By now, you probably know that common ingredients in nail polish are known carcinogens (formaldehyde) and linked to developmental defects (toluene, DBP). While this isn’t likely to cause long-term health issues if you have the occasional manicure, it is a problem for nail salon workers, who are exposed to these chemicals over a long period of time. Thankfully, a new breed of nail salon is on the rise, and they’re cleaner, safer, and chicer than ever before. These clean nail salons use nontoxic polishes categorized by the number of omitted chemicals: commonly 3-free, 5-free, 8-free, and—most recently—10-free. Below, our favorite NYC spots for a cleaner polish fix, categorized by what they don’t use.
5-free nail salons: no formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, formaldehyde resin, camphor
Where: Four locations in NYC
This nontoxic salon has four locations in New York City, each offering a range of delightful seasonal treatments including the Summer Oasis (a refreshing cucumber-mint foot bath) and Breath of Milk and Honey (a warm, nourishing soak for dry skin). JINsoon has more of a edgy, New York feel compared to a lot of the other salons on this list. All polishes are 5-free and vegan, though the salon does offer additional luxury polish brands as well as gel manicures.
8-free nail salons: no formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, formaldehyde resin, camphor, xylene, TPHP, ethyl tosylamide
Where: Four locations in NYC
Tenoverten has four locations throughout the city, making it one of NYC’s largest nontoxic salon brands. The brand takes every aspect of wellness into account, from the nontoxic beauty products to its commitment to optimal working conditions for employees. The salon has a popular line of in-house nail polishes, all of which are 8-free—plus, vegan and cruelty-free—and formulated to be timelessly flattering. If you’re seeking flashier hues, the salon does offer additional brands certified to be at least 5-free.
9-free nail salons: no formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, formaldehyde resin, camphor, xylene, TPHP, ethyl tosylamide, parabens
The first thing you’ll notice about this salon is the decor, which—in all its pastel Scandinavian simplicity—appeals to the minimalist in all of us. For an extra dose of zen, try the salon’s signature Meditation Manicure, which involves listening to a guided meditation through noise-canceling headphones during your mani. How cool is that? Sundays uses an in-house line of polishes, which they call 10-free because it doesn’t include animal byproducts. In addition to being squeaky-clean, each shade is impressively on-trend—the only problem is choosing your favorite shade of the bunch.
With over 100 9-free as well as gluten-free shades from glittery to neon and everything in between, Côte cornered the LA market on stylish nontoxic manis and has recently set its sights on the East Coast. The brand has two NYC salon locations, the latest of which has white walls, colorful rugs, and a sunny, Cali vibe—basically, a Pinterest board come to life. Don’t have time to spare? The $20 Quick Côte—essentially a polish change plus basic shaping—is ideal for the busy working woman.
This understated Lower East Side gem is on the small side, which is completely part of its appeal. The cozy space is packed with woodsy furnishing and greenery (a godsend for nature-starved city dwellers). While Hortus doesn’t produce a namesake polish, the salon carries a range of nontoxic brands including 10-free options and uses gentle soy-based polish removers plus all-natural lotions and soaks. Bonus: If you’re looking for something special to complement your manicure, Hortus also sells a small selection of handmade jewelry.
Did we get all your favorites? Let us know below!