Nail Polish

Shop vegan and cruelty-free nail polish. All nail care products in our store are 100% free of animal-derived materials, ingredients, by-products and testing.

Nail Polish

What is vegan and cruelty-free nail polish?

The term “vegan” with regard to nail polish and lacquer, refers to products that do not contain animal derived or sourced ingredients. The term “cruelty-free” means a product and its ingredients aren’t tested on animals. Note the distinction between the two. However, nail polish, lacquer and similar products that are both vegan and cruelty-free don’t have any animal derived or sourced ingredients, and none of the ingredients are tested on animals.

Are there actually animal-derived ingredients in nail polish?

Sadly enough, many mainstream and drugstore brand nail polishes contain animal derived or sourced ingredients to add colour and shine, or to give the nail polish a certain texture. Such ingredients can include:

Guanine: Derived from fish scales and acids that are located in animal tissue. Due to its ability to provide shimmer, it's often found in non-vegan nail products that have a luminous, pearly effect, or in glitter polish colours. Be warned, it might be listed as 'pearl essence' on a non-vegan nail polish bottle.

Carmine: Red hues of nail polish often contain carmine. By boiling and crushing beetles, red colour is created, and that's what gives certain nails such a rich shade.

Oleic Acid: Derived from animal oils and tallow (which is basically rendered animal fat). In cosmetics, including nail polish, oleic acid is used for various purposes, often as a thickening a solution.

What companies make vegan/cruelty-free nail polish?

So, what do you do about all these animal-derived ingredients? Simply put, your best bet is to buy from companies that make nail polish and lacquer that are known to only use ingredients of non-animal origin. And to be extra safe, you’ll want to also make sure they don’t test on animals. Don’t worry, we’ve done the research for you; these vegan and cruelty-free companies include:

Please Note: This is not an inclusive list; we will add more companies after we hear back from some that we’ve contacted regarding their vegan and cruelty-free status.

Does buying one vegan bottle of nail polish really make a difference for the animals?

Absolutely, and it may come as a surprise to some that doing so is actually a very effective form of animal welfare activism! Here’s how it works; when you buy vegan and cruelty-free nail polish, even just one bottle, you’re telling retailers and manufacturers that there’s a market for these animal-friendly products. Demand fuels supply, and with more supply comes more opportunities for everyone (not just vegans!) to purchase cruelty-free and animal-free nail polish...even if it’s just by accident for non-vegans. Ultimately, more cruelty-free and vegan products being purchased means less animal-derived products being purchased.

What about harsh chemicals, should I avoid those too?

While nail polish can't exist without the use of certain chemicals, others can and should be avoided. And while there are raging debates surrounding whether or not ingredient ‘A’ is carcinogenic, or ingredient ‘b’ is a hormone disruptor, it’s hard to debate that safe is better than sorry. So, if you’re interested in siding with caution be sure to buy nail polish that proudly states that they’re free of the following harsh chemicals:

Formaldehyde: Commonly used in nail hardeners and nail polish despite being classified as a known carcinogen by the U.S. National Toxicology Program.

Formaldehyde Resin: A synthetic polymer used in circuit boards and molded products such as pool balls and coatings and adhesives.

Toluene: An organic solvent with the ability to dissolve paint, rubber, ink, adhesive, lacquers, among other products. Known to affect the nervous system.

Dibutyl phthalate ("DBT" or "phthalates"): A plasticizer and a common additive to adhesives. It is suspected that DBT may disrupt the endocrine system and has been restricted from use in cosmetics by the European Union.

Camphor: Used in the embalming process (similar to formaldehyde). It is highly flammable and toxic even in small doses.

Parabens: prevent growth of fungus, yeast, molds and bacteria in cosmetics. They are estrogen agonists (meaning they mimic estrogen hormone in the body), and can bind to the cellular estrogen receptor.

Triphenol phosphate (TPHP): Used in nail polish to make the product less flammable and improve adherence of the polish to the nail. TPHP is an endocrine disruptor, which means it can disrupt the messaging to your cells, telling them to change or to behave in ways that the body would not normally signal them to behave, and absorbs through the nails at significant levels.

Sulfates: Surfactants that when added to cleansing agents, improve their cleaning ability. Sulfates cause irritation of the skin, which is why they are being removed from many cosmetics, beauty products and cleansing products.

Fragrance: Last but not least is “Fragrance”. Beware of this on a bottle of anything if it does not specify the ingredients in the fragrance. Considered trade secrets, cosmetics companies aren’t required to list what ingredients are found in fragrances, as a result, they could contain any number of chemicals. For example, our old friends parabens are often used as fragrance ingredients.

Please Note: Fortunately, most vegan & cruelty-free companies are also concerned about the use of these sketchy chemicals. As a result, most vegan and cruelty-free products will read “Free of Sulfates, Parabens, Formaldehyde, Camphor...".

Is vegan & cruelty-free nail polish and lacquer expensive?

In general, vegan and cruelty-free nail polish, lacquer and other products are not any more expensive, or any less-expensive, than products that include animal sourced and derived ingredients and/or were tested on animals. Just like non-vegan/non-cruelty-free products, there are differences in the quality of the ingredients used, differences in the manufacturing processes, shipping and import taxation, and different brand names behind the products; all of these factors can make prices can vary quite a bit from one nail product to the next.

Should I get rid of any non-vegan nail polish that I already own?

This is a controversial topic within the vegan community, but we believe there is no right or wrong answer to this question; it’s possible that you could survey 50 vegans and get 50 different answers. In our opinion, it’s up to you to decide what you can afford to replace immediately, what can be given away, and what you’re no longer comfortable using once you learn of its gruesome origins. Some options might be to give away any unused or gently used products to friends and family, or use products (if you’re comfortable doing so) until they have run out or otherwise outlived their usefulness. This is certainly one of the more challenging aspects of adopting a vegan and cruelty-free lifestyle, but try not to feel too overwhelmed, just make progress where you can.

How do you choose which companies to list?

We keep a growing list of companies that we find, or are suggested to us, whose entire line of nail polish and related products seems to be completely vegan-friendly and cruelty-free. We contact these companies to find out which products of theirs, if any, use animal derived or sourced ingredients, or have ingredients that are tested on animals. If they assure us that their nail polish, lacquer and related products are cruelty-free and suitable for vegans, and they can be purchased on Amazon, then we list those products here for your convenience.

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For companies that make vegan & cruelty-free nail polish and lacquer

If you make vegan and cruelty-free nail polish or lacquer, we’d love to feature you and your products on the growing “Brands We Love” section of our site! Contact us at  - info(at)getitvegan(dot)com - to find out more!


Some of the information for this mini guide on vegan nail polish and lacquer was gathered from the following sources: