Nail polish that is free of chemicals but won't chip
June 3, 2014 12:38 PM   Subscribe

Do you know a nail polish that is fee of chemicals like formaldehyde, etc.? I think they call it the 4 free or 5 free.........I tried the polish called "Butter" but it chipped right away. I'm willing to even just have 2 or 3 free if I can have a polish that does not chip the next day. I'm just trying to find something with "less" chemicals than the normal polish. Thanks.
posted by lynnie-the-pooh to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (19 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Zoya is the only polish I wear now. And it is remarkably chip-proof even on my thin peely nails.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:40 PM on June 3, 2014 [5 favorites]

I'm with Lyn Never on this. I use the whole system -- polish remover, base coat, top coat, and color. It's fantastic.
posted by janey47 at 12:44 PM on June 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh, yeah - you really do need to use their Anchor and Armor to get the full effect (I can make it 10 days just maybe touching up the tip of one or two nails).
posted by Lyn Never at 12:49 PM on June 3, 2014

Tons of nail polish brands are 3-free, 4-free or 5-free, including cheapo drugstore brands. Here's a pretty big list. Many of the indie/Etsy polish brands are at least 3-free, too.

Zoya has a huge selection of colors (and their nail polish remover is lovely!) and frequently run promotions on their website, so I nth giving them a try. A good basecoat and topcoat will help prevent chipping; Poshe is the 3-free topcoat I currently use and I like it a lot.

(Butter London is suuuuuuuuper overrated.)
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:51 PM on June 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

Julep definitely is, and I get a good week of no chips, and then can wear it for a few more days before it starts to look bad (and for even longer if I don't care about it looking chipped). Seriously, MUCH better than other brands I've tried, including OPI and fancy ones from Sephora. (Though Sephora does sell Julep now, I think.)
posted by leesh at 12:53 PM on June 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

As an alternative to nail polishes, there are plastic wraps out now called Jamberry.

It's sold in the distributed sales model (Avon, Acai Berry, Pampered Chef, Thirty-One. If you're on facebook I'm sure a friend or a friend of a friend has a hook up for a sample card for their "7-day challenge".

I've got a sample card from a friend in PA but haven't grown out my nails enough to do a trial.
posted by tilde at 12:54 PM on June 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Julep is 3-free and I get a pretty decent amount of wear with it as long as I use their topcoat. Same with Deborah Lippmann. Sephora carries both brands and you can try polishes there so you can test-drive them to see how they hold up.
posted by bedhead at 12:57 PM on June 3, 2014

Here's a great post on just this topic, discussing, in a very accessible way, what these chemicals are, what they do and what the evidence is to avoid them (or not).

Is it important to buy 3 free?

posted by pocketfullofrye at 12:59 PM on June 3, 2014 [17 favorites]

Most nail polish now sold is Big 3-Free. (Whether that really is important or not is another story.) All of the big brands (OPI, Essie, Sally Hansen, China Glaze, Orly, Sinful Colors, Revlon/Maybelline/etc.) are, as are most of the more niche/smaller brands (Zoya, etc.).

Chipping isn't really just/mostly/at all about the polish. It has much more to do with your nails' condition, the base coat/top coat combo, application method, and how you treat your nails than the polish itself. Peeling nails or otherwise week nails will chip (because chips happen when the nail bends but the polish doesn't, leaving a space, which stresses the polish, then it chips). What combo of base/top coat (you are wearing those, right?) works best for you seems to come down to some indefinable 'chemistry' thing. (Indefinable in the 'needs research done' sense, I suppose.) Nails that are frequently exposed to water or trauma (used as tools) are much more likely to chip (again, your nail changes shape/size, but the polish doesn't, which leads to chips).

For *me*, I get terrific wear out of Barielle's argan oil base coat + OPI base coat + Essie + Poshe top coat. But it's really a trial and error thing.
posted by lysimache at 1:14 PM on June 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

I'm a Butter fanatic, but it does tend to chip for me if I don't use their base and topcoat. (Their base is divine, topcoat is eh.)

Nthing Zoya for sure. Their PixieDust collection has had ridiculous staying power for me even without a topcoat.

Pretty and Polished and Indigo Bananas are a couple of 3-free indie polishes that I especially adore, and both have been very hard-wearing.
posted by divined by radio at 1:14 PM on June 3, 2014

My recommendation is a top coat. I didn't use one until this year and it's made a huge difference in how long my manicure lasts - from 1 day to 5 or 7.

The Lab Muffin blog (biochemist PhD and nail blogger) has a multi-part series about nail beauty starting with top coats. Unfortunately the best top coat (Seche Vite), isn't 3 free but the blogger lists some other options for you to check (e.g. OPI).

Another discussion about the 3/5-free topic (formaldehyde, toluene, dbp; I think it's the same author as the above list on Lacquerism).
posted by hydrobatidae at 1:16 PM on June 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

You might need to experiment with a few brands to find something that works better for you; I prefer OPI or Essie polishes, and have had less success with Julep and Butter London. OPI has a product called Chip Skip that dries your nails before you apply polish - it definitely improves polish wear for me, and it probably doesn't matter whether you use it with OPI polishes. I would also use a top coat to minimize wear - I personally am a fan of Seche Vite because in addition to being glossy, it does indeed dry very fast.

Not to send you down a rabbit hole, but Sally Hansen (a 3-free brand) is introducing a gel polish which doesn't need lamp curing and promises 14 days of wear - it's currently available in Canada and should come to the US this fall. I mention it mostly because I would try a low-maintenance gel polish for the long wear - it might be worth filing away for future use.
posted by deliriouscool at 1:20 PM on June 3, 2014

I agree with lysimache - chipping for me has the most to do with the condition of my nails, a little to do with my base/topcoat, and almost nothing to do with the polish. When my nails were weak and peeling, I rarely got a full day out of any polish. Now that they're stronger (I use a strengthener that is not 3-free), I usually get three days without any chips and sometimes up to a week.

I also agree that results from base and top coats seem to vary a lot by person. I personally love using a nail strengthener + Revlon Colorstay base coat (recently discontinued, but still around) + polish + Butter London top coat (so expensive! but dries so quickly and lasts so long on me).
posted by insectosaurus at 1:20 PM on June 3, 2014

Preparing the naked nail properly really helps me stay chip free as well. After using remover and/or washing my hands, I wipe each nail with rubbing alcohol and let them dry. Immediately after the rubbing alcohol is dry, polish your nail. Nail polish removers, many soaps, and even towels can leave oily or waxy residue on your nails that prevents a good seal between your nail and the polish. Rubbing alcohol is a good way to remove that stuff so you have a clean nail.
posted by quince at 1:32 PM on June 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Lyn Never turned me on to Zoya which I resisted because I like quick-dry polishes. The Zoya has such a good density of pigments that it covers fully in one coat so it really ends up functioning as a quick-dry.

I recommend it without reservation.
posted by 26.2 at 1:37 PM on June 3, 2014

I just saw this the other day -- Consumer Reports found that Sinful Colors lasted the longest in their study (I've found this to be true, as well). And they're 3-free.
posted by jabes at 2:35 PM on June 3, 2014

I recommend Sally Hansen - I exclusively use the "Complete Salon Manicure" line... I know it has been marketed as "three free" (formaldehyde, toluene and something else, maybe with a "D"). I have extremely long natural nails (the white tips are longer than the pink nail bed) and most people think they are fake - Sally Hansen products (combined with obscene quantities of cheese) ensure the nails are healthy. I find the nailpolish brand lasts a relatively long time. "Instant dry" type polishes always chip within a day or two though so avoid anything marketed as such regardless of formulation, if you are trying to avoid "chipping" or "peeling" polishes.

If your concern is chipping it could be you are applying the polish incorrectly. In reality doing nails can be a several hour process. I normally do a clear base coat, let it dry a minute or two.. Then one layer of polish... Wait 30 minutes and do another layer (or let layer one dry and do a second layer the next day)... If I want it to last a very long time I "seal" it with a top coat (if I do so I like the Sally Hansen "instadry" top coat but I don't apply this to wet or tacky polish). The top coat comes at least 30 minutes after the previous coat and preferably after a longer wait. If a coat of polish is still tacky before you apply the next layer it will chip easily or peel off in layers. Also if you are too heavy handed with the polish it will chip or peel off.

If you mean chipping as in your actual nail chips and peels due to the nailpolish, my suggestion is to take nailpolish breaks, which I do for a few weeks in between polish applications. Also, either use nailpolish remover with gentle formulations no more than once a month, or let the polish wear off naturally before putting on a new layer.
posted by partly squamous and partly rugose at 5:04 PM on June 3, 2014

I agree with what's posted above; most drugstore polishes and many beauty supply/spa/indie polishes are at least 3-free. The only one I consistently get chips with of the above mentioned are OPI minis, even with base and top coat. I rotate polishes pretty frequently but I can nth Zoya and also recommend Color Club. Certain colors of Essie chip on me (the lighter or more sheer the color, the more likely).
posted by sm1tten at 6:22 PM on June 3, 2014

Everything chips on me unless I make sure my nails are completely free of oils (a pass with polish remover usually takes care of this), and use a basecoat AND a topcoat. I've never experienced one brand working better than another, so I tend to buy Seche Vite.
posted by ersatzkat at 6:25 PM on June 3, 2014

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