painting nails

Zero Waste Nails

“There is pretty much a zero waste alternative for everything you would normally use in everyday life, including nail polish and even nail polish remover”


One of my favourite things to do is paint my nails. In fact, it has become a kind of therapeutic ritual while I travel. A constant. Something that I can always do the same in an otherwise unstructured lifestyle. I didn’t even realise I was doing it at first until other travellers brought it to my attention and then it became kind of comforting.

When I started my zero waste journey, I thought that many things in my life would have to change and I would have to give up a lot of things. But I was wrong. There is pretty much a zero waste alternative for everything you would normally use in everyday life, including nail polish and even nail polish remover.

Most zero waste references I have read will not mention nail polish alternatives and will mostly advise to go natural with the clip, file and buff method. While this is nice and I totally agree with using stainless steel clippers and nail files purchased free of packaging; if you’re like me and like a little party on your nails then read on!



I’m still currently using up my old stocks of nail polish and I just finished my old nail polish remover that I had well before I started my zero waste journey. I think if I was to throw them out before they were finished just so I could buy a zero waste alternative, that would be even more wasteful.

Always remember that this lifestyle change doesn’t happen overnight and that’s ok!



Definitely my personal fave nail polish brand to use would be Kester Black. Kester Black has created the 10-Free™ brand nail polish. This polish does not contain formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, camphor, formaldehyde resin, xylene, parabens, fragrances, phthalates and animal derived or tested ingredients. Kester Black has also never used the ingredients ethyl tosylamide, triphenyl phosphate or xylene.

Since their nail polish is 10-Free™, this means that it is no longer deemed hazardous waste and the bottle can be washed out and recycled. The bristles and handle can also be recycled. Their products are vegan, cruelty free and non-toxic.

On top of being safe for our bodies and the environment, Kester Black provides a great range of colours that dry fast and stay on for a long time. Everything you need in a nail polish!!

Kester Black nail polishes (1)


The nail polish remover I’m now using is also by Kester Black and is a water based remover which is both acetone and acetate free and non-flammable. The remover is made with oils and water so is safe for our waterways as well as our bodies.

The bottle, lid and even the label (all made from HDPE) is recyclable and all the packaging they sell their products in is completely recyclable.

Kester Black water based nail polish remover

Aside from their products having great zero waste qualities, another thing that has impressed me about Kester Black is the sustainable and ethical practices they have put in place. From using 100% renewable and certified carbon neutral energy to using recyclable and biodegradable materials in production where possible to sourcing locally and looking after their employees by supporting them and creating a stress free work environment. They strive to minimise their carbon footprint and overall environmental impact and I find that inspiring. You can read all about it here.



1. Keeki Pure & Simple – This company boasts a 100% biodegradable formula that is completely non-toxic, gluten-free & free from pthalates, formaldehyde, and toluene. They are gluten free, soy free and non GMO. You will need some type of nail polish remover to remove the polish when you want to refresh. If the formula is 100% biodegradable then I would assume the bottle is safe to be washed and recycled. They also provide a fantastic range of colours.

Keeki pure and simple nail polish


2. Priti NYC – This company makes polishes that are vegan, cruelty free and gluten free. Free of toluene, dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, and camphor, xylene, parabens, and TPHP. They also pride themselves on being eco friendly and community minded. But, the best thing about their polishes is that they offer a program to recycle their used nail polish bottles through Chemwise. It’s a great example of a company taking responsibility for their product from start to finish.

Priti NYC nail polish



1. Priti NYC – Priti NYC have created a soy based nail polish remover infused with lemongrass essential oil that is 100% biodegradable, non-toxic, vegan, cruelty free and gluten free. Their remover is also non-flammable and their bottles are completely recyclable.

Priti NYC nail polish remover

2. Karma Organic – This company also produces a soy based, organic and non-toxic polish remover that is free of any petroleum products. They are community and environmentally concious, sourcing their soy from local farmers and packaging their remover in a fully recyclable glass bottle.

Karma organics nail polish remover


As I’ve talked about in a previous post, I have stopped using cotton balls entirely. I used to use them to apply toner, remove makeup and remove nail polish. However, I have now learned it is entirely not necessary to use cotton balls.

It’s so easy to DIY make a cotton ball alternative with old fabric you have lying around the house. You can turn old toweling, old flannel pillow cases, fleeces, cotton, really any fabric into reusable squares or rounds. All you have to do is cut them up and finish the edges if the fabric frays using a hand stitch or sewing machine; use and then launder as needed.

You can also buy reusable cotton rounds online, however it’s so easy to DIY and repurposing old fabric is a great way to avoid creating more waste.

Handmade reusable makeup remover pads



These days there are quite a few non-toxic nail polish brands available but did you know that if you are still using regular commercial brands, they are considered hazardous waste?

This is because they contain chemicals such as formaldehyde, toluene, and DBP that can dangerously pollute our waterways and soil. Not only are these nail polishes toxic to us, they’re also toxic to our environment and must be disposed of correctly. Be sure to contact your city’s hazardous-waste collection service to find out how.


Me and my kester black nail polish


Going zero waste doesn’t mean you need to be a matyr to the cause. Yes, purchasing nail polish still means you are creating waste that will go to the recycling facility but it is ok to still have a few little indulgences in life. We are human and it is important to do what makes us happy. Everything in moderation!! In this instance, I believe it’s important to choose your supplier carefully. Research what your chosen brand does to reduce their impact on the environment from start to finish. Don’t be afraid to get in touch and ask for further information and always support brands with high morals and integrity.

Oh, and remember to always compost your nail clippings 😀

Love Kat xx


  • Grace

    January 21, 2018

    Great post! Do you have a suggestion for buffing your nails in a zero waste way? I only ever see foam buffer blocks. I don’t often wear nail polish, but I do like to buff my nails to keep them looking shiny and pretty.

    • Kat

      January 25, 2018

      Hi Grace, to be honest, I don’t buff my nails but I just did a quick google search and Bea Johnson (Zero waste guru) has said she makes her own nail buffing cream out of kaolin clay and olive oil. I hope this helps 😀

  • Donnah

    February 24, 2018

    Hi Kat,
    I love the suggestions you’ve made but wanted to know how you launder the fabric pads after using them to remove nail varnish? I thought the nail varnish would stick to the fabric and dry hard?
    I currently use a good range of varnish and remover, the pads are my last hurdle!!
    I hope you can help.
    Thanks Donnah

    • Kat

      March 6, 2018

      Hi Donnah, I usually either hand wash the pads with soap and water or I put them through the machine. I’m not worried about them harming the machine or the water supply as the remover i use is water based. I find that the nail polish stains the pads but they don’t dry hard 🙂


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