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If you’re a true nail polish addict, no outfit is complete without a colorful manicure. But there’s a problem. If you’re vegan and into healthy living. most mainstream nail polishes contain nasty chemicals and may have been tested on animals or include their byproducts in the formula, which is obviously unacceptable.
Fortunately, however, more and more beauty brands are going cruelty-free and are now making gorgeous, healthy vegan nail polish.
Using cruelty-free nail polish has several benefits. Fewer harsh ingredients mean healthier nails and no bad smells. They’re also safe for pregnant women and little beauties-in-training, too. Finally, they come in a wide range of colors and last just as long as the chemical-laden competition…so why wouldn’t you want to switch?
After researching the top-selling vegan nail polishes on the market, we’ve come up with a handy guide and reviews to help make your nail care more healthy and earth-friendly.
Let’s get to it!
Why switch to vegan nail color?
Mainstream beauty products are notorious for containing potentially harmful ingredients, and nail polish has the reputation of being particularly bad. Even though you use the product externally, harmful chemicals in the formula can leach into your bloodstream and get carried around your body. (1)
For vegans, switching to cruelty-free nail polish is an essential step in promoting animal welfare. Many mainstream beauty companies like Avon, OPI, and L’Oreal still test their products on animals, so using them is an obvious no-no. (2)
This is no joke. Animal testing often results in pain, illness, and death for the animals involved. Do not encourage these barbaric practices by purchasing these brands.
By switching to a cruelty-free nail polish, you’re opting out of an industry that causes harm to animals. As we’ll discuss in the next section, you’re also limiting your exposure to harmful toxins as well. It’s a true win win.
What’s the difference between 3-free, 5-free, and 7-free?
When you start browsing through the various vegan nail polish brands, you’ll encounter the terms “3-free,” “5-free,” and “7-free” almost immediately. So what do these distinctions mean and what’s the difference between them?
Three-free, 5-free, and 7-free indicate that a product does not contain some of the most harmful ingredients that are common in beauty products. Here’s a quick breakdown of these ingredients and the health concerns associated with them:
3-free products do not contain…
Formaldehyde: known carcinogen
Toluene: exposure can cause neurological damage and abnormal fetal development
DBP (Dibutyl Phthalate): decreased fertility and can interfere with childhood growth and development
5-free products do not contain any of the above or…
Resin: formaldehyde by-product
Camphor: may cause nerve damage and abnormal fetal development
7-free products do not contain any of the above or…
Parabens: linked to breast cancer
TPHP (Triphenyl Phosphate): can disrupt hormones and impact fertility
We recommend that you always buy at least 3-free beauty products. If you’re pregnant, you may want to opt for at least a 5-free product to avoid resin and camphor.
Finally, if you have a little girl who wants to start painting her nails, we recommend always going 7-free to be safe.
How do I apply vegan nail varnish?
Vegan and cruelty-free nail polish apply the same as any other non-gel/shellac polish (the kind that requires a light to cure). There are plenty of guides on how to get the perfect home manicure, but in general, here are the steps to follow:
- Clean and dry your nails.
- Trim and file your nails to the desired length and shape.
- Buff the tops of your nails lightly to smooth out any ridges.
- Apply a base coat to protect your nails and help the color last.
- Paint on a thin layer of color, starting with a swipe down the middle, then pulling the polish to each side.
- Add a second coat after the first has dried. Prevent shrinkage and peeling by “capping” (painting) the front edge of the nail.
- Finish with a quick drying top coat.
Lots of vegan friendly nail polishes last just as long, if not longer, than mainstream nail products. However, you can greatly increase the lifespan of your manicure by following the above procedure.
READ NEXT: BEST VEGAN MAKEUP BRUSHES
I like to get my nails done at the salon, but what if they don’t have vegan nail polish?
If you’re addicted to salon manicures and you’re not lucky enough to live near an organic or 5-free salon, just bring your vegan nail color with you! People bring their own products to salons for all sorts of reasons, and most aestheticians don’t have a problem with using your personal nail polish.
If you’re not sure, the best thing to do is to call the salon rather than walking in. Making appointments and building a relationship with your favorite technician can also ease any awkwardness about using your own polish. This way, your manicurist can get to know you and the products you prefer. You might even be able to convert them, too!
Best Cruelty-Free Nail Polish Reviews
Ready to find the perfect vegan polish for every occasion? Read our reviews below to learn about your options!
Ella+Mila Nail Polish
Ella+Mila is shaking up the natural beauty world with their adorable 7-free lacquers. Ella+Mila polishes have an adorable little elephant on the bottle and, suitably, have earned the PETA seal of approval.
Ella+Mila first burst onto the natural nail scene with their adorable “Mommy&Me” polish sets—a full sized and mini polish pairing for moms and their little girls. These vegan polishes are so natural that they are safe for kids (once she’s no longer putting her fingers in her mouth, naturally).
Ella+Mila polishes come in a range of colors from creamy neutrals to bold rainbow hues with a few chunky glitters. The company does not offer as many shades as some of their competitors, but we don’t mind. In fact, we’re thrilled with the rich, pretty colors on offer.
With a base and top coat, Ella+Mila polishes will last up to two weeks, which is fantastic. We also love that the polishes dry quickly and don’t have that headache-inducing nail polish odor.
On the downside, a few customers describe the texture as a bit “gooey” and hard to apply; so, for best results, try to use as thin a coat as possible.
- 7-free and safe for little ones
- Peta approved
- Long-lasting and quick-drying
- Doesn’t chip easily
- No smell!
- Somewhat gooey texture
ILNP Mega – 100% PURE Ultra Holographic Nail Polish
ILNP MEGA Ultra Holographic Nail Polish is a “boutique” nail lacquer that stands apart from both vegan and traditional polishes.
Each of the 32 holographic shades is packed with eye-catching glitter. In the sunlight, they are jaw-droppingly glittery!
Unlike top coat glitters, ILNP Mega polishes are opaque and don’t require a base coat, but using one can really make the color pop. Devoted customers love that ILNP holographic polishes are smooth and easy to apply. They are also easy to remove since the glitter won’t stick to your nails.
However, potential buyers should note that this polish looks best in direct sunlight and may appear a bit “flat” indoors. Though this was disappointing to some, most women seemed to like this long-lasting polish despite its changing appearance in different lights.
Other potential issues include the polish shrinking away from the tips of the nail, though capping the ends may help reduce this. You should also note that ILNP Mega polishes are just 3-free, meaning they may not be suitable for pregnant women or very young girls.
Overall, we love the wow-factor of this vegan polish. If you’re looking to make a big impact, consider grabbing a bottle before your next sunny beach vacation!
- Amazing holograph effect
- Opaque—no base required
- Smooth application
- Quick drying
- Fun color range
- Only 3-free
- Might shrink from the edge of the nail
- Holograph glitter may look flat indoors
Karma Organic Karma Hues Nail Polish
Karma Organic Karma Hues Nail Polish are 7-free and contain no toluene, formaldehyde, DBP, camphor, formaldehyde resin, xylene, or parabens. This polish is safe for pregnant women, kids, and people with sensitive skin or allergies.
The wide variety of colors offered by Karma Organic includes glossy, matte, glitter, and even glow-in-the-dark shades. The formula uses calcium and coffee extract to strengthen nails.
We love the clean formula of these nail polishes. Another plus is they are designed to be non-yellowing and won’t stain your nails if you skip the base coat – bonus!
On the other hand, some customers reported that the polishes took a long time to dry: up to 30 minutes if you accidentally apply too thick a coat! There is also the issue of odor. Even though Karma Organic polishes don’t have a typical chemical smell, the lacquers give off a smell that some customers describe as everything from “unpleasant” to “intolerable.”
That being said, if you’re looking for a 7-free vegan polish that gives you lots of color choices, Karma Organic Karma Hues may be perfect for you. As a final note, the quality of the packaging gave some people issues. Handle with care!
- Transparent, 7-free ingredient list
- Calcium and coffee for nail strength
- Lots of colors and finishes
- May take a while to dry if over-applied
- Smells bad to some people
- Bottles and brushes may break easily
Zoya Nail Polish
Zoya Nail Polish comes in—wait for it—339 colors! With all those options, there truly is something for everyone from this vegan nail lacquer brand. Finishes include shiny, glittery “Pixie Dust,” and matte.
Because most of the colors are highly pigmented, you will want to be sure to wear a base coat to prevent staining. On the plus side, you’ll stand out with eye-catching, long-lasting nail color. Polish addicts love the professional quality of Zoya products.
Zoya was the first nail company to develop a 3-free formula back in 1986. Today, they have both 3-free and 5-free products. All the ingredients used are vegan and not tested on animals.
Based on reviews, the consistency, lasting power, and overall appearances of Zoya Nail Polish tend to vary widely by color. In general, the deep, shiny colors seem to last longer than lighter varieties. Some people also had issues with Zoya’s matte shades: the may show every ridge and imperfection in your nails without buffing or a filling base coat.
Overall, though, Zoya customers are happy with the quality and color saturation of these vegan polishes. If you like to change your polish to match every outfit, Zoya nail polish may become your go-to brand.
- Amazing color variety
- Strong finish
- Range of 5-free formulas
- Base coat required
- Quality not consistent between colors
- Matte shades require extra work
Color Club Holographic Hues Nail Polish
Color Club Holographic Hues Nail Polish contains no formaldehyde, toluene, or phthalates. All Color Club products are vegan and not tested on animals.
The Color Club Holographic Hues line includes 11 super-sparkly shades from subtle silver and baby pink to bright blue and black. The polish applies smoothly and looks beautiful with two thin coats.
As with other holographic polishes, Color Club Holographic Hues will look different in different lights. You’ll see the most sparkle in direct sunlight. Indoors, the colors are more subtle and appear less glittery.
Though some customers wished their Color Club polishes looked out-of-this-world sparkly all the time, most were perfectly satisfied with the quality of their purchase. A few people reported issues with peeling, even after switching top coats and capping their ends. Depending on how you do your nails, Color Club polish may not last as long as other vegan polishes.
If you’re really crafty, Color Club Holographic Hues Nail Polish works great for stamping designs on your nails. Because the line doesn’t offer many colors to choose from, a lot of customers mix things up by using Color Club Holographic Hues to accent other nail looks.
- Smooth application
- Works great for stamping
- Amazing, vibrant colors (but could do with more choice)
- Beautiful, sparkly finish when in natural light
- Some colors may peel
- Limited color range
- Not as shiny in artificial light
Black Dahlia Lacquer Vegan Nail Polish
All of Black Dahlia’s cruelty-free nail varnish is 5-free, meaning no phthalates, toluene, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin or camphor.
Black Dahlia polishes are made by hand in small batches to ensure quality. However, this production method may lead to some color variation between lines, so your favorite shade may look different when you buy the next bottle.
Customers love the solid colors offered by Black Dahlia. In general, the company takes a more understated approach when it comes to glitter. Most of the glitter polishes offer subtle sparkle that can pass in professional work environments.
Black Dahlia vegan nail lacquer stays on for a long time. So long, in fact, that you might have a hard time taking it off! As a result, this probably isn’t the polish for the girl who likes to change her nail color as often as her clothes.
Finally, some reviews suggest that Black Dahlia polishes are a little thick and hard to apply. However, the majority of customers love the quality and special handmade feel of these pretty polishes.
- Subtle glitter is work-friendly
- Deep, rich colors
- Vegan 5-free formula
- Very long lasting
- Colors may change from batch to batch
- May be hard to remove
- Thick consistency can make it hard to apply evenly
So, what is the best vegan nail polish?
As polish lovers, we found it hard to pick between these cruelty-free lacquers. When it comes to nail color, why choose? However, we think Ella+Mila Nail Polish has the potential to be an all-around favorite.
We love that Ella+Mila polishes contain no harsh chemicals and come with the PETA seal of approval. These colors are cute, long-lasting, and don’t take forever to dry. The super-clean formulas mean they’re safe for pregnant women and kids, and the adorable packaging is just icing on the (vegan) cake.
Compared to some of the other vegan nail lines, Ella+Mila doesn’t have a huge variety of colors to choose from. However, the shades are classic and fun enough to fit with any style. With that said, if you usually wear very bright or glittery polish, you may not find what you’re looking for.
All in all, switching to vegan polish is a small change that can have a big impact on your health and the welfare of animals. Unfortunately, many big-name nail brands continue to test on our furry friends, so finding a decent brand can take a little extra work. Thankfully, things are becoming easier.
If you click a link on this page and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more.
With a growing number of cruelty-free products hitting the market, pressure will surely cause mega brands to rethink their policy on animal testing. In the meantime, because the above vegan nail brands don’t sacrifice variety or quality, you can still keep your manicure on point and make your nail polish cruelty-free.
About The Author:
Lisa Williams is a committed vegan, passionate animal welfare advocate, and keen follower of too many v-friendly food blogs to mention. She started happyhappyvegan.com back in 2016 because she felt there was a need for more straightforward information on plant-based living.
Back then, too many sites seem to either concentrate solely on recipes or be too intimidating or inaccessible for the v-curious, and she wanted to change that. The landscape is certainly a whole lot different now!
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- Catherine Roberts | Toxic Chemical Ingredients to Avoid in Nail Polish | https://www.activebeat.com/your-health/women/7-toxic-chemical-ingredients-to-avoid-in-nail-polish/?streamview=all
- PETA | These Beauty Brands Are Still Tested on Animals| https://www.peta.org/living/personal-care-fashion/beauty-brands-that-you-thought-were-cruelty-free-but-arent/