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Nail Polish Disposal, Safety & More

Updated: May 8, 2022

Did you know the U.S. EPA considers Nail Polish to be a Household Hazardous Waste? Tossing the bottle into the trash or recycling bin isn’t safe for the environment and is prohibited in NYC.

This blog post raises awareness about:

1) Safe disposal of unwanted nail polish

2) Benefits of bringing your own polish to the salon (nail fungus, anyone?)

3) Non-toxic, cruelty free nail polish

My desire to tackle some Spring Cleaning and honor Earth Day converged into this blog post, and it grew from there.

Many of us like to have our nails look nice, even if only on special occasions. Sometimes I try to do my own nails at home to reduce waste. (Salons throw away many single-use items.) Or I bring my own colors to the salon to avoid cross-contamination of other people's nail fungus. 🤢 But nail polish only stays good for a couple of years. I have also been gifted nail polish by well-meaning relatives and students. So now I have a stash of nail polish that I want to Marie Kondo outa my life!

What about you?

Nail Polish Disposal

Do you have some old nail polish around the house you’d like to declutter? I am leading an initiative with mang’Oh yoga to bring nail polish and nail polish remover to an NYC Safe Disposal Event.

Between now and Saturday, June 4th, bring your unwanted nail polish and nail polish remover to class with you and mang’Oh will collect it. On Sunday, June 5th, Chintamani will take it to the NYC Safe Disposal Event.

While we're spring cleaning -- do you have other items such as paint, aerosols or pesticides in your home that you’d like to dispose of? Please consider bringing your hazardous household wastes to a SAFE Disposal Event. This year NYC is requiring that we register for a particular time slot, so check out the website to organize your visit.

Items to bring:

Paint /Nail Polish / Medication/ Aerosol Spring Cans/ Strong Cleaners/ Fluorescent Lamp Tubes & CFLs/ Batteries/ Waste Oil/ Solvents/ Antifreeze/ Pesticides/ Propane/ Fire Extinguishers/ Expired Medication & Sharps/ Electronics

Bring Your Own Polish to the Salon

A few years ago a client gave me a gift certificate for a medical pedicure. The owner of the salon informed me that fungus can live in nail polish! So if you go to a salon and pick a communal color, you might be getting fungus from someone else's nails.

I always like to get other opinions before making life-changing decisions. According to Patel Podiatry, "while the risk is low, it isn’t exactly zero, either. We would still strongly recommend you not share nail polish with any other person, whether at home or at the salon."

Good enough for me. I bring my own color, top coat and base coat. I also bring my own flip flops so I don't waste those disposable flip flops they give you just to walk across the floor of the salon. I keep my items together in a small bag in the closet and just pop them into my purse on the way out the door. I suppose I should bring all my other tools as well!

Non-Toxic, Cruelty Free Nail Polish

If nail polish is too toxic to throw away, should we even be putting it on our bodies? If you can go au naturale, go for it! I don't think it's realistic for everyone to give up nail polish entirely -- at least not anytime soon. Culturally, manicures signal that we are a "polished professional." Or we express ourselves through fashion and color. Long nails are a symbol of empowerment and tension between opposites.

I choose to go au naturale for my fingernails, but my feet need help! 😜

I am no expert, but here are 4 starting points for us all:


Essie is a popular brand available in most drug stores. According to their website: "we remain committed to not test on animals." They also claim that they have gone 100% vegan and are free of 8 key harmful ingredients such as formaldehyde. However, these updated products might not be on shelves at your local drug store yet. Read more here.

Essie is not listed on PETA's Beauty without Bunnies website or their iPhone App. They are not Leaping Bunny Certified either. Essie can be found on the EWG's Skin Deep website, but it looks like the information may not be up-to-date or complete.


Sally Hansen is another easy-to-find brand in drug stores. They came out with a Good. Kind. Pure. line which is plant-based and free of 16 key harmful ingredients. According to their web site they do not test on animals. I don't see them on Beauty without Bunnies or Leaping Bunny. According to their website they are available at Walgreens and CVS for under $10.00. However, I am pretty sure I saw them at Walgreens for a much higher price and shied away from the purchase. I will have to look again.


ORLY - I did a google search for cruelty-free nail polish and this company came up. According to their website they are Vegan, Leaping Bunny Certified, Free of Harmful Chemicals, and Made in the USA. They're You're On Sapphire color caught my eye. Apparently it is "breathable" and Infused w/Argan Oil, Pro Vitamin B5 + Vitamin C! I doublechecked the Leaping Bunny website and they're on the list! 🎉.


Finally, Here is a 2014 article covering a few other brands and specs. There may be updates to all of these products, but this is definitely a place to start.

PS--A friend of mine recommended Ella+Mila

Price, Convenience, Packaging Concerns

I am definitely intrigued about the ORLY "breathable" products, but not interested in paying for $4.99 in shipping costs for a single bottle of polish. They offer free shipping on orders of $40.00 or more. Maybe getting together with some friends to create an order would be a fun project. Some items may be available on Amazon, so you can order several items in one shipment to reduce packaging.

May this post help us all help our health and the health of our planet.

All the links:

Just having a fan-girl moment: Niecy Nash as Desna Simms: the owner of Nail Artisans and a Crime Boss in the Dramedy Claws. Long nails express the tension of opposites and feminine power. Graceful, yet dangerous.

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