Understanding Non-Toxic Nail Polish: What Does 10-Free Mean?

Understanding non-toxic nail polish: What does 10-free mean?

Everyone is quick to jump on products labeled environmentally friendly or cruelty-free. While this is a massive step in the right direction and something we will hopefully continue striving for, one should also stop and take a second to analyze the things we put in, or on our bodies.

While something might not pose an immediate threat to the environment, your body could silently be suffering due to harsh and harmful chemicals we are often not aware of.

Nail Polish has been put under the microscope and brands have developed seamless ways to integrate non-toxic ingredients into their formulas to bring you one step closer to a safe beauty routine.

10-Free nail polish is becoming the new industry standard and this formulation eliminates the 10 most toxic chemicals that have made their way into your beauty routine over the years.


Best known as a preserving agent, formaldehyde is used in many nail polishes as a hardening agent. It also prevents the polish from becoming brittle over time.

There have been extensive studies linking formaldehyde to cancers like Leukemia as it is a known carcinogen. People who suffer from asthma are particularly affected by this chemical but it can cause eye, skin, and throat irritations in any individual.


The classic smell of nail polish is anything but nostalgic. The pungent odor released from your tiny bottle of polish is the toxic chemical, toluene, a liquid solvent used in most nail polishes. Toluene ensures a smooth and even finish when the polish is applied on the nail as it suspends the color pigment evenly throughout your polish.

The Environmental Protection Agency has listed it as a respiratory toxicant with symptoms varying in degrees of severity. It can range from skin irritation to lightheadedness and nausea. In extreme cases, it can cause birth defects when an expectant mother is exposed to this toxin for prolonged periods. Cortney Goodstadt, a functional medicine practitioner confirms that “women exposed to this have greater risks of reproductive problems.”

Dibutyl phthalate (DBT)

DBP is used as a plasticizer and solvent to give your nail polish a long-wear effect. It is particularly harmful to pregnant women as it can cause malformations in an embryo if it is absorbed through the skin.

Formaldehyde resin

Even though this formaldehyde derivative is not directly linked to cancer, it is known to cause skin irritations. This chemical is used on an industrial scale in paint production and is also used in the formula for adhesives. In nail polish, it is added as a hardener and is said to keep your nails strong.


Polishes claiming to be ultra-glossy or high-shine are probably using camphor in their formula. This is also the agent that leaves distinctive yellow markings on your nails after it has been removed. There have been many reports of allergic reactions to this substance and side effects can include nausea, headaches, irritation, and dizziness.

Triphenyl phosphate (TPHP)

TPHP is a plasticizer commonly used in nail polish or other resin products to create or increase the malleability and flexibility of the product. Once dry, nail polish should still be flexible otherwise it will be prone to breaking and chipping.

Unfortunately, this toxin has been linked to changes in your hormone levels and can affect your metabolism and reproductive system.


Xylene is a highly toxic chemical that is used in the manufacture of substances like gasoline and cement. It is a diluent that prevents your polish from forming a gloppy consistency.

This chemical can harm the renal system and liver if it is absorbed into your skin. Furthermore, it is a possible carcinogen and can cause allergic reactions.

Ethyl tosylamide/epoxy resin

Quick-drying nail polish is all the rage but the chemical responsible for this instant result has been forbidden across Europe. Ethyl Tosylamide has been linked to antibiotic resistance, a side-effect that does not outweigh the benefit of having a chip-free polish.


This group of preservatives is used in a wide range of cosmetics and its main use is to combat bacterial growth. It has been linked to hormonal abnormalities due to its estrogen-mimicking effects.


Gluten, or Hydrolyzed wheat protein, might seem to be a harmless product considering we commonly ingest it in our daily diets. But people who suffer from gluten intolerance could experience severe reactions to this ingredient if it is absorbed into the bloodstream. It supposedly makes the nail polish less brittle and adds a moisturizing effect to the product.

What is left?

Cutting out harmful chemicals does not mean you are left with bad quality, watery nail polish formulas. Many brands have perfected high-quality products without any of the known carcinogens and toxins previously associated with this beauty essential.

Côte is a leader in the non-toxic nail polish industry and has an extensive range of 10 free polishes and nail care products. They have created over 100 trendy shades in their range while keeping away from toxic ingredients.

Above all that, their products are cruelty-free and vegan. This is proof that you can have a guilt-free beauty box that is not only safe for you but also guarantees long-lasting quality.


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