What Does it Mean When Nail Polish is 5, 7, 9 Free?

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If you’re a fan of wearing nail polish, then you may have noticed over the past few years that the labeling of many brands has changed. You may have even bought a 3-free, 7-free, or 9-free product if the formulation of your favorite brand has been one those that have changed.

So, what does it mean when nail polish is 5, 7, or 9 free? Is there a real difference between them? Well, in this article we answer this question for you so that the next time you buy nail polish, you’ll know what’s best to keep your nails as healthy as possible.


What Does it Mean When Nail Polish is 5, 7, 9 Free?

9 Free Nail Polish

Toxic chemical ingredients in personal care products have been outed in recent years for causing all sorts of health issues, including nail polish allergies, skin rashes, asthma, other respiratory reactions, endocrine disruption, and even some cancers.

There have been lawsuits regarding chemicals like DMDM Hydatonin in hair products like Pantene, concerns about heavy metals in mascara, worries about phenomena like “dip flu” from dip powder nails, and more.

And as many people catch on to how these chemicals can cause harm to our bodies, as well as challenge manufacturers for including these ingredients in their products, many have decided to change their formulas to appease the consumers of their products.

This is why as far as nail polish is concerned, free formulas are now a thing. You will see many nail polishes now boasting that they are 3-free, 5-free, 7-free, 9-free, and even 15-free in some cases.

The ‘free’ number relates to how many of those toxic chemicals, which again appear in the vast majority of nail polish ingredients, are eliminated in these ‘healthier’ formulations. So, the bigger the free number, the less damaging the product is to your health.

The ‘free’ number relates to how many of those toxic chemicals, which again appear in the vast majority of nail polish ingredients, are eliminated in these ‘healthier’ formulations. So, the bigger the free number, the less damaging the product is to your health.

3-Free Nail Polish

Some companies began changing their formulations during the early 2000s when the three most common chemicals that are included in the free-from group of toxins became more known to customers that wanted to avoid these products.

These became known as the ‘toxic trio’ — dibutyl phthalate (or DPB), formaldehyde, and toluene — which were used in popular chip-free formulas, because they helped improve the flexibility of the formulation and the hardening, as well as reduce the potential of cracking.

Most chip-free formulas still contain these toxic ingredients.

5-Free

Today, 5-free nail polish is becoming more of a standard for cleaner brands, adding camphor and formaldehyde resin to the banned chemicals list.

7-Free and Beyond

When it comes to 7-free nail polish, they don’t contain the above-mentioned chemicals, and they have also excluded ethyl tosylamide and xylene. 9-free nail polish brands add parabens and acetone to their free-from formulations.

So, let’s take a closer look at these chemicals and why you must avoid them, not just for the health of your nails, but for the health of your body overall.


Hands of the Free

If you want to steer clear of adding toxins to your beauty routine, then ‘free’ nail polishes are the way to go. However, they receive mixed reviews from nail polish lovers. This is because many of these formulations are water-based and will chip more easily. They also can appear duller instead of glossy.

That said, green beauty enthusiasts argue that avoiding the following chemicals is a good idea, especially when you realize what they can do to your overall health.

If you want to steer clear of adding toxins to your beauty routine, then ‘free’ nail polishes are the way to go. However, they receive mixed reviews from nail polish lovers.

1. Acetone

This is a highly flammable chemical that has a strong smell that’s usually associated with nail polish remover. Breathing it in can cause headaches, dizziness, confusion, and nausea, as well as irritate your mucus membranes, but it has also been associated with shortening menstrual cycles.

Acetone is a natural product, produced by the body. But regular exposure on your fingers isn’t great.

2. Camphor

Organic camphor comes from trees, but it’s the synthetic version that’s used in nail polish.

Overexposure to camphor fumes will disorientate users, as well as cause nausea, dizziness, accelerated heartbeat, increased sweating, and headaches, which happens to many nail technicians.

3. Dibutyl Phthalate

Also known as DPB, dibutyl phthalate has been listed as a suspected endocrine disruptor in both the U.S. and Europe because it interferes with normal hormone function. This means that it can affect fertility, as well as cause birth defects.

It can even cause health issues like both liver and kidney failure in children.

4. Ethyl Tosylamide

This chemical has been found unsafe for use in cosmetics but has been used as a plasticizer, which means that it helps transform nail polish from liquid to solid within minutes.

It has been banned from use in Europe because it also contains antibiotic properties, which has fuelled concern about the rise in antibiotic resistance.

5. Formaldehyde

According to the National Cancer Institute, even low-level exposure to formaldehyde can cause watery and burning sensations in the eyes, as well as irritation to the nose and throat, coughing, wheezing, nausea, and skin irritation.

Meanwhile, there has been extensive research that suggests that long-term exposure makes this chemical carcinogenic, which means it could cause cancer.

6. Formaldehyde Resin

This chemical is a variety of formaldehyde, not surprisingly, and although technically it’s not considered a carcinogenic, according to the Environmental Working Group, it has been classified as a skin irritant and is known to be toxic to the immune system.

7. Parabens

These toxic chemicals include methylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben, and they have gotten a bad rap over the years, because of the way they mimic estrogen in the body. This effect can trigger hormonal and reproductive issues, as well as increase the risk of cancers, especially breast cancer.

These toxic chemicals include methylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben, and they have gotten a bad rap over the years, because of the way they mimic estrogen in the body.

8. Toluene

Toluene is a chemical compound that is used in glue, paint products, varnishes, and nail polishes.

Breathing it in, even accidentally, can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation, as well as have an adverse effect on the nervous system.

9. Xylene

Just like toluene, Xylene is a compound that’s found in petroleum-based products like paint thinners — and nail polish.

Even low-level exposure can make you dizzy and cause headaches.

Long-term exposure will eventually lead to gastrointestinal issues, as well as respiratory and kidney problems.


To The Nines… And Beyond

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Now that you know you have a choice, wouldn’t it be a wise decision to steer clear of the above ingredients in nail polish if you value your health and happiness? If your answer is yes, then luckily we have some recommendations for you below, which even go beyond 9-free…

1. Zoya’s Nail Polish 10-Free 

ZOYA Nail Polish, Rebel, 0.5 Fl Oz (Pack of 1)
  • Big 10 Free
  • Long Wear Formula
  • Vegan Friendly
  • Professional Salon Formula

Zoya’s Nail Polish is a 10-free formula that comes in a range of more than 467 great colors and special effect toppers, which include pixie dust and glitter. The brand has won many awards for its clean formula and is a favorite among celebrities and fashion catwalks.

The clean Zoya range is suitable for use by pregnant women, and the other nail products in its range include a nail polish remover, base coat, and Naked Manicure Glossy Seal Top Coat, which provides nails with an additional option for those who like manicures with a high shine.

1. Pacifica Beauty’s Plant Magic 9-Free Nail Polish 

Sale
Pacifica Beauty, Plant Magic Nail Polish Set, Longwear Formula, Vegan & Cruelty Free, 3 Count
  • CLEAN BIO-BASED FORMULA with up to 80%...
  • 3 VIBRANT SHIMMER COLORS Star Gaze...
  • LONG WEAR FORMULA and 100% SATISFACTION...
  • 16 FREE FORMULA made without animals,...
  • 100% VEGAN AND CRUELTY-FREE safe for the...

Pacifica Beauty’s Plant Magic Nail Polish Set is an innovative clean and 16-free bio-based formula that will have your nails sparkling with vibrant magical shades. The brand’s long-lasting and clean formula contains 80% bio-sourced ingredients that are sourced from renewable vegetable biomass.

The three shimmering colors in this set include Star Gaze (purple silver), Mermaid Tail (blue/green chrome), and Fairy Dust (purple silver glitter).

Plus, Plant Magic’s long-lasting formula is free of the top 9-free, as well as triphenyl phosphate, bisphenol A (BPA), sulfates, e-series glycol ethers, benzophenone, and 1, 2, nonylphenol ethoxylate for a nail polish that stays without the need for the top coat.

1. Londontown Lakur Enhanced Color Nail Polish 16-Free Nail Polish 

Londontown Lakur Enhanced Color Nail Polish also goes beyond the usual free-from list with its 16-free breakthrough formula, which gives nails the right amount of color while also providing them with hydration and strength.

The family-run business produces a range of more than 80 colors that will give your nails a flawless gel-like finish that hides any imperfections and can be applied effortlessly for a quick and easy manicure that doesn’t need a base or top coat to work.

1. Sally Hansen Good. Kind. Pure. 16-Free Nail Polish 

Sale
Sally Hansen Good. Kind. Pure Vegan Nail Colour, Be-gone-ia, 0.33 Fl Oz, Packaging May Vary
  • GOOD.KIND.PURE.: Sally Hansen...
  • NATURE IN A BOTTLE: Natural,...
  • 16-free: No formaldehyde, formaldehyde...
  • DOWN TO THE BRUSH: Comes with 100%...
  • RADIANCE THAT LASTS: Four days of rich...

And you may be pleased to know that old-school nail polish brand Sally Hansen has even got in on the clean beauty action. It’s Good. Kind. Pure. Nail Polish is also a 16-free formulation that is both 100% plant-based (including the brush’s bristles), as well as 100% vegan.

It has been produced to last for up to four days without chipping and comes in 30 rich colors. The clean and healthier range of nail polish also includes a both top coat and hardener for streak-free application.


Conclusion

So, what does it mean when nail polish is 5, 7, or 9 free? It means it’s free of many chemcials labeled toxic, including the toxic trio. The higher the number, the safer the polish, but you may not like the look as much.

We’ve also given you some recommendations that go beyond the nines, so that you can rock glamorous nails safely in the knowledge that you’ll be treating them with the TLC that they deserve.

Written by Kayla Young

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