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OPI Nail Polish Ingredients Review

OPI Nail Polish Ingredients Review Safe or ToxicBack in 2006, OPI nail polish was reformulated to remove dibutyl phthalate (DBP), an endocrine disruptor rated 10 out of 10 (10 being most toxic) in the Skin Deep database. OPI also states that their nail polishes do not contain formaldehyde or toluene. But is it safe?


You might have heard of nail polishes that claim to be free of the so-called “toxic trio,” or nail polishes free of the “Big Five.” When I hear the phrase “free of” something, I look into what is used instead and if the substitutes are disclosed, safer, and have enough health data.   You might find that in order to know what substitutes to look for, it is helpful to understand how nail polishes are made. For example, why are phthalates used in nail polishes to begin with? And is it possible to make a polish without any phthalates? In other words, are they removing all phthalates? Or are they substituting one phthalate with another that may be less notorious, but perhaps only because it is less studied? Does the removal of one phthalate make the nail polish non-toxic?


In this post, we will look into the safety of OPI nail polish, a nail salon popular brand, and learn about what types of ingredients go into the making of a typical nail polish such as OPI nail polish, which is free of the “toxic trio” – DBP, formaldehyde, and toluene.


A list of ingredients for one of the OPI nail polishes: OPI Best Of Summer Nail Lacquer Collection


Ethyl Acetate, Butyl Acetate, Nitrocellulose, Propyl Acetate, Tosylamide Formaldehyde Resin, Isopropyl Alcohol, Trimethyl Pentanyl Diisobutyrate, Triphenyl Phosphate, Ethyl Tosylamide, Camphor, Stearalkonium Bentonite, Diacetone Alcohol, Stearalkonium Hectorite, Benzophenone 1, Citric Acid, Dimethicone, CI 77120, Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), CI 77499, FD&C Yellow 5 Aluminum Lake, FD&C Red 6. (Source)


Let me group them by functions.


Solvents in OPI Nail Polish


Solvents are used to help nail polishes flow smoothly. They are the carriers of the other ingredients.


Ethyl Acetate: a synthetic solvent, irritant to lung, eye, and skin, in Europe workplace exposure is allowed in moderate doses, rated 1 out of 10 with fair data available (10 being most toxic) in the Skin Deep database.


Butyl Acetate: a synthetic solvent, irritant to lung, eye, and skin, in Europe workplace exposure is allowed in moderate doses, rated 1 out of 10 with limited data available (10 being most toxic) in the Skin Deep database.


Propyl Acetate: a synthetic solvent, irritant to lung, eye, and skin, in Europe workplace exposure is allowed in moderate doses, rated 1 or 2 (depending on use) out of 10 with limited data available (10 being most toxic) in the Skin Deep database.


Isopropyl Alcohol: a solvent, irritant to lung, eye, and skin, in Europe workplace exposure is allowed in moderate doses, rated 2 out of 10 with fair data available (10 being most toxic) in the Skin Deep database.


Diacetone Alcohol: a solvent used to make your nail shiny; irritating to lungs, skin, and eyes in big quantities, OSHA allows exposure of up to 50 ppm averaged over an 8-day work shift; rated 1 with limited data in the Skin Deep database.


So the conclusion on the solvents is that they are toxic in bigger quantities. The potential health harms can be reduced by good ventilation. However, we have to consider that nail salon workers spend lots of hours inhaling them daily.

Non-toxic nail polish

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Film-Formers in OPI Nail Polish


Film-formers help nail polishes become hard, resilient, and shiny.


Nitrocellulose: a film-forming agent; a highly flammable ingredient obtained by treating cellulose with nitric acid; rated 1 out of 10 with fair amount of data available in the Skin Deep Database; its effect on aquatic life has not been studied yet though; may contain Tosylamide Formaldehyde Resin, an allergen.


Tosylamide Formaldehyde Resin: a polymer derived from toluenesulfonamide and formaldehyde; is used to make the coating tough and resilient and also helps the nail polish adhere to the nail, adds gloss and helps the nail polish flow well when applied; rated 4 with limited data available in the Skin Deep database; releases trace amounts of formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen and rated 10 out of 10 in the Skin Deep Database; it is an emerging allergen and the FDA states on its website that there is evidence that some people may become allergic to it.


Dimethicone: a silicon-based polymer; is rated 3 with limited data available in the Skin Deep database; while I can’t find scientifically documented adverse health impacts, I do not use it on my skin as it creates a non-breathable layer that may contribute to bacteria trapping; this would not be applicable to nail polish.


The biggest concern here is Tosylamide Formaldehyde Resin. Even the FDA states that there is evidence that some people are allergic to it and solicit reporting of the allergic reactions.


Plasticizers in OPI Nail Polish


There are four plasticizers in the OPI nail polish. Plasticizers are used to prevent chips and cracks.


Trimethyl Pentanyl Diisobutyrate (TXIB): a plasticizer; rated 2 with limited data in the Skin Deep database; a volatile substance and the route of exposure to it is via inhalation (source).


Triphenyl Phosphate (TPHP): a plasticizer; rated 5 out 10 with fair amount of data available in the Skin Deep database; is linked to endocrine disruption and neurodevelopmental effects at very low doses.


Ethyl Tosylamide: a plasticizer; rated 3 out 10 with limited data available in the Skin Deep database.


Camphor: a plasticizer, a waxy scented substance derived from the wood of the camphor tree; rated 2 with fair data availability in the Skin Deep database; may cause nausea, dizziness, and headaches when inhaled, especially in large doses, making it a concern for nail technicians (source).


As you can see while DBP is not used, there are four other plasticizers used. Two of them have limited data and one of them, like DBP, is linked to endocrine disruption, potentially posing a threat to nail salon workers and the fetuses of the women who are pregnant. The EWG advises not to buy nail polish if the label says triphenyl phosphate, TPHP, dibutyl phthalate or DBP. So as we can see, DBP substitutes are not an improvement.


Suspending Agents in OPI Nail Polish


There are two suspending agents in the OPI nail polish designed to help evenly distribute colorants.


Stearalkonium Bentonite: a suspending agent; a reaction product of bentonite, a type of aluminosilicate clay, and stearalkonium chloride, a quaternary amine surfactant and antimicrobial agent; rated 1 with no data available in the Skin Deep database.


Stearalkonium Hectorite: a suspending agent; produced from hectorite, a naturally occurring mineral and a principal constituent of bentonite clay; rated 1 with no data available in the Skin Deep database; it many be contaminated with the possible human carcinogen nitrosamines.


As you can see, both of them do not have any data to know their safety.

Non-toxic nail polish

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Colorants in OPI Nail Polish


Colorants: CI 77120, Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), CI 77499, FD&C Yellow 5 Aluminum Lake, FD&C Red 6.


The prefix CI means that the colorant is of mineral origin and the prefix FD&C means that it is a petroleum-based substance. They both can contain traces of heavy metals. Which ones tend to have higher amounts of heavy metals is unclear. In addition, petroleum-based dyes may contain other contaminants unique to petroleum and coal tar, which includes PAHs and brominated resorcinol. You can read more about that, here.


UV absorber/stabilizer in OPI Nail Polish


Benzophenone 1: a benzene-based UV absorber meaning that it prevents color fading; is rated 4 with limited data available in the Skin Deep database; is linked to endocrine disruption and contact allergy.


Other ingredients in OPI Nail Polish

OPI Nail Polish Ingredients Review Safe or Toxic

Citric Acid: a food-grade ingredient; used to adjust the acidity of a product; is rated 2 with good availability of data in the Skin Deep database; is commonly derived from a fungus, Aspergillus Niger, which may be a genetically modified microorganism (source).


The biggest No-No’s in OPI Nail Polish


The biggest three concerns I have with the OPI nail polish are the plasticizer Triphenyl Phosphate (TPHP), which is linked to endocrine disruption and contact allergy, and the film former Tosylamide Formaldehyde Resin, which is linked to allergic reaction, and Benzophenone, which is linked to endocrine disruption and contact allergy. These are big no-no’s for me. Unfortunately, OPI nail polish is widely used in nail salons and marketed as “non-toxic” due the fact that has none of the “toxic trio,” which is DBP, formaldehyde, and toluene.


Non-toxic nail polish

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36 thoughts on “OPI Nail Polish Ingredients Review”

  1. Susie Kersavage

    I recently purchased Suncoat Girl peelable kids nail polish based on the good rating on EWG’s skin deep database. It has no smell, claims to be nontoxic and does not require nail polish remover. After foregoing the use of polish for years I think this is a pretty safe option. They also have more adult peelable colors. It does peel off of fingers pretty easily, so it doesn’t stay neat looking very long; but toes that get less friction stay painted and cute! Ingredients listed are: Water, Acrylic Copolymers, Mica, Iron Oxides,
    Titanium Dioxide, Carmine, Ferric Ferrocyanide, Chromium Oxide Green, Ultramarine Blue, Polyethylene Terephthalate (glitters). In writing out these ingredients, I am realizing there probably isn’t a truly nontoxic nail polish (ferroCYANIDE??). Perhaps Suncoat peelable is a less toxic choice. Thanks for your smart, well researched blog!

  2. Such an informative read…Just goes to show that with clever marketing we as the consumer are fooled easily if one does not dissect every ingredient, and who has time for that? Thank you Irina for all you do for us😊 You are a real sanity saver! Plesse could you add the Essence Nail Polish, especially their The Gel range, Essie, & Morgan Taylor? Looking forward to find out if there sre ANY safe brands at all?!🤔

  3. Im going to try Ella & mila. They claim to be 7 free. I’d be very interested in your report. There are also polishes that claim to be 9 free.

  4. Great article – thank you for sharing your research. I sometimes go to nail salons and usually bring my own polish, but have in the past used their “five free” or “three free” polishes. The last salon used Zoya polish. I personally use Butter London polish. Would be interested to know your opinion on those polishes.

  5. Hi Irina, thanks for such a detailed break down!

    I’ve been trying to avoid OPI and use Essie instead. Some of Essie’s color choices are rated 5 on Think Dirty app (‘don’t sweater it’, ‘spin the bottle’, ‘bangle jungle’). I couldn’t find any OPI colors that are anything less than 9.
    Since there’s so much variance within one brand, where one essie color can be rated 5 and another one rated 9 … this makes it practically impossible to track … especially when you are at the salon, trying to pick a fun color!

    I’ve also bought Pacifica and Zoya nail polishes. Don’t really like Pacifica (their base/top coat is awful), but I like Zoya .. and as far as I know, it’s on the safe side.

    What I’ve been wondering is that – does the nail polish you use really matter if there’s a base coat? I understand some of the nail polish can leach through the base coat, but generally, shouldn’t we be more concerned with the base coat?

    On your rating list, I’d love to see OPI, Essie and Zoya polishes.

  6. Hi Irina!

    I’ve been trying to limit my use of nail polishes, but with that said I’d love for you to look into some of these:
    -Butter London
    -RMS Beauty
    -Priti NYC
    -Deborah Lippman
    -100% Pure

  7. Hi Irina, can you add to review Mineral Fusion and Pacifica, as they claim to be 7 free..Thanks, Mina

  8. Hello Irina!

    You do a remarkable job and you are also beautiful! I need to try some of your skincare products you recommend. Nothing works for me as I try to look better, but keep aging rapidly!! My face is getting so wrinkled and turkey neck is starting!

    I bought a blue polish from Whole Foods. Soon, I will not be shopping there at all since Amazon bought them out. Can you imagine the products that will be in that store from all over the world stating USDA Organic, but will be fake!?

    Getting back to the polish, the brand is Pacifica. I hate that it has aluminum in it, but it did not have the strong smell and it is “7 free”. So true what one of your reader’s said that we do not have time to look up everything. I do not like 100% Pure. I see another reader mentioned that one. Such a horrible smell and the smell lasts. It also has aluminum. I do not believe there are any that are 100% truly safe. As women, we love our toe nails polished. Keep up the great work in helping us decide what to put in our bodies as well as non-toxic products to use. We clean with vinegar, purified water and essential oils. Our essential oils may not be 100% organic but we use them for cleaning everything. Vinegar and water for the floor. Tea tree and peppermint works well and many bugs and rodents do not like the smell.

    Lately, we have been reading about many tumeric products that contain lead. Yes, even organic tumeric! That is a HUGE concern to us. We take it everyday in water with a dash of black pepper (helps it absorb in the body), and we give it to our dog twice a day in her food. She loves it! We do not love the taste but love the anti-inflammatory properties and many other positive wonders that this spice provides. But, we do not want LEAD! How do we find it in bulk without lead? Would need a scientist with a lab for that! Mike Adams from Health Ranger is a great guy and a whistle blower. He is the one who tested a few brands. He has his liquid brand that we have tried, but it is too sweet for us. Can you help us on that one my friend? Thank you again for everything you do. Amazing!!

    1. Hello, Joanna! Lead is not added to turmeric but would be found in it if turmeric is grown in the polluted environment. Since it is a concentrated product, “naturally occurring” lead would be concentrated, too. You are right, the only way to know is a particular brand of turmeric contains lead would be to test it. I think the easiest work around it is for you to take a blood test, which will show your ongoing exposure to lead. If you find elevated levels of lead, discontinue taking turmeric and then re-test. Let me know if you’d like to schedule a consultation and we can talk about this more. ~Irina

  9. Hi Irina,
    I would appreciate if you looked at “No Miss” and “Mineral Fusion” nail polishes.
    Thank you.

  10. Wow! Thanks so much for this article. I’m often shocked by how many women eat healthy food, take care of their bodies, and then get their nails done weekly and inhale toxic fumes and wear toxic chemicals on their nails. I bought a “natural” nail polish recently and it’s made by a company called SOPHi by Piggy Paint. I’ve only used it once, but it was durable and the color (POP-arazzi) is vibrant. Ingredients listed are: aqua, acrylates copolymers, neem oil, and May Contain titanium dioxide, ultramarines, red 7, iron oxide.

  11. Thank you Irina … my daugther use nail polish and I found for her this one:


    (CI 47000)(3), IRON OXIDES (CI 77491)91/2), RED 28 (CI 45410)(1), RED 22 (CI 45380)(1), ULTRAMARINES (CI 77007)(1/4), Red 30 (CI 73360)(5).ONLY RED, BROWN, BLUE, PURPLE, NO BLACK OR WHITE

    (1) is the ewg’s data base numbers.
    I saw one of the 3 concerns : Benzophenone, but the ones that are really safe she doesn’t like it because is gone fast!…
    I will love to know what do you think about this one 🙂

  12. Thanks so much for all you do to keep us informed, Irina. I am now using so many of the products you have investigated.

    I would like you to look into the nail polish line called “Dazzle Dry”.

  13. I would like for N Missy nailpolish be included in your research.
    This brand is sold in health food stores but what does that mean.

  14. Scotch Natural would be an interesting one to look into, but it seems they either changed their name or went out of business? They are water based. I live in Seattle and there is a local organic nail salon called Julep that is 5-free.

  15. Thank you so much for this information. I was wondering how Acquarella’s nail polish fared since they are supposed to be non-toxic.

  16. Has there been a write up ( review) on OPI gel polish? I can’t find out what is in it! I have contact dermatitis and wondered if this is the culprit. I’ve had a patch test but would like to com pair the ingredients of gel polish to my test results!!

  17. I have been very allergic to formaldehyde since my teens, especially in nail polish. I can wear Dior, Chanel and Estée Lauder with no problems.

    1. Thank you for letting me know, Carol. I am in the process of checking and updating the ingredients. Companies often change their product formulations so it is good to double-check with them before making purchasing decisions. I am glad that you read the ingredients. ~Irina

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