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Eco alternatives for summer manicures

Beauty writer Keeks Reid on how to reduce the environmental impact of your next mani/pedi

It might come as a surprise that your favourite polishes and nail care tools can be considered problematic for the environment. Chemicals such as formaldehyde and camphor have been used in traditional nail polish formulas for decades  ingredients that not only irritate the skin but can also be harmful when released back into the environment. Luckily, with people more aware of their environmental impact than ever before, there are many options to give yourself the dream mani/pedi while being more eco-friendly. Below, we list the key things to look out for to have your most sustainable mani/pedi yet.

Pick your polishes wisely 

While many older polishes contained toxins like formaldehyde, it's now pretty easy to find non-toxic polishes. As a heads up, though, it's key to remember that sometimes brands will use terms like green and eco-friendly without saying how so. A polish might be vegan but contain chemicals that aren't as environmentally friendly – and vice versa. 

So, to be on the safe side, look for specific wording such as vegan, cruelty-free, toxin-free and non-toxic to ensure you're applying polish that aligns with your sustainable efforts. Unfortunately, sometimes clever language and labels such as 'green' and 'eco-friendly' don't carry the weight they ought to in marketing materials. 

You can turn to new brands on the block, such as 516 Polish and Peacci, for vegan and cruelty-free options whether you're looking for a nude or a vibrant touch of colour. The good news is that long-established nail brands are now also offering options beyond traditional polish. Barry M (which has always been cruelty-free since it was founded in 1982) is now completely vegan. Nails INC now has a whole section dedicated to vegan polishes that are cruelty-free and include a stripped-back plant-powered formulation, as does Ciate London with their Plant Pots.

Yes, you can still do gels 

If gel polish is more of your thing, don't worry. You don't have to compromise. French nail brand Manucurist offers a vast range of nail options, including a gel polish alternative. The products are all 84% bio-sourced ingredients (of natural origin and are also free of endocrine disruptors, monomers and hydroquinone, and cruelty-free and vegan. 

The Green Flash range is another great option if you prefer gel nails. The kit includes an LED lamp as the polishes need to be cured under at least 18w – this keeps them looking fresh for up to 10 days. Best of all, there is a lot less faff removing – you can pretty much use any acetone-free remover to clean off your polish. How clever. 

The range, which has a three-step application process, includes a broad spectrum of colours from pared-back shimmers to khaki greens and summery corals. When you purchase the kits, you get a colour of your choice, but you'll have to stop yourself from purchasing multiple polishes for your new gel nail routine. 

Remove sustainably 

Speaking of removing, don't forget to think about your implements. If you opt for the most environmentally friendly and sustainable application, don't ruin that effort by removing with plastic-heavy cotton pads. There are great reusable options on the market, like Tabitha Eve's, which use bamboo and rayon as the base materials. Once you've finished removing your varnish, simply rinse the pad while it's still wet and allow it to dry.

See the pros 

If an at-home DIY job doesn't appeal to you, there are loads of options for the pros to give you the luxe, sustainable mani/pedi of your dreams. Many salons now offer professional brands that have clean beauty options in their range. For non-gel application, you can look out for salons that stock pro brands like Butter London or Kure Bazaar. If you're heading for a gel mani/pedi, then look for a nail salon that uses Gel Bottle Inc, a vegan and cruelty-free gel polish option that doesn't compromise on quality or richness in pigment. 

Now, you're fully informed, make sure you show off your eco pedi this summer!