If you grew up in the French manicure era of the 2000s (hello, ’90s babies), you know just how far nail art has progressed. Today’s top nail brands offer many different types of polish. You can apply them in many ways including gel, basic, or dip powder. Of course, there’s the usual sheer and matte finishes, but you can try switching it up with metallic, holographic, or textured finishes as well. With just a handful of high-quality nail polishes, you can create salon-quality manicures right at home.

What is it that makes nail varnish so special? “nontoxic”?

With the clean beauty movement on the rise, your options don’t just stop at nail colors. Now, nail polish manufacturers are advertising their products as being non-toxic. They label them as 5-free, 7 free or 10-free 10-free, or 23-free. The brand’s manufacturing process is what really matters. 

If you’ve ever wondered where nail polish gets its strong odor, take a scan of the ingredients list. Many chemicals are found in nail varnish, some with adverse health effects. Research has proven this. That said, the connection between certain nail polish ingredients and their potential health effects aren’t fully understood and require further study, per Harvard Health experts

According to U.S. Food and Drug AdministrationAccording to the FDA, five of the most commonly used ingredients in nail products include formaldehyde, formalin resin, methacrylic, nail primers and phthalates. Dibutylphthalate is also used for nail hardeners. Toluene was also included. A 2018 study found that the top five most common ingredients in nail products are formaldehyde or formalin, formaldehyde resin for nail polish coating, methacrylic for nail primers and phthalates. StudyIn 2000, the journal Environmental Study & Technology published a report that nail polish companies began labeling their products as 3-free. This was to eliminate toluene and formaldehyde. The current labeling is now doubled. “free” labeling. But because this labeling is not required to be validated by a third-party or approved by the FDA, it’s up to the nail polish brand to be explicit about which ingredients are used or in this case withheld—and sometimes when an ingredient is excluded it can be replaced with a similar potentially questionable ingredient, the study authors note. 

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The gist: Nontoxic labeling isn’t standardized, so it’s tough to figure out what, exactly, is excluded from your nail polish unless you dig deep into its ingredients list. The brand’s willingness to label ingredients without any restrictions is an indication they are aware of their potential health risks and have taken steps to avoid them. But because most of us don’t have a background in chemistry, familiarizing yourself with the brand’s mission and ethos is another way to ensure you’re buying a product that’s aligned with your personal preferences.

Are there any other terms that nail polishes are known by?

  • Plant-based:The product (sometimes known as product brush) contains 100% plant extracts, and other ingredients not usually derived from animals.
  • Vegan:All ingredients are free from animal products
  • Cruelty-free:Products containing ingredients that have not been tested on animals
  • Certified Leaping BunnyIt is forbidden to test animals during product development.
  • We were able to select 21 of the best nail polishes after reviewing a large number. You’ll note cult-favorite brands like Essie and OPI but we also found some lesser-known brands like Kokoist and OOO Polish. Black people value self-expression and artistic expression. From the companies we selected to highlight, to the colors that were used, we made sure the list covered the whole nail care industry. Here’s to healthy nails and mastering home manicures!

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    21 Top Nail Polish Brands to Use for your Next Manicure in 2022: Essie and Sally Hansen. Jinsoon, Orly, Jinsoon.

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