Natural Nail Polish 101

Natural nail polish 101 (click through for more!)Last year a blog reader informed me that nail polish is one of the most toxic things we put on our bodies. So, when I started to consider switching to a more natural beauty routine this year, polish was the first thing I addressed.

I quickly noticed that natural polish is typically twice if not three times the price of a drugstore brand. Over the past few months, I’ve been testing several brands and I wanted to share what I found with you today. Hopefully my advice can help steer you in the right direction so you don’t have to waste money on products that aren’t as good as others.

And as always, I want to open up the comments to your thoughts and opinions. I’ve already had several good recommendations from you guys!

I Love NP (both bottles pictured above with black handles)
This Etsy shop offers 3-Free (free of toluene, formaldehyde, or dibutyl phthalate) polishes in fun colors and holographic finishes. My favorite color I’ve purchased from them is Juliette, a rose gold holographic polish. It’s a pretty pink glitter that is easy to wear and looks amazing in the sunlight. I also like their coral neon, which is pictured above. I will definitely try more in the future.

Natural nail polish 101 (click through for more!)Habit Cosmetics

My friend, Natalie, introduced me to Habit. They have amazing colors to choose from and really cute bamboo lid packaging. So far I have tried Tabou (a bright orange-y red) and Belle Epoque (dark lavender). I also tried their top and bottom coat.

I am super pleased with the quality of both these polishes and want to try more colors. I’m curious how the lighter colors will hold up, and I want to try Bardot next.

Also, Laura’s nail color in the photo above is Mineral Fusion in Pebble (this is a good brand that dries quickly).

Natural nail polish 101 (click through for more!)TenOverTen

This is actually the first brand I tried. They are 8-free (free of formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), toluene, formaldehyde resin, camphor, ethyl tosylamide, xylene, and parabens), which is one of the best I’ve seen. For my personal taste, they also have the best packaging.

I like the colors a lot, but some bottles are better than others. Their black is AMAZING. Wouldn’t recommend their white (still looking for a full coverage true white if anyone knows of one!)

When I wear the darker colors, I tend to need to touch them up about once a day. I’ve always had issues with keeping my nail polish “perfect” for more than a day or two. So, this isn’t a deal breaker for me. I’ve been an Essie wearer in the past (the durability of these is equal, if not better).

With that said, I fully expected these natural products to suck and they do not. They are honestly all pretty equivalent to what I’d normally buy.

Natural nail polish 101 (click through for more!)Well, these are all my experiences so far! If you want to get started with a more natural nail polish regimen, I suggest Habit or TenOverTen. They both have a top and bottom coat you can buy, which helps it last longer. I will definitely keep collecting colors from both those brands. I will also keep shopping at I Love NP for glittery and holographic finishes.

I am a true believer in these products and am really glad I invested a little time and money into figuring out what works best for me. I love wearing nail polish, so once I found out how toxic it was, it was constantly bugging me. Now I can enjoy it again!

Next we want to try a natural nail salon (we just found out about this one in Nashville!) to see if we can pick up some helpful tips and recommendations.

And speaking of recommendations, please let us know if you have tried any nail products that have impressed you! xoxo- Elsie

Credits//Author: Elsie Larson. Photography: Laura Gummerman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

  • Elsie — what’s your impression of the effect of natural vs. normal polishes on the integrity of your nails? I have pretty weak/flimsy nails that crack a lot and I look for a polish that strengthens them. Do natural polishes do a better job of that?

  • Kerster Black – Australian brand that is vegan and free of all the toxic stuff! They have a beautiful Instagram as well.

  • Butter London, Julep, Zoya, Ten over Ten, & Kure Bazaar are my faves. If you are ever in Denver, and want a toxin-free all natural mani/pedi, Base Coat Nail Salon is the best.

    Side note…another game changer for me was purchasing a glass nail file. They last forever, and are more sanitary. Bonus: you can file in any direction and it won’t tear your nails! I picked up mine at Sephora.

  • When I lived in the US, I remember taking my friend for a pedicure for her birthday. I was having a manicure. It was at Karma Organic Spa in Ridgewood, NJ. It was a few years back but I remember quite a variety of colours and it held rather long so if anyone interested is in the area, I think you should give them a go.
    Nail salons are rather new in France so I bet we’ll need another few years before we think organic (we only started to find essie in some stores when I got back to France, 5 years ago…)

  • What a great post, we do nail art as part of our face painting in Bath and it might be good to offer a natural range as well especialy for children.

  • I’d recommend Aquarella, they have nail polish, a conditioner and a remover. I usually can wear them for 3 days before I need a touch-up which is usual for me anyways. They have a good range of colors.

  • I use Julep’s Brigitte for a nice, opaque white 🙂 they are 4-5 free!

  • Thank you so much, Sarah! I want to go get some to try tonight!


  • Love this post! Yes, there are a lot of nail polish that’s super toxic. If you’re looking to make the switch, we also recommend trying SUGARLOOM Cosmetics. We’re fairly new, however, have a lot of pretty cool shades, encourage nail health / beauty and our instagram @sugarloomcosmetics has nail tutorials every Tuesday!

    Visit here:

  • Great post! So far I like the 5-free Treat Collection nail polishes (German brand) the best! They perform just as well as my old OPI polishes 🙂 My picks are “Paris, Paris” for a gorgeous Spring tomato red, and “Fabulous” for a bright pink. They have a really modern and chic colour range that I love! (I just wish they didn’t have Benzophenone1) Also, I highly recommend the Treat Collection soy Nail Polish remover, it is amazing!!! Would like to try Kure Bazaar, Pacifica, and Tenoverten next! The “Think Dirty” app is the best! 🙂

  • My friend started a line of really great polishes with cute food names.

    From her site: “Palate Polish is a small batch 5-free and vegan line with food inspired names.”

    She has the best colors and is the sweetest human alive, it is worth checking out.

  • I fell in love with Jamberry Nail products. Even their TruShine Gel Enamel System is 5 Free and is salon quality. The variety and quality is amazing. Never had I purchased from a direct sales company, but I loved Jamberry Nail products so much that I became a consultant. Being able to use the products on my young daughter without worry sealed the deal.

  • Just decided to do the same a few weeks ago. I tried two colours from the Body Shop and pretty happy with them ?

  • For a more comprehensive color range, I enjoy using Jamberry polishes (technically, lacquers). They may not come to mind as a natural nail polish, but they are also 5 free and are very vivid and lasting.

  • Australian cruelty and the big five free awesomeness also awesome.

  • Toxic nail polish?!? Now I don’t feel like such a schlub for never painting my nails! (I prefer them short, tidy, and natural pink). I do get the urge to paint them once in a blue moon, though…I’ll have to try one of these natural brands next time that happens.

  • I love Julep’s colors, but have been disappointed with how long the polishes seem to last on me 🙁

  • 100% agree with lili! Kure Bazaar is awesome. It is our favorit natural nail polish here in France.

  • Who would have thought that? I’m not a big nail polish user, but now I probably get some natural solutions whenever I feel like painting my nails.The Habit Cosmetics packaging is so cute!

  • I was also surprised how toxic polish can be and have since tried Butter London, Ginger + Liz, and Karma Organics- I like Butter London the best in consistency, coverage and color selections. I use a natural polish remover as well (Karma Organics) made of lavender and soy oil-smells and works great!

  • Can’t believe no one’s mentioned Kester Black yet:

    It’s all over the place here in Australia.

  • Try Dazzle Dry. Made in Arizona. Also 8 free and best of all dries rock hard in five minutes.

  • Zoya is an awesome beans that is log lasting (especially with the base and top coat); the colors are gorgeous and prices are equivocal to OPI and Essie

  • Great post! I cannot go without nail polish, but know how bad it can be for you, so this is some really great info. Thanks!!

  • Thank you Sarah! I’ll check it out next time I am there, it looks like they have some pretty shades to choose from!

  • AILA Cosmetics is AMAZING. Highly recommend them!
    Will have to check these out too!

  • Julep has 5free and i believe 3 free as well. They are also vegan…I have a few of them I’ve been using them lately and I’ve been loving them.

  • Hi Andrea! Target just started stocking a natural nail polish brand, Defy & Inspire. I purchased a few shades and I’ve enjoyed them so far! Here is a link if you want to take a look at their shades:)

  • I work at an Aveda school, and the Cosmetology students use Sparitual. Since Aveda is all about being all natural, as well as responsible sourcing, they fit the bill well. They use vegan ingredients from around the world, including many specially sourced and selected plant essences that are Certified Organic and Fair Trade. They’re also formulated without DBP, toulene, formaldehyde and formaldehyde resin.

  • Thanks for the suggestions! I’ve had good luck with Suncoat polishes in the past ( but the big problem I have with them is that they don’t make a black polish and black is the colour that I generally like to wear. I’ll definitely try the Tenoverten black.

    I’ve also been toying with the idea of trying to mix up my own. I’ve found these kits that are “3 free,” but I’m still hoping to find something more natural.

  • I love Zoya nail polish! They’re 5-free, long-lasting, tons of colors, and always have some sort of promo going on (free shipping, buy some get some free, etc). And no animal testing!

  • This is a great post, definitely going to check out the shops you linked! As I have transitioned into my 30’s I have become more aware of my health and all the toxic chemicals in our everyday products. I have been slowly transitioning into natural and toxin free products – skin care, soaps, deodorants and now am very excited to try out these nail polishes!

  • I’ve been using Zoya lately (former Essie fan but they are no longer cruelty-free). Great quality and lots of colors but I haven’t been able to find a perfect Zoya red and that’s all I wear. Excited to check out these other recommendations!

  • Don’t apologize! We’re 100% in a learning phase! So thank you for the info. I just downloaded the app.

    xx- Elsie

  • The best white I’ve tried is the Sephora brand Formula X. I think it is 3 free, but it stays on well and is pretty smelly, so I am always pretty wary about using it. haha

  • What is the wear time on these polishes? Do they last as long as conventional nail polishes?

  • So nice that you tried out non-toxic nail polish. Since I switches, I cannot bring myself to go back.
    I love the brand Kure Bazaar, and their new minute-dry topcoat. I think they chip nicer than the brands I used to wear, that would peel off in large chunks or whole nails at a time.
    I love how you said that you expected them to suck and they didn’t – well surprise surprise – natural beauty have come a long way. Thanks for supporting it!
    From Johanne / Sustainable fashion blogger from Denmark

  • Hi Elsie,

    Thank you for putting together this post. I have also been trying to switch out my beauty products to safer brands with less chemicals. I did want to suggest that you try the app “Think Dirty” it takes all the guess work out of whether or not products are full of bad chemicals.

    Not to be a debbie downer but, Mineral Fusion gets a horrible score on this app as it contains benzophenone-1, aluminum powder, ferric ammonium, diacetone, and acrylates. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news!

  • Actually after a quick internet search, Sephora and Ulta carry this brand…just an FYI!

  • I haven’t read thru the comments, but have you checked out “Butter” by London brand polishes? They are fairly expensive, $15-20 per bottle and I usually find them in high end boutiques and a few airports that offer a quick mani/pedi…


  • I’m surprised you haven’t looked at Julep. They offer an amazing selection of 5-free nail polishes as well as other makeup. The subscription program is awesome but you can also order things out of their shop without it.

  • I like Scotch Naturals ( because when they chip you just rough up the polish a bit with a buffer and apply a new coat. Good as new!

  • You should try Butter London they are 8 free and have pretty much every colour you could think of, and pretty much the same price point as Essie (at least here in the UK) and the names are pretty cool too!

  • I guess we have most of the same nail polish issues. I too am hunting for a FULL COVERAGE white that doesn’t look chalky and make streaks all across your nails; soooo frustrating. Essie is the best of the lot but not perfect by any means. I’ve tried, L’Oreal, OPI, Sally Hansen, etc. My budget doesn’t extend to the department store brands (heard they are better. My issues with dark nail polish (besides those you mentioned), polish in my cuticles! ugh! I’ve basically given up wearing polish for awhile and now only used a base coat. But alas, summer is around the corner and I want to be a girly girl again 🙂 so keep the ideas and comments coming.

    So appreciate you guys at ABM! I am a daily visitor and I seriously have a girl crush on both of you. you are so inspiring.

    Thanks again for making my days.

  • I would recommend Kure Bazaar! It’s organic, vegan and 85% natural. And it lasts very long and in my opinion they’re the same quality as Essie and OPI if not better. Here is there link:

  • ZOYA! I got one in a birchbox a long time ago and it was amazing. It literally didn’t chip at all for over a week(and i’m usually a 2 day max for chips). They finally carry it at ulta now but for a while there, i couldn’t find it anywhere.

  • Elsie, I think I was THAT reader who complained about nail polish being one of the most toxic personal care products. So, although I don’t use polish myself, I really appreciate this post and applaud you for wanting to embrace more natural cosmetics. I’m sure many of your readers will want to do the same. And once again, I just want to remind folks to check out the Environmental Working Group’s Skindeep database for hazards ratings of millions of personal care products. They also have an app now where you can just scan an item while shopping and it will give you a toxic rating.

  • The co-op I shop at carries this brand. Mineral Fusion and I have used only one of their shades and I like it. I still use a basecoat from Revlon and a topcoat from Sally though. It doesn’t hold up well without those two things.

  • 100% Pure has a 10-Free polish. I’ve only tried one color, but it seemed to work well – I’m not a big polish wearer. You should check out their products. I love their mascara!

  • I love using Zoya Polish which is 5 free (Ulta carries it) and i like it much better than Opi or Essie. The colors are super cute! Also there white polish is pretty good coverage. I will definitely be trying out some of these though. Great post!

  • I didn’t know that nail polish is so toxic!
    I’ll search about this a little bit more, and I’ll check which brands of natural polish I can find here.
    Is it always explicit in the vial if it’s a natural composition or not?

    Tks 🙂

  • I started buying Zoya a little while ago and with their flexible base coat, my polish lasts chip-free for over a week with no touch ups required. I think it’s 5-free, with SO many gorgeous colors.

  • Hi!!! I always use Butter London, Deborah Lippmann and Essie, which is also 3F 🙂

  • I’m a little surprised Gabriel isn’t on this list! They have amazing colors and are free of the “big 5” nasty things found in conventional nail polish

  • This may be a silly question but do you know of any natural brands that are available at a store like target? I’ll take a peek next time I am there but I was curious if you knew of any off hand. Thank you!


  • Yep! It’s an easy thing to fix though! Now I only have these clean-er options in my house and it’s an easy choice. 🙂 xx- Elsie

  • Love this post! Definitely want to try the I Love NP pink glitter one! It is really scary when you think about how much more damaging it is to put something evil on your skin than it is to EAT IT!

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