In your natural beauty routine, chances are you opt for a nail polish that’s at least 5-free—you know, to keep the toxic chemical count in your regimen as low as possible. Chances are, however, that you seal in that manicure with any old clear coat you have lying around (sound familiar?). Welp, this actually isn’t the best idea—because that essential step of your mani can potentially be pretty toxic.
“We love a top coat for a number of reasons, mainly because it acts as a way to seal the polish to the nail, acting like a shield from chipping and extending the life of your manicure,” says Nadine Abramcyk, co-founder of New York and LA’s clean nail salon Tenoverten. “You can also smooth out polish by applying a top coat.” So the top coat is like the icing on top of a well-manicured cake, you might say.
The thing is, while many colorful nail polishes have the list of “frees,” some top coats actually still contain questionable ingredients. And since many nail salons supply on their own, so you might not know what’s in their formula. “The one potentially harmful ingredient that we see pop up often in beloved top coats is toluene,” says Abramcyk. “It’s used to create a nice, smooth, easy-to-apply polish that leaves a glossy finish. But toluene’s what causes that paint-thinner smell, and at application to the nail, it evaporates into the air.”
According to Abramcyk, repeated exposure to airborne toluene over a long period of time can be harmful to your health—and so it’s definitely a risk for manicurists, who use the substance daily, or avid at-home nail painters (guilty). The key is to find a top coat that’s at least 5-free, just as your colored polish is (and bring it with you to your manicure). “They still work just as well as other top coats that contain the nasties,” says Abramcyk. “Why expose ourselves if it isn’t necessary?” The answer is: You don’t have to. And happy days, we’ve done the legwork for you so you can choose one below.
Keep scrolling for 3 top coats that are at-least 8-free.
Shop clean top coats
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