Holistic make-up artist Sjaniël Turrell shares her insights on all things non-toxic nails – from nail bars, to the best natural varnishes and nail polish removers.
What is it about the promise of summer that makes us want to paint our nails bright and happy colours regardless of how long we’ve gone without varnish? I for one always get the urge to splurge on a manicure around this time of year. I’ve been using natural ‘free-from’ nail varnishes for over 6 years now as part of my transition to clean beauty as a make-up artist, but also after learning about how the toxins from nail polish can literally be measured in your urine after you’ve had your nails done – a scary thought indeed. Add to that the extremely toxic smelling and stifling air you’re breathing in whilst sitting in that salon chair. Non- toxic nail varnish is fast becoming mainstream as even some of the biggest brands are now at least ‘3-free’, though the best non-toxic brands start from a minimum of ‘7- free’ and I would use that as the ball park guide to choose your brands.
As a mother of a now toddler and a make-up artist who washes brushes a lot, I seldom fork out for a professional nail paint because it never lasts more than 24 hours no matter how good it is – I am simply too heavy-handed and that always feels like a waste. With a baby at home I don’t really have time to do my own nails and let them actually dry without getting smudged within the hour. So once or twice a year, usually before a holiday or wedding, I would cringe and get some regular gel/shellac nails done – simply because they last (and because sometimes vanity does prevail). Imagine my delight at discovering that within the past two years there have been major developments in the nail industry and that non-toxic gel nails are now a thing! Below is a list of non-toxic nail salons you can visit in London (there may be more within the UK, but I am yet to discover them). If you live in or travel to the US often, you will know that they are popping up everywhere and are easier to find. Simply knowing that it is an option to sit in a beautiful space to get your nails done and genuinely not choke on toxic fumes is the only way forward.
NON-TOXIC NAIL BARS
45 Newman Street, Fitzrovia, W1T 1QE
One of the first truly non-toxic nail salon experiences to open in London, this lovely all natural beauty salon & store has moved from its original spot in Marylebone to Newman St in Fitzrovia. Owner Alina has hand-picked every product she stocks and sells herself based on her own journey with auto-immune disease and sensitivities to nasty ingredients – so you know you are in good hands and that you’re getting the highest quality treatment with the best possible ingredients. With options for all beauty treatments on the menu, you can choose your fix knowing that it’s cruelty free to yourself too.
Manicures and pedicures with choices of Orly Breathable and Zoya.
Long lasting non-toxic gel manicures and pedicures with 7-free – 10-free formulas.
450 Kingsland Road, Dalston, E8 4AE IG
This lovely little space opened just two months ago – it is beautifully furnished and has a calm and luxurious feel. I had my first ‘non-toxic gel’ nail experience here and I loved the final effect of my slightly more daring choice – not nearly as stunning and daring as my table neighbour getting silver glitter nail art – next time! If you love crystals and local organic brands with your non-toxic nail experience, this is the space for you. There is also a treatment room for your other clean beauty self care days.
Manicures and pedicures with your choice of Kure Bazaar
10-free non-toxic gel manicures and pedicures with Orly Gel FX Colour or The Gel Bottle colours
Ama the Salon
340 Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, SW9 8QH
This dedicated nail bar opened at the end of 2018 in Brixton – owner Ama has been a session manicurist for many years with a list of celebrity and editorial clients as long as your arm. Besides being surrounded by great art and the coolest pedicure seats I’ve even seen, the natural nail options makes it on point in every way. All the staff are trained by Ama herself, so you can be sure you are in the best nail painting hands.
Manicure and Pedicure colours from KURE BAZAAR
The 7-free gel nail formula from NCLA for your long lasting options.
Content Beauty and Wellbeing
32-34 New Cavendish Street, Marylebone, W1G 8UE
Anyone who knows anything about clean beauty knows that Content Beauty is the place to go to explore and find whatever you’re looking for. If you haven’t yet been to the new and improved store now in New Cavendish Street then you’re missing out! With new stunning treatment rooms, Content now offers KURE BAZAAR manicures and pedicures – perfect for your lunch time pop-in – a lunch time break is seldom long enough to spend there, but if you need a non-toxic nail paint pit stop, then you will get it here.
BEST NAIL VARNISHES
The brands below offer the best quality, finish and colour selections while also being up to 13-free with their offerings.
KURE BAZAAR – 10-free, 90% natural based, cruelty free, 70 colours
ORLY BREATHABLE – 13-free, Vegan, Cruelty Free
NAILBERRY – 12-free, Vegan, Cruelty Free, Gluten Free
BUTTER LONDON – 8-free, Vegan, Cruelty Free, Gluten Free
ZOYA – 10-free, Vegan, Cruelty Free
SUNDAYS – 10-free, Vegan, Cruelty Free
NAILS INC NAILPURE – 10-free, Vegan, Cruelty Free
NON-TOXIC NAIL POLISH REMOVER
Having non-toxic remover options is just as important as using non-toxic varnish. Below are some great formulas that use natural oils to remove polish without damaging your nails.
KURE BAZAAR Nail Polish Remover Rose – natural formula, free from acetone, ethyl acetate and artificial fragrances, cruelty free
PRITI NYC Soy Nail Polish Remover Lemongrass – completely natural, free from acetone and other chemicals, vegan and cruelty free
FRESH THERAPIES Natural Nail Polish Remover – natural and organic formula, acetone free, biodegradable, vegan and cruelty free.
Read Sjaniël’s guide for where to start with ethical beauty and discover her favourite natural beauty basics for every budget.