12 of the Best Safer Nail Polish Brands for Pretty Nails

Safer nail polish brands that are free of the most toxic ingredients like formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, camphor, formaldehyde and more.

Why You Should Switch to Safer Nail Polish + the Best Nail Polish Brands

So you’ve cleaned up most of your makeup and switched to non-toxic beauty and personal care products – but is there anything you can do about your nails?

Creating that colorful, durable coating for your nails involves chemicals – and some of them are worse than others. So if you choose to use nail polish, it’s wise to know what’s in it.

Let’s learn a little bit more…

I may receive commissions from purchases made through affiliate links in this article including Amazon Affiliates. Full Disclosure

I may receive commissions from purchases made through links in this article including Amazon Affiliates. Full Disclosure

Why It Matters

You might be thinking – wait – nail polish goes on hard nails, not directly on skin – so what’s the big deal?

It turns out that nails are actually quite absorbent, especially when exposed to the combination of solvents and other chemicals in nail polish. That combined with absorption via cuticles and surrounding skin, mean that these chemicals are getting into our bodily systems.

As proof of that point, studies have shown that people who painted their nails had elevated levels of endocrine disrupting chemicals in their urine. Endocrine disrupting chemicals are known to interfere with normal hormone functioning, and can lead to weight gain and reproductive irregularities. This is of especially high concern for salon workers, but obviously not good for anyone.

RELATED: 4 Good Reasons to Buy Natural, Non-Toxic Products for Home & Life

How to Find a Safer Nail Polish

First let’s get one thing straight – there is no thing as a chemical free nail polish. Nail polish is a lacquer for your nails and there’s just no way to do that using natural ingredients only. But there are ways to make the formula much safer.

When shopping for nail polish, look for products that are free of the worst chemicals. Researchers have identified toluene, formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate as the “toxic trio”. Many brands label products as 5-FREE or up to 10-FREE.

Top chemicals to avoid:

  • formaldehyde and formaldehyde resin
  • dibutyl phthalate (DBP)
  • toluene
  • camphor
  • triphenyl phosphate  (TPHP)
  • xylene
  • lead and other heavy metals
  • ethyl tosylamide
  • parabens
  • sulfates

Water based vs. Solvent Based Nail Polish

There are 2 types of safer nail polish: water based and solvent based. Here are some of the pros and cons of each:

Water based nail polish

Made with: acrylic polymer resin

Pros: No offgassing VOCs, odorless, good for kids and pregnant women, easy to apply and quick to dry

Cons: Can be difficult to remove – especially after more than a few days

Solvent based nail polish

Made with: nitrocellulose resins and safer solvents

Pros: Most common and easy to find in many colors, easy to remove with nail polish

Cons: Still contains some smelly solvents


Safer Nail Polish Brands

As the truth about nail polish has been uncovered, more companies have been cleaning up their ingredient lists. All of the brands listed here are at minimum 5-FREE, meaning they are free of the 5 most common bad actor chemicals. Some go further, eliminating up to 10 different chemicals. They are all vegan/cruelty free as well. A few are water based but most are safer solvent based.

In terms of performance, they all have great reputations for quality. The only downside is that they can be harder to remove than conventional nail polish. I’ve found that allowing nail polish remover to sit on the nails for a minute before taking it off, helps quite a bit. That plus a bit of elbow grease will get the job done!


Olive & June

  • 15-FREE (Formaldehyde Toulene DBP Formaldehyde Resin Camphor Ethyl Tosylamide Xylene Triphenyl Phosphate (TPHP) Acetone Animal-Derived Ingredients Bisphenol-A Nonylphenol Ethoxylate Parabens Sulfate)
  • Vegan and cruelty-free


  • 10-FREE (formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, camphor, TPHP, parabens, xylene, formaldehyde resin, ethyl tosylamide and lead)
  • Vegan

Mineral Fusion

  • 7-FREE (formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, camphor, and formaldehyde resin)
  • 77% naturally derived
  • Vegan & cruelty free
Aila nail polish


  • 8 FREE (formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), toluene, formaldehyde resin, camphor, triphenol phosphate (TPHP), parabens, sulfates)
  • Vegan
Ella Mila nail polish

Ella + Mila

  • 17-FREE (Acetone, Animal-Derived Ingredients, Bisphenol-A, Camphor, Ethyl Tosylamide, Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde Resin, Gluten, Glycol Ether of Series E, Nonylphenol Ethoxylate, Parabens, Phthalates (including DBP), Styrene, Sulfate, Toluene, Triphenyl Phosphate (TPHP/TPP), Xylene)
  • Vegan
  • Leaping Bunny certified

Zero (100% Pure)

  • 20-FREE (formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, camphor, formaldehyde resin, xylene, parabens, fragrances, phthalates & more)
  • Vegan
Acquarella nail polish


  • 5-FREE (formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, camphor, and formaldehyde resin)
  • Plus free of parabens, lead, mercury, FD&C, coal tar
  • Water based
  • Odor free
  • PETA certified cruelty free

Honeybee Gardens

  • 5-FREE (formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, camphor, and formaldehyde resin)
  • Water based
  • No FD&C colors
  • PETA certified cruelty free


  • 7-FREE (parabens, phthalates (dibutyl phthalate), toluene, xylene, camphor, formaldehyde, resin)
  • Vegan (including brush)
Black Dahlia nail polish

Black Dahlia Lacquer

  • 10 FREE (formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, camphor, formaldehyde resin and more)
  • Vegan
  • Leaping Bunny certified cruelty free
Priti NYC nail polish

Priti NYC

  • 5-FREE (formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, camphor, and formaldehyde resin)
  • Plus free of TPHP , xylene and all parabens
  • Vegan
  • Cruelty free
Flora Nail Polish

Flora 1761

  • 8-FREE (formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, formaldehyde resin, camphor, xylene, ethyl tosylamide, triphenyl phosphate and parabens)
  • Inspired by the historic elegance of flowers and botanicals
  • Vegan and cruelty free
  • Made in USA

Do you have a favorite safer nail polish brand?

green & healthy wishes Micaela signature


  1. Love that somebody else is starting to cover this! I’ve read more and more articles on this lately. Only one note – Scotch Naturals I believe has gone out of business. Their website has nothing for sale and says new colors will be released in Summer 2015. Their social media accounts have been dormant for multiple years : / such a shame since I only heard about them earlier this year!

    1. Oh no! Not sure how I missed that – I was on their website but didn’t notice that everything was sold out. 🙁 When I have time I will trade that one out for a different brand!

  2. I love Cote’s nail polish, based here in Santa Monica!

  3. Have you heard of Piggy Paint? I’d like to get something for my toddler that is safe.

    1. Yes – Piggy Paint is water based, free of the worst chemicals and has a great reputation!

  4. I have used Honey Bee nail polish. It never comes off–seriously. The instructions tell you to take it off in a week. I was too lazy and had painted nailed the whole summer.

  5. I use Poofy Polish! Safe for all & free from all the nasties listed above. Even rated one of the best nail polishes by Kris Carr. Over 100 beautiful colors to choose from. Purchase Poofy Polish here: sweetmelissas.poofyorganics.com

    1. Thanks for the head’s up about Poofy Polish – it looks like a good one!

  6. Love to use Piggy paint and Pinki Naturali from Luna star naturals for my kids. Great colors and look awesome on kids nails.

    1. Thanks for the tips on good kids nail polish! With two boys I don’t have as much experience in that department!

  7. Jamberry Nail Laquers have the 5 free. I love them! They have great staying power, and can also be removed very easily.

    1. I haven’t tried Jamberry – good to know they are free of the 5 worst chemicals. Thanks for the tip!

      1. No problem Micaela! I do sell Jamberry if you are interested! My website is https://melissagwidt33.jamberry.com feel free to contact me! Our TruShine Gel System is also the 5-Free and then you can get a long lasting salon manicure or pedi right at home!

  8. Casey the College Celiac says:

    YIKES! It’s scary how much I never considered the chemicals in nail polish! Thanks for raising awareness and sharing some safer brands. I know I’ll be checking this list next time I stock up on nail polish!

  9. I love Tenoverten- 8- free and cruelty free. Beautiful colors and easy to remove. As an aside, Josie Marin’s safer Grapefruit Acetone Free Nail Polish Remover Wipes are fantastic!!!! No toxic smell and they removed the polish on both my hands with only 1 wipe!!

    1. Thanks for the head’s up about those products – especially the nail polish remover wipes – I need to try those!

  10. I would love to see you write a review on performance! I am a gel polish girl and it’s so great! However, I wonder about the detriment to my health this may be causing…:(

    1. Ericka – I’ve never used gel polish myself so I don’t exactly know how it compares, but I’ve found that these safer nail polish brands are just as long lasting as any other nail polish I’ve used!

  11. Color Street is Three FREE!! No Formaldehyde, No Toluene, No Dibutyl Phthalate. I wear and sell these Cole strips. They’re made from 100% nail polish and last up to 14 days with NO dry time. I also shop an online shopping club for my wellness products that are toxin free. Best things I ever did for my family.

  12. I recently found Dazzle Dry polish and I am in love! It is a 7 free vegan polish that dries almost instantly (start to finish with full dryness in 20-30 mins). You can only buy it from their website or a couple location in N WA. It is a kit system with a nail cleaner, base coat and a polish thinner, the kit is $55 and each color bottle is $18. Since I started using this polish my nails have been harder and break so much less than any other polish I have used. And it dries so fast you can put it on before bed. It doesn’t require a light and the polish comes off as easy as regular chemical polish with any nail polish remover. This polish has been a game changer for me. I paint my nails all the time now but had stopped after having kids because I didn’t have the time to let them dry properly.

  13. I like using the Butter London brand of nail polish. They’re a bit expensive so I don’t buy them often.

    1. I haven’t tried that brand yet but thanks for the tip!

  14. What is your take on Sally Hansen’s Pure nail polish? It’s supposed to be 16 free.

      1. Sally Hansen’s first plant-based, 16-free*, 100% vegan nail polish offers beautiful color and shine with no compromise. Good.Kind.Pure provides rich caring color, smooth application, even coverage, and lasts as long as traditional polish. Reasonalby priced, not crazy unaffordably expensive like so many other types of non toxic makeup products.

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