I LOVE nail polish. I have more tubes of nail polish in my vanity than I know what to do with. Ever since I got my first nail polish kit as a kid, I’ve used it on a weekly basis.
Part of my Monday morning routine is picking out what color I’m going to paint my nails for the week.
Unlike some of my other vegan makeup, nail polish is affordable and incredibly easy to apply. There’s only one problem – most of the mainstream nail polish brands are NOT vegan.
In today’s post, I’m going to show you some of the best vegan nail polish brands that I’ve tried, along with the pros and cons of each. Let’s dive in and get colorful!
Are Most Nail Polishes Vegan?
On the surface, nail polish seems innocent enough. The brightly-colored tubes of shiny polish are often marketed to young adults as safe, non-toxic cosmetics.
For many young girls, nail polish is the first “makeup” that our parents let us use, so the habit starts early.
The problem is that most mainstream nail polish isn’t vegan.
The brightly-colored pigments often come from fish scales or crushed beetles. Gelatin and other animal-derived emulsifiers are often used to keep the nail polish consistency strong.
The shiny gloss finish is also the result of animal by-products that are obtained directly from slaughterhouses that support the meat industry.
To add to the problem, cosmetic companies have historically tested their products on captive animals. More often than not, these tests are cruel, painful, and often lead to death or crippling disability for the animals.
Thankfully, a growing number of manufacturers and cosmetic companies have started producing cruelty-free vegan nail polish!
Is OPI Nail Polish Vegan?
OPI makes some great quality nail polish. Their nail polish is also vegan-friendly, as they don’t directly test their products on animals or use animal by-products in their polishes.
Common Non-Vegan Ingredients In Nail Polish
The main ingredients in nail polish are:
- Nitrocellulose (a film-forming polymer)
- Resin and/or liquid polymer
The polymers and solvents used in nail polish are vegan. They’re not exactly healthy or great for the environment, but they are synthetic and don’t come from animals.
The coloring is typically where you’ll find animal ingredients and by-products, though. Color, dye, and added liquid sheen often come directly from animal remains.
Here are some of the most common non-vegan additives in nail polish:
|Non-Vegan Ingredients In Nail Polish||Where They Come From|
|Guanine (or pearl essence)||A shiny, high-gloss additive that’s derived from herring fish scales that have been crushed and processed.|
|Shellac||A high-gloss resin that’s derived from crushing the female “lac” beetle. When the beetles are crushed, they release high amounts of the resin, which is then filtered and processed into shellac.|
|Carmine||A deep red dye that’s derived from red-colored beetle exoskeletons. The Beatles are farmed and crushed to make the dye.|
|Gelatin||Gelatin comes from reduced animal fat and is often used as a stabilizing agent in nail polish to ensure the contents of the tube remain homogenous.|
Also, be sure to look out for toxic ingredients in your nail polish! Most vegan-friendly nail polishes use far fewer toxins than their non-vegan counterparts:
The Best Vegan Nail Polish Brands To Check Out This Year (2023)
Now that you know a little bit more about why most nail polish isn’t vegan, I’m here to tell you the good news. There are plenty of great cruelty-free vegan nail polish brands!
I’ve tried most of the top-rated vegan nail polishes on the market. While most of them have been decent, a few have really stood out. Below, you’ll find my favorites.
1) OPI Nature Strong Vegan Nail Polish (link)
- My Favorite Color: “Thistle Make You Bloom” (glossy purple-pink)
OPI Nature Strong Vegan Nail Polish is one of my favorite all-vegan lines of nail polish!
Their products are all certified vegan by the Vegan Society, which means that you can use their products with full confidence that they’re free from animal products and were never tested on animals.
The Nature Strong collection features thirty-five different colors and shades that range from neutral tones like gray, white, and light brown to vibrant colors like blue, purple, pink, green, and deep red.
They also offer a vegan topcoat that can be applied above the nail polish to ensure lasting shine and prevent the polish from chipping as quickly.
Another thing that really stands out about OPI’s Nature Strong collection is that it’s one of the few “9-free” nail polish brands on the market!
This means it’s free from nine of the most toxic nail polish additives, including formaldehyde, toluene, formaldehyde resin, dibutyl phthalate, xylene, lead, paraben, ethyl tosylamide, and camphor.
What I Like About It:
- Over thirty original shades and a vegan topcoat available.
- Certified vegan by the Vegan Society.
- 9-free nail polish.
- Long-lasting color and cruelty-free shine.
- It’s one of the more expensive vegan nail polish brands.
2) essie expressie Quick-Dry Vegan Nail Polish (link)
- My Favorite Color: “238 Dial It Up” (deep lavender purple)
If you’re an on-the-go girl who doesn’t have time to sit around and waste time applying and re-applying nail polish, then essie expressie Quick-Dry Vegan Nail Polish is a perfect choice!
Unlike most vegan nail polish brands, which take around three to five minutes to fully dry between coats, essie expressie Quick-Dry polish is fully dry in just sixty seconds.
By the time you finish one hand, it’ll be fully dry and ready for the second coat. Thanks to the rich pigment, you’ll only need to apply two coats for a perfect finish.
This collection features over forty-five different colors that span across the color spectrum. So, if you’re looking for that perfect shade to match your outfit, essie expressie vegan nail polish has your back.
What I Like About It:
- Over forty-five colors are available.
- Quick-drying formula is fully dry within sixty seconds.
- Only requires two coats for a complete application.
- Contains more toxic chemicals than OPI’s vegan nail polish.
3) Pacifica Beauty | Plant Magic Neutral Nail Polish Set (link)
- My Favorite Color: Iridescent green
Pacifica Beauty Plant Magic has some of the highest quality vegan nail polish on the market. Honestly, I’d say they’re the closest competition to OPI.
The only qualm I have is that Pacifica Beauty doesn’t offer quite as many colors and shades as OPI or essie expressie. However, the colors that they do have are great!
Pacifica Beauty is “16-free,” which means that they’re easily one of the least toxic brands of nail polish ever created.
In addition to being 100% vegan, they’re also certified cruelty-free by Leaping Bunny, which means that they don’t sell any products in countries that require animal testing.
What I Like About It:
- The 16-free formula makes it one of the least toxic nail polishes available.
- Rich, iridescent colors are available.
- No need for a topcoat.
- Leaping Bunny certified.
- They don’t offer a wide variety of colors or shades.
4) Sally Hansen Good, Kind, Pure Vegan Nail Polish (link)
- My Favorite Color: “Fruity Papaya” (red-pink)
Good. Kind. Pure Vegan Nail Polish by Sally Hansen is one of the most affordable vegan nail polishes on the market.
Each tube of this polish is about half the cost of the same-sized tube from OPI or Pacifica Beauty, allowing you to stock up on all of your favorite colors without breaking the bank.
Like Pacifica Beauty, Good. Kind. Pure vegan nail polish is 16-free, so you don’t have to worry about poisoning your nails and skin with a bunch of toxic chemicals.
In fact, this polish is specially formulated to protect and strengthen your nails, which reduces the chances of them breaking or cracking!
They currently offer thirty different shades as well as a vegan-friendly top coat.
What I Like About It:
- 16-free formula.
- Designed to protect and strengthen your nails.
- Over thirty shades are available.
- Very affordable.
- They don’t offer many high-gloss colors.
5) Jolie Vegan Nail Polish (link)
- My Favorite Color: “No Limits” (deep magenta red)
Jolie Vegan Nail Polish is 100% cruelty-free and certified by PETA, which means that you can wear any color shade offered by this brand.
They currently offer twenty-nine different colors and shades that range from mild earth tones to bright colors that’ll draw attention wherever you are.
Jolie polish is 10-free, which makes them similar to OPI in chemical composition.
Although they’re not the cheapest nail polish brand, they do donate a percentage of their sales to mental health organizations throughout the U.S., so I don’t mind paying a few extra dollars!
What I Like About It:
- 10-free formula.
- Twenty-nine different colors and shades are available.
- Donates to mental health organizations.
- It doesn’t stay on for long, so you’ll need to reapply more often.
Conclusion – What’s The Best Vegan Nail Polish Brand?
After switching to a fully vegan lifestyle, I had to ditch my old favorites and find new ones. Luckily for me, there are tons of great vegan nail polish brands on the market!
So far, I’d have to say that OPI’s Nature Strong Vegan Nail Polish is the best. Their 9-free formula includes a wide variety of colors and shades, which are all certified vegan.
Vegan nail polish is a great way to draw attention to your mani-pedi. However, if you want to draw attention to the natural beauty of your eyes, then you’ve got to check out my list of the best vegan mascara brands next!