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Ingredients & formulation

Consumer demand encourages nail polish manufacturers to ditch harsh chemicals

Toxin-free formulas claim to offer increased product safety without compromising on performance.

Toxic chemicals in nail care products have long been known for their harmful effects, but increased consumer awareness on the potential health concerns associated with these ingredients has led manufacturers to take action and revamp their formulas.

Alexandre Miasnik, General Manager at Fiabila

Alexandre Miasnik, General Manager at Fiabila

Questions about the so-called “toxic trio” of chemicals – formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and toluene – were raised over 10 years ago, prompting OPI, Essie and several other brands to remove it from their products. In the world of non-toxic nail polish, 3-free used to be the gold standard. Today, safer polishes are labeled 5-free, 7-free, 9-free, and some brands claim to have removed up to 12 hazardous chemicals from formulas. Vegan nail polish has also emerged from this movement towards more natural, eco-friendly, cruelty-free products in the nail care industry.

Having recently opened its first plant in Brazil, French nail polish manufacturer Fiabila claims to have removed harsh chemicals from its formulas twenty years ago and to have all manufacturing sites free from contamination. “Analysis of some allegedly ‘free-from’ products made at our in-house laboratory shows that they are not entirely free from toxins due to contamination in the plants where they are manufactured,” says Alexandre Miasnik, General Manager at Fiabila.

He says the demand for formulas that are free from synthetic chemicals remains limited, but an increasing number of companies are looking for bio-sourced raw materials, which are synthetic compounds derived from green and renewable sources. “Fiabila has been offering these ingredients for several years now and we are able to formulate products with up to 85% bio-sourced materials while matching the performance of conventional products,” says Miasnik. “The only downside of bio-sourced raw materials is that their price remains significantly higher. This will most probably slow the market share for green products in Brazil, at least for now.

On the other hand, Miasnik states that Brazilian consumers – among which many are suffering from allergies due to harsh chemicals – have changed their perception of cosmetic safety by demanding access to safe products without paying more. “A significant portion of the market is held by big brands or groups that must be compliant. Now both them and the smaller companies have access to reliable suppliers,” he says.

Know for its natural and organic approach to cosmetics, Surya Brasil launched its 7-free nail polish line, Exotic Animals, in 2015. The range has now 20 different shades as well as a base coat, an extra-shine topcoat, and oil seal dryer, and a certified-organic nail polish remover. All nail polishes are certified cruelty-free and vegan as well as free from seven harsh ingredients commonly found in mainstream products.

The latest data from ABIHPEC (Brazilian Association of the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Industry) shows Brazil is currently the second-largest global market for nail care products behind the US. Surya Brasil’s marketing department says the Brazilian nail care market is highly competitive, with over 20 brands operating locally, out of which many are working to offer toxin-free, safe products and driving sales for this category.

The company claims that its products are free from camphor and DBP, which are commonly used as plasticizers in nail polish formulas, as well as harsh solvents that may cause irritation to the skin, eyes and lungs, including toluene and formaldehyde – all without compromising product performance.

Fiabila’s Miasnik says some of the chemicals the company has delisted were clearly showing good cosmetic results and replacing them was initially a challenge. “However, this is not an issue anymore as we have managed to achieve even better results with new technologies such as natural UV-reactive formulas,” he concludes.

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