The Beauty of Bare Nails

The Beauty of Bare Nails

By Elizabeth Stilwell

Unbeknownst to me except by the grace of Google, bare nails are currently chic anti-manicures. Whether it’s backlash to the nail art mania or endurance of the normcore trend, bare nails seem to be more popular these days. While I appreciate when trends converge with my laziness, I’d like to think of my (usually) bare nails as a symptom of my minimalist lifestyle. I have surely had my share of polishes and a handful of manicures in my life, but I’ve never really gotten that into it. For one thing, my nails seem to repel polish and in a matter of hours I’ve got a chip. In the 90s this was cool grunge style which also seemed to work to my advantage. These days, I just can’t be bothered to paint my nails, wait for them to dry, and try not to ruin that glossy finish until the whole process starts again.

Then there’s the toxicity of the polish and removers. There are some brands making headway in this area, but cosmetic products do not require F.D.A. premarket approval and can make unwarranted claims that simply are not true. While consumers should be revolting at this news, the greater danger lies with those working in the nail salon industry.

An investigative series by the New York Times brought to light the working conditions of nail salon workers in New York City. Often of illegal status or new to the country with limited language, these workers are commonly subject to wage theft and unfair labor practices. Adding to their tenuous circumstances are health issues undeniably caused by the chemical-laden environment of their industry. 

Incredibly, Governor Cuomo has ordered emergency efforts, effective immediately, to combat the issues laid bare in the series. Whether there will be strong follow-through after interest has died down remains to be seen, but I have hope. One of the most important parts of the plan is to require salons to be bonded, making it more difficult for them to hide assets if found to be guilty of unpaid wages. The plan also includes measures like education of workers and required ventilation. 

Back to bare nails. Bare nails take less time and effort, but can still be beautiful. The key here is health and hydration which I will contend is better for both you and the environment. Remove polish with a non-toxic remover like this one from Karma Naturals. Moisturize cuticles with a cuticle balm and trim if necessary. Buff nails to a healthy shine and hydrate daily with a nail oil. Check out these aromatherapy options by UKA. Keep nails looking clean with a wooden nail brush

If you can’t get completely on board with bare nails, I’ll urge you to at least consider treating manicures/pedicures as a special indulgence instead of a weekly task. If your manicure is ten dollars, please realize that someone is paying the price in a terrible way. Look for salons with adequate ventilation, higher price points, and clean polish brands. 

Find out more about clean polish options from other Ethical Writers Coalition members:


This post contains affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you buy anything through the link (it doesn’t change the amount you pay). I only include brands that I believe in, that I would use myself, or think might be of interest to you.



With a background in education, Elizabeth Stilwell produces engaging, actionable content as editor-in-chief of The Note Passer . A proud sustainability nerd, her aim is to be a resource for ethical alternatives that benefit both people and the environment. The Note Passer is inspiration for better, sustainable future; one that’s full of more meaning and less waste. Elizabeth’s graphics, photography, and words have have appeared on EF Magazine, Moral Fibres, BF+DA, EcoGreenLove, and others. She is also a co-founder of the Ethical Writers Coalition , a group of writers who are furthering ethical and sustainable living online and in print.


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