You Ask, I Answer: All About Vegan Nail Polish

by Gena on April 16, 2013

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Before I start: This is going to be an incredibly “light” post (I had actually scribbled it yesterday morning), but before I say anything else, I want to send my love and good wishes out to everyone affected by the events in Boston yesterday.

Lately, at the urging of Sayward, I’ve been using Instagram more often (you should totally follow me). This means more photos of me clutching things like coffee, smoothies, midday snacks, and lunchboxes. A few of you have commented on my often brightly colored nails, and asked what polish varieties I use, so I figured it would be a good time to talk about vegan nail polish!

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When I purchase nail polish, my primary goal is to avoid supporting nail polish makers who participate in animal cruelty or use animal products in their nail polish. This can be hard at conventional salons, since neither Essie nor Opi is cruelty free (note: when I originally wrote this post, I stated that Opi polishes are cruelty free, but I’ve since learned that, while there are no animal products in Opi polishes and Opi itself does not participate in animal testing, Coty, the brand’s parent company, does test on animals).

Beyond the ethical concerns, I also aim to find nail polishes that are as healthy and safe as possible. Many consumers are getting more savvy about toxins in various beauty products, and nail colors are no exception. Three ingredients to be wary of are toluene, DBP (dibutyl phthalate), and formaldehyde (a string of names that brings memories of orgo lab flooding back). DBP has been associated with birth defects (in animal tests, anyway—and sadly), and may disrupt male hormones. Toluene is a mild skin irritant and can exacerbate asthma (it’s also in some glues and in gasoline). Formaldehyde, once a common preservative, has been described by The National Toxicology Program as a known carcinogen; at the least, it is a potent and volatile toxin.

Until recently, I’d believed it was very hard to find “3 free” (no DBP, no toluene, no formaldehyde) nail colors, and I’d thrown up my proverbial hands and reasoned that, so long as I could find vegan shades, I was doing my best. It’s actually much, much easier to find 3 free nail polishes than I thought, as I learned when Rebecca asked me about non-toxic brands on Instagram. Most of the brands that are vegan-friendly are also free of the major toxins, which makes shopping easy. Here’s a roundup of brands that I’ve either seen or purchased myself, and loved.

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Authority Cosmetics

This relatively new company (founded in 2013) makes fun, playful shades and is “5-Free”: Free of Formaldehyde, Dibutyl phthalate (DBP), Toluene, Camphor, and Formaldehyde Resin. The company has also pledged not to use animal products or test on animals.

Priti

Possibly my favorite nail color brand, Priti has a huge variety of shades. My personal favorite is an electric blue called “blue sage,” but the lighter shades are beautiful as well. At $13.50, these are not cheap, but they do tend to last a while.

Zoya

Zoya is the best—and I say that without having tried any of their colors yet. Vegan, non-toxic, priced at $8.00, and easy to order with easily accessible customer service. Readers recently made me aware of this brand, and I promptly checked out the website—and was mighty impressed!

SpaRitual

 

Lots of original colors and cool packaging. These retail for about $12.00, and can be a little tough to find, but the company has a good philosophy.

E.L.F.

I’ve used ELF products before and really liked them—plus, it’s hard to beat the incredibly low price!

Acquarella

These polishes are totally non-toxic and water based, which means no powerful odors. I love the idea, but they’re priced at $16.00, which means they’re a tough purchase if you’re on a budget.

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Ginger and Liz

This company has been making vegan nail polish for a long time, and it boasts cheeky names for its shades! You can find it at Ricky’s, at Urban Outfitters, and through the company website.

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OCC (Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics)

Both a makeup and a nail brand, I love the company’s offering of colors, all available online. But I also love the no-nonsense vegan mission statement:

What’s with the ‘Vegan’ thing?

In a time when many cosmetic companies make the claim that their products are “Cruelty Free” simply because Animal Testing has become unfashionable and less cost-effective, OCC felt it was necessary to raise the bar on this issue. We pledge never to use animal-derived ingredients (including Lanolin, Beeswax, Carmine and more) in our products and accessories. Beyond any personal convictions, we simply believe that it’s unnecessary, especially when there are alternatives that are just as readily available, and equally effective in the formulation of our products. Further, you need not necessarily be aligned with animal rights issues to reap the benefits of a vegan cosmetic line: animal ingredients can be amongst the most allergenic and skin reactive, and prevent makeup from being considered Kosher, Halal or otherwise compliant with various dietary (and sanitary!) regulations.

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Scotch Naturals

I discovered Scotch nail colors at Expo East this year and was blown away by the cool, sophisticated, and creative range of colors. They can be purchased from the website in a “cocktail trio” of shades, customized by you — the three above were my hypothetical selection!

What about you guys—any recommendations? Favorite brands or colors? My guess is that many of my readers are far more savvy about cruelty-free beauty than I am! Speaking of, I cannot recommend the following resources enough for information about makeup, skin, nail and hair care that is animal-friendly:

Cruelty Free Face (Melisser is the best!)

Vegan Beauty Review

Chic Vegan

Enjoy!

xo

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{ 100 comments… read them below or add one }

Vegyogini April 16, 2013 at 10:06 pm

My new absolute favorite is SpaRitual. I also like Scotch, No Miss, and Soulstice.

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Gena April 17, 2013 at 10:01 pm

Cool!!

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Veganopoulous April 16, 2013 at 10:09 pm

Hi, I use the vegan polishes from Pretty Serious :)

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Molly April 16, 2013 at 10:33 pm

Love this! I’ve just recently fallen in love with nail polish and I’ve become totally obsessed. For those with an iPhone, you can download the Cruelty-Free app (not sure if it’s free), which details all products that contain the leaping bunny logo and are therefore vegan. Had to throw that in, given my line of work ;)

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Ashley April 16, 2013 at 10:43 pm

Hi pretty lady!! Awesome post!! I have been noticing your nails on instagram and thinking how fun it looks! I’m so bad when it comes to nail polish. I put it on and leave it for farrrr too many weeks.

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Gena April 17, 2013 at 10:01 pm

Hahaha. Sometimes I leave it on for ages too :)

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Rebecca April 16, 2013 at 10:51 pm

Great post!! OPI is my personal favorite, but what do you know about Essie in terms of cruelty-free and 3 free? I

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Shelby May 25, 2013 at 3:11 pm

I don’t know if they’re vegan– but I do know they are NOT cruelty-free. They used to be, but were somewhat-recently bought by Loreal. I recently emailed Essie, asking them to stop animal testing, and they sent me this long explanation attempting to justify animal testing (which for nail polish, if you don’t know, is VERY cruel to rabbits. I won’t go into the details).

:-(

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Gena May 26, 2013 at 9:46 am

Oh my. Thanks for weighing in, Shelby. That’s very good to know, if upsetting.

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Sarah April 16, 2013 at 11:09 pm

I love OPI! Such awesome colors! Do you have a favorite remover? I’ve used pure acetone b/c it works so well, but I know it is horrible for me! I tried a “natural” one from Whole Foods a while back that didn’t make a dent on the polish!

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Gena April 17, 2013 at 10:00 pm

I typically use acetone too–I got so used to it in orgo lab, I don’t even mind the way it smells :-) It’s not a highly toxic chemical if you’re not exposed often, though it’s understandable to not love the idea of it. I’ll let you know if I find an alternative.

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Sarah April 18, 2013 at 12:45 am

Thanks, that’s great feedback! I don’t mind the smell either (just my husband!), but it just seemed like it wasn’t great. You’re right though, the exposure is pretty limited. My thought has been that since it works better I end up using it less. Glad to know it’s not so bad!

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Denise April 5, 2014 at 2:51 pm

Acetone is vegan? and cruelty free???

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Rachael April 17, 2013 at 12:52 am

I always notice your colorful nails on instagram. I admit I was wondering what you used because I gave up nail polish (along with a lot of other beauty products) about a year ago. I started to feel like no nail polish was safe but I’m encouraged to do a little more research into some of these brands!

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Gena April 17, 2013 at 9:57 pm

Hooray! Glad you found the post useful.

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Emma April 17, 2013 at 2:06 am

This is so useful, thank you. It’s something I’ve been thinking about too and was considering giving up nail polish altogether because of the toxic ingredients. Now I know that there are vegan and “3-free” options I don’t have to. In fact my favourites in my little collection are my opi ones so very pleased about that :)

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Katrin - therawfoodsisters.com April 17, 2013 at 5:58 am

Pretty lady! Thank you for this post. Really appreciated! You are so Beautiful and I love your Nail colours. Have a Lovely day!

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Gena April 17, 2013 at 9:56 pm

Thanks Katrin!

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Kelly April 17, 2013 at 7:28 am

I recently discovered Kure Bazaar – they don’t test on animals, are 4-free, have great colors, and I find it to be very long lasting. I also picked up a new brand called Julep at Sephora the other day that is supposed to be 4-free and fast-drying, not sure if it is tested on animals yet but I was happy to see that a less toxic brand was being sold on Sephora’s shelves.

http://kurebazaar.com/en/non-toxic-nails.html

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Karen April 17, 2013 at 7:40 am

Of these vegan brands, I like Opi but especially Zoya a lot – nice, unique shades but plenty of conservative ones as well, great price, durable. The nail salon I frequent uses this later brand, and I instantly became a fan, so it’s nice to know now that their values line up with veganism. Thanks for raising my awareness of these toxins. (I’ve been admiring your distinctive shade of blue; is that the Prita, blue sage color you are wearing in the blueberry smoothie holding photo?)

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Gena April 17, 2013 at 9:55 pm

Yes! It’s Priti in Tulip Tree Teal :-) It looks slightly brigher via Instagram than in person, but it’s similar. And I wish I could find a salon with Zoya shades! So glad you did.

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Anonymous September 12, 2013 at 6:34 pm

OPI do test on animals.
OPI was purchased by Coty at the end of 2010.
Coty test on animals.
So while OPI themselves do not test on animals, the people who own OPI do.
This means that all profits from OPI fund Coty, who test on animals

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Gena September 14, 2013 at 6:54 am

This is good information — I’m going to update the post soon in light of much feedback to this effect!

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melissa April 17, 2013 at 8:17 am

I love that you wear fun nail colors! I am so glad to know that OPI is vegan. I will definitely make sure to opt of OPI at the salon from now on!

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Tracy April 17, 2013 at 9:18 am

Hi Gena,
What about Butter and Essie? I was told these are vegan/non-toxic too…
Thanks!

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Sarah April 17, 2013 at 10:10 am

I know Butter London is (vegan/3 free). I found it when I was pregnant, before I realized that OPI was also 3 free.

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Gena April 17, 2013 at 9:49 pm

Yes, Butter is vegan as well! Thanks Sarah.

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Denise April 5, 2014 at 2:51 pm

Expensive tho

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Gena April 17, 2013 at 9:51 pm

Butter is non-toxic and vegan for sure — I couldn’t get conclusive confirmation on Essie. I think it’s safe, but not totally sure.

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McKel | Nutrition Stripped April 17, 2013 at 9:30 am

This is such a fun post Gena, I love OPI and their amazing colors. Thanks for sharing ;)

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Lisa @ Lisa the Vegetarian April 17, 2013 at 10:27 am

It’s very cool to know that there is a good variety of nail color options out there that are vegan and cruelty free. It’s honestly something I never really thought to examine before. I love wearing nail polish too, especially the bold, bright colors like you have here. Thanks for the great info.

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kate April 17, 2013 at 10:34 am

So glad you mentioned Zoya – huge range of colours and chemical free. They also do lots of metallic colours so you can get a glitter fix at the same time. I think it has quite good staying power or would do if I could put it on properly!
Barry M is another cruelty free brand available in the UK, but I am not sure if you have it over the pond. It’s cheap and cheerful with a lot of quite bling colours.
I love the fact that you sport several different colours simultaneously. A woman after my own heart!
Take care and hope all goes well with you.
Kate

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Gena April 17, 2013 at 9:49 pm

Thanks for the info, Kate!

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Christa @ Edible Balance April 17, 2013 at 10:35 am

Super fun post! It’s been WAY too long since I have done anything with my nails and it is painfully obvious :/ I need to get on this spring nail color pronto! If anyone knows the status of Essie, I’d love to know! I wonder if anyone knows anything about shellac??

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Gena April 17, 2013 at 9:48 pm

Christa,

I found mixed stuff. According to PETA, it used to be vegan certified, but it’s not clear if the brand is still 100% vegan (probably? Not sure though). The blue labeled bottles are definitely 3-free — not sure about all of the others. I suspect Essie is a safe bet but let me know if you find anything else.

G

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Alanna April 17, 2013 at 12:49 pm

Thanks so much for this post, Gena. You must have read my mind, as I’ve been thinking a lot lately about nail polish. I don’t wear it often, and that’s partly because of the animal testing / animal ingredient question. Encouraging to know there are more options available than I thought. :)

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Gena April 17, 2013 at 9:46 pm

So glad the post was helpful, Alanna.

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Melissa April 17, 2013 at 3:09 pm

Loooove OPI and recently tried SpaRitual — beautiful colors that last and carried by Sephora! Easy peasy!

If anyone is looking for a nice face makeup (sometimes I Iike a little coverage, particularly when sleep deprived), the healthy flawless foundation face powder from 100% pure is AMAZING and so light on the skin. Also contains SPF due to the minerals! Available at Whole Foods :)

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Gena April 17, 2013 at 9:45 pm

Great info — thanks Melissa!

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chloe April 17, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Thank You!

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Jig enigma April 17, 2013 at 7:43 pm

So ELF is free of those 3 toxins and vegan?

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Gena April 17, 2013 at 9:45 pm

Yes!

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Elisabeth April 17, 2013 at 9:19 pm

I work part-time at a facial and massage spa, and a lot of customers like to get their nails done, too. My employer carries a lot of natural and vegan products, but I don’t think she has any of the nail polish brands you have listed except for OPI. I’ll definitely pass this information on! Thanks, Gena; it’s fun to see your girly side!

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Gena April 17, 2013 at 9:44 pm

Hooray! I hope they consider carrying more brands.

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Jennifer April 17, 2013 at 11:57 pm

Thanks for the awesome article. I’m so busy I don’t have time or energy to do this kind of research so I’ve almost just gone without since becoming vegan. I’m glad to know there are a few choices out there and ones that are non-toxic too since I was under the impression that they were all terrible. Time to go shopping!

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Brian April 18, 2013 at 5:06 am

Hey ladies, since we are on the topic of nails, I have a question that my wife continually asks me but I don’t have an answer for. She’s originally from NYC & now resides in Portland, OR. When she lived in NY she had beautiful natural long nails but since living in OR. they crack & break off before becoming long. When she visits NY they begin to grow again but once she arrives home they become brittle & break again. Any suggestions?

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lovely_psycho April 18, 2013 at 6:36 am

hehehe, cute! I don’t r-e-a-l-l-y get to wear nail polish (much) anymore because of work – you might have to fly the flag for the both of us, Miss Gena :)

Bonus points for multi-colour! :)

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Suzanne April 18, 2013 at 8:09 am

This sounds great, really spreading the word on animal cruelty in a creative way here!
I heard Zoya is a great polish.

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parthi April 18, 2013 at 8:50 am

nice attraction of that nails colours. really nice that sounds.

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Brittany April 18, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Gena, I recently started my own plant based recipe blog (I don’t call myself vegan as I’m afraid of the backlash if I use a nonvegan product). But anyway, I am getting more and more interested in raw cooking and was wondering what kind of dehydrator you use. Could you help me out with what brand/size to buy?

Thanks,
Brittany.

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Kelsey April 19, 2013 at 7:27 pm

I love Zoya! They say, “Big 5 Free: No formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, toluene, dibutyl phthalate or camphor.” Bonus- they sell an animal/earth-friendly nail polish remover (it works!) and send you a small bottle for free depending on the size of your order.

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Vicky April 19, 2013 at 9:03 pm

You should try Ruby Wing color changing polish by Color Club Nails. They’re vegan and yes, color changing. I just recently found them – I love all the colors, especially since you get two in one :-)

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lian April 20, 2013 at 7:17 pm

oh this is great info!
i did some quick research on other vegan nail polishes, and ha, check out this lettuce manicure:

http://www.peta.org/cfs-filesystemfile.ashx/__key/CommunityServer-Components-SiteFiles/Peta-Images-Main-Sections-Living/450-_2D00_-lettuce-ladies-nail-art.JPG :)

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Illy Mooncat April 21, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Love this post! I had NO IDEA about vegan nail polish… It had never really occured to me. I just thought it was all chemicals. :P. I was really surprised to see large brands like OPI and Zoya, but it was a good surprise! It always makes me so hopeful when I see big(ger) companies that are doing good for Earth, animals, or people. I’m bookmarking this post so I can reffer back to it; I’m a nail polish addict. Also, cute pic! You’re adorable. :)

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Gena April 30, 2013 at 2:07 pm

Awww, thanks!

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Jenai April 22, 2013 at 11:53 pm

Perfect timing! My 13-yr-old daughter colors her nails all the time, but I hate that she’s using toxic stuff. Maybe she can now educate those giving her the polish, mostly grandmothers, about this. Plus, it makes me now want to do my nails as well. I usually don’t because of too much outside gardening. We’ll see. :-)

A follow-up question…what about non-toxic nail polish remover? Any favorites that work well? T

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Cindy April 23, 2013 at 3:43 am

I really like “Almost Natural” nail polish remover by No Miss. I buy it from Vegan Essentials dot com.

http://store.veganessentials.com/almost-natural-nail-polish-remover-by-no-miss-p1073.aspx

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Kay April 25, 2013 at 8:25 pm

So where did you get the info on OPI being vegan and cruelty free. I found conflicting stuff on the internet. And it appears their parent company does do animal testing. Just trying to find out the facts. I am trying to cut down on any products (cosmetics) that test but it is confusing at times and even if the product is not tested on animals the parent company does animal testing.
Thanks

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Gena April 30, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Hi Kay,

In the post above, you can read a statement they said to another blogger. The information is also on their website.

G

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Shari April 30, 2013 at 2:26 pm

OPI is owned by Coty and Coty is anything but cruelty-free. I simply don’t feel comfortable knowing that my money is going to profit a company that is full of cruelty. I appreciate that OPI stands committed to their cruelty-free status but, in the end, I will not buy OPI to ensure that no money of mine goes to profit any entity still involved in cruel practices. Thankfully I have plenty of other options that allow me to fully uphold my principles.

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Jerry Simpson April 26, 2013 at 6:04 am

Wow! I had never come across vegan nailpolish before. Will have to get my wife to read this. She’ll love it!

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Lisa - papergrace April 30, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Wow!! Thank you so much for this. I think that nail polish may not be something that people think about when they think about their beauty routine, but as someone who loves to have fun/funky nails this was a great read. Nice to hear that OPI is vegan – that was a surprise to me, but a very happy one. :)

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Jazmine April 30, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Thank you for this thoughtful and well-researched post! Not only can I keep all my OPI shades, I have a list of other brands to check out and add to the rainbow in my bathroom drawer. Well done!

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Binh April 30, 2013 at 2:11 pm

What products do you use to remove the nail polish?

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Kelly S. April 30, 2013 at 2:18 pm

Zoya has a great remover. I highly recommend it.

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Kelly S. April 30, 2013 at 2:17 pm

Zoya is my absolute favorite! They have a HUGE variety of colors, it paints on smooth and they have a ton of offers throughout the year. I also really like Cult Nails http://www.cultnails.com/, too. Thanks for the post. I am a polish addict and am so glad there are companies and indie makers who are mindful of how they make their polish. :)

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Kelly S. April 30, 2013 at 2:22 pm

And also this brand…
http://www.piggypaint.com/about-us

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Nanette April 30, 2013 at 2:48 pm

I’m hard on my nails and NoMiss lasts the longest without chipping for me. I have noticed that ELF’s polishes vary slightly in color each time I order them. Weird.

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Jen April 30, 2013 at 10:55 pm

RGB is a “5 free” nail polish. They are $16 a bottle but great polish! They also have non-toxic remover pads, cuticle oil, base and top coats.

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marie May 20, 2013 at 9:53 am

hi just woundering How many shades are there in the Kate Nail Collection:

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marie May 20, 2013 at 9:54 am

dose any one know :)

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Annelies May 25, 2013 at 11:16 am

Thanks for this post, very, very helpful!

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Anonymous June 8, 2013 at 1:32 am

Unfortunately, OPI is no longer cruelty free, as it was bought over by Coty, who does test on animals :(

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urbanvegan June 13, 2013 at 9:39 pm

A girl after my own heart. 3X cookbook author and obsessed with nail polish; I own an obscene amount, mostly Zoya and indies. Ditto Anonymouse, I heard OPI is no longer CF which is a real bummer. But there’s power in $$$ girls, so write to OPI and tell them what you think. xx

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Gena June 14, 2013 at 10:17 am

Thanks for sharing, friend!

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Annette Tapper June 25, 2013 at 10:24 pm

I found a great vegan nailpolish free of the harmful chemicals too in newy(Newcastle) its also solar activated.When you go out in the sun it changes colour so you end up with 2 colours for the price of one.great colours .I;m hooked on them. Ruby Wing Polish

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Allie P July 12, 2013 at 3:30 am

You missed the big one right now! Jacava is 8-free, they should totally be on this list! <3

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Sophie August 1, 2013 at 8:04 am

OPI is no longer cruelty free, they entererd the Chinese market earlier this year. Peta also no longer supports them! I will check out the other brands you listed, they look good!

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Gena August 2, 2013 at 9:52 am

That’s a bummer! I’ll have to amend this post. Thanks Sophie.

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Jess August 10, 2013 at 10:52 pm

Nailme nail polish is vegan and toxic free! Super cheap and awesome names too.

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AC September 3, 2013 at 8:19 pm

Hi! I wanted to add Authority Cosmetics to this list. They’re a new up and coming nail polish line that’s 5-free (yes, 5 toxin free!!), vegan friendly, and cruelty free. I can attest to the quality as well – they go on smooth and the quality is lasting! They’re starting with 10 colors, but the colors are bright and amazing. Check them out! http://www.authoritycosmetics.com

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Gena September 5, 2013 at 6:29 am

Great to know! Thanks.

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Rebecca September 6, 2013 at 10:00 am

I’m looking for a vegan nail strengthener that is not tested on animals. Any recommendations??

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Dawna Rosales September 22, 2013 at 3:57 pm

Thanks , I have recently been searching for information about this subject for a long time and yours is the best I have discovered so far. But, what concerning the conclusion? Are you positive concerning the supply?

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Ryan Elizabeth October 4, 2013 at 8:17 am

Hi Gena!

Thanks so much for this post. I’ve been looking around for new nail polish options that were vegan and this was exactly what I needed! I ended up getting a bottle of Priti in “Dorothy Palm” which is this amazing sky blue color. It’s beautiful! My targets are set on OPI next…thanks again! :)

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Danie B October 10, 2013 at 5:09 pm

Hi! Thanks for the awesome post! I just heard about Chrome Girl nail polish today which says their product is vegan and 4-free. That made wonder if all my OPI and Essie polishes were vegan. Glad I stumbled in you!

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Taahirah October 14, 2013 at 9:40 am

hi, This is Amazing because it is Vegan!! Yay saving lives. But OPI was bought by Coty(a company that test on Animals)so now when you buy OPI some money goes towards Coty. So even though OPI is still Animal testing free, some money goes to a company that Animal test.

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Judi Tierney October 16, 2013 at 8:12 pm

I’m curious as to where you got your information on OPI as being cruelty free? Also Zoya? On Zoya’s ‘ s own website if you search vegan there are a handful of vegan polishes that come up, but not all are vegan.
The Leaping bunny logo is the only logo I trust as they check not only the company for animal testing but also their suppliers of ingredients.
You left off a lot of really great cruelty free nail polishes such as butter LONDON, Color Club, Ruby Wing, Orly, Nubar, and any brand made I the UK like Barry M, Model’s Own, Nail, Inc., and Ciate just to name a few. I’m sorry but just because
a companies website says they are vegan and cruelty free, that is not the case. E.l.f products certainly is not Cruelty free and neither is Aquarella. Spa Ritual is the ony one you listed that is Cruelty free. Yu can go to the Leaping Bunny website for more information, such as all cosmetics made I the UK are Cruelty free by law.
Please, do your research before writing a post that is so mis-leading to your readers.
Respectfully submitted
Judi Tierney

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Patricia January 12, 2014 at 11:11 am

What do you know or think about Nubar polish?

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Sarah January 18, 2014 at 2:01 pm

Hello, Nubar doesn’t contain Formaldehyde, Toluene and Phtalate. It is cruelty-free too :D Wonderful quality.
Essence cosmetics and Rimmel London are cruelty-free too

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Gena January 19, 2014 at 9:15 pm

Good to know! Thanks Sarah.

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Sarah January 25, 2014 at 10:05 am

You’re welcome, Gena :D

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