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Vegan Nail Polish: How To Tell If Nail Polish Is Vegan

22/03/2017

A question I get asked all the time is: “Is Nail Polish Vegan?”. The short answer is no, not all nail polish is vegan, but the majority of it is. If you’re looking for vegan nail polish then you will probably also want it to be cruelty free as well (not tested on animals). I’ll explain how to determine if a brand is cruelty free and then if a certain nail polish is vegan by looking at the ingredients on the product.

Is nail polish vegan?
Is nail polish vegan?

Today, I will only be referring to actual nail polish products, not gels, acrylics or any sort of hand or nail care products (like creams and oils). If you are wanting to find a vegan and cruelty free gel, then the only one I recommend is BioSculpture, as I had it on for many years and my natural nails were very healthy underneath.

Before I get into the non-vegan ingredients of nail polish that you need to look for, I just want to cover the basics of cruelty free and vegan differences (as I explained in detail in my Vegan and Cruelty Free Standards in Beauty blog post). Cruelty free and vegan are not the same thing, cruelty free is no animal testing, vegan is no animal ingredients or animal by products. Chances are, if you’re looking for a vegan nail polish, then you will also want it to be cruelty free/not tested on animals. To know if a product is cruelty free, you need to look into the brand as a whole. For a brand to be cruelty free, none of their ingredients or finished products can be tested on animals by the brand or any third party. They must not “test when required by law”, so they cannot sell their products in countries like China that require cosmetic animal testing. China just recently changed their cosmetic animal testing laws to include more products that must be tested see my Changes to Cosmetic Animal Testing in China blog post so that you know what is now required by law to be tested on. You may also want to avoid buying from a company that has a parent company that tests on animals as the money you spend will eventually end up in with the animal testers – I have more information on this in my Cosmetic Parent Companies and Cruelty Free Brands blog post.

I tend to use indie nail polish as the brands are cruelty free and the nail polish is typically vegan (I haven’t come across an indie that isn’t cruelty free or any that use animal ingredients in their nail polish). I love my aussie indies, so I wrote a post about the active ones in Australia that I can recommend. You can see my list of Aussie indie polish brands in my Guide To Australian Indie Nail Polish blog post. I also listed some cruelty free and non-cruelty free brands there. Some of the cruelty free brands (not necessarily vegan) I mentioned that aren’t indies are China Glaze, Zoya, Wet n Wild, Barry M, ORLY, Color Club, ELF, OCC, Furless, Kester Black, Natio, ULTA3 and Australis.

How to tell if nail polish is vegan
How to tell if nail polish is vegan

Now, to tell if a nail polish is vegan, you need to look at the full ingredients of the product. I have only ever come across a few of non-vegan ingredients that are included in products, so they are what you need to look out for. The first is guanine, which can be listed as crystalised guanine or pearl essence. Guanine tends to be derived from fish scales and is used to create a shimmery or luminous effect. This will be found in nail polishes that have a pearl, shimmer or metallic look to them. This is the main ingredient I look for in coloured nail polishes as it tends to be the most common non-vegan ingredient.

Carmine can be used in polish, but in my experience, it is rarely listed in the ingredients on many nail polish bottles – I think because many brands do make a conscious effort to stay away from it. Carmine is very common in makeup like eyeshadows and lipsticks but there are other ingredients that can be used to make nail polish red. I have heard some people warn about oleic acid, but I haven’t seen it. So just keep an eye out for those ingredients just incase there is a product that does include them.

Now to nail hardeners. Nail hardener ingredients can be completely different from coloured polish ingredients as they try to put as many things as possible in there that could have some affect on the nail. Silk is a common ingredient in nail hardeners. I’ve seen it listed as silk powder, hydrolyzed silk and one that had it listed as silk lipesters. I haven’t found any research that suggests that silk has any positive effect on the nail plate but it does probably help make the nail feel stronger whilst the nail hardener is on the nail (which is what many ingredients in nail hardeners do). I have also seen keratin in a nail hardeners which is listed as hydrolyzed keratin. Many products will even have keratin in the name of it, but it is easy to find in the ingredients anyway. I have also seen one product that listed hydrolyzed collagen as an ingredient.

I did a lot of googling of ingredient listings before writing this post to try and find all the non-vegan ingredients I could. I found one nail hardener that included gelatin as an ingredient. Gelatin can be plant derived but the particular product I found it in had various other non-vegan ingredients so I doubt it would be in that product. I also found calcium which was listed as Calcium Pantothenate in a product. The research I did, seems to indicate that Calcium Pantothenate is typically synthetic but you should email the company if you see that ingredient and want to be sure.

You may think it is easier to just email the brand as ask if a product is vegan or not, but many brands have no idea what vegan actually means and some brands just make mistakes. Recently Wet N Wild Beauty labeled their 10 in 1 Nail Strengthener as vegan when the ingredients clearly stated that it contained Silk Powder. They have apologised and are looking into it, but you can see that even companies that are usually good about their labeling still get it wrong sometimes.

How to tell if nail polish is vegan
Vegan nail polish: how to tell if nail polish is vegan

So now you know what to look for when trying to find vegan nail polish. I tried to find every non-vegan ingredient I could but there may have been something I missed, let me know if that is the case. It tends to be harder to find the cruelty free status of a brand as you often you have to email them with in depth questions to determine if they are cruelty free or not. There are however blogs like mine that do the work for you and sites like Choose Cruelty Free that keep an updated list of accredited cruelty free brands. To get you started, here are some brands that are cruelty free and have vegan nail polish (note: other products they stock may contain animal derived ingredients) – Pretty Serious Cosmetics, Powder Perfect, Emily de Molly, Femme Fatale Cosmetics, Furless, Zoya, Color Club, KBShimmer, Cirque Colors, ILNP, Kester Black, OCC, ELF, Designer Brands, Pacifica and Picture Polish. If you’re looking for a nail hardener that is cruelty free, vegan, and actually works then I can recommend the Pretty Serious nail hardeners – see my blog post Pretty Serious Rock On and Harden Up Review. I hope all of this information is helpful to you and makes it easier to find a product you want. Don’t forget to sign up to email updates to get my new posts delivered to your inbox. Do you buy vegan nail polish? Have you seen any other non-vegan ingredients in nail polish?

Love, Alinta

5 Comments

  • Kimmi 24/03/2017 at 8:37 pm

    All this information is incredibly helpful. Thank you for breaking this all down and getting really specific.

    There is absolutely no need for nail polish to use animal ingredients any more. Out of all the products in the beauty realm, nail polish has come the furthest in developing synthetic or natural alternatives to nearly every animal based ingredient, and the ones they haven’t really aren’t essential to developing a great nail lacquer. Let’s hope the industry wakes up to this even more in the coming years.

    • Alinta McMurdo 01/04/2017 at 10:07 pm

      Yes, there has thankfully been a push in the nail world for vegan products, and as such no reason to use them now – unfortunately there are always companies who ae stuck in their old ways.

  • […] Polish And Paws: How To Tell If Nail Polish Is Vegan […]

  • Beth 01/04/2017 at 6:25 am

    Such an interesting, helpful post! I already only buy cruelty-free beauty products but it’s always good to know more about brands with vegan options – I’m off to look into the ones you’ve suggested here 🙂 xx

    • Alinta McMurdo 01/04/2017 at 10:08 pm

      Thank you, I buy cruelty free too but choose vegan when I am informed about it. Nail polish seems to be one of the best cosmetic products for vegan alternatives 🙂

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    Here’s a video of Bonsai’s recovery from cruciate ligament surgery this year. He ruptured his cruciate just before my wedding, and then had surgery shortly after.  As well as repairing the ligament, the vet also created a deeper groove in his knee so to give his knee more stability. This is his second knee surgery as he had his other one done a year earlier. It’s very common for the second knee to be injured within a year of the first. His surgery and recovery were complicated by his IBD and heart failure, but as you can see his leg is doing really well now. I’ve been updating you in my stories about his heart failure. He doesn’t have much much time left with us, so I thought I would upload this so you can see that knee surgery is worth doing. I know lots of people are scared of the recovery period because crating can be demanding on your time and stressful for the dog, but giving them proper use of their leg back is worth it. I’ve seen dogs in rescue that are forced to go years without this surgery and the results are heartbreaking. The recovery can be hard, especially if there are other medical issues at play, like with Bonsai, but a good vet will try to make the dog as comfortable as possible for the recovery period. Humans get help when they rupture their ACL so please do the same for your dog. If you’re wondering how Bons is going today, he’s recovered from yesterdays sedation and is happily sitting on my shoulder - as per usual. There’s no way of knowing when his time will be up, so he’s being spoilt and loved until that day does come. He’s my little shadow who I love very much 🌒
#rescuedog #crutiate #crutiateligament #dogsofmelbourne #chihuahua
    Here’s a video of Bonsai’s recovery from cruciate ligament surgery this year. He ruptured his cruciate just before my wedding, and then had surgery shortly after. As well as repairing the ligament, the vet also created a deeper groove in his knee so to give his knee more stability. This is his second knee surgery as he had his other one done a year earlier. It’s very common for the second knee to be injured within a year of the first. His surgery and recovery were complicated by his IBD and heart failure, but as you can see his leg is doing really well now. I’ve been updating you in my stories about his heart failure. He doesn’t have much much time left with us, so I thought I would upload this so you can see that knee surgery is worth doing. I know lots of people are scared of the recovery period because crating can be demanding on your time and stressful for the dog, but giving them proper use of their leg back is worth it. I’ve seen dogs in rescue that are forced to go years without this surgery and the results are heartbreaking. The recovery can be hard, especially if there are other medical issues at play, like with Bonsai, but a good vet will try to make the dog as comfortable as possible for the recovery period. Humans get help when they rupture their ACL so please do the same for your dog. If you’re wondering how Bons is going today, he’s recovered from yesterdays sedation and is happily sitting on my shoulder - as per usual. There’s no way of knowing when his time will be up, so he’s being spoilt and loved until that day does come. He’s my little shadow who I love very much 🌒 #rescuedog #crutiate #crutiateligament #dogsofmelbourne #chihuahua
    3 months ago
    View on Instagram |
    7/9
    With it being #pridemonth, we are going to talk about the A in LGBTQIA+ (while you look at some of my rainbow-ish nails from over the years). The A stands for Asexual, or Aromantic, or Agender,, but not Ally. Asexuals are people who don’t experience sexual attraction to others (or only do in certain circumstances, like those who are grey or demisexual). It’s a spectrum, we’re all different. Many aces still have relationships, whether romantic, sexual or queer-platonic. Asexuality is about attraction, not relationship status. Aces are frequently erased from the queer community. Last pride was particularly bad for ace erasure and hate. Aces belong in the queer community. Many aces have a hard time coming to terms with being ace in our hyper-sexualised society, and then they have to deal with erasure from their own community too. I personally would have been saved years of worrying that something was wrong with me if someone had just explained the difference between sexual and romantic attraction to me as a teen. There are so many amazing aces out there who deserve to be supported, especially by the queer community. So, don’t forget to include the A if you’re going to use the LGBTQIA+ acronym, and show for aces, whether you’re in the community or an ally. 
#pride #asexualpride #LGBTQIA #pridenails #rainbownails
    With it being #pridemonth, we are going to talk about the A in LGBTQIA+ (while you look at some of my rainbow-ish nails from over the years). The A stands for Asexual, or Aromantic, or Agender,, but not Ally. Asexuals are people who don’t experience sexual attraction to others (or only do in certain circumstances, like those who are grey or demisexual). It’s a spectrum, we’re all different. Many aces still have relationships, whether romantic, sexual or queer-platonic. Asexuality is about attraction, not relationship status. Aces are frequently erased from the queer community. Last pride was particularly bad for ace erasure and hate. Aces belong in the queer community. Many aces have a hard time coming to terms with being ace in our hyper-sexualised society, and then they have to deal with erasure from their own community too. I personally would have been saved years of worrying that something was wrong with me if someone had just explained the difference between sexual and romantic attraction to me as a teen. There are so many amazing aces out there who deserve to be supported, especially by the queer community. So, don’t forget to include the A if you’re going to use the LGBTQIA+ acronym, and show for aces, whether you’re in the community or an ally. 
#pride #asexualpride #LGBTQIA #pridenails #rainbownails
    With it being #pridemonth, we are going to talk about the A in LGBTQIA+ (while you look at some of my rainbow-ish nails from over the years). The A stands for Asexual, or Aromantic, or Agender,, but not Ally. Asexuals are people who don’t experience sexual attraction to others (or only do in certain circumstances, like those who are grey or demisexual). It’s a spectrum, we’re all different. Many aces still have relationships, whether romantic, sexual or queer-platonic. Asexuality is about attraction, not relationship status. Aces are frequently erased from the queer community. Last pride was particularly bad for ace erasure and hate. Aces belong in the queer community. Many aces have a hard time coming to terms with being ace in our hyper-sexualised society, and then they have to deal with erasure from their own community too. I personally would have been saved years of worrying that something was wrong with me if someone had just explained the difference between sexual and romantic attraction to me as a teen. There are so many amazing aces out there who deserve to be supported, especially by the queer community. So, don’t forget to include the A if you’re going to use the LGBTQIA+ acronym, and show for aces, whether you’re in the community or an ally. 
#pride #asexualpride #LGBTQIA #pridenails #rainbownails
    With it being #pridemonth, we are going to talk about the A in LGBTQIA+ (while you look at some of my rainbow-ish nails from over the years). The A stands for Asexual, or Aromantic, or Agender,, but not Ally. Asexuals are people who don’t experience sexual attraction to others (or only do in certain circumstances, like those who are grey or demisexual). It’s a spectrum, we’re all different. Many aces still have relationships, whether romantic, sexual or queer-platonic. Asexuality is about attraction, not relationship status. Aces are frequently erased from the queer community. Last pride was particularly bad for ace erasure and hate. Aces belong in the queer community. Many aces have a hard time coming to terms with being ace in our hyper-sexualised society, and then they have to deal with erasure from their own community too. I personally would have been saved years of worrying that something was wrong with me if someone had just explained the difference between sexual and romantic attraction to me as a teen. There are so many amazing aces out there who deserve to be supported, especially by the queer community. So, don’t forget to include the A if you’re going to use the LGBTQIA+ acronym, and show for aces, whether you’re in the community or an ally. #pride #asexualpride #LGBTQIA #pridenails #rainbownails
    3 months ago
    View on Instagram |
    8/9
    Plastic packaging and beauty products. What can one change do? When @trilogyproducts changed from plastic spatulas to bamboo ones, they stopped producing 208,000 plastic spatulas a year. For me, that means I now won’t be adding to my very large pile of plastic spatulas that I have accumulated over the years by using the Trilogy Replenishing Night Cream every day. No other night cream compares for me, so I’m glad I won’t add to that pile. I kept them all hoping that I would find a use for them but that has yet to happen 🤷‍♀️ A lot of beauty brands market that their plastic can be recycled, but many of those products can’t be put in curbside recycling. When they can go into the recycling bin it doesn’t mean customers are actually doing that, and even when the plastic does make it into the recycling bin, it doesn’t mean it’s actually recycled. There’s a huge amount of plastic in recycling centers that never gets made into something new. So I appreciate it when brands do make changes like this because I can see the result as a consumer. That doesn’t always mean the change is automatically better for the environment, because there’s no way of knowing if the brand uses more materials or greenhouse gases to make the new version. Beauty brands can be very cagey about their greenhouse gas emissions, particularly their scope 3 emissions. Therefore as consumers we can often only make best guesses as to which brands and products are the most sustainable choice. Changing plastic packaging is however a very obvious difference for customers, because we see the difference in where our waste goes. So as a customer I do like seeing brands moving to products that aren’t plastic, or at the very least using plastic that is easily curbside recycled. Many beauty brands have a long way to go before their products are easily recycled, but Trilogy is one of the brands who have made an effort to change this. So long story, short, I love Trilogy skincare products and appreciate that they are trying to make the brand more eco-friendly. What’s your opinion on this? Do you have a weird plastic spatula pile, or is it just me? 
#trilogy #trilogyskincare #discovertrilogy #lovealinta
    Plastic packaging and beauty products. What can one change do? When @trilogyproducts changed from plastic spatulas to bamboo ones, they stopped producing 208,000 plastic spatulas a year. For me, that means I now won’t be adding to my very large pile of plastic spatulas that I have accumulated over the years by using the Trilogy Replenishing Night Cream every day. No other night cream compares for me, so I’m glad I won’t add to that pile. I kept them all hoping that I would find a use for them but that has yet to happen 🤷‍♀️ A lot of beauty brands market that their plastic can be recycled, but many of those products can’t be put in curbside recycling. When they can go into the recycling bin it doesn’t mean customers are actually doing that, and even when the plastic does make it into the recycling bin, it doesn’t mean it’s actually recycled. There’s a huge amount of plastic in recycling centers that never gets made into something new. So I appreciate it when brands do make changes like this because I can see the result as a consumer. That doesn’t always mean the change is automatically better for the environment, because there’s no way of knowing if the brand uses more materials or greenhouse gases to make the new version. Beauty brands can be very cagey about their greenhouse gas emissions, particularly their scope 3 emissions. Therefore as consumers we can often only make best guesses as to which brands and products are the most sustainable choice. Changing plastic packaging is however a very obvious difference for customers, because we see the difference in where our waste goes. So as a customer I do like seeing brands moving to products that aren’t plastic, or at the very least using plastic that is easily curbside recycled. Many beauty brands have a long way to go before their products are easily recycled, but Trilogy is one of the brands who have made an effort to change this. So long story, short, I love Trilogy skincare products and appreciate that they are trying to make the brand more eco-friendly. What’s your opinion on this? Do you have a weird plastic spatula pile, or is it just me? #trilogy #trilogyskincare #discovertrilogy #lovealinta
    4 months ago
    View on Instagram |
    9/9

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