So, you’re in the market for cruelty-free, non-toxic nail polish. And if you aren’t, here’s why you should be: new studies from Duke University and Environmental Working Group show that nail polish chemicals can seep into the bloodstream even through the nail bed. Ah!
For that reason, and the fact that traditional nail polish has been linked to everything from breast cancer to endocrine disruption, non-toxic nail polish has become a new, necessary trend in the world of clean beauty– especially at salons where workers are exposed to nail polish fumes all day long.
Wellness isn’t true wellness if it doesn’t include the people who administer beauty treatments. Fortunately, these all-natural nail polishes protect both you and the people who do your manicures. Luckily, the brands below are increasingly popular and long-lasting; look for them at your local salon or buy your own bottle and bring it with you whenever you get a manicure or pedicure.
And if you’re doing your own nails: well, there’s really no denying that a non-toxic nail polish is the best, healthiest option for at-home use. Some of them are pricier than other boutique polish, but all are worth the investment.
This guide to the best non-toxic nail polish brands features polishes that are vegan, cruelty-free, 5-free, 7-free, 8-free, or 10-free, and not tested on animals. No matter what you’re looking for, this article has something for everyone.
The Basics: What You Should Know
“5-free” nail polish means that the nail polish doesn’t contain the top 5 most toxic chemicals most often found in nail polish formulas. Typical 5-free polishes are do not contain dibutyl phthalate (aka dbp), formaldehyde and formaldehyde resins, toluene, or camphor. Avoiding these five hazardous chemicals should be your baseline requirement.
Meanwhile, “7-free” nail polish goes a little bit further than 5-free. It means that the nail polish doesn’t contain two additional not great chemicals– usually ethyl tosylamide and triphenyl phosphate (aka tphp). Therefore, 7-free nail polish is just a little bit “cleaner” than 5-free polish.
Next, “8-free” nail polish means that the nail polish does not contain dibutyl phthalate (dbp), toluene, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, camphor, ethyl tosylamide, triphenyl phosphate (tphp) or xylene. All of these chemicals are carcinogens and endocrine disruptors, which are toxic to our bodies.
Finally, “10-free” nail polish is the best of the best. This means that the nail polish is free from all the same things as 8-free polish, as well as parabens and tert-butyl hydroperoxide. The 10-free designation is the highest standard in the non-toxic nail polish industry, and it’s the one that I personally strive to use most frequently.
While 10-free polish is harder to find, it’s worth being scrupulous about. (We’ve included links to our favorite 10-free nail polish brands, below.)
PSA: some of the products mentioned in this article contain Amazon Affiliate links, which means that in some cases we may earn from sales. However, we don’t write about anything we haven’t extensively researched and personally tested on ourselves and our loved ones.
On that note, we love Cote’s Wild Sea Rose acetone-free nail polish remover. (<— It’s one of the few effective natural nail polish removers on the market. Check it out!)
Either way, we think you’ll love all of the nail polish in this non-toxic nail polish guide, too. Read on for more details on what brands to buy and why.
Sundays (Subtle and Elegant)
Sundays Nail Polish is 10-free, cruelty-free, vegan, and never tested on animals. IMHO, this is the single best non-toxic nail polish brand on the market. We love the minimalist, library-index-like bottles, which make us feel like fashionable scientists when we paint our nails.
Try the L3 Pastel Blue, above, which makes a great accent color to any of their subtle, elegant coral shades. For a natural nail polish, Sunday’s colors are surprisingly opaque and shiny. (Just be sure to use the requisite two coats!) The colors don’t ever feel gummy or tacky, either.
It bears repeating that Sundays is easily the best non-toxic nail polish for people who want a super-clean nail color. As a result, it does come at a price (about $18 a bottle).
However, each bottle lasts surprisingly long, and the New York City studios dedicated to this polish line also offer “meditation manis”, where– you guessed it– you can meditate while you get your manicure. Self-care and stress reduction in the same salon visit? How amazing is that?!
Olive & June (The “Coolest”)
LA’s coolest nail salon, Olive & June, now sells 7-free polish that is vegan and cruelty-free. Plus, they’ve effectively become THE defacto vendor of DIY press-on nail kits, which are wildly popular and made from 94% recycled materials, as well. (<— These come in over 20 designs inspired by the salon, so that you can create your own “instant mani” at home.)
We love this entire cruelty-free non-toxic nail polish collection, and the fact that O+J releases fresh new colors each season, to match the fashion cycle.
Take, for example, the Malibu Sunset palette above, a dreamy tonal set of colors inspired by the sky, which is perfect for spring.
In the summer, they launch juicy themed colors like watermelon reds and pool party-approved pinks, as well as cool-toned mint greens and bright, sunny yellows. In the winter, they go bold and dark with metallics, glittery deep blues, winter greens, and elegantly opaque purples.
And in the fall, well, they’ve got the perfect autumn golds, ombre oranges, and more to match your best cozy sweater. You get the idea. If your best friend designed a nail salon around the coolest West Coast fashion trends, this would be the vibe.
Smith & Cult (Fashionable and Chic)
We adore Smith & Cult‘s beautiful, artistic bottles and rich, romantic hues. The scarlet reds are deeper than blood (hopefully that isn’t creepy) and the deep greens are worthy of gothic royalty, moody and gorgeously saturated. We also love their neutral grays— and the names, like Stockholm Syndrome— as well as their sparkling, ultra-fine glitter nail polishes, which have rave reviews.
While this natural nail polish is not cheap (bottles can cost between $18 to $25 each), reviewers across the beauty industry and Amazon swear by this brand. What people love most, however, is how incredibly long-lasting this cruelty-free polish is– especially for a natural brand.
“If you are the kind of person who has tried almost every drug store nail polish with mediocre results, and have little faith in polish lasting more than a day, and [you’ve] scoffed at other reviews for this product,” wrote one enthusiastic Amazon commentator, “stop scoffing.”
“DEAR GOSH,” wrote another reviewer of the glitter polish: “Everyone needs to have this in their nail lacquer collection… It is a gem above all gems, literally and metaphorically. The photos do not do it justice. You could apply this polish as a topcoat over existing colors or wear it on its own (one coat for a light and airy look, two coats for more sparkle, or three for the ultimate glam look). The results are ineffable. One needs to see it to believe it.”
Overall, Smith & Cult is a delightful luxury 8-free nail polish. Treat yourself!
Tenoverten (A Cool Nail Bar Staple)
Tenoverten is stocked in all the coolest nail bars in major cities like New York, L.A., the Hamptons, and Paris. As such, it’s one of the most well-known non-toxic nail polish brands, largely because it’s cruelty-free, 8-free, and vegan.
For best results, start with their strengthening all-natural base coat and move on to any of their color coats in a variety of fabulous muted tones. (We personally love the “Prince” and the “Austin”.)
For those keeping score, Tenoverten also has several specially designated non-toxic nail salons in NYC and Los Angeles.
If you can’t make it to one of their salons, purchase a bottle of their nail polish online and bring it to your next manicure. Remember: If the salon isn’t eco-friendly, you can always bring your own products.
(FWIW, Tenoverten also sells amazing soothing nail care oils for strengthening and repairing dull, overworked nail beds. These work wonders and are great gifts for people who are always getting manicures.)
Remedy Nails (Doctor Formulated with UV Protection + Nail-Boosting Nutrients)
Designed by podiatrists, Dr.’s Remedy enriched nail care is a cruelty-free, 10-free vegan nail polish infused with tea tree oil, biotin, lavender, and other healing vitamins and organic ingredients that promote optimum nail health. This nail polish is super breathable and comes with built-in UV protection (which, yes, your nails need sun protection, too).
The line is made entirely in the USA, and offers a wide variety of amazing, hydrating colors. We love the Bountiful Blue, the classic Brick Red, and the sultry Mink, which were all formulated with nail health in mind.
Every polish in the paraben-free collection is made with tea tree oil (a natural anti-fungal that keeps yellow nails at bay) as well as strengthening biotin, wheat protein, and other enriching botanicals like cactus extract and grape seed oil.
As a result, Remedy Nails is the first nail polish to receive the American Podiatric Medical Association’s official seal of approval. Because of its super-clean formulation, Remedy is also a great pregnancy-safe nail polish line.
Nailmatic (Good For Kids *and* Adults)
Paris-based Nailmatic is a vegan and cruelty-free nail polish brand that is the industry leader in safe, all-natural nail polishes for kids, in addition to adults. We love their whimsical, kid-friendly packaging, and sophisticated shades for adults. Expect a super shiny finish no matter which hue you choose.
Both elegant and minimalist, Nailmatic’s 10-free polish uses plant-based solvents to achieve brilliant, no-chip color. Try a basic coral pink from their #purecolor nail polish series, or opt for any of their natural BB Nail colors— a series of subtle shades for understated nails that “blend in” like a bb cream.
People who appreciate artistic concepts also love their collaborations, as well. For example, Nailmatic was the first nail polish brand to design “nail polish vending machines” for their products. (Today, you can find them at various department stores around Paris.) They’ve also done cool collaborations with cultural touchstones like the Malala Fund, J. Crew and MoMA Design Store.
Outside of their polish collection, the brand’s signature Hydra Serum salve is also a great treatment for ridged and splitting nails, which is a good treatment for people who are (or once were) addicted to damaging gel manicures. And for those with small children who love nail polish, this water-based Mermaid color kit makes a great birthday gift, as well!
Debra Lippmann (An Old School Classic)
Cult-favorite celebrity nail expert Debra Lippmann‘s all-natural nail polishes are vegan, cruelty-free, 7-free, and never tested on animals. (Her brand also declines to sell polish to outlets that require animal testing by law.)
Overall, Lippmann’s nail polishes come in a variety of funky colors that beauty gurus around the world love. The palette tends to be dark and more saturated, though there are some ethereal hues.
We’re partial to the ‘Fine Romance’ blues and somber gray shades— which, by the way, have been worn by everyone from Laura Dern and Amy Adams to Halsey, Naomi Scott, and Gisele Bündchen. Certified not to yield any lumps upon drying, Lippmann’s non-toxic nail polish has been an industry staple for over 20 years.
We also like Lippmann’s hydrating base and top coat, made with nail-strengthening biotin. This moisturizing sealant emphasizes healthy nails as a precursor to a beautiful manicure. Use before or after your mani to enhance shine, smoothness, and vibrancy. This, in turn, is not only protective for nails but better for overall wellbeing, as well.
Butter London (The UK’s Finest)
Butter London‘s soft, understated color palette is popular among nail artists and eco-friendly nail salons all over the world. This 8-free, cruelty-free nail polish doesn’t contain formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, dbp, toluene, camphor, ethyl tosylamide, xylene, or tphp.
Keep in mind that this “feel-good formula” is not vegan, but select products like the Patent Shine 10X™ Nail Lacquer and the Hardwear Shine UV Topcoat are vegan. (When in search of a vegan product, look for the bottles with the silver caps.)
For what it’s worth, we also love Butter London’s posh, square bottles. I first encountered Butter London with my mother at pH7 Nail Couture in New York City— one of the country’s first all-natural nail bars. The salon had so many cool shades of Butter London polish that choosing a color was a little daunting for us both.
Ultimately, I opted for the azure lavender-blue color on the left side of the picture, above. My mother, on the other hand (literally), chose a smart, understated coral pink. Despite our age difference, both of us could find colors that spoke to us within the same collection. (Oh, and the wear on this Butter London polish is super long-lasting! I didn’t incur a chip until about 2 weeks post-manicure, which might be a personal record.)
Ella + Mila (Enduringly Cute)
Ella + Mila is another 7-free nail polish that is also cruelty-free and vegan. We LOVE their acetone-free soy nail polish remover, as well, as it is formulated with calming lavender essential oil and Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and nourishing Vitamin E oil.
Color-wise, Ella + Mila polish tends to be effusive and whimsical. It’s good for teenagers, kids, and young adults with a preference for bubblegum shades. But, there are also several sophisticated shades in the collection, as well. Just look at this gorgeous color palette on their website! (It’s so satisfying to scroll through the color swatches.)
Specifically, we love the edgy, metallic Mediterranean Mist shade– and the cheery, celebratory After Party Glitter polish for a dazzling dose of sparkle. All Ella + Mila polish is made in America by two twins, Ella and Mila. And they never test their products on animals. (They’re even PETA certified.)
Flora 1761 (Inspired By Flowers)
With their rich colors and exotic names, Flora 1761‘s lovely, flower-colored nail polishes are inspired by “Flora Danica”– a treatise published in Denmark in 1761 that cataloged the world’s most beautiful blooms. Accordingly, each nail polish color in the collection is named after a flower of the same color. The concept is as lovely as you might imagine.
I love the bright pink Bougainvillea and bold red Poppy colors, which are so true to the original colors of the flowers that it’s actually astonishing how they got them to match so well. (I actually wore the “Poppy” red on my wedding day.) Also lovely are the Snap Dragon peach and the bold, purple-y Scotch Thistle hue.
All of these elegant, clean, floral polishes are also 8-free, vegan, and cruelty-free. The delicate gold etching on each bottle, meanwhile, makes the experience of using them feel somehow extra sophisticated. (It’s the kind of polish that makes you want to paint your nails with your pinky out.)
~ Honorable Mention ~
A few other gems we just had to mention.
Priti NYC (Bright and Spunky)
Priti NYC‘s organic, vegan, cruelty-free nail polish is relatively new to the beauty scene, but they’ve already been featured on the runway at New York Fashion Week and Paris Fashion Week. Their non-toxic formula is 10-free, vegan, cruelty-free, and gluten-free.
Above shown is the “Summer Brights” line. (All Priti NYC nail polishes are named after flowers and made in the USA.)
These nail polishes come in a subtle range of colors, but the lacquer itself is beautifully opaque. You can achieve a really even, dense color with just one coat. Just be sure to seal with their vegan Top & Base clear coat for a natural, strengthening treatment that also preserves the color.
365 Lacquer (Design Your Own Color!)
Vegan, cruelty-free nail polish brand 365 Lacquer is handcrafted in “micro-batches” in Somerville, Massachusetts. This all-natural nail polish will dry in 60 seconds without smudges or dents. This is the brand’s guarantee!
As a “self-leveling” polish, it also helps users achieve salon-quality nails at home.
Formulations are also free from formaldehyde, toluene, formaldehyde resins, dibutyl phthalates, and camphor. Therefore, 365 polish is “5-free”— and none of their products are ever tested on animals.
This polish is super affordable as it’s only available for purchase online through Etsy, only.
Intriguingly, you can also make your own customized bottle! Simply choose a color, a finish, and a name to be printed on the bottle. You can even select the font for the bottle’s label. We love this idea, which is great for birthday parties, bachelorette/bridal parties, personalized gifts, and more.
Moreover, the ability to customize your color makes 365 Lacquer one of the few non-toxic nail polish brands that can truly be molded to suit any individual style. There are plenty of existing colors to choose from, but when in doubt, definitely consider making your own!
Zoya (When In Doubt, Seek It Out)
Judging from the old-school style bottles, Zoya might not initially look like an “all-natural” nail polish. But this cruelty-free industry mainstay was the first nail polish brand to remove toluene, camphor, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin and dibutyl phthalate from its formulations. We love their rich reds and glossy seal topcoat, which has one of the nicest sheens in the industry.
While Zoya is technically 5-free, you don’t see the “natural” aspect advertised on the bottles. However, it is the longest-wearing non-toxic nail polish of all the major non-toxic nail polish brands used in salons across the U.S.. And with over 400 colors to choose from, you’ll never run of variety.
If you find yourself getting a manicure at a salon that doesn’t have 8-Free or 10-Free polish, Zoya is a safe option. It’s the healthiest choice out of all the mainstream nail polish brands. So, you can keep calm and (safely) manicure on. Enjoy!
Related: Read our ranking of the 6 Most Effective, Cruelty-Free, Acetone-Free Nail Polish Removers.
Want more all-natural beauty? These 6 Moisturizers From Around The World are Good for Mind, Body, and Earth. Also, check out these 7 Tips for Soothing Stressed-Out Skin.