You’ve heard nail polish should be the “Big-Three Free,” but what does that even mean–and why should you care? Let’s talk a look …

The BIG Three

Also known as the “toxic trio,” formaldehyde, toluene, and DBP (dibutyl phthalate) used to be standard ingredients in beauty products. While most polishes today are “3-free,” some small, off-brands still contain these harmful chemicals. Here’s why you should avoid them:


Purpose: used as a hardener

Problems: It’s a carcinogen. Fumes may irritate the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs.


Purpose: helps polish glide on smooth as silk

Problems: High levels can cause irritation and may potentially damage to the nervous system


Purpose: Keeps the polish from cracking and chipping

Problems: Has been linked to hormone-production problems in a fetus. (It has been banned in Europe and was eliminated by most US producers in 2006.)

Non-Toxic Nail Color

Great polish exists on the market that offers a strong product without the harmful side effects! Popular brands such as OPI and ESSIE are Big-3 Free, but it’s always fun to try something new. We’ve found three we love!

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Nail tech to the stars Deborah Lippmann makes natural nail care fun with trendy shades. We love this sheer grey from her new Whisper Spring collection. $18; Sephora

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 Nausil Zaheer, owner of Karma Organic Spa in Ridgewood, NJ, developed his own line of non-toxic polishes, free from the big three, toluene, formaldehyde, and DBP as well as a completely organic nail polish remover derived from soy. Karma Organic Spa, the final product of Zaheer’s vision and innovation, is the only known all-natural nail spa in the state.  Karma  Organics. $10;



Organic Glam has a haute nail polish line for the health conscious. Choose your favorite hue from the 43 available colors. $19;