The 10 Best Non-Toxic Nail Polishes You'll Want To Get Your Hands On ASAP

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by Rebecca Taras and BDG Commerce
Originally Published: 

While there’s a lot of beauty buzz surrounding skin and hair care products that are free of parabens, phthalates, and other potentially harmful ingredients, what you put on your nails should be an equally important part of the conversation. The best non-toxic nail polishes are formulated without at least the three main aggressors found in traditional nail polish formulas: dibutyl phthalate (DBP), toluene, and formaldehyde — otherwise known as “three-free” polishes. But these days, the market is flooded with polishes that are free from up to 16 potentially harmful additives. And beyond leaving unfavorable ingredients out of the picture, a truly great non-toxic nail polish will have a high-performance formula (read: long-lasting, chip-free, applies smoothly, and has great color payoff), and come in a wide range of gorgeous shades.

While the three substances mentioned earlier were the very first that many nail polish companies recognized as toxic (and which many, if not most, nail polish companies removed from their formulas), that “no-go” list has since expanded. Now — as Mary Lennon, co-founder of non-toxic nail polish brand côte, recently told Elite Daily — companies have identified at least eight substances found in traditional polishes that are potentially harmful or allergenic: formaldehyde, toluene, DBT, formaldehyde resin, camphor, triphenyl phosphate, xylene, ethyl tosylamide/epoxy resin, and parabens.

When you see a nail polish listed as “5-free,” “7-free,” or “10-free,” for instance, that means the formula doesn’t contain that number of toxic additives. It’s important to note, however, that this type of labeling isn’t overseen by an official regulating body such as the FDA; rather, it’s up to individual companies to decide how to label their nail polishes, and what, exactly, those excluded ingredients are. So it’s always a good idea to read the ingredients list — or, at least, double-check which of those toxic ingredients a formula doesn’t include — to better understand what you are (and aren’t) putting on your nails.

Still not sure where to begin? The 10 non-toxic nail polishes ahead are available in tons of colors and finishes, so you can find a polish free of common aggressors that's still loads of fun to apply.


A Drugstore Nail Polish That’s Free Of 16 Toxic Ingredients

Not only is this Sally Hansen nail polish the rare non-toxic polish you can find at a drugstore, but it’s the rare polish that’s free of a whopping 16 toxic ingredients. In addition to the eight ingredients mentioned in the introduction, the formula doesn’t contain acetone, styrene, bisphenol, glycol ether, nonylphenol ethoxylate, and sulfates. Everything in the bottle is made of vegan ingredients, right down to the plant-based brush and bristles. Over 12,000 Amazon reviewers rave about everything from the longevity, to the smooth application, to the easy-on-the-wallet price tag.

  • 16-free
  • Available shades: 41


The Polish Started The Non-Toxic Movement & Now Comes In Hundreds Of Shades

Around since 1986, Zoya is the pioneer behind the first “Big Three Free,” formula but has since become free of 10 chemicals commonly found in nail polish: formaldehyde, resin, DBP, toluene, camphor, TPHP, parabens, xylene, ethyl, tosylamide, and lead. This glossy long-wearing polish is a classic, and it’s available in literally hundreds of shades. But the brand makes many more non-toxic versions, too, including those with shimmery finishes and four-packs.

  • 10-free
  • Available shades: 280


An Intensely Pigmented Polish With A High-Gloss Finish

Along with having a 10-free formula, butter LONDON’s polishes garner the added benefits of calcium and vitamins A, C, E and B5. The cult Brit brand’s polish leaves behind a gorgeous, high-gloss shine. Sandwiched between a base and top coat, the gel-like formula promises to last up to 10 days without chipping or fading — though reviewers report that it lasts for up to five days even without base or top coats.

  • 10-free
  • Available shades: 40


This Creamy Nail Polish That Comes In 27 On-Trend Shades

These small-batch nail polishes from Cirque Colors are every bit as cool as you’d expect from an indie brand based in Brooklyn, New York. Non-traditional shades abound in the 27-color range, like marigold and chartreuse; though even the more neutral shades (like khaki-colored Vanderbilt), are made with an eye toward current nail trends. Every shade boasts a thick, ultra-creamy, opaque finish, and the formula is free of 10 major toxins.

  • 10-free
  • Available shades: 27


Editor’s Pick: A Prestige Nail Polish That’s Worth The Splurge

These 8-free Smith & Cult polishes are on the pricier side, but according to Bustle editor Caroline Goldstein, you get what you pay for. “Admittedly, I was drawn to these nail polishes for their incredible-looking bottles, but I stayed for the quality. The brush is quite small, allowing for precise application — especially appreciated when painting my toenails — and the color payoff builds elegantly from sheer on the first coat to completely opaque on the second. And I’m consistently impressed with the longevity; it lasts a good week before chipping.” She adds, “I think the brand excels in formulating sophisticated, complex darks (who knew there were so many shades of evergreen, maroon, and navy?), but don’t sleep on their lights and brights. I’m particularly drawn to Exit the Void, the uber-cool periwinkle shade pictured above.”

  • 8-free
  • Available shades: 4 (find more shades here)


This Nail Polish That Hails From A Cult-Favorite NYC Salon

These 8-free Tenoverten Natural Nail Color polishes are yet another New York-based indie brand to consider; this time, they hail from the impossibly chic, cult-favorite salon of the same name. That New York spirit is represented in the polish itself, which all bear the names of city streets (there’s Houston, Fulton, and Delancey, to name a few) and boast resilient long-wear formulas that remain chip-resistant for days on end. “Wears better than regular nail polish! dries well, has nice shine,” one reviewer remarked; another raved, “goes on smooth and has a gorgeous pigment.”

  • 8-free
  • Available shades: 13


A Vegan Nail Polish That's PETA-Certified

  • Also available on Ulta, $11

As if the little elephant on the bottle didn’t already give it away, ella+mila nail polishes are cruelty-free and certified by PETA. Available in over 100 hues and finishes that vary from matte to metallic to glitter (all listed on separate Amazon pages), this is a polish that reviewers feel good about using on their kiddos. And, the quick-drying formula is free of seven of the main offenders commonly found in other nail polishes.

  • 7-free
  • Available shades: 1 (more shades listed here)


A Glittery Nail Polish With The Coolest Holographic Effect

This 7-free ILNP nail polish in the shade Cityscape is basically a New Year’s Eve party in a bottle — or an intergalactic night sky. The onyx polish is shot through with fine, multi-colored glitter for a dimensional, holographic finish. The buildable formula can be worn as a single coat, if you prefer a subtler sparkle (either alone or as a glittery top coat); or, layer on up to four coats if you prefer a dramatic, super-opaque finish. The brand makes tons more holographic, sparkly, and straight-up magical shades, from the chromatic Eclipse to the mermaid-inspired Aria. Every formula is free of seven major toxins.

  • 7-free
  • Available shades: 1 (find more shades here)


A Vitamin-Infused Nail Polish & Treatment In One

The ultimate nail polish that’s good for your nails, this Dr.’s Remedy Enriched Nail Polish is infused with botanicals like anti-fungal garlic bulb and tea tree oil to keep bacteria at bay, while vitamins C and E encourage healthy tips. No time to buff? Wheat proteins and biotin will naturally increase your nail’s strength and shine. Plus, it’s free of seven major toxins. “I am so pleased with this product. Every time I have an outbreak of fungus I just polish my toes and it goes away,” one customer reported, while another raved that “the color is soft and beautiful.”

  • 7-free
  • Available shades: 1 (more shades listed here)


A 100% Vegan Polish With An Extra Thick Brush

This 100% vegan nail polish is free of toluene, camphor, DBP, and formaldehyde, and is not tested on animals. Purity aside, what really makes this polish stand out is its extra thick brush that makes it easy to execute a flawless, long-lasting application that will be chip-free for days. At just $9 a bottle, and with 26 shades to choose from, why not pick up a few?

  • 4-free
  • Available shades: 26

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