A closer look: an 11-big-free nail polish by Korres | Range Review #9.4

In acceptance with the fact that there is no 100% organic & vegan nail polish out there, I’m exploring one of the cleanest conventional possibilities we’ve got.

korres-nailpolish-90-pale-green-reviewedNOTE: I am updating this post from time to time with new colours and insights. We’re at version 4 right now 😉


After a little research I decided to give Korres nail polishes a try. The complete Korres nail polish range called Myrrh & Oligo-Elements is advertised as vegan and free from eleven “baddies” which sounded good already.
Colours offered contain 18 basic colours plus seasonal additions, right now I counted fabulous 31 available: from nude/beige to a lot of pinks, several coral/orange shades, two yellows, three blues, one green, several dark and classic reds.

The lacquers aren’t water-based like Scotch Naturals I’ve already reviewed but still, they are 11-free:

No mineral oils (nb: can contain one pigment derived from petroleum, view below)
No Propylenglycol
No Ethanolamine
No Parabenes
No Silicones
No Acetone (nb: contains another solvent, Isopropyl alcohol which acetone is derived from)
No Phtalates
No Formaldehyde
No Camphor
No Toluene
No Xylene (you’ll see current claims that it’s an “ancient” ingredient not used in polish anymore; however when this post first went live, xylene was still found in older products, and I’m leaving it here for the sake of documentation)

Which is awesome. But we remember that it’s still a chemical, it contains solvents, it contains colourings (no shit, Sherlock, it’s a lacquer!), plasticizers, stabilizers, emulsifiers and filmogens. And doesn’t that sound promising for a little INCI check!



As discussed before, the customer asks for a quick-drying, long-lasting, nail-protecting lacquer, maybe one for some fancy nailart, too. So in order to give us that, the companies who are willing to cut out Really Bad Stuff still need a lot of chemical compounds to give the customer what she asks for.

Nevertheless I was curious what exactly is a nail polish made of, one that goes without the worst eleven possible chemicals!
Is it toxin-free?
How good does it wear? 

Ingredients must be declared in the EU, so here’s the full list of what’s in those bottles, in order of appearance, as it can be found on Korres’ website.
The toxicity – or harmlessness – info was researched by Yours Truly using my fave tools of choice and the ever so reliable Wikipedia, and is as up to date as those resources.

Ingredient reading help: Each ingredient that makes more than 1% of the overall formula is listed in descending order of concentration. Ingredients <1% are listed in the end in whatever order the manufacturer chooses. It’s not possible to tell how much of each is in the product exactly, but as a rule of thumb you can guess that first 3 to 10 ingredients are main ingredients (not to confuse with active agents aka advertised on the packaging).

INCI list (here’s your TL;DR version: 4 irritants, 3 – low toxicity, 8 safe, 2 potentially contaminated, 1 – no data, 2 – contradictory data):
-Ethyl Acetate – a solvent – a low-risk irritant with a threshold limit value, flammable, can’t be used with organic cosmetics, dries the skin, shouldn’t be breathed in.
-Butyl Acetate – a solvent – same as Ethyl Acetate.
Just a thought:
is that where dry cuticles come from?
I’ve noticed that whenever I went lacquer-free, I never had cuticle issues.

Nitrocellulose – a plasticizer – highly flammable, not very toxic, mostly plant-derived.
What a fiery start! 
-Adipic Acid/Neopentyl Glycol/Trimetillic Anhydride Copolymer – an acidifier – an eye irritant.
-Acetyl Tributyl Citrate – a film-forming substance/plascticizer – biodegradable with only low toxicity.
-Isopropyl Alcohol – a solvent – a skin/eye irritant which acetone is made from.
-Stearalkonium Hectorite – an antistatic used as thickening agent – no known concerns.
-Sucrose Acetate Isobutyrate – aka E444, a plant-derived plasticizer/emulsifier – no known concerns.
First two all-safe ingredients.

Acrylates Copolymer – an emulsifier – not toxic inself, the EWG’s database says it could be contaminated with other chemicals.
Etocrylene – a UV absorber/filter – no known concerns except for being potentially enviromentally not safe.
-Pentaerythrityl Tetraisostearate – a synthetic emulsifier – no data.
-Commiphora Myrrha Extract – found in the nail polish name – a non-toxic plant extract with healing properties.
Polysorbate 20 – an emulsifier – considered safe but again, it’s the EWG’s cosmetic database that points at possible contamination with *gulp* 1,4 Dioxane and Ethylene Oxide.
-Calcium Pantothenate – aka Vitamin B5, derived chemically – has healing properties and is cosidered an absolutely safe cosmetics ingredient.
-Cysteine (Amino Acid) – aka E920 is an amino acid.
-Silica – a silicon dioxide (silicon is not to be confused with silicone) – warnings concern silica dust only which heavily irritates lungs.
-Zinc Lactate – a skin protectant – ratings range from recommendable with Codecheck to moderate hazard with EWG.
-Ferrous Gluconate – iron – considered pretty safe.
-Panthenol – aka Provitamin B5, derived chemically – soothing, considered safe but not used in natural cosmetics.
-Barium Sulfate – a pigment (and you might know it as a radiocontrast agent) – toxic and bioaccumulative when inhalted or ingested, but considered rather safe since insoluble; not used in natural cosmetics.

[+/- (May contain – TL;DR version: these are, from all I found, probably safe for use in cosmetics):
Mica – which is okay as long as it’s not pulverised,
CI 77891 – a white pigment aka Titanium Dioxide,
CI 15850 – a red pigment,
CI 19140 – a yellow pigment aka Tartrazine aka E102 aka FD&C Yellow 5, an azo dye – reported health problems as food colouring,
CI 77266 – a black pigment,
CI 15880 – a red pigment,
CI 77499 – a black pigment (iron oxide),
CI 77491 – a red pigment,
CI 75479 – a red pigment aka E120 aka Carmine red – can cause severe allergic reactions as food colouring – not vegan if not synthetic,
CI 77510 – a blue pigment,
CI 42090 – a blue pigment aka Brilliant Blue FCF ala E133 ala Blue 1 – a synthetic, petroleum derived dye, known to us all from Blue Curacao, blue mouthrinse, blue toothpaste, or form chemically coloured blackberry sauce – can cause severe allergic reactions as food colouring.korres-oligo-nail-polish-range

Let me draw the bottom line here:
100% natural, all-safe and vegan nail polishes don’t exist today.
There is a (slim) range of Natrue/BDIH-certified, shellack-based lacquers by Logona.

Solvent-based polishes, however “green” they claim to be, seem to be really hard to keep “clean” as you can see here.
While water-based polishes are free from most/worst offenders on this list, they are petroleum-based.
Or, as my friend Lyss would put it: “Choose your devil – and dance.”



I bought these two three four five* bottles at the KaDeWe, 9.90 Euro each.
May 2014: new purchase, ’90 Pale Green’.
August 2014: latest purchase (on the right in the picture below), ’94 Light Grey’
May 2015: new purchase, ’29 Ultra Violet’
June 2015: ’44 Coral Hibiscus’

new-korres-polishMy first choice: a truly magnificent, sophisticated pastel yellow ’34 Pastel Lemon’ – a yellow that looks GREAT on nails – and a luscious dark blue ’88 Midnight Blue’.
Pastel Lemon is a great colour choice for pale skin; ‘Midnight Blue’ is almost black – which I adore – but with a shimmery, inky blue twist.
’90 Pale Green’ looks quite intense on pictures, but is a more toned-down blend of turquoise and teal in person; somewhat reminiscent of those Netscape-ish, washed down teal blues from the late 90s.
’94 Light Grey’ is pretty close to being a Chanel ‘505 Particulière’ / OPI ‘You Don’t Know Jacques’ dupe but it’s lighter, more pastel-looking, and errs on the side of grey. It’s actually a cold, greyish beige, very flattering.
’29 Ultra Violet’ is a rich, “black orchid”-style dark, purple-kissed violet shade.
’44 Coral Hibiscus’ is a slightly transparent, flashy coral hot pink.

Tip for picking the right colour when in doubt: Try to get colours that match or complement the colours of your wardrobe. I chose the dark blue to go with my black clothes; the pale yellow for an offbeat ‘nude’ manicure. The pale green goes well with denim, black, and natural colours; the grey beige is a classic. 

korres-pastel-lemon-mani Korres-11-free-Nail-Polish-Ultra-Violet-29-Coral-Hibiscus-44-New-Review

Pastel Lemon goes on smoothly, dries quickly, and has an amazing shine and great coverage (quite surprising for a pastel) – but if you make coats too thick, will dry to visible tiny bubbles. The brush is of very good quality, similar to what you’re accustomed to get in salon quality nail polish. Without top coat, the polish hardly lasted two days, with top coat – three, but chipped in the end.

Midnight Blue is thicker, almost gel-like; due to the brush quality very easy to apply. Dries quickly and becomes nice and glossy. Lasts better than its yellow brother – followed me without chipping for 3 days of obsessive cooking and paper crafting – without top coat on. That’s a wow.

Pale Green is thick and opaque, and with two coats a perfect shine and coverage are achieved. It dries quickly. Really long-lasting; however the lacquer tends to soften when you expose it to warmth and humidity, but is rather prone to be wearing off than to plain chipping.

Light Grey has great, smooth coverage, and a good shine. Quick-drying, it is quite tick as you can see in the image below.

Ultra Violet has the staying power and the ultimate vinyl lustre of ‘Midnight Blue’ which has earned it a review on its own.

Coral Hibiscus is subtly transparent, a universally beautifying colour reviewed here that makes pale skin look tanned, and really pops on dark skin.

All four five six polishes have a rather decent scent (aka No Major Stink), which is a huge plus, and are easy to remove (don’t stain the skin).




I think this is a pretty impressive example to show us all how difficult it is to craft a consumer product of such complicity as a nail polish and make it 100 % organic, let alone 100 % safe.

Sure, as long as we don’t drink them, the pretty Korres bottles are way better than many, many of their competitors who may or may not cut out just the worst three compounds. I’m keeping these 🙂

Korres polishes are also “cleaner” than their competitors Sheswai, Kure Bazaar or Priti NYC who claim to be so very natural and safe:

Just to give you an idea – Sheswai lacquers contain Camphor and Polyethylene Terephthalate; Kure Bazaar and Priti NYC products contain Glycol and Benzophenone-1, Priti NYC also “stands out” with the use of Polyethylene Terephthalate.

If you’re curious to know whether Korres is better than the polish you use now,
>>> Check how safe is Your favourite nail polish or
>>> Ask BEAUTYCALYPSE about your fave product
>>> and freak out at Just What was found in nail polishes by Leading Brands most recently

>>> ABC: Nail polish remover battle (acetone free)
>>> ABC: Your Guide to Non-Toxic Nail Polish
>>> Product Review: Scotch Naturals
>>> Alternatives to Nail Art sans Polish (as announced in the Non-Toxic Nail Polish Guide)
>>> Tox-Free Nail Art – Looks & Trendsbeautycalypse-stationary-and-korres-polish-palegreen-90


Geeking out about all things truly green, healthy and ethical over at BEAUTYCALYPSE.com (Avatar illustration by A. Goncharenko)

24 Responses

  1. Heather in Arles

    Like N, I am sloooowly changing over my products as I can afford to do so–thank you for all of your hard work!
    I will be trying this and the nail remover when I can…

  2. What a thorough post! Perhaps this is why I am always instinctively scraping away my polish after I get them done…This has reminded me about chemicals in my makeup and while never perfect yet, I will keep this in mind and try this brand to minimize my exposure.

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