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 blood stream 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 a 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 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 a 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 a nail polish is free from all the same things as 8-free polish, as well as parabens and tert-butyl hydroperoxide. 10-free designation is as of this writing 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 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 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 color’s 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?!
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!
3. Smith & Cult
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 nailpolishes, 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 top coat 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 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.
Tenoverten also sells amazing soothing nail care oils for strengthening and repairing dull, over worked nail beds. Try the Nourishing Rose Cuticle Oil or their Celery Strengthening Nail Oil. Both work wonders, and are great gifts for people who are always getting manicures. 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 and bring it to your next manicure.
5. Debra Lippmann
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 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.
6. Butter London
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.)
7. Ella + Mila
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.)
8. Flora 1761
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 catalogued 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, flower-themed 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.)
9. 365 Lacquer
Vegan, cruelty-free nail polish brand 365 Lacquer is handcrafted in “microbatches” in Somerville, Massachusetts. This all natural nail polish is guaranteed to dry in 60 seconds without smudges or dents. As a “self-leveling” polish, it helps users achieve salon-quality nails at home. Formulations are also made without formaldehyde, toluene, formaldehyde resins, dibutyl phthalates, and camphor. Therefore, 365 polish is “5-free”— and none of their products are ever tested on animals.
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!
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 top coat, 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 manicure on!
Want more all-natural beauty hacks? 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.