that are found in most conventional nail polish formulations: formaldehyde, toluene, DBT, formaldehyde resin, camphor, TPHP, xylene, ethyl tosylamide/epoxy resin, parabens, and gluten. They have a HUGE shade range, including both opaque and metallic shades. Another really cool thing about Cote is that they are advocates for cleaner and safer beauty standards. Their CEO has even been to Washington D.C. to advocate for safer beauty laws. I love that they aren’t just jumping on the clean beauty bandwagon because it’s popular and they can make a buck off of it, but they really want to see better laws in the cosmetic industry. Brownie points for that!!

Price: $18 and was the smallest bottle of the four, ringing in at only a tiny 0.4 oz. 

Application: Goes on smooth for the 1stcoat, however, it can get clumpy on the 2ndcoat if not careful. I found you have to use a very small amount on the 2ndcoat and have a steady hand for one careful swoop across the nail

Wearability: Does not chip or flake, but does show wear around the edge of the nail around the 4 day mark, however, you can get 5 days out of a manicure before it starts to look too ratty.

Ease of removal: Removes easily with acetone nail polish, but I found the metallic finish a little more difficult to remove as compared to the glossy finish. I feel that’s standard for any metallic/glittery nail polish, though.

Summary: I really enjoy this polish as it feels the most like conventional formulas, and with a top coat, it has a beautiful gel-looking finish. This is my favorite of the four brands I tried.

Dazzle Dry: This product is a little different than the others because they make a pretty big claim! They say that their cleaner nail polish, when used in conjunction with their “system,” can give you a manicure that lasts 2-3 weeks. Too good to be true? Read on for the answer. **I tested the nail polish without the system by only using a polish and top coat. It was fine and lasted me a good 3-4 days, about like a regular nail polish, so the system isn’t totally necessary, but for the best results I do recommend it.** 

Price: $18 per bottle, however, they recommend their system for gel-like durability claiming to last 2-3 weeks. The entire system is $55, which includes 4 items: nail prep, base coat, top coat, and revive serum, plus the cost of the polish. If you’re looking for the best results, for just one manicure, it’s going to cost you around $73. Yikes. For that price, you could go to a salon and get a couple of manicures! 

Application: Goes on very smooth with no clumping, but does start to feel thick and tacky on the 2ndcoat. Requires a top coat as it looks very matte and dry without one.

Wearability: Wears very well, however definitely does not last 2-3 weeks. I noticed a significant amount of wear after a week, and it had to be removed. The directions did say to encapsulate the edge of the nail for maximum durability, however, since I’m not a nail artist, I don’t really know how to do that without making a huge mess on my skin. Plus, I may just be a little too lazy for that! 😉

Ease of removal: Removes easily with regular acetone nail polish.

Summary: Even though Dazzle Dry didn’t hold up to its claim of lasting 2-3 weeks, I do really like this nail polish. It definitely looks the best for the longest and holds up well, but I do feel like the price could be a deterrent for some.

    Let me know what you think!

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