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For those who are looking to or are in the process of making the switch to cleaner beauty products, nail polish may not be high on the list of priorities. But perhaps it should be; traditional polishes are ladled with chemicals, and there have been some scary insights about the effects of being around nail polish fumes for long periods of time. We’re talking issues such as interference with reproductive hormones, dizziness, headaches, and dry skin, just to name a few.
Happily, what was once a very small number of only niche brands offering non-toxic alternatives has now grown exponentially, with more options out there than ever before. You’ve likely seen the terms ‘3-free’ or ‘5-free’ on polish labels, which refers to the lack of some of the most commonly used chemicals. Today, most polish formulations are at least 3-Free, meaning they don’t contain dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde, or toluene. But moving even beyond that, there are now 5-free, 7-free, 9-free, and even 13-free formulas out there. The great news? Not only are these alternative cleaner and safer, but you also don’t have to sacrifice any of the great qualities you want in a polish, like color, wear time, and shine.
Check out go-to non-toxic nail polishes and see for yourself, below.
Best Overall: Zoya
Vegan and non-toxic, the polishes from this brand are free of 10 major chemicals. They’re also super easy to find and carried by many nail salons and spas; credit the incredible array (400, to be exact) of shades in a wide variety of colors and finishes. Also nice: While the included brush is small and precise, you can also buy a wider brush separately, choice for easier application if you like to DIY your manicures.
Best Drugstore: Sally Hansen Good.Kind.Pure
Forget five- or seven-free, this newbie (the mega nail brand’s first plant-based and 100% vegan product) is free of a whopping 16 chemicals. Also noteworthy: The plant-based brush that’s specially optimized to work with the innovative formula. Choose from a rainbow of 30 hues that offer a little something for everyone; there’s also a top coat and nail hardener available as well.
Best Nude Polish: Kure Bazaar
Trendy colors may come and go, but the chicness and simple sophistication of a nude mani is timeless. That’s why we love the nude hues from this brand; despite the fact that they offer a smaller amount of shades in general, there’s still a nice mix of pale colors that flatter a wide variety of skin tones. Also noteworthy: Not only are the polishes 10-free, but they’re also made of 85% natural ingredients, including things such as wood pulp, wheat, cotton, potatoes, and corn (seriously).
Best Long-Wear Formula: Butter London Patent Shine 10X Nail Lacquer
A patented polymer technology gives this polish the cushiony thickness of a gel…and a similar wear-time, too, up to 10 days without chips. It also stays mega-watt shiny the entire time and has UV absorbers to ward off fading. Not to mention that bamboo extract also helps strengthen your tips, and all the colors are 8-free as well.
Best Reds: Tenoverten
Fans of ruby tips will quickly tell you that not all reds are created equal, which is why we so appreciate the extensive range of red hues this brand offers. From rich berries to vibrant fire-engine there’s something to fit every red preference. You can also create your own set of any three shades, ideal for those who like to mix and match their reds. The 8-free formula doesn’t contain dibutyl phthalate (dbp), toluene, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, camphor, ethyl tosylamide, xylene, or triphenyl phosphate (tphp).
Best No-Chip: Deborah Lippmann Gel Lab Pro
If chipped nails are the ultimate bane of your existence, you likely opt for gel manicures. Enter this non-toxic, no curing light required alternative, which offers gel-like wear and shine. (And yes, it comes off with regular polish remover, no soaking required.) Free of seven common chemicals, it’s instead infused with 10 different ingredients that keep the color glossy and cushiony.
Best Shades: JINSoon Nail Lacquer
A-list celebs and beauty editors alike adore manicurist Jin Soon (and her sophisticated NYC salons) almost as much as they love her eponymous polish collection. The double-patented formula is unlike any other, with a silky texture, glossy finish, and insane color payoff. Speaking of colors, there’s a little something for everyone, from classic creams to of-the-moment trend shades. And yes, they’re all either 9- or 10-free, too.
Best Strengthening: Londontown Lakur Enhanced Color
All of these colors are infused with the brand’s own florium complex, a blend of natural oils and botanicals that deliver major benefits for your tips. Think everything from garlic extract to strengthen weak nails to cucumber extract to prevent splitting to vitamin E to enhance growth. Couple that with the 9-free colors, and you’ve got the perfect way to both treat and beautify nails in one fell swipe.
Best Budget: Olive & June
These 7-free polishes are not only super affordable (one will cost you less than a manicure), they’re also repeatedly lauded for their staying power. Not to mention that they also recently launched a convenient new tool called The Poppy, which makes it easier than ever to paint your own nails, saving you even more cash.
Best Base & Top Coat: Cotê Traveler Strengthening Base & Top Coat
Polish colors may get all the attention, but the base and top coat are the true workhorses, ensuring any manicure stays chip-free. This one gets our vote not only for the non-toxic formula but also for the addition of strengthening vitamin B5 and coffee extract to help rehab weak or peeling nails. It pulls double duty as both base and top coat (or use it solo as a treatment), and we’re big fans of the purse-friendly size.