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What EXACTLY is a “Free From” Nail Polish?

When it comes to finding a natural nail polish we often are confronted with term “free from” e.g. 3 Free, 7 Free, 14 Free, etc. In fact, you may have noticed that a natural nail polish doesn’t really exist and if you want to have a safer and less toxic option for a nail polish it’s best to choose a “free from” nail polish. There seems to be hundreds of options available from 3 free to up to even 20 free nail polishes and thus it seems that the best and safest option must be the nail polish that has the highest “free from” claim, right? Not necessarily. In today’s blog and video, we are talking about what exactly a “free from” nail polish is and why some brands have bigger “free from” lists than others and how we as consumers can understand them.

What EXACTLY is a “Free From” Nail Polish?

Conventional nail polishes are often filled with harsh and even potentially toxic ingredients which are better avoided. When companies started developing less toxic nail polishes the “free from” term was created. The first ever nail polish was “3 Free” which indicated that that nail polish was free from three of the most toxic ingredients most other nail polishes did include. Over the years however many more toxic ingredients used in nail polishes have been identified and “included” into the “free from” lists, but it didn’t stop there. Ingredients such as gluten or animal derived ingredients were also appearing on these lists. What exactly can be on a “free from” list and is a list with a smaller “free from” number always worse than the nail polishes with a bigger “free from” number? 

First, it’s good to understand what a “free from” nail polish actually is. Basically, if a nail polish is let’s say 5 Free, this means that this nail polish does not include 5 of the most toxic ingredients still used in nail polishes today. At least that’s what it should mean and what it means most of the time. 

This is where it gets interesting and why there is so much confusion regarding “free from” nail polishes. Unlike for natural cosmetics or even vegan cosmetics, there is no official association or organization who monitors or issues a “free from” mark. This means that a company who sells nail polish can decide how many “free” their nail polishes are. Of course, whatever the company puts onto their list, by law, also has to be true.  
However, because any brand or company is pretty much free to put whatever they like on their list (so long as it’s claims are also true), the “free from” lists have become bigger and bigger where we have seen cases where some lists include ingredients such as “gluten” which would never be in a nail polish unless it was actually put in there. Thus said, unfortunately “free from” claims have indeed become a marketing tactic which sadly also causes some companies to look “worse” than they are. Read on to find out why.

Let’s say you are in a store and there is a nail polish brand which claims to be 12 Free and next to this is a nail polish which is 7 Free. Should you go for the 12 Free nail polish because, “clearly”, this one has fewer toxic ingredients in it? Not necessarily. As mentioned earlier “free from” claims have become a marketing tactic which brands will use to gain competitive advantage. however, the 7 Free nail polish might also be 12 Free and the only difference is that they have not claimed it to be so. Conversely, it might also be that the 7 free nail polish does indeed have more toxic ingredients than the 12 free nail polish. This is why it is up to you as a consumer to evaluate the free from lists of each nail polish AS WELL AS have a look at what is actually in the nail polish in order to determine which nail polish is “better”. We know this is confusing and unfortunate and hopefully it is only a matter of time until an official “free from” label will be created. 

In most cases absolutely yes. Like we have mentioned, any claim that a company says about their product, by law, has to also be true and “free from” nail polishes have indeed been created in order to have a safer and more natural nail polish option to the conventional nail polishes. To this day it is near impossible to create a 100% natural nail polish which is why the best thing a company can do is create a nail polish with the least amount of harsh chemical ingredients as possible. To indicate how many harmful ingredients the company avoids can be determined by their “free from” claim. So e.g. Kia-Charlotta nail polishes are 14 Free and we do not include 14 of the most toxic ingredients still used in nail polishes today or animal derived ingredients. For full transparency, we only included ingredients on that list which are actually often used in nail polishes (I.e. we would never include something like gluten in our list since the only way to even have gluten in your nail polish is by putting some in there). 

Kia Charlotta Nail Polishes are free from the 14 following ingredients: 
Phtalates (incl. Dibutylphthalate (DBP), Diethylhexyl Phthalate (DEHP)), Toluene (also Methylbenzene), Xylene, Camphor, Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde Resin, Ethyltosylamide, Triphenylphostphate, Colophoneum, Organic Halides (AOX), Parabens, Silicone, Fragrances, Animal Derived Ingredients

The good news is that many companies and brands are honest and transparent. Make sure the ingredients of each nail polish are on their website and it’s even better when the brand has thorough information about their “free from” list and which ingredients they don’t include and why.
Have a look at our 14 Free list and more information on the ingredients which we don’t include in our nail polishes here:

In summary, the reason the “free from” lists are getting bigger and bigger is not only because indeed more and more harmful ingredients used in conventional nail polishes are being identified but also because, to the outside, the bigger the “free from” list, the better the product seems and brands are seeking for a competitive advantage. Is this unfair? The way we see it is that as long as the list ONLY includes ingredients that are defined as harmful, unsustainable or animal derived ingredients, i.e. ingredients which customers often want to avoid in their cosmetics, AND these ingredients are actually sometimes used in the conventional nail polishes, than it is of course completely valid to have as high a “free from” list as the company evaluates their nail polishes to be.

Thank you for tuning in for this blog post and video. We hope you enjoyed and if you any other questions, please do not hesitate to contact us! 

Have an amazing day! 

Lots of LOVE,
Your Kia-Charlotta Team

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