6 Non-Toxic Nail Polishes — Tried and Reviewed!

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Our contributor Madeleine from The Wise Consumer tested 6 non-toxic nail polish brands — here are her evaluations.

Understanding “Non-Toxic Nail Polish”

Do you know what nail polish labels like 3-Free, 7-Free, or 10-Free indicate? Are you curious if non-toxic nail polish performs as well as regular nail polish? I was too! So, I decided to do some research (and testing) — here’s what I discovered.

Decoding the Label: What Does ‘X-Free’ Polish Mean?

Have you heard of dibutyl phthalate (DBP) or Toluene? How about formaldehyde or triphenyl phosphate (TPHP)? I delve into each of these ingredients here, but these substances, which were commonly used in traditional nail polish brands, have been associated with reproductive, respiratory, and other health conditions.**

While more research is needed, there is mounting evidence, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), that ingredients like TPHP may impact hormone regulation, metabolism, reproduction, and development.” And then there’s formaldehyde, which the FDA states “may cause nails to become brittle and more prone to breakage or peeling and may also lead to skin irritation and allergic reactions.” In short, you don’t want these ingredients in your nail polish.

The good news?

Today, more and more nail polish brands are eliminating harmful ingredients from their formulas. Some even go above and beyond, avoiding other potentially concerning substances, such as ethyl tosylamide and formaldehyde resin.

The omitted ingredients determine how a brand labels itself, e.g., 3-Free, 5-Free, 7-Free, and so on.

For example, a nail polish brand that excludes DBP, toluene, and formaldehyde (known as the “toxic trio”) will label itself 3-Free.

On the other hand, a brand that eliminates “the toxic trio” as well as formaldehyde resin, camphor, ethyl tosylamide, xylene, and TPHP is labeled 8-Free. Some brands go even further, with 10-Free and 16-Free formulations, which I will explain in more detail below.

7-Free: Nail polish without dibutyl phthalate (DBP), toluene, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, camphor, Ethyl Tosylamide, or xylene

8-Free: Nail polish without Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde Resin, DBP, Toluene, Camphor, Ethyl Tosylamide, Xylene, and TPHP.

10-Free: Nail polish without dibutyl phthalate, TPHP, toluene, xylene, ethyl tosylamide, camphor, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, parabens, and tert-butyl hydroperoxide.

16-Free: Nail polish without Formaldehyde, Toluene, Phthalates (including DBP),   Formaldehyde resin, Camphor, Xylene, Ethyl tosylamide, Acetone, TPHP,  Bisphenol A, Glycol ether of series E (glycol ethers derived from ethylene oxide),  Nonylphenol ethoxylate,  Sulfates, Added fragrance,  Parabens, MEHQ/HQ, Methylisothiazolinone, Animal-derived ingredients.

While not all of these ingredients have been proven to be harmful to your health, there’s no harm in being cautious and opting for brands that avoid them.

How Well Do Non-Toxic Nail Polishes Work?

To answer this question, I spent the past few weeks trying out six different non-toxic nail polish brands. I was skeptical at first — I wasn’t sure if brands labeled as 10-free or 16-free would be as good as the traditional brands I had used before.

But, I’m happy to report that I was pleasantly surprised. Overall, each of the brands I tested worked exceptionally well! Some performed better than others, of course.

Reviews of Non-Toxic Nail Polishes

Note that the guide includes partners and affiliates. As always, we only feature brands that meet strict sustainability criteria that we love, and we think you’ll love them too!

1. London Town ($16)

I originally thought I wouldn’t like this brand because it’s 16+ Free, and I assumed it wouldn’t work. I was proven wrong. This is, without a doubt, my favorite brand on this list! The polish had a fantastic consistency, not too thick or too thin, making it incredibly easy to apply (bonus: the brush made application a breeze too). I adored the colors I tried — they were fun, shimmery, and, best of all, lasted a whole week before any chipping occurred. The remaining polish was also easy to remove. Final thoughts: I absolutely recommend it!

Conscious Qualities: 16+ Free, Vegan & Cruelty-Free, Powered by Botanicals or Infused with Flower Oils & Extracts

2. Butter London ($18)

Butter London came in a close second. It was a breeze to apply, requiring only two coats, and it dried quickly. Furthermore, it had a smooth texture. The polish stayed intact for nearly a week without chipping, retained a great shine throughout, and was easy to remove. Additionally, the brand’s Jelly Nail Strengtheners, infused with ingredients like tea tree oil and bamboo extract, aids in repairing nails damaged by harsh polish formulas. Final thoughts: I absolutely recommend it!

Conscious Qualities: 10-Free, Vegan & Cruelty-Free

3. Suite Eleven ($13)

While Suite Eleven offers fewer colors compared to other brands on this list, I genuinely liked this brand and its range of fun and bold colors. Most importantly, the polish was effortless to apply and had a relatively thick consistency (in a good way), so I didn’t need to apply multiple coats for the desired color. Additionally, it dried quickly, which I loved. The polished nails remained shiny even after drying, lasted for nearly a whole week (!) before signs of chipping, and were easy to remove. I also appreciated the unique round bottle shape, unlike most other nail polish brands. Final thoughts: I highly recommend it!

Conscious Qualities: 10-Free, BIPOC-Owned, Handcrafted in the U.S., Made in Small Batches, PETA-Certified

4. Ten Over Ten ($12)

I liked Ten Over Ten, but it wasn’t my favorite because it chipped a bit too easily. It might have been a user error, but I was disappointed that the nail polish started chipping after just two days. However, I appreciated how smooth and shiny the polish was, as well as the intensity of the colors. With just two coats, the colors provided complete, even coverage. Plus, TenOverTen polish was effortless to apply! The bottle design is also really fun!  Final thoughts: I recommend it!

Conscious Qualities: 8-Free, Vegan & Cruelty-Free, Recycling Initiatives

5. Sundays ($18)

I adored Sundays’ darker colors — they were easily applicable and provided even, full coverage. However, the lighter colors tended to “puddle” a bit during application and required multiple coats. Overall, I found this nail polish to be slightly thinner compared to other brands. Nevertheless, once applied, it dried quickly and stayed intact for nearly a week before any chipping occurred. The color and shine also remained consistent throughout the week, which I really appreciated! Final thoughts: Opt for darker colors!

Conscious Qualities: 10-Free, Vegan & Cruelty-Free, BIPOC-Owned

6. Jin Soon ($18)

I liked Jin Soon’s polish, but I didn’t love it. It was slightly too “thin” for my liking and tended to “puddle” too easily on my nail during application. I also had to apply multiple coats to achieve the desired opacity, and I struggled with achieving an even coverage with the lighter colors. However, the darker colors worked perfectly, and once applied, the polish lasted for nearly a week. It also had a nice shine, even without a topcoat. Plus, I absolutely loved the glitter polish, Bijou — it was so fun and incredibly long-lasting! Additionally, Jin Soon offers a wide range of playful colors, allowing for ample creative opportunities!  Final thoughts: Opt for darker colors! 

Conscious Qualities: 10-Free, BIPOC-Owned, Vegan & Cruelty-Free.

Overall, I am thoroughly impressed by all of these nail polish brands and appreciate being able to paint my nails without worrying about toxic chemicals!

** It’s important to note that even the FDA advises “consumers should carefully read labels of nail products and follow any warnings. As mentioned above, some ingredients in nail products may be harmful if ingested. Some ingredients can easily catch fire if exposed to an open flame, such as the pilot light of a stove, a lit cigarette, or other heat sources, like the heating element of a curling iron. Nail products can also pose risks if they get into the eyes. Infections and allergic reactions can occur with some nail products. Make sure to work in a well-ventilated area when using nail products. If you experience a reaction to a nail product, please report it to the FDA.”

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