Big 5 Free and Cruelty Free? What Does That Mean?

January 03, 2017 Pamela Rodgers

These days, most nail polishes are “Big 3 free.” More and more are turning to Big 5 free formulas. What in the world am I going on about? Big 5 free means that Paint Box Polishes have no camphor, no dibutyl phthalate (DBP), no toulene, no formaldehyde, and no formaldehyde resins.

The original Big 3 were DBP, toulene, and formaldehyde. Formaldehyde resin and camphor are also excluded from our formulas. There is much debate over whether these chemicals are REALLY harmful or not, especially in the small amounts you are exposed to by painting your nails. The effects of these chemicals range from irritative to cancer causing, so really, why risk it? Let’s take a closer look at them.

Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP) - DBP is a plasticizer and was used in nail polish to make it last longer by being more flexible and less likely to chip. Sounds great, right? The problem is, it’s a carcinogen that has also been linked to birth defects. It might be “fine” in small doses, but if you can still have a great polish without it, let’s leave it out.

Toulene - is a solvent that was used in polish to create a smooth finish and make polish dry faster and to a harder finish. It is extremely flammable and is an irritant that can cause headaches. Toulene has also been linked to birth defects.

Formaldehyde/Formalin - Formaldehyde is most known to be used as an embalmer. It is a disinfectant and nail hardener. There is much debate about formaldehyde/formalin as formaldehyde is actually a gas. When mixed with water, it is known as formalin. Regardless, it is a known carcinogen that has been linked to lung and nasal cancers. It can cause allergic reactions and breathing issues.

 Formaldehyde resin - Used in nail polish to improve adhesion, hardness, and durability. This is a synthetic plasticizer that can cause lung irritations or allergic reactions. Some sources say that it does not pose any health concerns and others list it as a toxic compound. Again, if you can have a great polish without it, let’s leave it out.

Camphor - Found in the camphor laurel and kapur trees, camphor is a waxy solid that is used in many medicines and pest control agents as well as in explosives. It has also been used in religious ceremonies. Camphor can cause a cooling sensation when applied to the skin and can cause high heart rate, slowed breathing, and vasodilation (Hello, VapoRub). The problem is that it can cause headaches, nausea, and dizziness with prolonged exposure. In very high levels (much higher than that found in nail polish), it can cause seizures.

We don't need these chemicals to make a great polish. We don't want to expose our customers to any harm, be it minor or not. Something else we at Paint Box Polish feel strongly about is animal testing. It's a cruel practice that just isn't necessary these days. We are careful to make sure that the ingredients we use in our products are not tested on animals either. Extensive testing is done with all of our products, but it is willingly done on friends, family, and volunteer bloggers.

Feel confident using our products. They are safe for you and your children. We have your health and your interests at heart. 



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  • Kristen M. Fusaro-Pizzo

    Jan 03, 2017

    Wow, this is incredible information! Thank you so much for educating us :)

  • Donna DeRosa

    Jan 03, 2017

    Good to know. I agree, if you can make a great polish without these ingredients, then why wouldn’t you. Leave them out.

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