I was on an airplane recently, and mid-flight I detected a familiar, overpowering, and unpleasant scent. I turned around, and there it was: in seat 13A, a woman was painting her nails. I couldn’t believe that something so private and odorous was being done in such a public and confined space. I spent the next half-hour with a raging pain right at my temples.

Remembering my aversion to the smelly chemicals, I found No Miss nail polish in my local natural food store just before my last open-toe-shoe event. Touted as “all natural,” the signs stated that it did not contain formaldehyde, toulene, dibutyl-pthalate (DBP), or camphor. Thinking that one of those chemicals may be the cause of my previous headache, I gave it a whirl.

It worked well at first: its consistency was slick, not goopy, and it dried quickly. The chip factor was high, however. After two coats as well as base and top layers, I got one on my big toe after only two days. But more importantly, after the polish failed the “sniff test” miserably, I started to wonder how “natural” is “natural” anyway?

It turns out that many nail polishes for sale today are free of formaldehyde, toluene, and DBP.  In 2006, several major brands—OPI, Sally Hansen, and Orly—stopped putting those chemicals in their formulas, which was a great step forward for healthier polishing.

Several of those other companies, however, do include camphor in their ingredients, namely Orly and Sally Hansen. Just last month, a study was published in Pediatrics magazine that determined that a cluster of children in New York City had seizures caused by camphor poisoning. Not good at all.

On the other hand OPI, one of the largest mainstream nail polish companies whose polish stays on for at least a week on my toes, does not contain camphor either. So I started to wonder what is really so different and natural about No Miss after all?
It seems to be just about as good or bad as the other guys: many no longer contain the most harmful of ingredients, some are pretty much free from the bad chemicals, and all of them smell bad. In the end, it pays to read the ingredient list, and not just go for something because it says “all natural”—a superior product that you’re already using may be just as beneficial.

Ingredients: N-Butyl Acetate, Nitrocellulose, Ethyl Acetate, Isopropyl Alcohol
May contain: Mica, Titanium Dioxide, D& C Red #7, D & C Red #6, D & C Red #17, D & C Red #34, FD 7 C Yellow #5, Iron Oxides, Ultramarines, Bismuth Oxychloride, Mica Based Pearlescent Pigments.