Is nail polish biodegradable?

This blog post will answer the question, “is nail polish biodegradable” and cover topics like the biodegradability of nail polish and frequently asked questions related to the topic.

Is nail polish biodegradable?

No, nail polish is not biodegradable. ​​Because they are composed of plastic and cannot be recycled, they do not biodegrade. Therefore, they have been poisoning the land and water for years.

What is nail polish?

Fingernails and toenails may be painted using liquid coatings called nail polish. Although there are various varieties of nail polish, the basic components are often the same.

A polymer, often nitrocellulose, is found in nail polish and is dissolved in a solvent, typically ethyl acetate or butyl acetate. The solvent in this solution evaporates as it is applied, leaving the polymer behind to harden into a coating on the nail.

Is nail polish degradable in nature?

No, nail polish does not decompose. Nail polish cannot decompose spontaneously due to the plastic and chemicals it contains.

The EPA classifies nail polish as a kind of a household hazardous waste because it is harmful. Take discarded or unwanted nail polish bottles to the nearest hazardous waste facility.

Nail Polish: Is it Eco-Friendly?

The chemicals included in the majority of nail polish are toxic to both people and animals, however, they are often present in negligible amounts, making them only deadly if swallowed.

Look for nail paints that are at the very least devoid of the “toxic trifecta” of formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate. 

Although the “toxic three” are presently no longer in use, nail polish still contains elements that might harm the environment. The issue is that spilled nail paint bottles might contaminate groundwater by getting into the soil.

The biggest problem with nail polish is that there aren’t many recycling options for it, making it challenging to get rid of. There are recycling programs for nail polish, however, they sometimes have rules like not accepting shattered glass bottles or only accepting liquid nail paint.

Vegan and eco-friendly nail polishes that include natural ingredients are the largest advancements in the nail polish market. 

The terms “3-free,” “8-free,” and “16-free” are often used in their marketing to denote the fact that they don’t contain the harmful chemicals found in conventional nail polish.

Is Glitter Nail Polish Harmful For the Environment?

Manufacturers began creating nail paint with glitter in it in an effort to give it a bit more glitz. And notably among younger ladies, it has quickly become a popular favorite. After all, you can freshen up almost everything with it.

However, it has been discovered that glitter is really a sort of microplastic composed of etched aluminum and polyethylene terephthalate, which has a severe effect on the environment.

Because they are composed of plastic and cannot be recycled, they do not biodegrade. They have thus been contaminating land and water for a long time. They may seriously harm marine species if they get into our bodies of water.

When glitter nail polish is disposed of properly, the aluminum component of the glitter, a neurotoxin, may enter rivers and increase the risk of dementia. Additionally, they damage aquatic life.

The fact that microplastics never degrade is another important consideration. They are the tiniest polymers in existence, which prevents them from decomposing.

As a result, they won’t live very long in the ecosystem but will continue to do the destruction that plastic is known for.

Microplastics may stay in your shoes for a very long time and may shed off as you walk since they are tiny enough to be transported easily. They may poison the air, water, and everywhere else they can access more easily as a result.

Standards for Eco-Friendly Nail Polish

I selected the following companies to be on my list of eco-friendly nail polishes:

  • Cruelty-Free: Nowhere in the world may the corporation undertake or commission any animal testing on its materials, formulations, or finished goods. In order to confirm a business is cruelty-free, we compare their policy on animal experimentation to ours.
  • Vegan nail polish is made without any components or byproducts from animals. Guanine, shellac, and keratin generated from animals are a few typical animal ingredients that may be found in nail polish.
  • 5-Free nail polish is made without Camphor, Toluene, Formaldehyde Resin, & Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP).

Note: There are “10-Free” and “21-Free” nail polish promises, however, according to my investigation, there are no restrictions on these free-from claims. Additionally, manufacturers don’t seem to have the same 10-free-from ingredient list, which furthers the confusion. It’s also crucial to understand that there is no such thing as “organic” or “chemical-free” nail polish.

  • Eco-Conscious Packaging or Materials: Nail polish companies that utilize recyclable plastic and glass bottles for their nail polish containers as well as biodegradable lids made of wood or bamboo. A recycling scheme where you may submit your empty nail paint bottles to be properly recycled should be supported, as well.
  • Environmentally-Friendly Production: Nail polish companies that actively and continuously work to lessen their environmental impact, whether that be by reducing their carbon footprint, keeping their manufacturing close to home, running their offices and warehouses on renewable energy, or by planting a tree for each bottle of polish that is bought.
  • Ethically sourced Mica: Mica is a shimmering, natural mineral that is often seen in cosmetics & nail lacquer. Mica is ethically sourced. However, it has been claimed that child labor and exploitation are often used in the mining of mica. As a result, I attempt to question companies whether they get their mica ethically and without using child labor. 

How Can Old Nail Polish Be Used?

Because they desire a range of colors, many women often purchase many bottles of nail paint at once. When they become weary of the colors they now own or discover new shades of colors they prefer, they are left holding several bottles of half-used nail polish.

To prevent harming the ecology, people may not want to toss the bottles away, therefore they start to question what to do with empty nail paint bottles.

Here are some fantastic ways to reuse those bottles and save waste:

  • Avoid Water Rings
  • Cosmetic Tricks
  • Organizational Hacks

I will now elaborate on these.

Avoid Water Rings

Tins and cans can leave rust rings around your bathtubs or any other surface. You may use your clear polishes to stop these rust rings. In order to protect the bottom of your cans from liquid contact, grab a bottle of old polish.

Cosmetic Tricks

You may construct fake stones by painting them with nail polish, which, when placed against a reflecting surface, gives the illusion of a priceless jewel. In addition, by keeping out air, transparent nail paint helps shield new jewelry from tarnishing.

The application of clear nail paint to a rip in your stockings or fishnets will help stop it from growing worse as the lacquer hardens, as you probably already know if you appreciate DIY hacks.

Similar to this, you may try applying nail polish on the tip of a thread that you’re attempting to pass through a needle; as the polish dries off, the thread will be able to pass through the needle more easily.

Organizational Hacks

In order to color-code your keys and make it simpler to recall which key fits into which hole, you may also try applying nail paint. There is no need to be concerned that the polish will prevent the key from fitting into the keyhole.

You probably had no idea that nail paint could be used to seal envelopes. So, yeah, you may stop kissing the seals of your envelopes. Additionally, you may cover rips and scratches on your shoes and luggage with nail polish.

Eco-friendly nail polish brands

Here are my own picks for the top nail polish companies that are now vegan and environmentally friendly.

I will now elaborate on these.


The Australian-based, completely vegan, and cruelty-free nail polish company Sienna is a B Corp. The firm forbids the use of microplastics and glitter in its manufacturing, and both its headquarters and warehouse run entirely on renewable energy.

To reduce the carbon impact of the firm, local Australian production is used to create Sienna’s eco-friendly nail polish. Their whole package is recyclable. 

Additionally, the eco-friendly nail polish line features an internal recycling scheme where consumers may send back used nail paint bottles for recycling.

Kester Black

For individuals who are concerned about people, the environment, and animals, Kester Black, an Australian-based B Corp, offers a vibrant collection of nail polish that is cruelty-free, vegan, & carbon neutral.

Kester Black strives to be as sustainable as possible throughout the manufacture of their goods by designing with the end-use of their products in mind. They also employ recyclable packaging materials, such as their shipping boxes, which are printed with soy inks on 100% uncoated recycled board.


Founded by a black woman in the US, Habit is a vegan cosmetics company. They responsibly manufacture all of their vegan and 10-free nail polish in the US. 

Additionally, the opulent nail polish bottles are packed responsibly with a detachable bamboo top and all of the plastic parts are created from recycled plastic. 

To confirm that the natural material was procured ethically and without the use of child labor, Habit also requests documentation from its mica suppliers.


The nail polish recipes from OZN are vegan and plant-based. OZN claims that 90% of the substances they use are produced from sustainably cultivated, plant-based raw materials including wood, potato, sugar cane, cassava, or maize. All of OZN’s nail care products are created in Germany.

Organic Zao

The eco-friendly nail paints from Zao Organic are created in France with a reduced carbon impact in mind. 

Their classy nail polish caps are manufactured from bamboo that has been gathered under regulated conditions, giving them a more sustainable choice than plastic caps.


In this post, I discussed the biodegradability of nail polish, how to reuse old nail polish, and eco-friendly nail polish brands.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs), “Is nail polish biodegradable?”

Are nail polishes bad for the environment?

Harsh chemicals included in nail polish include the “Big Three” of toluene, formaldehyde, and dibutyl phthalate. 

When your nail paint is unavoidably thrown in a landfill, these chemicals permeate into the earth. All varieties of gel & acrylic nails constitute harmful trash because they cannot biodegrade.

Are synthetic nails safe for the environment?

Fake nails & hardened lacquer that have been chipped or pulled off are almost probably not biodegradable, in addition to the recycling problem. 

These minute fragments may disperse readily as microplastics into the soil and even the ocean.

How are nail polish bottles disposed of?

Pour any leftover polish into the newspaper and let it air dry entirely. To allow the remaining components within the container to dry, remove the lid. When everything is dry, place the paper, bottle, and lid in the usual trash for pickup.

Is nail polish reversible after passing away?

You can remove nail paint once you’re dead since it can’t sink into the bed of your nails (although I have a suspicion that someone else will have to remove it because else you wouldn’t be deemed dead). 

Whether you are living or dead, nail polish remover will still remove the polish.


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