Non-Toxic Nails

I took my best girl on a mani/pedi date to PAINT Nail Bar and we had the best time!

The first time I took her to get her nails done a couple of years ago, (it was for her birthday), I took her to my then regular spot.

Walking in and seeing it through her eyes made me realize my regular nail experience was far from ideal. I took in the sights and (toxic) smells and thought there had to be a better way. We left.

Enter, PAINT Nail Bar. Paint prides itself on being an indulgent, ultra clean, non-toxic experience. The environment is luxurious but not pretentious and they made my girl feel super special, admiring her (many) color suggestions and her crown.

Getting my nails done is one of my favorite forms of self care. In addition to skilled technicians and great customer service, there are a few things I look for in a nail salon to make my experience even better.

What I Look For

  1. Sterilized Tools: All tools used during a nail service should be sterilized. PAINT uses a hospital grade autoclave. Tools are pre-cleaned with soap and water, dried, sealed into a sterilization envelope, and autoclaved. They remain sterile inside the envelope until your service begins. Autoclaving is the highest level of sterilization and is standard procedure at medical facilities in the U.S. (in accordance with AMA, FDA & EPA guidelines). This is the only process guaranteed to kill spores. Immersion disinfection, the standard practice used in salons, is not sufficient to completely eradicate all microbial life.

2. One-time use of files and buffers

3. Products that are 5, 7 or 9-free: There are many chemicals often involved in the perfect mani. Some with more potential for causing harm than others. Look for a nail salon that offers products that are free of ingredients such as (list from

  • Toluene
    This clear, colorless liquid occurs naturally in crude oil. It’s also a common ingredient in nail polish and fingernail glue. Inhaling high levels of this substance in a short period can produce light-headedness, dizziness or drowsiness. Yet significant exposures can also damage the nervous system as well as irritate eyes, throat and lungs. Studies indicate that breathing high levels of the substance during pregnancy can cause birth defects.
  • Formaldehyde
    This substance is used in nail polish and nail hardener. Studies indicate it can cause cancer. It can also irritate the eyes, skin and throat, inducing coughing, allergic reactions, asthma-like attacks or difficulty breathing. Even at low concentrations (like 0.1 to 0.5 part per million) this substance can irritate the nose and eyes and has been shown to decrease performance on short-term memory tests.
  • Dibutyl Phthalate
    This substance is often used to make plastics softer and more flexible, and small amounts are used in nail polish and polish hardener. Little definitive information exists on how the chemical affects humans long-term in the U.S. The state of California classifies it as a reproductive and developmental toxicant in humans.
  • Methacrylate Compounds
    Ethyl methacrylate (EMA) is the main substance in artificial fingernails. The substance can be problematic for both nail technicians and customers, causing allergies, asthma and dermatitis.

4. No whirlpool pedicure thrones: No matter how thoroughly cleaned, dangerous bacteria thrives in the plumbing and filters of whirlpool jets. Ceramic pedicure basins can be more thoroughly cleaned between clients and are guaranteed not to harbor bacteria.

The list above not only benefits the client during a service, but the nail technicians as well. By supporting businesses that do their part to promote cleaner, lower tox environments, we encourage their growth and success and contribute to the accessibility for more people to enjoy the benefits.

The services at salons with philosophies similar to PAINT do cost more. It’s no secret. I hope that one day less toxins will not necessarily mean more money (in food, cosmetics, services, mattresses, everything!) but for now it’s the reality of our world. My approach to that is “quality over quantity.” I get my nails done less often, but they last longer, so it all balances out!

Regardless of the type of nail salon you choose, there are a few things that can be done to maximize the “clean” and minimize risk.

  • Consider bringing your own equipment and clean and disinfect between uses with alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. 
  •  Use plastic liners or trash bags in the footbaths to add an extra layer of infection protection. If your salon doesn’t use a liner, bring your own.
  • Don’t shave before getting a pedicure. Newly shaved legs can have tiny nicks you can’t see that are susceptible to infections.
  • Skip the cuticle pushing and clipping. Our cuticles are what separate us from the rest of the world—bacteria, fungi, and viruses.
  • Look for a license. In the United States, the salon must be approved by the state health department and the nail technician should have a certificate from the board of cosmetology.
  • Don’t allow the technician to shave your skin calluses. If your calluses are thick and uncomfortable, opt for a deep soak (often with a chemical solution) and scrubbing to remove them.
  • Do not get a manicure or pedicure if you have any open wounds, including bug bites, bruises, scratches, cuts, scabs, and poison ivy.

Happy Weekend, Friend!

Leave a Reply