Painting fingernails and toenails is a beauty practice that began in China in 3000 BC. Nail lacquers were originally made from a blend of natural substances like vegetable dyes, gum Arabic, beeswax, egg whites, and gelatin.
These days, for the sake of thickening agents, adhesive qualities, quickness in drying, paint sheens, bright hues, and colorfastness, nail polish formulas are far from natural. It’s not terribly shocking that the unique and heady odors emitted during a nail painting session are a mess of hazardous chemicals.
Acquarella also ranked a 1/10 on the EWG database. It is definitely pricey so it isn’t one I would use regularly but it stayed on nails and didn’t have a strong chemical smell. It is available in a lot of colors and my daughters wanted all of them.
Aquarella nail polishes are water-based, free of the chemicals listed above and even vegan and wheat free. They also make a non-toxic nail polish remover.
Another non-toxic option with an EWG rating of 1. The interesting thing about Suncoat is that it peels off easily so no nail polish remover is even needed. This ended up being fun for the girls but it also didn’t last long on their nails since they had so much fun peeling it off.
3. Butter London
Originally a three-free brand, butter LONDON recently introduced their Patent Shine 10X lacquer collection, featuring a seven-free formula with bold, high-gloss shades.
4. Priti NYC
Priti NYC started out as a three-free label, but have since gone above and beyond to transition their formula to five-free since their launch in 2005. Each glossy finish will no doubt draw attention to your nails, becoming a classic pick for your collection.
5. Zoya Nail Polish
We’re thrilled to report that Zoya, one of our favorite nail polish suppliers, goes above the masses, producing five-free polish by removing the big three, plus formaldehyde resin and camphor. Of course, nudes are necessary year-round, so this rosy neutral pictured here (called April) will fare well early on in the season.
6. Piggy Paint
All of Piggy Paint nail polishes are made with three basic ingredients: water, neem oil, and acrylates copolymer. Geared toward the health and safety of kids, adults too can enjoy the non-toxic, hypoallergenic, cruelty-free, and low odor benefits of this brand of nail polish, available in dozens of vibrant hues. For best results, the company recommends applying base coat and top coat between coloring and using a blow dryer to help speed up the process. Also worthy of note is Piggy Paint’s 100% natural nail polish remover.
7. Honeybee Gardens
Another favorite with my tiny testers. This brand is also water-based, free of the three dangerous chemicals and has a low rating on the EWG database. It is available in 25 colors.
A great thing about Honeybee Gardens is that it can be removed with vodka or rubbing alcohol.
LVX. Similar to RGB, LVX (Latin for “light”) is 5-free, vegan, cruelty-free and produced in the U.S. Co-founder Branka Tomic has a love for high fashion that translates into the sleek, high quality hues you’ll find on their website. LVX polishes don’t come cheap, but if you’ve been searching for the perfect combination of luxury and eco-friendly, this is the nail polish to try.
Cruelty-free; Vegan; Made in USA; Long-lasting colors that promote stronger and healthier nails. A unique mix of neutrals, brights, deeps, and metallics, Tenoverten polishes are designed to be smooth and streak-free.
Get this lesser-known brand on your radar—Suncoat’s innovative polishes are water based and arguably have the cleanest ingredient profile we’ve ever seen. There’s even a biodegradable, plant-based polish remover. (And, psst: The brand offers cosmetics beyond nail polishes, all with the same nontoxic MO.)