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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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*press sample  #lovealinta #sustainablebeauty #sustainablebrand #ecobeauty #ethicalbeauty #ecotools

    What is a sustainable product? I have spent months thinking about this and what I want to write and on my blog and post about here. There is no easy answer to this. Just when considering greenhouse emissions for a company alone, it’s immensely complicated. There was a good article in nature recently going over how Microsoft are trying to achieve net zero, but most companies don’t have the means that Microsoft does. Most companies rely on carbon offsets, which is often planting trees (problematic solution in itself), rather than ensuring their business has no emissions at all. And they don’t take into consideration all the emissions that occur from suppliers and freight of suppliers etc. Then there is the problem of waste. Ideally, I don’t want there to be any permanent waste to occur from any product I buy, but that’s certainly not the case. Most beauty products can’t even be recycled in curb-side recycling bins. I would preferably want my products to be biodegradable, refillable at home, or reused and refilled by the company so that there is no waste. However, I don’t know of an actual solution that encompasses those criteria for some things – like vegan makeup brush hairs as seen with eco tools brushes. I do prioritise this lower than single use plastic, as I get many years of use from makeup brushes. But it’s just another level of complexity that I’ve tried to figure out. So in saying all that, I don’t have the solution or a perfect company or product to talk about as I don’t know of one. I do however intend to support and share about the companies who are trying to be more sustainable. I hope that in supporting them, we will get to a point where companies can fit my ideal criteria. I would like to write a blog post on this but that requires more energy than I have right now – I would however love to hear your thoughts on sustainable products. What is a sustainable product to you? Eco tools was actually the first big company I ever noticed that was promoting eco beauty. It’s interesting how much has changed since then.
    *press sample #lovealinta #sustainablebeauty #sustainablebrand #ecobeauty #ethicalbeauty #ecotools

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Picture from a Bloomberg article of a graph showing world average temp over 2000 years with obvious uptick since 1850. Title saying heat spike. 
#climatechange #climateaction #ipcc #ipccreport #lovealinta

    Since the IPCC report was released on Monday I’ve seen a lot of people expressing how overwhelmed and helpless they feel about climate change. These feelings are absolutely valid. The situation we’re in is dire. The report confirmed that we are currently experiencing the effects of climate change which can be seen in the increase in extreme weather events. We’re currently sitting at 1.1 degrees and we will well overshoot 1.5 degrees by the end of the century if nothing changes. This will cause widespread suffering, death and destruction for humans, animals and ecosystems.
    But there is good news. We know what the problem is and we know the solution. We can avoid the worst case scenario if we act now. De-carbonising the economy needs to be our top priority, we simply cannot rely on fossil fuels any longer. The most important thing you can do is to get involved and apply political pressure. That means voting for the people with the best climate policies, emailing your local representative, going to climate protests, physically blocking new fossil fuel infrastructure, telling everyone you know to also act – whatever it is you can do to make change, do it.
    Australia was recently ranked last on climate action against 193 other UN member nations. This cannot continue. COP 26 is around the corner so speak up, tell the Aus gov that you want climate action now. I know many of you don’t have a degree about climate change like I do, so I’ve tried to make this simple and give you examples of what to do, and I’m happy to go into more detail or explain anything you don’t understand, just ask. Do your best to be informed and be prepared to fight for a better future. It will be worth it for every life, species and ecosystem that can be saved.
    Picture from a Bloomberg article of a graph showing world average temp over 2000 years with obvious uptick since 1850. Title saying heat spike.
    #climatechange #climateaction #ipcc #ipccreport #lovealinta

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Thanks to everyone who checked in on me. I’m hoping my recent iron infusion will help me to feel less like one foot is in the grave but only time will tell. 
Leave a comment to let me know what silly things your pets or kids have been up to lately so we can all have a laugh 😊
Picture of a white and grey dog looking at the camera and licking his nose. 
#rescuedog #rescuedogs #dogsofmelbourne #lovealinta

    With Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane all In lockdown, I thought a cute pup picture in your feed might be appreciated. You can swipe to see a cute video of a scruffy puppy Kobi not long after he came into care as a foster dog – he found himself in the pound at 3 months of age.
    Kobi was probably thinking about food in this photo because he is a bit obsessed with eating. He will even happily eat dirt – I’ve had to clean dirt off his chin far too often lately (don’t worry the vet says there’s nothing wrong with him, he’s just gluttonous). His favourite method for dirt eating is face planting straight onto the ground. It’s certainly an interesting technique.
    Thanks to everyone who checked in on me. I’m hoping my recent iron infusion will help me to feel less like one foot is in the grave but only time will tell.
    Leave a comment to let me know what silly things your pets or kids have been up to lately so we can all have a laugh 😊
    Picture of a white and grey dog looking at the camera and licking his nose.
    #rescuedog #rescuedogs #dogsofmelbourne #lovealinta

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Pic description: selfie of me in a mask with neon yellow sticker that says I have had the covid-19 vaccine, taken just after my second vaccination.

    It’s been 6.5 weeks since my first Pfizer vaccination and 3.5 since my second, but I still feel like death warmed up. This isn’t surprising. My immunologist, GP and I all knew I would suffer, but that doesn’t make it easier to deal with. This isn’t a covid vaccine specific reaction, I react to all vaccines in the same way. I was out of action for 2 weeks after my meningococcal vaccine last December and most people don’t have any problems with that vax. My vaccine reactions are specific to only me, because of my unique immune deficiencies. My immunologist has never come across anyone else with the combination of immune deficiencies that I have. Unfortunately, one of my worse deficiencies is that of Memory B Cells, which means I don’t make immunity to many vaccines, and when I do, it doesn’t last for long. I still get vaccinated despite this, because it matters. So the point of this post – please get your covid vaccination when you are eligible to. Many vulnerable people like myself are relying on herd immunity and we’re just not going to get there if everyone doesn’t do their part. I didn’t get a pretty sticker but the potential of covid antibodies is better than any sticker.
    Pic description: selfie of me in a mask with neon yellow sticker that says I have had the covid-19 vaccine, taken just after my second vaccination.

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Oh and don’t forget to show up to the climate strike on Friday 😊
Pic description - white lined notebook on black background with handwriting that says First Nations People’s and Earth Based Governance. 
#climatechange #alwayswasalwayswillbe #lovealinta

    I think I’ve made it pretty obvious that I care about Indigenous rights as well as the environment. So I am particularly interested in how Indigenous people want to combat climate change because climate change action desperately needs to be decolonised.
    Unfortunately, those who are the least responsible for climate change are the ones who ones who will suffer the most, and many Indigenous people will be more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change because of colonisation. Indigenous people and their knowledge are frequently left out of climate discussions and that needs to change. My climate change uni subject focuses on exactly that this week.
    For a long time I’ve wanted to post about this sort of thing but I haven’t known where to start. I have no idea where the level of environmental and climate knowledge is at with the general public so I would love if you could let me know how much you know about it. Then at least I have a place to start.
    Also, thanks for sticking by me, it has been very hard to get through this subject whilst going through all my health stuff plus vaccines. I have my second vax on Thursday and a few more weeks of uni and then I’ll be around more often.
    Oh and don’t forget to show up to the climate strike on Friday 😊
    Pic description – white lined notebook on black background with handwriting that says First Nations People’s and Earth Based Governance.
    #climatechange #alwayswasalwayswillbe #lovealinta

    Love, Alinta
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Picture description: fair hand flat out with fingers spread showing silver coloured ring on ring finger with a green background. 
#ethicalengagementring #ethicalengagement #labdiamond #recycledplatinum #lovealinta

    Here are the ring details as promised. I think you all knew that my ring was going to be ethical in some way. It wouldn’t be me otherwise, would it? I’ve followed @ethicaljewelleryaustralia for years now, so I’ve known for a long time that I would want them to make a ring for me. It’s something that I will be wearing everyday, so I want it to represent my values. So the ring is handmade by #EthicalJewelleryAustralia in the design I wanted. It’s a round diamond with a four prongs that look like little petals. It’s made with recycled platinum and a lab diamond. Diamond and metal mining have a lot of negative social and environmental impacts, plus a lab diamond is far more affordable than a traditionally mined diamond, which means you can reduce your impact on people, the planet and your hip pocket. I hope lab grown diamonds are the choice of the future, as it is far better for human rights and the environment to make a diamond in a lab using renewable energy, than it is to mine them from the ground, using fossil fuels and unethical labor – just look into blood diamonds if you want to know how bad it can get. I also plan on trying to have a more ethical wedding too. I’ve already found a carbon neutral venue, but I’ve got lots of research to do on everything else. Let me know if you have any ideas for a sustainable wedding.
    Picture description: fair hand flat out with fingers spread showing silver coloured ring on ring finger with a green background.
    #ethicalengagementring #ethicalengagement #labdiamond #recycledplatinum #lovealinta

    Love, Alinta
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    View on Instagram |
    6/9
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    With it being #EarthDay, I thought I would share some on my sustainable cleaning products. Everyone has to clean, but supermarket cleaning products don’t tend to be very eco-friendly. Here I’ve got my @ecomaxbrushes Bottle brush which is made from coconut waste products and can be composted at the end of its life – it will just leave the wire which can be recycled. There’s my Safix biodegradable scrub pad made from organic coconut fibers which can be composted when you are finished with it. And @retrokitchenaustralia biodegradable dish cloth in a cute dog print. It’s made from cotton and cellulose and can be composted when worn out. I use them with the @koalaeco Natural Multipurpose Kitchen Cleaner which is cruelty free, vegan and palm oil free and comes in 100% post consumer recycled bottles that can be recyclable when finished. I get the big refill bottles and just fill up my spray bottle. I bought all the above from @floraandfaunaau and they’re actually having 15% off eco items today, so all of these are discounted. Don’t forget to use my #floraandfaunaau affiliate code on my blog if you ever make a purchase, it helps me out. There’s lots of other ways to make regular household chores better for the environment. It can feel overwhelming to charge, but just start with small steps. When one product runs out you can replace it with a more sustainable option. One of the last things I need to change is is my laundry detergent so I’m thinking I’ll try @thedirtcompany one. I would love to hear what you think of their products if you’ve tried them. Also let know what eco swaps you’ve made in your home so that I can get more ideas. #EcoSwaps #LoveAlinta

    Love, Alinta
    6 months ago
    View on Instagram |
    7/9
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We spent yesterday afternoon attempting to take our own engagement photos in the yard with a tripod and this is the result. Having a photographer would be so much easier but my immune system wouldn’t appreciate that. 
Oh and I’ll tell you all about my ring in another post as I designed it ☺️#engagedtomybestfriend #lovealinta

Photo 1 description: close up of the torsos of two people in dark colours standing side by side with arms stretched to the ground and holding hands. One hand over both arms showing silver coloured ring. 
Photo 2 description: man hugging female from behind with his arm around her chest. Her hands are on his arm showing ring. Both smiling at camera with greenery in background.
    I have some news. I’m engaged! As a kid/teen I never thought this would happen as I didn’t believe in love - then I got sick and worried that no one would see past my illnesses. But I have found someone who loves me for me, faults, illnesses and all and I can’t wait to marry him. 
We spent yesterday afternoon attempting to take our own engagement photos in the yard with a tripod and this is the result. Having a photographer would be so much easier but my immune system wouldn’t appreciate that. 
Oh and I’ll tell you all about my ring in another post as I designed it ☺️#engagedtomybestfriend #lovealinta

Photo 1 description: close up of the torsos of two people in dark colours standing side by side with arms stretched to the ground and holding hands. One hand over both arms showing silver coloured ring. 
Photo 2 description: man hugging female from behind with his arm around her chest. Her hands are on his arm showing ring. Both smiling at camera with greenery in background.

    I have some news. I’m engaged! As a kid/teen I never thought this would happen as I didn’t believe in love – then I got sick and worried that no one would see past my illnesses. But I have found someone who loves me for me, faults, illnesses and all and I can’t wait to marry him.
    We spent yesterday afternoon attempting to take our own engagement photos in the yard with a tripod and this is the result. Having a photographer would be so much easier but my immune system wouldn’t appreciate that.
    Oh and I’ll tell you all about my ring in another post as I designed it ☺️#engagedtomybestfriend #lovealinta

    Photo 1 description: close up of the torsos of two people in dark colours standing side by side with arms stretched to the ground and holding hands. One hand over both arms showing silver coloured ring.
    Photo 2 description: man hugging female from behind with his arm around her chest. Her hands are on his arm showing ring. Both smiling at camera with greenery in background.

    Love, Alinta
    6 months ago
    View on Instagram |
    8/9
    It’s been a while since I posted makeup, so here’s some makeup 🙃 the @meccamax Off Duty BB Cream made it into my 2020 faves blog post, and it’s still my favourite base to use on the rare occasion that I put makeup on. I’ve just been too tired to wear makeup the last couple of months. The #meccamax Off Duty BB Cream is cruelty free and vegan. It however only comes in 5 shades. I use the lightest shade Vanilla, which has a good undertone for me, but I have to mix it with the same amount of white concealer to make it light enough to use. @MeccaMaxima have said they will extend the shade range of their home brands for years now, but they still don’t sell a single base shade that I could use by itself, and I’m sure that’s the same for dark skin tones. The other criticism I have of this product is the packaging. The lack of pump makes it hard to control the amount that comes out, and I would really prefer if it were in glass as that would be easier to recycle. The actual cream itself is amazing though. The formula works so well on my skin. It’s easy to blend with a brush and doesn’t cake up or feel heavy. Have you tried this BB cream? Do you have another favourite cruelty free and vegan BB cream? #meccabeauty #crueltyfreebeauty #veganbeauty #lovealinta

    It’s been a while since I posted makeup, so here’s some makeup 🙃 the @meccamax Off Duty BB Cream made it into my 2020 faves blog post, and it’s still my favourite base to use on the rare occasion that I put makeup on. I’ve just been too tired to wear makeup the last couple of months. The #meccamax Off Duty BB Cream is cruelty free and vegan. It however only comes in 5 shades. I use the lightest shade Vanilla, which has a good undertone for me, but I have to mix it with the same amount of white concealer to make it light enough to use. @MeccaMaxima have said they will extend the shade range of their home brands for years now, but they still don’t sell a single base shade that I could use by itself, and I’m sure that’s the same for dark skin tones. The other criticism I have of this product is the packaging. The lack of pump makes it hard to control the amount that comes out, and I would really prefer if it were in glass as that would be easier to recycle. The actual cream itself is amazing though. The formula works so well on my skin. It’s easy to blend with a brush and doesn’t cake up or feel heavy. Have you tried this BB cream? Do you have another favourite cruelty free and vegan BB cream? #meccabeauty #crueltyfreebeauty #veganbeauty #lovealinta

    Love, Alinta
    6 months ago
    View on Instagram |
    9/9

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