12 Healthy and Non-Toxic Nail Polish Brands in 2023

12 Healthy and Non-Toxic Nail Polish Brands in 2023
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a collage of healthy nail polishes with manicures and pink backgroundPaula Boudes for PureWow,

You’ve probably seen the term “5-free” on some of your nail polish bottles, and that’s a good thing. It means that it’s free of the five known carcinogens (formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate, toluene, formaldehyde resin and camphor) that are typically found in lacquers. Luckily, many brands have eliminated these ingredients and more from their formulas while finding ways to maintain the quality and wear of their conventional counterparts.

That said, it’s important to note that not all regular polishes are harmful. “It depends on the brand, but some regular polishes have chemicals in them that can get into your bloodstream through contact with your skin or your respiratory system,” explains manicurist Tina Wang. “Side effects from this exposure can range between experiencing skin irritations or mild headaches to damaging internal organs over time. Some of these chemicals can also cause damage to the environment.”

To help us better understand what constitutes a “healthy nail polish” and why it could be helpful for your next manicure, we asked Wang our most pressing questions, and culled together a shopping list of our 12 favorite non-toxic nail polish brands.

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Meet the Expert

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Tina Wang is a manicurist and owner of Lunula Salon in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Lunula’s mission is to provide a holistic manicure and pedicure experience that not only looks good, but is good for you.

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How We Chose the Best Nontoxic Nail Polish

When looking for nontoxic nail polish, you’ve got to read the ingredient labels closely. Most nontoxic nail polishes on the market are typically labeled as 3-, 5-, 7- or 10-free. As a baseline, we only tested nail polishes that are 3-free at a minimum, meaning they’re free of formaldehyde, toluene and dibutyl phthalate. Next, we took into consideration other performance factors like application, opacity, shine and longevity. To corroborate our picks, we combed through hundreds of reviews across top retailers like Amazon and Sephora to bring you this guide of the 14 best nontoxic nail polish brands.

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,healthy nail polishes sundaysSundays

10-Free Pick

1. Sundays

Pros

  • 64 shades
  • AAPI-owned
  • has three salon locations in NY

Cons

  • not as widely available for purchase

Sundays

  • Made Without: dibutyl phthalate, toluene, xylene, ethyl tosylamide, camphor, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, parabens, tert-butyl hydroperoxid, TPHP
  • Colorways: neutrals, bolds and brights
  • Price Range: $18
  • Best-Selling Shades: L.01 ($18), No.25 ($18), No.13 ($18)

This socially-responsible polish brand goes above and beyond being “5-free”—it’s free of ten known toxins and is cruelty-free and vegan. All 60 shades deliver intense pigment and a vibrant shine. Customers also rave about its creamy application.

Shop Now,healthy nail polishes londontownLondontown

Best for Strengthening Nails

2. Londontown

Pros

  • Over 100 shades
  • woman-owned
  • expert-approved

Cons

  • some reviewers didn’t like the thinner brush

Londontown

  • Made Without: formaldehyde, toluene, phthalates (including DBP), formaldehyde resin, camphor, xylene, ethyl tosylamide, TPHP, bisphenol A
  • Colorways: nudes, bolds, neons, shimmers
  • Price Range: $16
  • Best-Selling Shades: Invisible Crown ($16), Fortifying Ridge Filler ($16), Bell Flower ($16)

When you want a polish that wears well and strengthens your nails, this brand comes through. It’s free of nine common toxins and is infused with nourishing botanicals like evening primrose and grapeseed flower oils, chamomile and vitamins A, E and B7. Instant color payoff with long-term benefits? Sign us up.

Shop Now,healthy nail polishes olive and juneOlive & June

Editor Pick

3. Olive & June

Pros

  • 160 shades and counting
  • woman-owned 
  • trendy colorways

Cons

  • none

Olive & June

  • Made Without: formaldehyde, toulene, DBP, formaldehyde resin, camphor, ethyl tosylamide, xylene, triphenyl phosphate (TPHP), acetone, animal-derived ingredients, bisphenol-A, nonylphenol ethoxylate, parabens, sulfate
  • Colorways: nudes, brights, metallics, shimmers and everything-between
  • Price Range: $9
  • Best-Selling Shades: Prairie ($8), Prom ($8), Southwest ($8)

Since the brand first launched its polishes in 2019, it’s quickly become a favorite for many nail obsessives (including our editors). The 7-free line features plenty of seasonal and perennial shades that are known for their lasting power and pigmentation.

Shop Now,healthy nail polishes sally hansenSally Hansen

Drugstore Fav

4. Sally Hansen Good.Kind.Pure

Pros

  • 45 shades
  • budget-friendly
  • a staple brand for over 50 years

Cons

  • some reviewers note that it doesn’t dry quickly

Sally Hansen

  • Made Without: formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, toluene, xylene, acetone, phthalates (including DBP), camphor, parabens, ethyl tosylamide, triphenyl phosphate (TPP), animal-derived ingredients, styrene, bisphenol A, glycol ether of series E (glycol ethers derived from ethylene oxide), nonylphenol ethoxylate, sulfates
  • Colorways: sheers, pastels, nudes, brights
  • Price Range: $10 (unless marked down for sales)
  • Best-Selling Shades: Beet It ($10; $6, Cherry Amore ($10; $9), Coral Calm ($9)

5-free? Try 16-free. This is the drugstore brand’s first plant-based and 100 percent vegan polish line. And since we’re talking about healthier options here, it’s important to note that all of the formulas are infused with sustainable bamboo and marine algae that aims to protect and strengthen nails. It’s cruelty-free and comes with a plant-based brush as well.

Shop Now,healthy nail polishes tenovertenTenoverten

Trendiest Shades

5. Tenoverten

Pros

  • 39 shades
  • eco-friendly packaging
  • has one salon location in NY

Cons

  • some reviewers reported chipping

Tenoverten

  • Made Without: toluene, dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, camphor, triphenyl phosphate, ethyl tosylamide, or xylene
  • Colorways: neutrals, bolds, darks
  • Price Range: $14
  • Best-Selling Shades: Coney Island ($14), Eldrige ($14), Canal ($14)

A fashion industry favorite, this 8-free line of lacquers offers everything you’d ever want in a nail polish: timeless and trendy shades, a smooth and easy application and a long-wearing, shiny finish.

Shop Now,healthy nail polishes zoyaZoya

Most Extensive Shade Range

6. Zoya

Pros

  • over 600 shades
  • includes eight different polish finishes
  • cruelty-free

Cons

  • some reviewers note that the polish can chip easily

Zoya

  • Made Without: formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, dibutyl phthalate, toluene, camphor, TPHP, parabens, xylene, ethyl tosylamide and lead
  • Colorways: sheers, nudes, brights, darks, shimmers, mattes…pretty much everything
  • Price Range: $8-$12
  • Best-Selling Shades: Edyta ($12; $10), Saint ($12), Allison ($12)

With a new range of colors released every season, there are endless 5-free options (over 300 and counting) to choose from. And here you thought it’d be hard to find a clean version of obscure shades like the above gold-flecked olive green.

Shop Now,healthy nail polishes orlyOrly

Most Hydrating Formula

7. Orly

Pros

  • 200 shades and counting
  • classic brand
  • can create your own custom color 

Cons

  • some of the shades can be thicker/hard to apply

Orly

  • Made Without: toluene, formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), formaldehyde resin, camphor, ethyl tosylamide
  • Colorways: neutrals, neons, brights, darks, metallics, glitters
  • Price Range: $11
  • Best-Selling Shades: Sunkissed ($11), All Dahlia’d Up ($11), She’s A Wildflower ($11)

While nails don’t necessarily need to “breathe” to stay healthy, Orly does make permeable polishes that allow oxygen through to keep your tips hydrated for good measure. And if that doesn’t convince you, there’s also vitamin B5 and argan oil in the formula to help seal the deal.

Shop Now,healthy nail polishes ella and milaElla Mila

The 17-Free Pick

8. Ella Mila

Pros

  • 214 shades
  • 17-free
  • vegan

Cons

  • some reviewers mentioned it chips quickly

Ella Mila

  • Made Without: acetone, 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, animal-derived ingredients
  • Colorways: nude, brights, darks, shimmers, glitters, chromes
  • Price Range: $12
  • Best-Selling Shades: Berry Much in Love ($11), Honeymoon Bliss ($11), Champagne Pop ($11)

While some brands are “3-free” or “5-free,” Ella Mila takes things up a notch by being “17-free.” This eco-friendly polish is free from the known offenders (formaldehyde, toluene and acetone), as well as other potentially irritating ingredients you might not have thought about (i.e., sulfates and gluten). Since 2014, the brand has offered over 200 shades that are chip-resistant fast drying, making them ideal for any at-home mani.

Shop Now,healthy nail polishes mischo beautyMischo Beauty

Oprah’s Pick

9. Mischo Beauty

Pros

  • Black-owned
  • featured in Oprah’s Favorite Things in 2021

Cons

  • has a smaller shade range than others on the list

Mischo Beauty

  • Made Without: formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), toluene, formaldehyde resin, camphor, ethyl tosylamide, xylene, triphenyl phosphate, tert-butyl hydroperoxide or parabens
  • Colorways: neutrals, some bolds
  • Price Range: $21
  • Best-Selling Shades: #NYFW ($21), Worthy ($21), Undaunted ($21)

Founder Kitiya Mischo King had a hard time finding non-toxic nail polishes she liked while pregnant with her son, so she decided to create her own. In 2013, Mischo Beauty launched with a line of 10-free lacquers that delivered on pigment, application and longevity. Since then, it’s amassed many awards, being featured in Allure and Cosmopolitan, and even making Oprah’s Favorite Things list in 2021.

Shop Now,healthy nail polishes pear novaPear Nova

The Luxury Brand

10. Pear Nova

Pros

  • Black-owned
  • Vegan
  • features both classic and gel polish

Cons

  • has a limited shade range

Pear Nova

  • Made Without: toluene, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, camphor, DBP, xylene, parabens, fragrances, phthalates, animal ingredients
  • Colorways: nudes, brights, darks, metallics
  • Price Range: $14
  • Best-Selling Shades: Dianna Boss ($14), One Piece Wonder ($14), Ginzaholic ($14)

Pear Nova has one goal: to make healthy and luxury nail products. From polishes to nail care essentials like top coat, soy remover and hydrating hand cream, the vegan brand encourages consumers to “indulge in elegance” sans any of the toxic chemicals like formaldehyde and DBP.

Shop Now,healthy nail polishes coteCôte

Most Sustainable

11. Côte

Pros

  • extensive shade range
  • woman-owned
  • has a recycling program

Cons

  • some reviewers noted a strong smell

Côte

  • Made Without: formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), toluene, camphor, formaldehyde resin, TPHP, xylene, ethyl tosylamide, parabens, gluten
  • Colorways: nudes, brights, darks, shimmers, metallics
  • Price Range: $18
  • Best-Selling Shades: No. 10 ($18), No. 6 ($18), No.13 ($18)

If you’re looking for a healthy polish brand with a chic shade selection, look no further than Côte. Their 10-free polishes come in an expansive range of timeless and trendy colors, but it’s the brand’s recycling program that makes it a cut above the rest. Once you’ve used your bottle, you can send it back to be recycled and get ten percent off your next purchase.

Shop Now,healthy nail polishes jinsoonJINSoon

21-Free Pick

12. JINSoon

Pros

  • 80 shades
  • AAPI-owned
  • offers UV protection

Cons

  • some reviewers didn’t like the straight-edge brush

JINSoon

  • Made Without: formaldehyde, toluene, animal derivative, benzene, DBP, phthalates, cyclic silicones, formaldehyde resin, camphor, xylene, ethyl tosylamide, triphenyl phosphate, parabens, hydroquinone, bismuth oxychloride, synthetic fragrances, tert-butyl hydroperoxide, 4-methoxyphenol, methyl ethyl ketone, chromium oxide greens, lead
  • Colorways: sheers, nudes, brights, darks, toppers
  • Price Range: $18
  • Best-Selling Shades: Earth Clay ($18), Sea Clay ($18), Green Clay ($18)

Yeah, you’ve seen the 3-free and 10-free labels, folks, but JINSoon’s 21-free label tops the list. All 80 shades in the line are formulated without 21 known offenders—from formaldehyde to lead. Instead, each polish is made with high-tech polymers to improve shine, wear and application. Plus, it offers UV protection, so you manicure won’t prematurely fade or yellow.

Shop Now,

What to Consider When Looking for Nontoxic Nail Polish

While many brands label their polishes as “clean” or “natural,” it’s better to look at the “number-free” label instead. Although the term isn’t 100 percent regulated by the FDA, it can offer some peace of mind and a better understanding of how many toxic ingredients aren’t included in the polish.

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What Are Some Common Toxic Ingredients Found in Nail Polish?

Known as the “toxic trio,” the most common toxic ingredients that were often found in older nail polish formulas are formaldehyde, toluene and dibutyl phthalate (DBP). Here’s a closer look at each of these ingredients:

  • Formaldehyde: This is the most common ingredient used in household products, hair smoothing treatments and nail hardeners. According to the American Cancer Society, studies have shown exposure to formaldehyde caused cancer in lab animals. Humans who work in the medical field and in nail and hair salons are more likely exposed to high levels of formaldehyde, which has been linked to different types of nasal cancers.
  • Toluene: This solvent has a potent scent and high exposure to it can affect the nervous system, increase skin irritation and cause mild dizziness. As the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) notes, nail technicians are more likely to face these side effects, as it’s often used in lacquers, cleaners and adhesives.
  • Dibutyl Phthalate: This ingredient is often used to hold color and prevent chipping. However, studies show the plasticizer can cause reproductive issues in animals and women (which is why it was banned for use in cosmetics by the European Union in 2004).

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Is There Such Thing as Non-Toxic Nail Polish?

Perhaps it’s more accurate to say a nail polish is “less toxic,” than non-toxic. For polish to properly function (as in, actually stay put on your nails), it needs some chemicals. Luckily, we have more knowledge on what the most harmful ingredients are, so they can be avoided as much as possible in newer formulations.

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Is It Healthier to Wear Nail Polish or Not?

Theoretically, it’s probably safest to just limit or cut out the amount of exposure you get to chemicals from products altogether, but for many of us, that’s hard to do. Instead, it’s about finding a balance.

So go ahead and enjoy that fresh mani feeling; just make sure you don’t keep your polish on for longer than two weeks. And try to take mini polish breaks for a few days in-between your manicures. Contrary to popular belief, this is not so that your nails can “breathe.” Your nails get their nutrients and oxygen from your bloodstream, not the air, but the solvents that are found in polish and polish remover can dry out your nails and the surrounding cuticles, so taking breaks is still important. (This is also a good time to show some TLC to your nails with cuticle oil and hand cream.)

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Additional Reading

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Are There Any Downsides to Non-Toxic Nail Polish?

As Wang explains, some non-toxic polishes may take more time to dry than regular polish, so take that into account. And since these formulas don’t have dibutyl phthalate, they might be prone to lifting or chipping. Lastly, non-toxic lacquers can be more expensive than a traditional polish, but they often offer additional benefits (i.e., chip-fee, vibrant shade, longer wear).

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Do Non-Toxic Nail Polish Expire?

“There isn’t an expiration date, per se, but for best results, you should use your non-toxic polishes between 12-24 months after opening them,” says Wang. Also, it’s best to keep them out of direct sunlight and away from moisture. Your polish should be kept in a cool, dark place (so maybe not underneath your bathroom sink or in your medicine cabinet).

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How Long Do Non-Toxic Nail Polishes Last On Your Nails?

It varies, but Wang notes most brands will last between one to two weeks if you’re taking the proper care to apply them. (Prep is everything, y’all.) It will also depend on different lifestyle factors like the amount of water exposure your hands get daily and the types of activities you engage in (i.e., gardening, cleaning, opening boxes, etc.)

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