The 13 Best Nontoxic Nail Polishes & Brands Of 2021 + Why You Should Go Clean
I'm biased, sure, but as far as I'm concerned, there's no reason you shouldn't be wearing clean or nontoxic nail polish. I say this not in a judgy way—ultimately, wear whatever polish or product you want!—but I say this because the new batch of better-for-you-polishes is just so spectacular.
But ultimately, I understand the hesitation to make the switch: It used to be that free-from polishes didn't have the staying power (these do), or you couldn't find a wide spectrum of shades to choose from (now you can find nudes, glitter, neons, and everything else), or they just didn't have that signature professional, slick finish (the below options are about as silky smooth as they come).
See, much like the rest of natural-leaning and clean beauty, polish formulas have made great strides to rival their traditional counterparts—swapping in botanical extracts and safe synthetics to get the luxe look and standard wearability of a salon visit. Trust us, you'll love the options on this list.
Why you should switch to clean polishes & what to look for.
A little dossier on what "clean" polish actually means: You likely see it labeled as 5-free, 7-free, 10-free, or any number and "-free" combo. This simply means they are removing a certain number of chemicals from the formula that have had health concerns raised around them.
But the big ingredients you really need to look out for are formaldehyde (a strengthening agent), camphor (which is used to provide high shine), and toluene (for vibrant color). From there, other common culprits are xylene, triphenyl phosphate, gluten, parabens, and dibutyl phthalate (DBP). The red flags attached to these ingredients range from the fact that they may be common allergens and irritants—to even serious issues like possible carcinogens (such as is the case of formaldehyde, camphor, toluene, and xylene).
And as always, no manicure is complete without a quality top and base coat: These are essential for a safer and long-lasting finish. Here, too, you need to be mindful of the ingredients. "The most important being your base coat because that is what is touching your nail and seeping into the skin," Nadine Abramcyk, co-founder of clean salon tenoverten tells us. The most basic to check: See if they are formaldehyde-free. "This is the most common ingredient in base coats, so even if a brand or salon carries 8-free polishes, that doesn't mean the same thing across the board. They still might have formaldehyde in the base coat."
Mischo Beauty 10-Free Nail Lacquer
If you are looking for drama and a capital-B bold color payoff, this is your brand. The 10-free line nixes several nasty ingredients while pulling on no-chip wear and vibrant hues, like a firecracker red, ballet slipper pink, or sultry plums. A not-so-little bonus: The luxe bottle will make for an oh-so-beautiful addition to any vanity.
10-Free Nail Lacquer, Mischo Beauty ($20)
Rooted Woman Nail Polish
We love the inspired vibe of this 10-free brand: The shade's names are words of affirmation, positive intent, or grounding emotion, helping the wearer feeling restored in a single brush. The shades, too, are perfected paired with their names, like a cooling green named Rest or a sheer cream called Vulnerable.
Nail Polish, Rooted Woman ($15)
Côte Nail Polish
Housed in Italian glass and paired with professional-grade brushes, these little luxuries feel like a salon in a bottle. We also love the brand as you can get a variety of finishes, like polishes with shimmer—which subtly catch the light—and glitter—which are more playful.
Nail Polish, Côte ($18)
This 8-free New York City brand names all their polishes after iconic streets, like this navy blue number called Commerce. The chic, sophisticated shades are thoughtfully edited, so no matter what hue you select, it will feel oh-so-cool.
Polish, tenoverten ($12)
dear sundays nail polish
This brand is all about your nail's well-being, so, of course, their polishes are clean. The 10-free formulas glide on smoothly, impart impressive color quality, and come in a variety of timeless shades, like this regal plum with brown undertones.
Nail polish, dear sundays ($18)
JinSoon nail polish
JinSoon is a classic beauty editors' favorite brand and salon (and, for that matter, the celebrity manicurist behind it all!). They are always on-trend with their color launches, so you'll always have fun options to pick from. This retro pink shade is nothing but joyful.
Nail polish, JinSoon ($18)
Sally Hansen Good Kind Pure nail polish
This drugstore favorite nail brand has an astonishing 16-free line that's 100% vegan, too. The shades are mainly tasteful neutrals (like this muted slate), but there are a few pops of color (there are a vibrant coral and powerful reds).
Good Kind Pure nail polish, Sally Hansen ($7)
Zoya Nail Polish
One of the original mainstream clean polish brands, Zoya has a vast collection to choose from. You can get sheer nudes, bold reds, moody dark shades, and trendy colors like cobalt and hunter green.
Nail Polish, Zoya ($10)
Ella + Mila nail polish
An impressive 17-free line, this brand has collections that offer shimmer and glitter (like in their Elite batch), polished basics (like in their Mommy line), or soft neutrals (like in their Love roundup).
Nail polish, Ella + Mila ($10.50)
Nails Inc. Plant Power polish
Not only is this polish 21-free, but it's 73% plant-based. Read: If you're serious about using as natural as possible, this is your polish collection. This shade is a rich burgundy, but the line also has pretty pastels and rich reds.
Plant Power polish, Nails Inc. ($10)
Base Coat OG (10-free) polish
This fresh brand keeps things bright and bold, like this fuchsia number; they also have a serious royal blue, an enchanting opal white, and old-school ocean mint. If you're looking for unique colors, you'll find them here.
OG (10-free) polish, Base Coat ($20)
Taupe Coat nail polish
What's not to love about this brand? A one-of-a-kind bottle, unusual shades, and a 10-free formula make the line attention-grabbing, to say the least. This shade, called Good Fortune, blends a gold metallic with a fiery red.
Nail polish, Taupe Coat ($11)
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