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Camphor is toxic! So what’s it doing in your nail polish?

Jul 17 2014

Camphor is used in most standard nail polishes, but the stuff is toxic with a capital T, so what's it even doing in there? Here's the lowdown.

Camphor in nail polish

Camphor: Why is it in your nail polish?

Camphor: we humans use it for lots of stuff. Ever used Tiger Balm? Moth balls? What about nail polish? Lol, of course you have because you have style and are awesome.

Traditionally, camphor is distilled from the bark of the camphor tree. Totes natural and a bit witchy, which is cool. These days it’s synthetically manufactured from…turpentine oil. Yep, the same stuff that strips paint. Hmmm.

Camphor is used in standard nail polish as a plasticiser. It keeps the polish flexible after it’s dried and gives that shiny, glossy look we all adore. Camphor's also used in embalming, in fireworks, and as a rust protector you know. Just casually.

Why is camphor so bad in nail polish?

The big guys will argue that in small amounts, camphor is safe.

But then again, it is recommended you don’t apply it to any broken skin because it'll poison you. Small doses can cause minor issues like skin irritation and redness. Pregnant and breastfeeding women are advised not to use it at all. Same with children.

Inhaling it regularly can cause dizziness, headaches and nausea (spare a thought for the ladies in your nail salon). Oh, and you might get liver damage.


Listen, this all seems a bit doom and gloom. Here's a silver lining.

You can totally find great nail polish that doesn’t have any camphor in it at all. All you have to do is make sure your nail polish is 5-Free or higher and you’re good to go.

All Kester Black products are 10-Free™, which means (you guessed it) camphor-free too.

We're not about that toxic life!