Is Your Nail Care Routine Hurting The Planet?

Gel polish, acrylic tip, or dip powder? Whatever your poison of choice, I have some bad news for you (and myself), no matter what your option is… for the most part traditional methods of manicures are terrible for the planet.

Getting your nails done is one of life’s little pleasures, or so I like to think. Like shop-bought coffee or starting the new year with a fresh diary, manicures are one of those small things in life that may seem relatively inconsiderate to most but to you and me they can lift an otherwise pretty shabby week into a refreshingly bright one. I personally have been getting my nails done every 3-4 weeks for around 5 years now. Like most of those who take regular nail salon visits, I never thought much into the process behind what goes into the gel polish that I chose, nor about the equipment the technicians used, or what effect it may all be having on the planet. That was until now…


Nail care is an ever-growing business, with 3,517 nail shops across the UK, there are countless individuals who, like I, find joy in the indulgence of a little self-care on a Saturday morning and that number is escalating. As a result of Covid 19, searches for “self-care” were boosted by 250% during 2021. Whilst a subjective term, covering anything from facials to alternative medicinal therapies, also included in that bracket are nail treatments.

Unfortunately, this once little pastime, now booming multi-million-pound industry, has been damaging our oceans and land for far too long and little is being said about it.

When you shine a harsh light on the majority of nail salons, it’s easy to see them for what they really are- environmentally damaging, bacteria breeding grounds that practice methods of nail care that are outdated and damaging to us all. Whether it be gel, acrylic, or standard nail polish, any one of these is considered “toxic waste” and so they cannot be disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner. Instead, they are left in landfills, where they expel toxic chemicals and fumes that are damaging people’s health and our ecosystem. Furthermore, bottles for nail varnish tend to be made up of plastics, which are also non-biodegradable.

However, this is only scratching the surface. If you are looking at salon-level gel or acrylic nail services, pretty much every part of the practice is damaging to the environment on some level. Whether it be the acetone that is used to soak gel nails off, the excess tin foil that is also used as part of the removal process, or the heavy industrial metal equipment that is used to file nails down, all of it has lasting effects on our planet.


Most concerning of all though are the actual ingredients that make up these types of treatments. Acrylic nails are made up of a petroleum-based ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene), formed on the basis of fossil fuel combustion which emits carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. One of the most destructive greenhouse gases, rising CO2 emissions are one of the largest contributors to the imbalance of the earth’s atmosphere. Additionally, acrylic is non-degradable meaning that heat is required to break it down, so it sits in landfills for millions of years. Thus, making acrylic nails potentially the worst of a bad bunch. Gel is also a close second on the scale, as like acrylic it contains masses of toxic components that leak out into landfills and cause a hazard to those living nearby and to the soil and oceans that surround it.

Anyway, I think you get the point – regular manicures are pretty bad for the planet. This is a sad revelation of mine, to say the least, but a necessary one for making better-informed decisions about the places that you and I put our money into.

Fear not, not all hope is lost. There are actually plenty of places and ways to now have wonderfully manicured nails without impacting the environment.

Top 5 Eco-Conscious Salons

Across the UK, there are now plenty of salons offering vegan, cruelty-free, and non-toxic manicures. Understandably, with the knowledge of what regular salons are doing to the planet, there are now plenty of conscious beauticians who want to create a safer space to still get the treatments that they love without the damage. AMA Nails in Brixton and STILL London in Dalston are some key examples of nail bars offering excellent service with an ethical approach. Here are our top 5 ethical salons across the UK:


Found in the heart of Brixton, AMA nails is now one of the most influential manicurists in the UK. Their ‘Free From’ menu features all nail polish and gel that is 90% natural, vegan, 10-free, and cruelty-free.


This multi-award-winning salon is situated in Manchester’s bustling city centre. Known for being paraben free, vegan friendly, cruelty free, and kind to sensitive skin, this hub of organic beauty channels its energy into being as kind to the planet as possible.


West London’s favourite sustainable salon combines natural ingredients with the expert practice for an all-around eco-friendly self-care special. Offering a wide range of natural alternatives to traditional manicures, Lacquered and Stripped specialise in incredible nail art.

urban calm

Urban Calm has been providing Northwest England with vegan and natural beauty care for over 20 years, and their latest salon in Baltic Triangle is no different. Evolving with changing times, Urban Calm Baltic uses only top quality natural, vegan, cruelty free, and eco-friendly products.


This chic nail salon first opened its doors to the world in 2019, in Dalston East London. In an area of London that is bursting with energy and movement, they wanted to offer their clients a moment of stillness. Bringing clean, toxic free nail care in a calm environment for anyone to enjoy.

Manicures From Home

As exciting as it is to know that clean, eco-friendly beauty is only a stone’s throw away, this is not our only option at achieving shiny new nails. Alternatively, a much cheaper and even more sustainable way of undergoing nail care is to do it at home! Brands such as L’Oxygéné and NAIL KIND offer the chance for a sustainable salon standard manicure, from the comfort of your home. Creating vegan, non-toxic formulas that are kind to the planet, these are the kind of brands leading the way to a better future for the beauty industry.

For a sustainable at home manicure, you will need:

Just these few items can create beautiful nails, no matter where you are in the world. PHEW!

If you are looking for more ways to transition into planet-friendly self-care, Wearth offers a whole range of Vegan Beauty products from shampoos, to DIY facemasks to keep you gleaming from head to toe.