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An OPI Educator's Nail Blog @ Hong Kong

What are the “3-Free” in Nail Polish?

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What are the criteria’s when choosing your nail polish? Needless to say color is the first priority, yet besides that, have you ever really think of the component of a nail polish? In other words, it is the “formula” that creates the uniqueness of texture; color; elasticity and durability of different brands.
Traditionally, these 3 substances had played an important part in making a nail polish – Formaldehyde, Toluene, DBP.  But now, everyone wants to get rid of them because of their “toxic” effect to humans.
What exactly are they?


Formaldehyde does not really exist in nail polish. But a substance called resin is produced from formaldehyde, and once the resin is formed, formaldehyde will chemically change and no longer exist. Resin’s function is to make the polish elastic. Unless you’re allergic to the Resin, you should be paying attention to some of the treatment products instead of nail polish, because, Formaldehyde is legally allowed to be used in some treatment products. e.g. the use of Formaldehyde in OPI’s nail hardeners/strengtheners are regulated under the US Food and Drug Administration; and the products are not available for sale in prohibited countries.

Toluene is a solvent that makes the polish easier to apply. It is commonly found in paints thinner, shoe polish, rubber or even pharmaceutical products.

DBP’s function is to prevent chips and cracks and this substance is also used in other consumer products such as cosmetics.


Theoretically, professionals such as chemists or doctors would definitely claim that these 3 chemicals are toxic, and will lead to cancer. We trust them, but in fact, besides these 3, there are other uncountable toxic chemicals in our daily life. We will need to absorb a lot and a lot and a lot of Formaldehyde, Toluene & DBP until we can really see its harmful effects. Especially the nail products are applied on the nails, not on the skin, the effect is less harmful.


If you are pregnant, and very concerned, then take a break, for just 10 months!
It is something we should decide for ourselves. Different body type has different reaction to certain things. If you know that you are the allergic type e.g. sensitive respiratory system, asthma, skin allergy etc., then you should take extra care when using nail polish.
e.g. apply polish to 1 or 2 nails to test; keep the windows open while doing it; avoid putting onto the skin; and avoid putting on fungus infected nails etc.


In 2006, OPI has already started to research and develop 3-Free products, and devoted to maintain and improve the quality. Other brands such as Revlon, Sally Hansen, Nars etc. they all provide 3-Free products, but the quality varies.
How to choose which is best for you?


Try them!



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