A close-up shot of vibrant, cruelty-free vegan nail polish bottles lined up, reflecting a rainbow of colors, radiating beauty and compassion.

A Guide To Cruelty Free Vegan Nail Polishes

With the rising popularity of veganism and ethical consumerism, more people are looking for nail polishes that are not only vegan but also cruelty-free. If you love painting your nails but want to avoid products that involve animal testing or ingredients derived from animals, vegan and cruelty-free nail polish is for you.

If you don’t have time to read this full guide, the quick answer is: some top recommended vegan and cruelty-free nail polish brands to check out are Zoya, Pacifica, Essie, ORLY, and Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about cruelty free and vegan nail polishes. You’ll learn what exactly “cruelty-free” and “vegan” mean when it comes to nail products, what ingredients to look out for, plus get recommendations on some of the best vegan and cruelty-free nail polish brands and colors that deliver vibrant, long-lasting manicures.

Understanding “Cruelty-Free” and “Vegan” Nail Polish

Cruelty-Free Nail Polish Explained

Cruelty-free nail polishes are formulated without testing the ingredients or finished products on animals. Brands that produce cruelty-free nail polishes do not conduct or commission animal testing at any stage of production.

According to Cruelty Free International, an estimated 500,000 animals suffer and die globally every year due to cosmetics animal testing.

Certifications like Leaping Bunny and Choose Cruelty Free indicate a nail polish is truly cruelty-free. When buying, look out for phrases like “not tested on animals” or symbols like a leaping bunny. Reputable cruelty-free brands include ORLY, Zoya, Essie, and Sally Hansen.

Vegan Nail Polish Explained

Vegan nail polishes differ by not containing any animal-derived ingredients. Common animal ingredients found in regular nail polishes include:

  • Beeswax
  • Carmine
  • Lanolin
  • Collagen

Going vegan cuts ties to animal agriculture and associated ethical issues like exploitation. Leaping Bunny certification also indicates a nail polish is vegan. Many mainstream brands now offer vegan ranges, like ORLY Breathable and Essie Flowerista.

Difference Between Cruelty-Free and Vegan Nail Polish

Cruelty-Free Vegan
Not tested on animals Contains no animal-derived ingredients
Addresses ethical issues around animal testing Addresses ethical issues around animal exploitation
Could still contain animal-derived ingredients like beeswax or carmine Ingredients and finished product not tested on animals

A nail polish can be cruelty-free without being completely vegan, if it contains some animal-derived components. But a product labeled as vegan must also be cruelty-free. The terms are not interchangeable, but vegan offers the highest degree of ethical nail polish production.

Ingredients to Look For in Vegan Nail Polishes

Non-Vegan Ingredients to Avoid

When shopping for cruelty-free nail polish, it’s important to avoid certain non-vegan ingredients. Here are some of the main ones to look out for:

  • Beeswax – Made by bees, so not vegan-friendly.
  • Carmine – Red pigment made from crushed cochineal insects.
  • Rabbit Hemoglobin – An oxygen carrier protein derived from rabbits.
  • Fish Scales – Used to create shimmery or pearlescent effects.
  • Bone char – Charred animal bones used for filtering and whitening.
  • Keratin – A protein derived from animal hair, horns, feathers, etc.
  • Silk powder – Finely ground silk fibers, not vegan.

Many big nail polish brands still use these ingredients, so it’s essential to scrutinize the ingredient list before purchasing. When in doubt, look for vegan certifications or contact the company to find out their stance on animal-derived ingredients.

Vegan-Friendly Ingredients

Luckily, there are now many vegan-friendly alternatives that deliver vibrant colors and stunning shimmer without harming animals.

Here are some great vegan options:

  • Synthetic pigments – Manufactured colors like FD&C or D&C dyes.
  • Minerals – Iron oxides, mica, titanium dioxide, etc.
  • Plant-derived oils – Soybean, sunflower, safflower oils.
  • Vitamin E – An antioxidant extracted from vegetables.
  • Rice bran wax – A cruelty-free alternative to beeswax.
  • Acrylates copolymer – A synthetic film-former.
  • Silica – Vegan replacement for fish scales.

Many indie nail polish brands like Zoya, Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics (OCC), and Butter London use vegan formulas exclusively. Larger companies like ORLY and China Glaze also offer extensive vegan collections.

It’s easy to find chic vegan polishes that rival mainstream brands in color, lasting power, and shine. Get creative with earthy neutrals, vivid brights, holos, glitters, and anything else you can imagine.

With hundreds of animal-friendly options to choose from, your nails will stay stylish and cruelty-free.

The Best Cruelty-Free and Vegan Nail Polish Brands


Zoya is one of the most popular cruelty-free nail polish brands. All Zoya products are 100% vegan and PETA-certified. The brand offers over 300 gorgeous shades including nudes, brights, metallics, and glitters.

Their long-wearing formula is free of nasty ingredients like formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, and camphor. Zoya nail polishes are reasonably priced from $10-$12 each. Many nail polish enthusiasts swear by Zoya for their wide color selection, quality formula, and vegan cred.


Pacifica is a vegan and cruelty-free beauty brand offering budget-friendly nail polishes. Their 7-free formula excludes harmful chemicals like formaldehyde and phthalates. Pacifica has a great range of fashionable colors from pastels to shimmers.

Some customer favorites include Seafoam, Abalone, and Shooting Star. Their nail polishes retail for just $8 each. Pacifica nail polishes are not the longest lasting, but they offer good value and cute packaging.


Essie is a popular nail care brand that has many vegan and cruelty-free polishes. They were certified as cruelty-free by PETA in 2021. When shopping Essie polishes, be sure to check that the individual shade is marked “vegan” on the website.

Their vegan nail lacquers are free of animal ingredients and come in trendy colors like sheer pinks, chromes, and glitters. Essie nail polishes cost around $9 each. For great colors and affordability, Essie is a solid cruelty-free choice.


ORLY is an internationally renowned nail polish brand with a wide selection of vegan and cruelty-free polishes. They were certified by PETA as cruelty-free in 2019. ORLY has over 200 colors to choose from including nudes, brights, metallics and glitters.

Their Breathable formula contains no major toxic chemicals. ORLY offers salon-quality vegan nail polish for around $10 per bottle. With so many on-trend colors to choose from, ORLY is a top cruelty-free nail brand.

Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics (OCC)

Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics, also known as OCC, offers high-quality vegan and cruelty-free nail lacquers. All of their bold nail polish shades are completely free of animal ingredients. Their nail polishes are long-wearing, chip-resistant, and have a glossy finish.

OCC nail lacquers contain no harmful chemicals like formaldehyde or toluene. With edgy colors like black, green, blue and purple, OCC has some of the most unique cruelty-free nail polish shades. Their polishes retail for around $10 each.

Cirque Colors

Cirque Colors is a vegan and cruelty-free nail polish brand with a cult following. Their polishes are loved for the gorgeous array of unique shades and high-performance formula. Cirque Colors has luxe looking lacquers with shimmer, glitter, and thermal effects.

Some best-selling colors include Versailles, Electric Daisy, and Lavish Lilac. Their chip-resistant, 10-free formula applies smoothly and dries quickly. Cirque Colors retail for around $13 each, making them a luxurious cruelty-free choice.


Ella+Mila offers an extensive collection of quality vegan and cruelty-free nail polishes. The brand is PETA-certified and their polishes contain no animal ingredients. Ella+Mila has over 100 trendy colors including creamy nudes, vampy shades, and bold brights.

Their chip-resistant formula is free of the major toxic chemicals, applying smoothly with a glossy finish. Ella+Mila nail lacquers retail between $8-$11 each. With so many gorgeous colors, Ella+Mila is a top vegan nail polish pick.

Tips for Making Your Manicure Last with Vegan Polishes

Using vegan and cruelty-free nail polish is a great way to express yourself while being kind to animals and the planet. But we all know the frustration of a manicure that chips after just a day or two. Follow these tips to extend the life of your vegan nail polish:

Prep Your Nails

Proper nail prep is key for long-lasting color. Start by filing and buffing nails to smooth any ridges. Use a dehydrator like alcohol or acetone to remove oils and moisture. Then apply a base coat to fill ridges and prevent staining. Let each layer dry completely before moving on.

Apply Thin Layers

Resist the urge to glob on thick coats of polish. Multiple thin, even layers last longer than one thick coat. Allow 2-3 minutes of drying time between each layer. Finish with a good quality top coat like Seche Vite or Essie Gel Setter for extra shine and protection.

Wrap Your Tips

Painting just the top of your nails leaves fragile edges that can chip and peel. Be sure to swipe polish over the tips of your nails to seal in color. This helps prevent cracking and lifting near the cuticles. Use a cleanup brush dipped in remover to tidy the edges.

Use a Quick Dry Top Coat

A fast-drying top coat like Seche Vite or Sally Hansen Insta-Dri creates a smooth, hard layer over polish to lock in color. Apply top coat over completely dry polish, and resist the urge to run your nails under water as this can cause bubbling.

Stay Hydrated

Dry, brittle nails don’t hold polish well. Keep your nails strong and flexible by staying hydrated and using cuticle oil daily. Jojoba oil, vitamin E oil, and olive oil all work to moisturize nails and cuticles.

Avoid Long Hot Showers

Excessive water exposure can cause nails to expand and contract, leading to lifting and peeling. Limit showers to 5-10 minutes using lukewarm water. Wear gloves when washing dishes or cleaning to protect your manicure.

Use a Nail Strengthening Base Coat

Look for a base coat formulated to enhance nail durability. Base coats with calcium, biotin, and proteins build strong, flexible nails that better hold onto polish. Try Essie Here to Stay or OPI Nail Envy for added strength.

With proper prep and care, your vegan nail polish can look freshly-painted for 7 days or more. Avoid picking or peeling polish, and touch up any chips right away. Your compassionate manicure will stay pretty with just a little TLC.


We hope this guide has helped you better understand what cruelty-free and vegan mean when it comes to nail products. You should now have a good grasp of what ingredients make a polish vegan-friendly and recommendations on top cruelty-free, vegan nail polish brands to help you achieve a vibrant, long-lasting manicure you can feel good about.

Remember to always double check the ethics and ingredients before purchasing nail polishes that claim to be vegan and cruelty-free. With some diligent label reading and the product recommendations above, finding kinder nail lacquers can be easy. Happy painting those pretty nails!

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