Curating Safer Beauty: SOPHi Non-Toxic Nail Polish — Too Good To Be True?

Historically, nail care has been a beauty process fraught with toxic chemicals, chemicals and a whole lot of outrageously stinky fumes.

In fact, traditional polishes can contain a slue of yucky ingredients, from formaldehyde to parabens. And nail polish can be particularly problematic for pregnant women, especially if it contains the chemicals toluene or Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP), possible human developmental toxicants.

But what if it didn’t have to be that way?

What if we could enjoy a lovely, polished look (pun intended) without sacrificing in wellness and nail health?

This summer, I discovered something really different: SOPHi non-toxic nail polish by Piggie Paints — a water-based, virtually odorless polish, free from all harsh chemicals. And…it actually works.

4 Reasons to Fall in Love with SOPHi Nail Polish

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1. It’s Actually Healthier

This summer, I found myself combing the internet to compile a little ‘spa-night’ care package for my teen cousins.

I came across a charming polish brand, ella+mila, marketed as non-toxic, cruelty-free, and vegan. I thought these cute, safe nail polishes would make the perfect addition to my gift!

But before adding them to my cart, I decided to check the EWG’s Skin Deep database. And I’m glad I did!

I disappointingly discovered that the majority of the ella+mila polishes earned scores as high as a ‘6.’

Scores for a selection of ella+mila polishes, EWG Skin Deep Database (9/14/20)

That’s the same score given to shades of polish from brands like Essie, a company which makes no attempt to market itself as a ‘cleaner,’ or ‘safer,’ nail care brand.

Scores for a selection of Essie polishes, EWG Skin Deep Database (As of 9/14/20)

I decided to visit the ella+mila website to explore further. I was impressed to discover that their polishes are free from 17 harmful chemicals, as detailed on their website here. But I still wasn’t completely comfortable purchasing a product with many other concerning ingredients (mostly the chemical colorants used to produce their shades).

So it was back to the drawing board to see what, if anything, had received better scores.

And that’s when I saw it! A brand I’d never encountered before, SOPHi by Piggy Paints, a non-toxic, odorless nail polish with shades garnering scores of ‘1’ and ‘2’ from the EWG!

Scores for a selection of SOPHi polishes, EWG Skin Deep Database (As of 9/14/20)

While brands like ella+mila and 100% Pure may be making valiant efforts to ditch some of the more offensive chemicals found in nail care (including formaldehyde, toluene, and phthalates), SOPHi appears to have gone above and beyond in developing their water-based formula.

According to their website, SOPHi nail polish is cruelty-free, non-flammable, vegan, and free from all harsh chemicals, including:

  • formaldehyde
  • toluene
  • phthalates
  • bisphenol A (BPA)
  • & ethyl acetate

A full list of the ingredients utilized throughout their polish line can be found here.

2. It’s Competitively Priced

Target currently offers SOPHi nail polishes through their website, priced at around $8-10.

In comparing this pricing with other premium polishes sold at Target, SOPHi competes well; Target offers Essie nail polishes for between $7-9, OPI for around $9, and ella+mila for $10-11.

After sending some fun shades to my cousins, I decided I just had to try some SOPHi myself! And having recently run out of my 100% Pure topcoat, the timing was perfect to try something new.

I discovered some skews on Amazon, and was able to find a special deal on polish variety packs.

I selected this set that includes two shades of pink, as well as the Primer + Sealer and the Shine Topcoat, all for around $25 (that’s a steal at $6.25 a bottle)!

This set was perfect because it included the base and top coat I needed to get started with this product line.

3. No More Stinky Fumes

Even if you aren’t a huge ‘clean’ product enthusiast, I think everyone can agree that there’s nothing lovely about the acrid smell of nail polish.

Several years ago, I made the switch to healthier nail polishes from 100% Pure. But even with these polishes, free from the “top 10 toxic ingredients found in most nail polishes,” I still encountered fumes aplenty!

It’s because of these headache-inducing fumes, that I don’t paint my nails in front of my children. I wait until they’re sleeping, and then I throw the windows wide in an attempt to avoid said fumes myself.

So when I saw SOPHi’s claims of being virtually odorless, I assumed it must be too good to be true!

A nail polish that isn’t stinky? I’ll believe it when I smell it.

But shockingly, when I opened my first bottle; I couldn’t smell a thing! And even when I held the brush up to my nose, only a subtle school glue-like scent emerged. Exceptional!

In fact, for the first time, I painted my toes during the day, popping back and forth between the bathroom and family room to play with my little ones in between coats.

4. It Actually Works (If Applied Correctly)!

Considering how well SOPHi nail polishes deliver with regards to safety, pricing, and odor, I didn’t have the highest of hopes for the brand’s performance.

It just didn’t seem possible for something so clean and safe to work.

But here, again, I was impressed!

Do these polishes perform quite as well as something like Essie? Not quite; but they’ll deliver solid results, especially if applied using these tips discussed below.

How To Maximize Performance

To maximize performance, SOPHi recommends using their Primer + Sealer and their Shine Topcoat, completing the following 4 steps, and then applying warm heat on low setting with a blow-dryer:

  1. Prime (Primer + Sealer)
  2. Color
  3. Seal (Repeat Primer + Sealer)
  4. Shine Topcoat

All told, 4 coats.

This might seem intimidating initially, but most brands recommended using a base and topcoat when applying polish. Doing so optimizes the durability of any manicure or pedicure, and gives your nails that coveted straight-from-the salon sheen.

If you’re already in the habit of using a base and top coat, transitioning to SOPHi will require just one extra step — a second coat of the Primer + Sealer.

My Experience Applying SOPHi Nail Polish

As soon as my new SOPHi nail polish set arrived, I couldn’t wait to try it!

Here’s an overview of my DIY SOPHi pedicure experience

Painting Experience: These nail polishes glide on smoothly, and dry quickly. I was able to complete all of the recommended steps in the same amount of time (or less) than I typically would with other polishes. But the best part for me was definitely the smell (or lack there of)!

Results: Super shiny and professional looking, just like a traditional nail polish!

Performance: My first attempt lasted five days, before I had a small chip occur at the top of one of my big toenails.

To be fair, that week included a lot of wear and tear: multiple trips to the pool, sprinkler with the kids, and full-time summer sandal-wearing.

But since I typically stretch my pedicures one-and-a-half to two weeks, I wouldn’t have been very satisfied with the polish’s performance, had I not discovered an unexpected perk of this water-based formula!

The Paint-Over

Okay, as tacky as it may be, we’ve all done it. The scenario: You’re getting ready to leave the house, when you notice that your toenails just aren’t what you’d hoped.

Maybe you didn’t think they’d be visible in those shoes, or maybe you’d forgotten how long it’d been since that last paint change, regardless, there’s no time for a complete refresh here.

You grab the polish, and you paint a coat right on over the top of the existing one. It’s not always the prettiest, but you know what they say about desperate times…

Well, if you’re a fan of ‘the paint-over,’ you’re in luck! This technique works incredibly well with SOPHi polish. In fact, an additional correctional coat can be added quite seamlessly.

I discovered this fact while attempting to fix that first chip in my big toenail. 5 days in, I wasn’t ready for a full re-set, so I added a coat of color, applying it a bit more heavily in the chipped area, and followed that up with a coat of the Primer + Sealer and the Topcoat. It took only about three minutes to complete these steps, and it completely fixed the chip.

This salvaged my pedicure for another 4 days, at which point I endured a chip on my other big toenail. I used the same technique to fix that nail, and stretched my nails for another 5 days. All told, I was able to get 13 days out of my paint job with two touch-ups!

SOPHi Nail Polish Remover

Next to polish fumes, the least enjoyable part of DIY nail care has to be the process of removing nail polish. I’ve always found this step to be stinky, messy, and time-consuming.

Switching to SOPHi’s non-toxic nail polish remover, actually makes this step decidedly more pleasant, because like their polishes, they’ve created a product without those horrible fumes!

That said, my feedback for this product is little more mixed.

On the one hand, it smells delightful, almost like coconuts! This is a big selling feature for me, because I can’t stand the smell of traditional nail polish remover.

With regards to performance, I found it about as effective as traditional nail polish if used correctly. Apply the stripping gel to each nail, and allow the stripper to set and soak. Soaking is essential. Wait until you see the polish starting to break up, and then use a paper towel and some elbow grease to work away at the remaining color. And if you’ve ‘painted over’ with a few extra coats like me, you will have to put it some extra effort to break through all those layers.

Some may find it irksome to have to buy a special remover, and may be further deterred by the hefty price tag. I purchased my bottle from Amazon for just shy of $10 (though it’s currently on sale) and it can be purchased directly from the SOPHi website for $7.99.

Even on sale, this remover still costs significantly more than its more toxic counterparts.

But as with everything in life, in determining whether this product is worth it, perspective is everything.

I was able to attain everything I needed to get started with SOPHi, included their remover, for around $35. That’s about the cost of one or one-and-a-half pedicures at the nail salon, and these supplies will probably last me a year, maybe more?

When you think about it in this way, even the highest quality, non-toxic DIY nail care can be incredibly affordable!

For me, it’s a very worthwhile investment in my health, and I’m willing to continue putting in the extra work involved in DIY nail care to maintain total control over the products used.

The Wrap-Up

The Lovely:

  • Non-Toxic (Or at least one of the safest nail polishes on the market)
  • Competitively Priced
  • Available through Multiple Online Retailers
  • No Stinky Fumes
  • Glides on Smoothly
  • Quick Drying

The Less Lovely:

  • May Require Additional Coats (Especially if unaccustomed to base and topcoats)
  • Not Quite as Durable as Some Traditional Polishes
  • Requires a SOPHi Polish Stripper

The recent closures (and re-openings, and re-closures) of nails salons, have challenged many to take on DIY nail care at home. And whether you find yourself embracing, or merely tolerating your turn as nail stylist, it presents an opportunity for exploring healthier options for nail care (I imagine I’m not the only one looking for silver-linings during these unprecedented times).

If you’re interested in a nail polish that is better for your health, and much more enjoyable to apply and remove, I would highly recommend giving the SOPHi brand a chance!

If you aren’t quite ready to commit to something so natural, I would at least consider a switch to brands free from some of the more concerning chemicals found in nail polish (like ella+mila or 100% Pure.)

Are you already a lover of SOPHi nail polish? Have another non-toxic polish favorite? Head to the comments to share your experiences with healthier alternatives for nail care.

Happy Curating!

Safer Beauty enthusiasts may enjoy these posts from the wellness archive:

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