15 Cruelty Free Nail Polish Brands

Cruelty free nail polish – the ultimate guide for your nails.

I love using products in my personal beauty routine that are sustainable, low waste and cruelty-free.

ethical nail polish

Cosmetic companies have long sold consumers an idealized life. Every part of personal style can be customized. With pretty colors and a shiny coat, nails are a commoditized body part ringing in money. Behind big name nail polishes are cruel animal practices going unregulated. Some countries require animal testing on all imported products. Many cosmetic companies will conform to animal testing, in order to turn a profit abroad. These tests prove to be outright chilling and completely unnecessary.

Commercial nail polishes contain ingredients harmful to animals and humans. Now conscious beauty brands are carving out a place in the cosmetic industry with vegan nail polish.

Scroll down to read reviews of 15 cruelty-free nail polish options.

Cruelty-Free Nail Polish – Not!

The cosmetic industry is committing some absolute atrocities to animals. PETA reports, “more than 100 million animals suffer and die in the U.S. every year in cruel chemical, drug, food, and cosmetics tests as well as in medical training exercises and curiosity-driven medical experiments at universities.” Cosmetic brands keep these trials mum, to maintain a sanitary reputation.

NOT COOL

Let’s deep dive into some of the major animal tests, specifically for nail polish. In the name of safety this noxious paint is tested on a many types of animals: bunnies, mice, rats, dogs, and/or monkey’s. They are kept in cages for their entire lifespan, and killed once experiments conclude. They receive limited interaction while enduring torture.

cruelty free

Lab techs will drop measured amounts of nail polish directly into the eyes of animals. They do skin patch tests, where an area on the head is shaved and the product is smeared on their bare skin. The most horrific is the forced ingestion of toxic chemicals. The tests are performed for a length of time, leaving the animals isolated, abused and deformed. Regularly they develop neurotic tendencies like pulling out their hair, spinning in circles, etc. At the end of experimentation, the animals are killed. Check this link for more info about animal testing.

What is the point?

All of these experiments are performed on animals to ensure safe products for humans. This reasoning contradicts reality. Animals and humans are not the same. What may be true in the lab is not a good standard to follow. In other words, just because the product has no effect on an animal, does not ensure a nontoxic product for a human.

nail polish

Hope on the Horizon

Many countries have banned animal testing, with due justice. But, China still requires animal testing on all imported cosmetics. This means cosmetic companies have to submit tests in order sell products in the country. Not to name drop but key figures that rhyme with Poe-Pee-Eye and Nessie who claim to be cruelty-free nail polish brands, sell nail polish in China. These brands, along with others, permit tests under the radar to avoid bad publicity. Mercifully, in the summer of 2019 new regulations were proposed in China to ban animal testing. It is the hope of many that this legislation will pass to end this futile exercise.

Alternative Testing Methods Work

Dr. Elias Zerhouni, the former director of the U.S National Institute of Health stated, “We have moved away from studying human disease in humans…We all drank the Kool-Aid on that one, me included…The problem is that animal testing hasn’t worked, and it’s time we stopped dancing around the problem…We need to refocus and adapt new methodologies for use in humans to understand disease biology in humans.” He is right. Animal testing is a silly practice since it does not provide conclusive evidence relative to humans.

Vegan nail polish can utilize alternative methods that are far more relevant. The most successful studies include in vitro tests with human cells; in silica methods that utilize computer models; and human volunteer testers.

How to be sure about cruelty-free nail polish labels?

cruelty free nail polish

Some brands label their cosmetics with “cruelty-free” or “not tested on animals” but the U.S Food and Drug Administration does not monitor labels. It is always good to research which brands are telling the truth. Check out who makes the list here.

Car Paints’ Baby Sister—Nail Polish

Humans should not come in contact with many of the chemicals in nail polish. A lot of these ingredients are in car paint. Yes it’s true, nail polish is the baby sister to car paint. When the car was invented so was a long lasting, shiny, car coating. Companies like Revlon took notice and developed a formula for nails. So it isn’t hard to see why most nail polish formulas contain the harsh products you would find at a local hardware or paint store.

Mani/Pedi Day?

Ever walked into a nail salon where all the nail techs are wearing masks and/or gloves? Or one where the smell is so pungent an instant headache follows? With dust flying, fumes swirling, these are hubs of dangerous poisons. Solvents, gels, shellac, lacquers, polishes, chemicals, etc cause major damage when the body soaks them in. This is especially true for prolonged exposure. Masks and gloves suddenly make a lot of sense.

mani/pedi

Toxic Trio

Thu Quach, a research scientist at the Cancer Prevention Institute of California, works to make nail salons safer for workers and visitors. Her focus has been on ridding the “toxic trio” from nail polishes. The trio consists of formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate. Calling out to all manicurists, nail techs, cosmetologists. Do not breathe! Her investigative work has led a movement away from these and other toxic additives in nail polish. Read more about her findings here.

Pick a chemical any chemical

Until recently the compounds below were found in most nail polish formulas. There is little regulation from the FDA about what goes into such formulas. They only judge the effect of the final product. Continued research has proven that these chemicals are poisonous to humans and animals. It is totally senseless to include them in nail polish.

vegan polish nail

However, many cosmetic nail companies still use them. Find out exactly what is in that pretty little glass bottle, more importantly what is being painted on our fingernails. Read on to see what each chemicals’ purpose in nail polish is and the health risks they pose.

Formaldehyde – Allows the polish to bond to the keratin in your nails, used for longer wear. It often causes skin irritations and allergic reactions.

Formaldehyde Resin – This is a film-forming plasticizer, also used to reduce chipping but the resin gives polish a shiny finish. Causes skin and eye irritation. Can also cause allergic reactions.

Toluene – Is a solvent in nail polishes creating a distinct chemical odor. When inhaled it can cause headaches, dizziness, and nausea. Prolonged exposure is harmful to reproductive organs.

Camphor – Gives polish flexibility and smoothness. Use is restricted to 11% in the U.S. If ingested it may cause liver damage. In large doses it is lethal.

Triphenyl Phosphate (THPH) – Prevents chipping. Makes a mess of the reproductive and endocrine system. At a high concentration this is a neurotoxin. Not to mention it is extremely dangerous to aquatic life.

Ethyl Tosylamide – It is a nail polish leveler, allowing the polish to smooth over nails evenly. Banned in the EU because it can aid in antibiotic resistant bacteria (superbugs).

Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP) – Helps with flexibility and preventing nail polish from becoming brittle. This chemical can enhance the ability for genetic mutations within the body. DBP causes liver and kidney failure, in children, from exposure over long periods of time. It is also toxic to marine life.

Xylene – Another smelly solvent with fast evaporation that helps nail polishes dry quickly. Can cause headaches, dizziness, and nausea.

Mequinol Hydroquinone (MEHQ) – This is a chemical used to maintain the texture of the polish as it hardens. Can cause skin sensitivity and is carcinogenic.

Methylisothiazolinone (MIT) – Also used for texture of the polish. May cause contact dermatitis.

Parabens – These are preservatives that extend the life of nail polish. Studies have linked these to breast cancer, skin irritations, and sensitivity to UV radiation.

15 Cruelty-Free Nail Polishes

cruelty free polish nail

Given all this information about brutal animal testing and deadly chemicals, it is hard to rationalize using nail polish again.

Thankfully, there are many cruelty-free nail polish brands out there.

Here are some to consider. For each brand these qualities are highlighted:

  • Self-acclaimed cruelty-free and/or vegan;
  • PETA certified logo cruelty-free and/or veganplease note: as mentioned before, just because a brand says they are cruelty-free/vegan on the label does not mean they actually are. PETA offers brands a certified logo after thorough vetting;
  • Cruelty-Free Kitty brandplease note: this is a blog turned all in one resource for cruelty-free nail polish and other cosmetics. These brands may or may not have a PETA stamp. They are a little less official but backed by extensive research. You can see them all here.
  • Which nasty chemicals from the above list NOT included in the formula;
  • A short synopsis of likes and dislikes of the each vegan nail polish.  

1. Ella + Mila Nail Polish “Naughty Not Nice” Brick Red

cruelty free polish nail
  • Cruelty-Free
  • Vegan
  • PETA Certified Logo
  • Cruelty-Free Kitty
  • 7-Free: Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde Resin, Toluene, Camphor, Triphenyl Phosphate, Dibutyl Phthalate, and Xylene

This polish makes the list with cute mommy and me bottles. Now your little princess has her own personal bottle to paint her fingers (or yours!) on manicure day.

vegan polish nail

Major plus—this polish is safe for kids. I love this polish. It dries quick, and is chip resistant. It is a nice deep red color when applied with a couple coats.  The brush is similar to what you would find on Essie. I am not a fan of the brush handle it is small; I prefer longer handles for gripping. More than one coat is needed. With one coat it is streaky, I definitely like the color with multiple coats.

2. ILNP Holographic Nail Polish “Juliet” Rose Gold

vegan polish nail
  • Cruelty-Free
  • Vegan
  • 7-Free: Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde Resin, Toluene, Camphor, Ethyl Tosylamide, Dibutyl Phthalate, or Xylene.

This brand also steers clear from animal/insect-derived pigments. The sparkles are festive, and really give a punch to my party dresses. The polish goes on smooth and comes off easily. One thing that is hard to find is whether glitter is included in the polish.

cruelty free polish nail

The company was so helpful with my inquiry, and got back to me fast with great news. It is confirmed, they do not use plastic glitter in any of their products. It is a synthetic mica that gives the polish sparkles. ILNP nail polish is far from being compostable. Though, it is nice to know that plastic was not used in the making.

3. Color Me Earth Nail Lacquer “Wet Sand” Beige Neutral

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  • Cruelty-Free
  • Vegan
  • PETA Certified Logo
  • 5-Free: Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde Resin, Toluene, Camphor, and Dibutyl Phthalate

It is hard to find information on this brand but the polishes are affordable and PETA certified, which is very reassuring.

This brand comes in a variety of colors. This is my go to neutral. It is very opaque. It does not dry as quickly as I would like. The color grew on me. At first I didn’t think it went with my skin tone. Now I find that it presents a modern look.

4. Karma Organic Nail Polish “Vinyl” Black

polish nail
  • Cruelty-Free
  • Vegan
  • PETA Certified Logo
  • 7-Free: Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde Resin, Toluene, Camphor, Dibutyl Phthalate Xylene, and Parabens

Karma is 100% organic nail polish line, meaning all of their ingredients are sourced ethically. Like a fresh record right out of the sleeve this nail polish woke my inner punk. When I take it off my nails don’t feel like they are withering away. They enrich this formula with calcium and coffee. That being said, they list all ingredients online. I love that I know what is going into this polish! It doesn’t have that harsh odor smell during application.

But it does go on a bit thick, so do this when you have drying time! Some notable bonus features: they offer recyclable packaging and [some] Whole Foods locations do carry this line. Check the website to see if there is a participating store near you.

5. Deco Miami Nail Lacquer “Nip Slip” Dusty Pink Creme

cruelty free polish nail
  • Cruelty-Free
  • Vegan
  • Cruelty-Free Kitty
  • 9-Free: Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde Resin, Toluene, Camphor, Triphenyl Phosphate, Ethyl Tosylamide, Dibutyl Phthalate, Xylene, and Parabens

They have transparent ingredient listings on their website. My favorite thing about this line is the sizing. They offer a smaller bottle for colors you want to sample. A larger bottle is available for tried and true coloring. Deco Miami’s mission is simple, and eco-friendly at heart. The founder came to the realization that she had never finished a bottle of nail polish. They often lost their appeal after a season. The bottles wind up collecting dust in a shoebox and eventually dry out.

She decided to develop a smaller bottle, with a design that was worth showing off. This is a great nude pink that gives my nails just a pop of color when I need a neutral coat. A natural option for French tips. Apply three coats for a cream finish.

6. Obsessive Compulsive Nail Lacquer “Feathered” White  

polish nail
  • Cruelty-Free
  • Vegan
  • PETA Certified Logo
  • Cruelty-Free Kitty
  • 5-Free: Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde Resin, Toluene, Camphor, and Dibutyl Phthalate – (The specific “Free” chemicals are an estimated guess as the Obsessive Compulsive cosmetic company is no longer around. Generally these are the “5-Free.”)

Unfortunately, this company closed abruptly—it is speculated, due to a gnarly legal battle with Sephora. There is no first hand info about what is in the product. We have to rely on information given from third party vendors. Obsessive Compulsive was the brainchild of a former Body Shop and MAC employee, who dreamt of pure pigmented make-up.

An early entrepreneur of cruelty-free nail polish, they have been in circulation since 2004. This bottle made the list because it is an opaque white that does not yellow. It is ideal for my classic French tips. I am sure this will become your go-to white. Fair warning! I suggest you buy a lot, and fast. What is on the market is all that is left. Are you curious about Obssesive Compulsive Cosmetics? Read about them here.

7. NCLA Nail Polish “PSL Season” Burnt Orange

vegan polish nail
  • Cruelty-Free
  • Vegan
  • PETA Certified Logo
  • Cruelty-Free Kitty
  • 7-Free: Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde Resin, Toluene, Camphor, Triphenyl Phosphate, Dibutyl Phthalate, and Xylene

What better way to ring in fall than with pumpkin spice nails! NCLA has just the latte. Their site displays their ingredient list and is intuitive to navigate. I love the colors available with this brand. Their palette is hip and crisp.

This cruelty-free nail polish is homegrown in California, USA. And with so many celebrity endorsements it is hard to say no. PSL went on shiny and smooth. While the site does recommend two coats, I find there is good coverage with one! My only complaint is after a couple days it chipped. I did not use a top coat though…will do that next time.

8. Lauren B Beauty Nail Perfecter Polish

polish nail
  • Cruelty-Free
  • Vegan
  • Cruelty-Free Kitty  
  • 6-Free: Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde Resin, Toluene, Camphor, and Dibutyl Phthalate

This polish differs a little from the rest on the list. It is a base coat. When I applied this as an undercoat it protected my nails from the color layer. It does a wonderful job preventing stains. So if you have to succumb to a toxic polish, throw a coat of this on as a base. Then you won’t run the risk of absorbing toxic chemicals. The nail Perfecter allows me to go nude, and simultaneously corrects discoloration or irregularities on my nail bed. Keep it simple with Lauren B.

9. Zoya Nail Polish “Under the Mistletoe” Quad Set

vegan polish nail
  • Cruelty-Free
  • Vegan
  • Cruelty-Free Kitty
  • 10-Free: Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde Resin, Toluene, Camphor, Ethyl Tosylamide, Triphenyl Phosphate, Dibutyl Phthalate, Parabens, Xylene, and Lead.

Fun fact about Zoya, they were the first company to go 3-free, ridding themselves of the “toxic trio” revealed earlier. They have leveled up over the years. I think if you want a safe vegan nail polish at the best price point this is it. Also, because they have been around for so long they are available in many nail salons. While they do not have a certified logo by PETA, they firmly state they do not sell to countries that require animal testing.

With Zanna, Caresse, Lauren, and Jill you are sure to find a color that fits. Caresse and Lauren are shimmers. Zanna and Jill are a cream finish. I can coordinate year round with the warm and cool colors, as my skin tone changes. Con, these colors appear neutral but are actually more pink/mauve. With that frame of mind however they are versatile. Grab a dose of natural pink.

10. Veque Nail Polish “Audacieux” Purple

cruelty free polish nail
  • Cruelty-Free
  • Vegan
  • 9-Free: Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde Resin, Toluene, Camphor, Ethyl Tosylamide, Triphenyl Phosphate, Dibutyl Phthalate, Xylene, or Shellac.

This cruelty-free nail polish is easy to access, no need to order online. Pop into Nordstrom or Nike to pick one up. Veque has a patented technology that mimics gel nails in the salon. With this polish I feel like I just had a nail appointment without the fumes. The high shine garners a lot of attention. I get so many compliments. I really did not need to use much for full coverage. The brush makes application a breeze. My only grievance, they need to make more colors!

11. Color Club Nail Polish “Harp On It” Holographic Hue Multicolored

polish nail
  • Cruelty-Free
  • Vegan
  • Cruelty-Free Kitty
  • 3-Free: Formaldehyde, Toluene, and Dibutyl Phthalate

This particular polish is very similar to the consistency of ILNP nail polish. Goes on smooth. It is a durable holographic silver polish. I had it on for a full week before it started chipping. I found myself at odds morally using this polish. Color Club has been around since 1979, attaining an extensive inventory. On one hand they are female owned and operated. They also donate to numerous charities. However there is a clear lack of transparency when it comes to the nail polish itself.

This company does not have the most informative site. Ingredients are not listed. They have an international distributor option on the site that is troubling. It is hard to justify using this over some of the more credible options on the list. While “Harp On It” is beautiful in the bottle, it takes on a greyish color under low light. The polish is a bit smelly to boot. Another downside, I am not sure whether plastic glitter is used. The company never got back to my inquiry.

12. Tenoverten Nail Polish “Church” Bordeaux Red

cruelty free polish nail
  • Cruelty-Free
  • Vegan
  • 8-Free: Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde Resin, Toluene, Camphor, Ethyl Tosylamide, Triphenyl Phosphate, Dibutyl Phthalate, and Xylene

Tenoverten blossomed out of a female owned nail salon. Founders saw a clear deficiency in healthy nail products in nail salons. Their mission is spot on and the polish will not disappoint. As a conscious company they provide fair pay and the health of their staff is a top priority. They make certain this polish is safe to use and performs.

I love this brand!! Everything I buy from them is amazing.

They have a recycling program that is hard to match. They will take back ANY old nail polish bottles and recycle them—cap, brush, handle, and all that nasty old polish. This is commendable for a company to take on, considering nail polish is a hazardous material. The polish itself is a beautiful deep brick color. It goes on pretty thin so I did need a couple extra coats. It also chipped quickly so a topcoat is recommended.

13. Orosa Nail Polish “Rose Quartz” Sheer Soft Pink

vegan polish nail
  • Cruelty-Free
  • Vegan
  • 14-Free: Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde Resin, Toluene, Camphor, Ethyl Tosylamide, Triphenyl Phosphate, Dibutyl Phthalate, Xylene, Mequinol Hydroquinone, Methylisothiazolinone Gluten, and Palm Oil

This is a hyped 14-Free cruelty-free nail polish. Orosa goes as far as to avoid gluten so that customers with celiacs disease can enjoy fashionable phalanges. In addition palm oil and animal products are excluded because both are devastating to the environment and natural surroundings. Everything excluded from their polishes is termed “the Nope List.”

The website is plain about their formula and brand ideals. Not only do I align with their values this is a luxury nail experience. The brush conforms to the nail creating a smooth paint with no streaks. “Rose Quartz” is another great bottle for French manicures or as a sweet summer pink. I wish these were sold in more shops, because purchasing nail polish online can be a bit tricky.

14. Cote Nail Polish “No. 55” Apricot

vegan polish nail
  • Cruelty-Free
  • Vegan
  • 10-Free: Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde Resin, Toluene, Camphor, Ethyl Tosylamide, Triphenyl Phosphate, Dibutyl Phthalate, Xylene, Parabens, and Gluten.

Been to the French Riviera? Well now you can wear it. This is a classy polish. Made with wholesome ingredients in the U.S. It was extremely chip resistant, lasted for a week. The shine is what really sets them apart. I wash my hands a lot, and nothing broke the shine. This line has my favorite brush out of the bunch. It is wide and makes the strokes quick and easy.

cruelty free polish nail

My only complaint, Cote is a little on the expensive side, but they have some great perks. One being they offer 10% off if you participate in their recycling program. Check here to see if a location offers Cote near you.

15. Pacifica Crystal Gloss Holographic Nail Polish “Milky Way” Multicolored Purple

polish nail
  • Cruelty-Free
  • Vegan
  • PETA Certified Logo
  • Cruelty-Free Kitty
  • 7-Free: Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde Resin, Toluene, Camphor, Dibutyl Phthalate, Xylene, and Parabens

Made in the US with globally sourced ingredients. They list their ingredients and I don’t know what half of stuff they have in there is. What I do know is that they list Mica flakes. That is always a good sign, that it is glitter-less! Goes on smooth and the color makes me feel like a mystic mermaid.

This is another brand that can be found at the local nail shop. Pacifica is a main stream cruelty-free nail polish. They are available in some grocery and drug stores.

cruelty free nail polish

What is your favorite eco-friendly, sustainable and cruelty free nail polish brand?

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