What makes a nail varnish clean?

That nail varnish looks great! But is it organic? To get a better idea of what’s what and not get things mixed up any longer, let Alexis Robillard, founder of the clean make-up brand ALL TIGERS, walk you through it.

All tigers logo - WE ARE CLEAN - CLEAN BEAUTY

Summer weather is here, and with it the return of a riot of colourful nail varnish on fingernails and toenails. “For some time now we have been seeing two strong trends on the nail varnish market: the boom in “green” nail varnish and, conversely, that involving semi-permanent nail varnish”, says Alexis Robillard, director of the clean make-up brand All Tigers. In other words, we are talking about two trends that are diametrically opposed in their philosophy, since they go from the very synthetic to the most eco-friendly possible. Eco-friendly rather than organic. Because “as yet, it is still impossible to offer organic varnishes that really last and whose colour does not fade as soon as you wash your hands”, says the principled young entrepreneur.

Staying power, and shine!

Because women are very discerning when it comes to nail varnish. Coverage, shine, staying power… It must all be on a par with standard nail varnish! Hence the high likelihood of disappointing them if the nail varnish doesn’t deliver on its promises (or just doesn’t deliver at all!). Hence the flop that was the launch of the first certified organic nail varnishes in 2011. They were swiftly withdrawn from the market following bad customer reviews. In their eyes, the perfect natural nail varnish has to be a multi-tasker. The colour finish must be as shiny as a new penny, the number of shades must be a multiple of nine and the staying power must really go the distance! Basically, it’s a real technological feat! On top of these wants come the technical specifications of the green philosophy (no plastics, frowned-upon active ingredients or petrochemical agents, etc.). With the complexity of the production process in the mix, it’s understandable that the brands having embarked on making “green” nail varnishes are still in the minority. It’s not easy to offer clean nail varnish!

Ecosourced active ingredients and formulations “free from…”


It has to be said that we were starting from a long way off target, with the original formulations containing a staggering number of ingredients that are now frowned upon (carcinogenic or endocrine-disrupting, etc.). So what goes into standard nail varnish? Plasticisers, solvents, preservatives… Most of these are petrochemical derivatives.
Little by little, EU legislation took robust action by banning certain ingredients, such as dibutyl phthalate, which in the EU is classed as an endocrine disruptor and as such, banned. Then, straight from the USA came the “7-free / 9-free / 10-free” trend (i.e. nail varnishes made without 7/9/10 shunned ingredients), which moved the goalposts. Gone are toxic ingredients such as toluene (a skin and eye irritant), DBT (a suspected endocrine disruptor), formaldehyde (allergenic), formaldehyde resins, rosin and parabens, etc.


Cassava and sweet potato

These days, clean nail varnish formulations contain cassava, sugar cane, maize and sweet potato in place of the solvents and plasticisers in standard formulations. The ingredients are also “biosourced” (though more processed than so-called natural products). This is already a great step forward compared to standard nail varnishes!
In terms of staying power, “green” nail varnishes perform respectably. On the other hand, despite technological advances, the pigments used in “green” nail varnishes are currently still synthetic. Because their natural counterparts fail to set in the formulations and yield a patchy colour result. In terms of nail care properties, most brands include active ingredients in their formulations… Those of natural origin of course, such as green tea, pomegranate and lotus extract… In total, ingredients of natural origin can account for up to 85% of a “green” nail varnish formulation.
However, note that not all “green” nail varnishes are vegan, so do check the ingredients of your favourite product. And maybe there will soon be a semi-permanent “green” nail varnish that really ticks all the boxes in terms of naturalness!

Our favourite “green” nail varnish brands on Instagram: @alltigers_organics, @nailmatic, the @manucurist green line, @cleverbeautyfr, @nailcoutureparis, @avrilcosmetiques, @kurebazaar, @zoyanailpolish, @zaomakeup_official, @orijinal.cosmetics, @nailberry_

With thanks to Alexis Robillard, founder of the clean make-up brand All Tigers, for his insight.

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