I recently had the chance to check out a salon in my neighborhood that offers nail care services using a blend of their own skin care products. Zerene Salon exclusively uses a nail polish called SpaRitual, which is vegan, DBP, formaldehyde and toluene free.
Why avoid these ingredients? Well, for starters, DBP, or dibutyl phthalate, is a plasticizing ingredient that has recently been banned for use in cosmetic products in the European Union. DBP is a potential developmental and reproductive toxin that may cause a broad range of birth defects. Toulene is a toxic volatile organic compound often used as an industrial solvent and formaldehyde is great if you want to preserve yourself. It is used as an embalming agent.
How well does it work? Initially, the nail polish is a little more liquidy than the "standard" polishes and you might find you'll need an additional coat to get the coverage you like. But, as the product ages and gets exposed to the air, it will thicken up. I found it lasts just as long and is as chip resistant too.
I'm pretty excited to see that there are tons of nail polishes on the market that are removing some of the more insiduous or, at the very least, questionable, chemicals from their products. Is it as good as not using nail polish? Well, no, but if you like to have your nails painted, make sure you buy safer products. And, if you get your nails done and they don't carry these types of products, ask them to start stocking them. Or, better yet. Bring your own.