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Perfect Your Mani With These Pretty Vegan Nail Polishes

by Charlotte Pointing

Feb 21, 2023

Nowadays, millions of us love a manicure. And for that reason, the modern nail polish market is huge. (In 2021, it was valued at more than $14 billion.) Sadly, not all of these options are vegan and cruelty-free. But if you want pretty nails that don't hurt the animals, you've come to the right place. Here are the best vegan nail polishes on the market. But first: what's the difference between vegan nail polish and regular nail polish?

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Painting our nails with different colors isn't new, in fact, it's actually been going on for thousands of years.

According to historians, even Babylonian warriors painted their nails before combat in a bid to instill fear in their enemies. Today, nail polish is more about fun and creativity than intimidation. But the market does have a dark side: animal cruelty.

Many regular nail polishes on the market are made with animal products. Carmine, for example, comes from crushed beetles and because of its crimson color, is often used in red shades of nail polish. (To produce just one pound of carmine, 70,000 crushed bugs are required.)

There's also keratin, a form of animal protein, which is often added to nail products for its strengthening properties. And guanine, known for its shimmer, comes from fish scales (it's often labeled as "pearl essence" in ingredient lists).

Vegan nail polish, however, relies on plant-derived and synthetic ingredients to give the same effect, only without animal cruelty.

What ingredients should you avoid in nail polish?

As well as animal products, nail polish can contain potentially toxic chemicals.

Dibutyl phthalate, toluene, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, and camphor, for example, are common on ingredient lists, but research suggests that all may have links to adverse health effects.

For example, the FDA notes: "In nail hardeners, formaldehyde bonds with the keratin that occurs naturally in the nails, making the nails harder. Using these nail hardeners often, however, may make nails brittle and more likely to break or peel." It adds: "Nail products that contain formaldehyde may also cause skin irritation, as well as allergic reactions to this ingredient."

This is why, sometimes, nail polishes are advertised as "5-free," which means they contain none of the above ingredients.

Occasionally, brands take things a step further, and advertise their products as "7-free" or "10-free," and this often means that other ingredients, like parabens, phthalates, and fragrances, have also been avoided.

Best vegan nail polish

If you know where to look, it's easy to find vegan, toxic chemical-free nail polishes in a range of beautiful colors. To help you out, we've gathered our favorites below. And, of course, they're all 100 percent cruelty-free.

Sustainable packaging?None specified
Free of toxic chemicals?10-free
100% vegan brand?Yes
Parent company tests on animals?No

For pretty, pastel pink nails, you only need two or three coats of Jolie Vegan's Blossoming shade. The 10-free formula dries quickly after application, leaving a smooth, clean finish.

But as well as giving you cute toxic chemical-free nails, Jolie Vegan also has another mission: mental health support.

With each purchase, a percentage of the sales is given to an organization dedicated to supporting people struggling with mental illness. These include Mental Health America, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Most environmentally-conscious:

This is a sponsored listing.

Sustainable packaging?Organic timber cap
Free of toxic chemicals?At least 12-free
100% vegan brand?Yes
Parent company tests on animals?No

Sienna Byron Bay's Serenity is a gorgeous clean, pastel champagne shade, ideal for warm spring days (or when you just want to feel like it's a warm spring day, but actually it's freezing outside).

Ethically made in France, the formula is made up of several natural ingredients, including sugarcane, cotton, corn, and cassava, and is packaged inside a recyclable glass bottle, complete with an organic, compostable timber cap. The brand notes the formula is at least 12-free, but their products are also free of nano-particles, glitter, and benzophenone-1.

According to Sienna Byron Bay, sustainability is a key component of its brand. So, not only is the packaging sustainable but its warehouse and office are powered with renewable energy too.

The formula has also been made with all genders and skin colors in mind (you can see the polish on three different skin tones on its website), and it's Wudu-friendly too.

Sustainable packaging?Made with recyclable glass and plastic
Free of toxic chemicals?10-free
100% vegan brand?Yes
Parent company tests on animals?No

Give your nails a touch of Bridgerton-esque style with Zoya's creamy Wedgwood blue Austin shade.

The 10-free formula, which will last for roughly a week, is fast-drying, will leave a glossy finish, and, let's be honest, it's the perfect accompaniment to that summer wedding guest dress you've had your eye on.

If you want to make sure your polish stays chip-free for longer, Zoya also offers a vegan top coat, which features additional UV sun protection.

Sustainable packaging?None specified
Free of toxic chemicals?13-free
100% vegan brand?Yes
Parent company tests on animals?No

If Bridgerton isn't really your bag, but you do love a little bit of intergalactic-style sparkle, try Orly's chrome Retrograde.

The 13-free formula is easy to apply, thanks to the ergonomic design of the brush and cap, and you should have the right coverage after just two coats.

This polish isn't ultra fast-drying. But, if you're running late and don't have time for your nails to dry, save yourself the heartbreak of smudging them by applying the brand's Sec n' Dry topcoat, which will also make sure your color lasts longer, or its Flash Dry Drops.

Sustainable packaging?None specified
Free of toxic chemicals?17-free
100% vegan brand?Yes
Parent company tests on animals?No

When you want to feel confident and strong, or you just want a polish that simply goes with everything, a glossy black is the way forward. And, with its Pure Black shade, Ella+Mila delivers.

It will also remain chip-free for days after application, and you shouldn't need more than one or two coats to get the desired effect.

Plus, when it comes to chemicals, Ella+Mila is taking zero chances, which is why all of its formulas are 17-free (you can find the extensive list on its website).

Sustainable packaging?Bamboo cap
Free of toxic chemicals?10-free
100% vegan brand?Yes
Parent company tests on animals?No

Make like the movie stars of the 1950s with this classic, vintage red.

The formula dries quickly, is relatively long-lasting, and even better, it features plant-based ingredients, like corn, potatoes, wheat, and bamboo extract. The latter is a good source of silica, which is associated with strong, healthy nails.

ZAO Makeup is also committed to sustainability, which is why, across its range, you'll find that most of its products also feature bamboo in their packaging.

Sustainable packaging?Recyclable
Free of toxic chemicals?9-free
100% vegan brand?No
Parent company tests on animals?No

Another shade perfect for spring, Mineral Fusion's Peachside Party delivers a smooth, creamy formula, with just the right touch of orange.

It's also long-lasting, relatively chip-resistant, and, according to Mineral Fusion, it's also one of the world's first carbon-free nail polishes, alongside other products from the brand's range.

This is because the brand calculates the emissions used to create it, before offsetting through energy efficiency, forestry, and renewable energy projects.

Sustainable packaging?Made with some recycled plastic
Free of toxic chemicals?Free from fragrance, mineral oils, and animal ingredients
100% vegan brand?No
Parent company tests on animals?Yes - Coty

Last year, Rimmel London launched its first 100 percent vegan line of cosmetics, called Kind & Free. And as well as mascara, concealer, and powder, the range includes nail polish.

Made with a gentle, plant-based formula (70 percent comes from natural ingredients, including potato!), the brand offers the polish in nine different colors, including this vampy purple Berry Opulence shade. (It's a great fall color, but honestly, it's pretty timeless.)

It doesn't last as long as some of the other options on this list, and will probably stay chip-free for only a couple of days, but it does dry quickly. Plus, the price is at the more affordable end of the spectrum.

Sustainable packaging?None specified
Free of toxic chemicals?10-free
100% vegan brand?Yes
Parent company tests on animals?No

Somewhere between grey and beige lies the color greige. It sounds a little boring, but when it's on your nails, it will look high-end, sleek, and sophisticated. And as a bonus, it goes with everything, so you won't need to worry about matching your outfit to your mani.

Inspired by runway looks from luxury brands like Chloé and Bottega Veneta, this long-lasting, creamy formula from LVX also has a lovely, shiny finish. Perfect for that faux salon-fresh look.

Sustainable packaging?None specified
Free of toxic chemicals?7-free
100% vegan brand?Yes
Parent company tests on animals?No

If you want pink, but not too pink (like Barbie-style, we mean), then We're Off to Never Never Land is a lovely, girly shade with a muted lavender tone.

Like most of NCLA's polishes, the formula is fast-drying, and the coverage is satisfying too (so you won't need loads of coats to achieve the right look). As a bonus, it's also locally made in California, where the brand is based.

Sustainable packaging?None specified
Free of toxic chemicals?17-free
100% vegan brand?Yes
Parent company tests on animals?No

Perfect for welcoming in the lighter days and luscious green lawns of spring, Wheatgrass has a creamy formula and a beautifully vibrant pigment.

It was inspired by the founder Dr. Cary Gannon's own wellness journey and her discovery of wheatgrass shots, which are renowned for their health benefits.

To be clear, you can't drink this nail polish, but that said, it might inspire you to get in touch with nature and take care of yourself more. Or it might just give you pretty nails. Whatever happens, it's a win.

Best Luxury:

Sustainable packaging?Acetate box-free
Free of toxic chemicals?10-free
100% vegan brand?No
Parent company tests on animals?No

For the days when you do want bright pink nails (we say embrace the Barbie), then try Deborah Lippmann's Full Coverage Poppy Red Creme.

The bold shade will give you the same shine as gel nails, only you don't need any lamp to dry them, (which means less faff, but also less nail damage too).

Ingredients include biotin, which is actually a B vitamin associated with healthy growth, and green tea extract, which may help to restore and strengthen your nails.

Best budget:

Sustainable packaging?Recyclable outer packaging
Free of toxic chemicals?3-free
100% vegan brand?Yes
Parent company tests on animals?No

At under $5, Barry M's In a Flash nail paint is a steal. It's fast-drying (as the name promises), bold, shiny, and relatively long-lasting.

It's the perfect choice for those situations when you're in a hurry and have to do some quick nail DIY on the train to a work event or last-minute night out. Keep it in your bag for days when you're caught off guard.

The Verdict

While many nail polishes on the market rely on animal ingredients (including crushed bugs!) for a vivid, shiny color, it's still easy to find cruelty-free, vegan alternatives. And many are chemical-free too!

To summarize, here are some of our top picks:

Best luxury: Deborah Lippmann Fire with Fire Vegan Nail Polish
Most environmentally conscious: Sienna Byron Bay Serenity Vegan Nail Polish
Best budget: Barry M Teal Rush In A Flash Quick Dry Vegan Nail Polish

Which Brands Are Cruelty-Free?

Download our list of 600+ verified cruelty-free brands straight to your device. Bring it with you everywhere you go, and never worry about supporting animal testing again. Click here to download

+ Show Comments (3) - Hide Comments (3)
  • Charlene Knobel says:

    Is OPI cruelty free and is there any brands that are available in stores instead of Amazon?

  • Sydney K says:

    Great selection of cruelty free brands these days. Safe for animals and people alike. I’ve pursued cruelty free products for decades (I’m 71) and have witnessed vast changes in public awareness over time. U make them easier to find and help us to stay alert in spotting those which r truly NOT cruelty free in every respect. As for me parent companies which r not cruelty free r NOT acceptable. Educating the public is paramount. Continue the fight. We need u out there on the front lines. ????

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