Nail Polish 101

You have seen me throwing around the terms “3 Free” and “5 Free” in my nail polish posts.  What does this all mean, anyway?  What harm are these polishes free of?

Guess what?  I’m going to break it down for y’all right now. You will know what to inquire about and look for when you are at the makeup counter , drugstore, or nail salon.

Nail Polish 101

“3 Free”.  Nail polishes sans Dibutyl Phthalate, Toluene, and Formaldehyde.

“5 Free”.  Nail polishes sans Dibutyl Phthalate, Toluene, Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde Resin, and Camphor.

Here’s what these scandalous chemicals do:

Dibutyl Phthalate

Dibutyl phthalate is an endocrine disruptor, toxic to the reproductive system, messes with baby boy’s genitalia development, and is linked to obesity…to name a few.


Toluene is toxic to the nervous system, impairs breathing, causes nausea, causes developmental damage to the fetus, and is linked to malignant lymphoma. Eek.


Formaldehyde is a big time, major carcinogen. Enough said.

Formaldehyde Resin

A derivative of formaldehyde. Not as toxic, but is an allergen.


Camphor can cause liver damage in rare cases when applied to skin. Linked to seizures when ingested.  Nail biters be warned.

Now that you are aware of the “3 Free” and “5 Free” basics, you may be wondering why you should be concerned about this stuff laying on the surface of your tough nails.  Well, nails are very porous, especially when wet. We also rub our eyes, which is something I never considered until I came across this story.

Ok, my doom talk is over!

Let’s brighten up with a list of the “3 Free” and “5 Free” brands!  



  1. Samantha says:

    Fabulous! I love my nail polish, and have been surprised by 3 free, 5 free lists in the past. Looking forward to seeing it. Especially with all of the frankens and small companies, it gets difficult to track.

  2. Alin Bean says:

    Wow! I had no idea..Hello Chanel!!

  3. Of course there’s a 5-free! I feel like a good number of companies are 3-free, but I’m not as familiar with 5-free. I love blogging about natural products and I appreciate this info. Heading over to your brand list now!

  4. Wonderful to know about Chanel and Dior, as they’re much more reliable than Scotch.

  5. Jamberry Nails now offers 5 Free polishes just released 10/15/13. Take a look and contact me if you are interested in learning more!

  6. I see nail polishes that claim to be free of DPB – is that the same as Dibutyl phthalate?

  7. I’m happy to announce my polishes are 5 free :). Thank you for posting this information. It’s hard to know what it all means.

    • Thanks for the info, Lauren? Is the name your company Signet or Aignet? is not appearing when I click your icon.

  8. Thanks for the clear explanation! I was just on Etsy and came across a shop (PoppyNailPolish) that said it was 5-free, but I didn’t know what it meant…I thought there was a giveaway! Now I’m up to speed…