Known as the ‘lipstick effect’, recent years of recession have seen sales of cosmetics soar, with consumers wanting a cheap treat to brighten their day. In 2011 61% of British women bought nail varnish, resulting in £221 million worth of sales. And yet, so few of us ever stop to think what our nail varnish is made of.
Three often quoted ingredients of nail varnish are Formaldehyde, Toluene and DBP. Of these 3, I had previously only heard of formaldehyde – it’s what Damien Hirst pickles his cows in. However formaldehyde is a gas and as such is never used in nail varnish. What is most commonly used is a formaldehyde compound which apparently helps to preserve and harden nails. Toluene is used to help the nail varnish go on smoothly and stick to the nail and DBP is a plasticiser which helps prevent chips in the varnish.
So that’s the science bit done, why is this toxic trio so notorious? The simple answer is that they’ve all been linked to health concerns. Birth defects, certain cancers, underdeveloped genitals, kidney disease, the list goes on. In recent years the cosmetic industry has been keen to stress that only trace amounts are used in their cosmetics, but this isn’t always enough with the EU and certain US governing bodies banning the ingredients.
Following on from all this, many cosmetics companies now advertise that they do not use any of these ingredients, hence Butter London‘s 3 Free Colour Clash collection. I was informed that due to the lack of these chemicals the 3 Free collection, although bright, are not as vivid as some of the recent neon trends. However, with the application of a layer of white varnish underneath, any 3 Free Nail Lacquer can become neon. Hurrah for that, it’s like having two colours in one bottle (or, more accurately, 3 colours in 2 bottles).
So how did they fare? Actually, I loved them. Firstly I tried ‘Cake-Hole’ a bright pink shade. I alternated fingers, making some neon and some plain. Personally I think I preferred the plain version of this. It’s quite a matte colour and seems thinner somehow in it’s consistency which I felt would make it less likely to chip, clog and dry out, but I’ll have to let you know at a later date if I’m correct. Moreover, this range is all ‘colour-true’, meaning with 2 coats you have the exact colour you see in the bottle. Even though it feels quite thin, it doesn’t look thin.
Next, I tried ‘Silly Billy’, a bright orange colour. I’m quite in to orange nail varnish at the moment and this doesn’t disappoint. Again, I alternated with normal and neon but this time I can’t decide which I prefer. Both are ace! Similarly, it’s colour true, nice consistency and a decent sized bottle. Ok, so at £12-15 it is a bit more expensive than some brands, but the colours are so joyous, the packaging and names are fun and youthful and you know there’s no nastiness in the ingredients. What have you got to lose?