Nail polish is obviously not zero waste. It’s not good for you or for the environment. (I’ve only found one blog post on zero waste nail polish!) However, nail polish has become an essential in nearly every woman’s beauty routine. I don’t know one young woman who doesn’t own at least one polish. So instead of advocating for abandoning nail polish altogether, this post is all about my nail polish journey. You’ll find out how I decluttered my collection and what I decided to keep.
I discovered the online beauty community as a junior in high school in 2011. My nail polish collection grew from 10-20 to 50+. Even if I painted my nails once every week for an entire year, I wouldn’t have used all of my polishes. How ridiculous is that? After discovering the beauty community, I found that I loved doing nail art. Though I wasn’t very good, I loved experimenting with different designs, stickers, tape, etc. In my head, my love of nail art made it “reasonable” to own 50+ polishes. But the truth is, I got over that trend a few years later (around 2014) and was left with an excess of polish and not enough nails to paint.
The Decluttering Process
I began to minimize my collection slowly, decluttering the old and goopy polishes first. Then I had to be honest with myself. Which polishes do I love wearing? Which polishes do I actually wear? The answers to these questions were almost always the polishes that stayed on my nails the longest, and the ones that flattered my skin tone the best. I had to come to terms with the fact that I’d been keeping some polishes just because they were a gift from friends and family and not because I genuinely liked them.
Additionally, I have decluttered polishes I was only keeping for looks. For example, I was keeping a red nail polish because I was under the impression that “every woman needs a good red nail polish. It’s a staple item.” It’s very freeing to know that there aren’t beauty staples, or even fashion staples, that every woman needs to have. You only need to have what you desire to own, not what someone else tells you to keep. So start now. Declutter as much or as little as you want. Remember, it took me over a year to get to this point.
My one color club nail polish is 3-free and cruelty free. I decided to keep this color because it’s holographic, and therefore stunning in nearly all lights.
Next I have two OPI nail polishes and they are 3-free and (possibly) cruelty free. I keep these two because they’re great basics. I’m not intending on buying any more polish, so even though OPI isn’t the best brand, I’m keeping these polishes because they go with everything. In my opinion, it’s more wasteful to buy new polishes in similar colors even if they’re from a more clearly ethical company.
I have one Formula X nail polish and it’s cruelty free (according to PETA) and 3-free. This one I love because it’s very bright, yet minimal. It’s not too flashy.
Lastly, I have four Zoya polishes. One is matte and the rest are glossy. Zoya is 5-free and cruelty free (according to Ethical Elephant). They are not certified, but the general consensus online points toward them being CF. I love wearing basic, clean colors on my nails and that is why I’m keeping the white, light blue, and burgundy shades. The matte grey polish is another option for me. I love dark colors, and sometimes I like to mix up the texture of my nails with this matte polish.
I also have one treatment and 3 top coats, but since they aren’t “color” polishes, I didn’t feel the need to include them in my collection. Overall I have 8 color polishes in my collection, but I still think that’s too much for me. Eventually, I hope to pare it down further.
Ultimately, I won’t be buying any more nail polish after I either use these up or they get too old. Weaning myself off of this “essential” will take some more time, but I know it will get easier every year.
I also made a video on this topic: