What’s the story behind the new wave of 3-free, 5-free, 7-free and 9-free nail polish? Do they offer a benefit or are we being drowned in hype?

Do you hanker after the latest formulations? If you are either a beauty blogger or a nail polish addict, you couldn’t have failed to notice the excitement about low-toxicity nail polish.

It’s all the rage with numerous American brands and quite a few UK-based brands pitching in – Nailberry, Butter London, Zoya, Scotch Naturals, Aquarelle and Piggy Paint (for children) among others.

So, what’s it all about?

Nail care companies have latched onto this trend amidst rising consumer demand for ‘clean beauty’ free of potentially harmful chemicals. As a result, 3-free, 5-free, 7-free and even 9-free polishes are now on the market. So for the record:

  • 3-free mean the omission of the “toxic trio”: formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate. “These ingredients are used to harden and preserve polish, keeping it flexible and reducing cracking.
  • 5-free adds formaldehyde resin and camphor to the typical 3-free ingredients.
  • 7-free is free of Formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, formaldehyde resin, camphor, ethyl tosylamide and xylene.
  • 9-free does not contain Formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, formaldehyde resin, camphor, xylene, ethyl tosylamide, parabens and acetone.

What’s the problem?

These chemicals are known to possibly induce a range of side effects from skin sensitization to more serious health issues. It’s a contentious area with green beauty advocates saying we should steer away from these ingredients completely to scientists who are adamant that such views cannot be proven and whilst the chemicals used may be harmful neat or in high concentrations (say if you worked in a nail polish factory), for occasional use they are not a problem.

What about performance?

The “free of” products get extremely mixed reviews. Many of them are water-based and appear to chip off easily, be dull on the surface and just not give you that glossy punch you get from Shellac or traditional polish which are, in our experience, hard to beat.

Top tips

If you are keen to go more natural with your choice of nail polish, the key is to look for claims and reviews around wear and performance. Does it last long? Are the pigments dense giving great colour coverage? What about shine? You have every right to demand that your polish actually works. To be informed is to be armed!

We wanted to offer a great product in this class to our customers and we have put a lot of research into choosing our supplier.  So we’ve chosen to work with the award-winning British brand, Nailberry. You can find out more about the founder, Sonia Hully, in our interview with her here. In our opinion, their nail polish performs beautifully, we’re happy about the choice of ingredients and we love the colour range. Most importantly our customers love it! What’s not to like?