The 8 Best Non-Toxic Nail Polish Brands of 2021

Colorful, clean digits are just a swipe away.

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The Rundown
Best Overall:
Zoya at Ulta
Offering more than 600 shades, Zoya is ideal for color fanatics looking for just the precise shade.
These 7-free, vegan, and cruelty-free polishes don't come with a salon price.
If you want the performance of a salon manicure without the environmental and financial impact, consider Dazzle Dry.
The formula is vegan and 10-free while containing nourishing ingredients like keratin, biotin, and rice protein.
Best Kid-Friendly:
Ella+Mila Mommy&Me at Amazon
Ella & Mia’s Mommy & Me set makes painting your child's nails easy by pairing a larger bottle with a smaller, complimentary color.
Best Sustainable Packaging:
Habit Non-Toxic + Vegan Nail Polish at Amazon
We have to admit the bamboo cap is absolutely adorable.
Best Colors:
Cote at Amazon
From neons to neutrals, Côte has a wide selection of shades to satisfy all your desires.
Enjoy the affordability and convenience of running to your drugstore to pick up a new shade with Sally Hansen's vegan line

Whether you go for a bold red or an elegant pastel pink, nail polish can make you feel instantly put together and ready to take on your day. Yet the ingredients behind those vivid shades can have potentially negative effects on your body and the environment.

According to Carla Burns, Senior Healthy Living Science Analyst at the Environmental Working Group, certain chemicals pose a respiratory threat as they are inhaled during the application process, while others are absorbed through the nail beds into the body. A 2015 study at Duke University found that women had a higher level of Triphenyl phosphate, or TPHP, a suspected endocrine-disrupting chemical in their bodies after applying nail polish. Although more study is needed to fully understand the long-term effects of these chemicals, many people prefer to avoid them.

Read ahead for the best non-toxic nail polish brands that will leave you with fabulous nails and fewer worries.

Best Overall: Zoya

Zoya Professional Lacquer in Abby

Long before clean beauty was a buzzword, Zoya and her husband Michael were creating non-toxic nail polish under her namesake brand. Their formulas are vegan and free of 10 concerning chemicals. Offering more than 600 shades, the brand is ideal for color fanatics looking for just the precise shade. It’s easy to find their line at salons and beauty stores. Plus, you can choose from a narrow or wide brush depending on what you prefer during the application process.

Best Budget: Olive & June

Olive & June XOXO

When Sarah Gibson Tuttle moved to Los Angeles from New York City, she couldn’t find the perfect nail salon. So she created it herself along with her own nail polish line. Yet these polishes don’t come with the salon price. For less than $10, you can enjoy shades that are 7-free, vegan, and cruelty-free.

If you are new to applying polish or simply want a better grip, you can also purchase the Poppy (view on Olive & June). This patented brush offers a wide, paddle-like handle for steadier strokes and a more comfortable hold. Just pop it on your favorite bottle for an easier, faster application.

Best Luxury: Dazzle Dry

Dazzle Dry Full System

If you want the performance of a salon manicure, consider Dazzle Dry. This four-step system promises no-chip color for up to two weeks without the UV exposure or harsh chemicals of traditional nail treatments like acrylics, dip powder, or gels. The lacquers are never tested on animals and contain vegan alternatives for animal byproducts like carmine, guanine, urea, stearic acid, lanolin, glycerin, collagen, and beeswax. Dazzle Dry does not contain nitrocellulose, meaning the products won’t expire or turn your nails yellow either. 

Though the four-step system is a bit pricey, it’s a worthwhile investment for anyone serious about their nail game.

Best Gel: Deborah Lippmann Gel Lab Pro

Deborah Lippmann Gel Lab Pro Nail Polish

While a gel manicure at the salon can offer incredible shine and staying power, it comes at a price. Burns says you are likely to inhale more chemicals at the salon, and the UV exposure from the curing process can damage your skin. Shellac, one type of gel polish, also isn’t vegan as it’s made from the secretion of the lac beetle. 

With Deborah Lippman’s Gel Lab Pro Nail Polish, you can enjoy all the benefits of a gel manicure with none of these cons. The formula is vegan and 10-free while containing nourishing ingredients like keratin, biotin, and rice protein. We love the luxurious shades from the celebrity manicurist.

Best Kid-Friendly: Ella+Mila Mommy&Me

Ella + Mia Mommy&Me

Painting your nails with your child can be a fun bonding experience, but you want to be especially careful with your little one’s digits. “Children are more vulnerable to the chemicals than adults due to their small size and concentrated body absorption,” says Burns. “You want to use the same products you would be comfortable using.”

Ella & Mia’s Mommy & Me set makes manicures easy by pairing a larger bottle with a smaller, complementary color. Each bottle is 17-free, vegan, and cruelty-free as certified by PETA. You’ll also get one nail decoration sheet to make your nails extra fun. Who's ready for a mani and pedi playdate?

"It applies normally, removes normally, and lasts the same amount of time that a regular polish would, which is about a week for me before serious chipping kicks in." ~ Katherine Martinko, Treehugger Senior Editor

Best Sustainable Packaging: Habit Non-Toxic + Vegan Nail Polish

Habit Non-Toxic + Vegan Nail Polish

For those who fly through polish bottles like water, you might worry about all the waste from the packaging. USA-made brand Habit is tackling this issue with improvements to traditional nail polish packaging. Its products come with a removable bamboo cap, recycled plastic inner cap, recycled plastic brush, and FSC-certified paperboard boxes. Not to mention the formulas are 7-free and PETA certified. We have to admit the bamboo cap is absolutely adorable.

From neons to neutrals, Côte has a wide selection of shades to satisfy all your desires. Choose from lime green to emerald to mint. They are 8-free and go without parabens or gluten, as well as being vegan and cruelty-free. They also sell an extra-wide brush to make the at-home application process easier (view on Côte).

Best Drugstore: Sally Hansen Good.Kind.Pure

Sally Hansen Good. Kind. Pure. Nail Color

Sally Hansen is a mainstay of the drugstore nail aisle, but did you know that the brand offers a greener formula? With the Good.Kind.Pure line, you can still enjoy the affordability and convenience of running to your drugstore to pick up a new shade while knowing you aren’t harming your body. The formulas are 16-free, vegan, and use a plant-based brush.

“I personally love the shades Pink Cloud and Laven-Dear for a delicate pastel manicure. I purchased the two shades on a whim and was pleasantly surprised. They have a super shiny, opaque finish which can be hard to find in pastel shades.” ~ Emily Cieslak, Treehugger Contributor
Final Verdict

With more than 600 shades and a history of creating non-toxic nail polish, Zoya is a trusted name among salons and DIY manicurists alike (view at Ulta). If you are looking for a brand you can easily find at your drugstore, check out Sally Hansen’s Good.Kind.Pure line (view at Walmart).

FAQs

Is all nail polish toxic?

Burns says certain brands have made significant strides to decrease the toxicity of their products, but it’s important to do your own research and read every product’s label as individual shades have different formulas.

“Non-toxic claims don’t really mean much since they aren’t regulated. Three or 7-free doesn’t mean they are free of all chemicals,” says Burns. “It’s really important for consumers to do their own homework, look at the packaging, and the Skin Deep Database.”

EWG’s Skin Deep Database rates individual products on the hazard levels of its ingredients. You can search by brand, product, and ingredient. EWG VERIFIED products that meet EWG's strictest standards for human health.

What stores carry non-toxic nail polish?

With the increasing consumer demand for non-toxic nail polish, more brands are creating cleaner versions and more stores are carrying them. You can find Sally Hansen’s clean line in most drugstores and Olive & June at Target. 

Beauty specialty stores like Ulta, Sephora, and Bluemercury also carry a few of the brands on this list. Most non-toxic nail polish brands have their own websites where you can buy your favorite shades directly.

Does non-toxic nail polish last as long as conventional nail polish? 

Non-toxic nail polish has come a long way, and today these formulas can last just as long if not longer than conventional polish. To ensure the longest lasting manicure, be sure to use a non-toxic base and top coat and apply the polish on clean nails.

Is glitter nail polish eco-friendly?

Anyone who has worn glitter nail polish knows it’s a pain to remove. The glitter particles won’t break down or come off. Not only does this take a toll on your nails—and sanity—but it's bad for the environment too.

Made up of plastic and aluminum bonded with polyethylene terephthalate (PET), glitter doesn’t break down and instead makes its way into water systems and wildlife. The plastics can collect toxins, becoming endocrine-disrupting chemicals that are consumed by fish and eventually humans in the food chain.

Activists are currently pushing for a glitter ban similar to the one on microplastics. In the meantime, the best action to take is to avoid glitter in nail polish and other cosmetic products.

Is it healthier to paint your nails yourself or get them done in a salon?

While Burns says where you get your nails done is a personal choice, more factors are in your control at home. You know exactly what products you are using, and there is less exposure to toxic fumes. (Though she still recommends painting your nails in a well-ventilated area at home.) The EWG doesn’t evaluate salon practices or products. 

However, if you can’t go without a regular trip to your salon, there are ways to make this practice greener. Most salons let you bring your own polish, and you can research businesses dedicated to sustainability. 

“If you enjoy painting your nails, you are going to have to make a personal decision on where you get them done and what polishes you use. Until we have set beauty standards, it's really a consumer choice,” says Burns. “That’s why we have Skin Deep. Not everyone may agree on the same product, so we have a variety of products that best meets individual needs.”

Why Trust Treehugger?

Beauty writer Emily Cieslak is slightly nail polished obsessed—she has been painting her own nails since she can remember and considers the ritual her weekly mental break. Over the years, she has tried a variety of brands from high end to drugstore and aims to use non-toxic formulas going forward.

For this article, she consulted Carla Burns, Senior Healthy Living Science Analyst at the Environmental Working Group, as well as the EWG Skin Deep Database. We looked for products that were at least 7-free (no toluene, dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, camphor, triphenyl phosphate, or xylene) as well as ranked well for sustainability in other areas like no animal testing and better packaging.

View Article Sources
  1. Young, Anna S., et al. “Phthalate and Organophosphate Plasticizers in Nail Polish: Evaluation of Labels and Ingredients.” Environ. Sci. Technol. DOI:10.1021/acs.est.8b04495. 

  2. Hoffman, Kate, et al. “Monitoring Indoor Exposure to Organophosphate Flame Retardants: Hand Wipes and House Dust.” Environmental Health Perspectives. DOI:10.1289/ehp.1408669.

  3. Nassim, Janelle and Liu, Kristina. “A look at the effects of nail polish on nail health and safety.” Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School.