Another instance of greenwashing? A Beautiful Life “All Natural” Nail Lacquers

Okay, I suppose I’m going to piss of yet another company. And a PR person too.

But I really, really don’t like fake “all natural” claims.

I got a PR pitch for an “all natural” nail lacquer. Which excited me. I’m always excited to learn about new natural products especially when it comes to a relatively tough product like nail polish.

So, I read the email PR pitch and noted that it said “all natural” nail lacquer. I then checked the attached one pager on the product, and it also said “all natural.” Finally, I checked the website, and it says the nail lacquers offer “amazing wear and incredible colors – WITHOUT any of the nasty chemicals. They’re even safe for kids!” A review by Beauty Snob repeats the “all natural” claim, and enthuses that the polish is worth the price because of the ingredients.

So, of course I look for the ingredients – and they are right on the website for A Beautiful Life Natural Nail Lacquer:

butyl acetate, ethyl acetate, nitrocellulose, acetyl tributyl citrate, glycols copolymer, isopropyl alcohol, stearalkonium hectorite, adipic acid/fumatic acid/phthalic acid/tricyclodecane dimethanol copolymer, citric acid and colors, which may contain: D&C Red #6 Barium Lake, D&C Red #7 Calcium Lake, etc.

For each of the ingredients, an oh-so-helpful description is provided, which makes it sound like each one of the ingredients is naturally sourced without actually saying that it is. Take butyl acetate. It says “an organic compound common [sic] used as a solvent. Colorless, soluble found in many types of fruit.” Well, it is true that butyl acetate is found in many types of fruit – apples get their flavoring in part from butyl acetate. But it does not mean that this ingredient comes from fruit – butyl acetate is not derived from fruit for industrial production. Butyl acetate is manufactured by a chemical reaction (esterification) of a butanol isomer and acetic acid in the presence of sulfuric acid as a catalyst. I’ve asked the PR person which isomer of butyl acetate is used, or, more importantly, which isomer of butanol is used to derive the butyle acetate. Which isomer is used will tell us how it was derived – grain or petroleum – but I haven’t heard back. I’ll guess a plant based source to give the company the benefit of the doubt in this case because the PR person now will not return my emails.

In any event, reading the description of the ingredients, I was struck by the fact that it sounded familiar.  I had heard the claims before. Verbatim. I realized that the description matches EXACTLY with Priti’s description of its ingredients for its Priti Non Toxic Polishes. With the same typo on the description of butyl acetate. So I’m not sure what is going on, but Priti doesn’t describe its polishes as all natural. Instead, Priti describes its nail polishes as free of the toxic 3 commonly found in nail polishes – formaldehyde, toluene and dibutyl phthalate (DBP). Which is fabulous but not quite the same as all natural.

And these products are that too – free of the so-called toxic 3 when it comes to nail polish.  But the claim of “all natural” is a much more significant claim. 

And, it appears that the ingredients aren’t all natural.

Take isopropyl alcohol. Which I use around the home to sanitize. But isopropyl alcohol comes from combining water and propene, and propene is derived from non renewable sources, petroleum or perhaps coal.

Stearalkonium hectorite is synthesized from stearalkonium chloride, a quarternary ammonium compound. Quaternary ammonium compounds are synthetic derivatives of ammonium chloride. 

The various colors can be from petroleum sources. Many are. Again, I have asked for information about the colors being used but the PR person won’t answer my emails. Her last email to me was:

Our nail lacquers appeal to the natural and green market.  We are not using the 3 main highly toxic ingredients that most all nail polish use and that is our focus.  

The thing is, the nail polish appears to be a better alternative than any conventional nail polish containing one or all of the toxic 3 ingredients. But the apparently untrue claim of all natural ruins the product for me. The focus may be on eliminating the toxic 3, but then advertise the product that way – don’t make a false all natural claim.

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Comments

  1. ugh! THANK YOU for de-greening this!!

  2. This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free. I enjoy seeing websites that understand the value of providing a prime resource for free. I truly loved reading your post. Thanks!

  3. Heather says:

    Have you ever looked into Piggy Paint? They are polishes designed for kids, they say they are as natural as mud, they are water based. Just curious if they are as safe as they say.

  4. Thank you for airing yet another false “natural” claim and for your chemical analysis of the ingredients. There are few watchdogs who are willing to go up against the powerful cosmetic industry – please do keep at it.

  5. Awesome! Thanks for all the info. I’ve often wondered about these types of nail polish. Good to know where the other ingredients come from, and reminds me not to use ANY nail polish on my little girl, because there just isn’t any that’s truly green.

  6. Ohhh, how I hate the lies!
    What about “as natural as mud” Piggy Paint?

  7. I wish businesses would take a proactive approach in dealing with questions instead of one based in fear. Just be honest. Is it so hard? Try to have promote and cultivate positive relationships with current and potential customers. *Sigh. Greenwashing is too lovely of a word to describe this. There needs to be a nastier term.

  8. Carmelle says:

    I haven’t seen a real “ALL NATURAL” nail polish yet…..grrrrr!!

  9. I just found this post! Bravo! Yours is the first one I’ve found calling out “natural nail polish” claims. So many are believing the hype, unfortunately. I was getting so tired of all the false claims swirling around in the eco community about nail polish. It’s also annoying that many of these brands are charging double or triple the price for the same ingredients as conventional polishes, but being marketed as “non-toxic” and “safe”. I just published a post on this subject and would love to know what you think!

    http://figandsage.blogspot.com/2011/09/soapbox-organic-natural-nail-polish.html

    (my apologies if you don’t allow links in comments)

  10. I wish I had found your site before I purchased a bottle of this nail polish. It stinks like chemicals just like my old nail polish! I am extremely disappointed and I cannot wait to get rid of it. Thanks for your good work!

  11. steve bortz says:

    Soy Technology (soytek.com) has a non toxic, bio degradable polish remover that is the real deal in the Natural catagore and works well. It has been sold for many months with all raves.
    Steve Bortz
    818 889-2400

  12. It seems like there a few categories of safe and natural nail polishes.

    Ideally, a nail polish avoids the three well known nasties: toluene, formaldehyde, and DBP. Those are well known to be hazardous. Charging lots of money for avoiding that and claiming it’s natural is dishonest. While some of the drug store nail polishes don’t avoid these, two well known cheap nail polishes do. E.L.F. nail polish avoids the nasty three. I think Wet N’ Wild does too. They don’t claim to be natural, but they do avoid those three, and they are cheap (<$2). (A lot of high end nail polishes also avoid the nasties: Zoya, OPI…)

    There are also water based nail polishes. Those are indeed much more natural (and have the advantage of smelling better) but they chip more easily. They are expensive at the moment. Brands that make these are Acquarella and Honey Bee. They avoid a lot of chemicals that could possibly be harmful as well as those known to be harmful. So, most people wouldn't find it worthwhile to buy them, but they please the more cautious and those put off by the smells involved in regular polish and those allergic to regular polish or remover. The benefits for the average person are unknown.

    At the very least though, people should try to avoid the true nasties… It's not hard, and it can be cheap.

  13. AssortedFruit says:

    Great info! Thanks. I was about to buy this, but came across your site in my google search,

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