best cruelty free nail polish

Best Cruelty Free Nail Polish

Latest posts by Laura-May Randell (see all)

Nothing quite finishes off your look like a smooth and silky coat of nail polish. But nail polish is a luxury item, and having the cherry on top of your outfit certainly isn’t worth anyone – or anything – suffering. While that should go without saying, it’s unfortunately not the case most of the time.

When I began my cruelty-free journey a couple of years ago now, I was shocked to see how many nail polishes I owned were not cruelty-free. I ended up throwing out most of my cosmetics, nail polishes included, and was left wondering where to go next.

Going cruelty-free was one of the best decisions I ever made, but it was difficult and confusing to navigate on my own. I already assumed most of the products I owned were cruelty-free, so when I realized they weren’t, I didn’t know what products to trust.

So I have combined all of my cruelty-free nail polish knowledge into one neat little page to help out anyone who may have found themselves in a similar predicament. If you have found your nail polish collection back at square one, this guide is for you.

Here, I will suggest lots of cruelty-free nail polish brands so you can build your collection back up, as well as teach you how you can spot what products are cruelty-free and what ones aren’t before you buy them.

nail polish cruelty-free

Bottom Line up Front

Most nail polishes aren’t as innocent as they may seem. Behind the pretty glass bottles and eye-catching branding, there lies a dark and cruel reality.

Nail polishes can be tested on animals in labs to ensure they are safe for human use. These animals belong in nature, not in cages surrounded by white walls, and are often subjected to inhumane experiments. All of this is not worth it to have pink fingernails for a week or so, but thankfully, there are plenty of cruelty-free alternatives on the market.

It’s hard to pick a favorite. So instead of picking one, I have two top suggestions. One high-end polish and one low-end.

If you’re on a budget, the number one cruelty-free polish brand I would recommend to you is Essence. It’s very cheap, great quality, and very accessible. If you’re looking for a luxury polish for an important event or to treat yourself, Sienna polishes are beautiful on the inside and outside of the bottle and are flawless in terms of their performance and wear.

Products at a Glance

How Can I Tell if My Nail Polish Is Cruelty-Free?

Regardless of who you are or where you’re from, you will be able to find and love at least a few of the products I have recommended to you above.

But there are hundreds of cruelty-free nail polish brands out there that would be great additions to your collection, and there isn’t enough room for all of them on this list. So what I think is even more valuable than a list of cruelty-free nail polish recommendations is the ability to distinguish whether a product is cruelty-free or not on your own.

The first thing you should look for is a small picture of a bunny rabbit on the bottle. Rabbits are one of the most abused animals in terms of cosmetic testing and have become a mascot of sorts for many institutions that are against animal testing.

Programs like the Leaping Bunny Program, Caring Consumer, and CCF all offer their seal of approval to brands that are cruelty-free, and that seal comes in the form of a rabbit.

cruelty-free icon
Cruelty-free icon

Most products that are cruelty-free advertise that fact with the bunny icon. If a brand claims to be cruelty-free but doesn’t put the mark on its packaging, I find that very suspicious, and it’s worth doing a little more research on the product to make sure it really is cruelty-free.

My Selection Criteria

I haven’t simply chosen the nail polishes on this list, willy-nilly. Each polish that made it to my top 15 cruelty-free nail polish list had to meet certain criteria. We’re only looking for the best on this list, after all. To earn a spot on this list, every polish had to pass the following tests:

  • They had to be 100% cruelty-free.
  • They had to last a reasonable amount of time on the nail without chipping.
  • They had to provide a smooth and even finish.
  • Brands had to be easily accessible or have a website so anyone can find their products.

These criteria were necessary to create a list of high-quality items that you would be guaranteed to love, no matter what brand you tried. So, without further ado, here are the best cruelty-free nail polishes.

1. L.A. Girl Cosmetics

Best Cruelty Free Nail Polish la girl cosmetics nail polish
L.A. Girl Cosmetics Nail Polish
  • Price average: $4.00.
  • Color range: Reasonably large range of colors to choose from.
  • Availability: Available both online and in drug stores.

L.A. Girl Cosmetics has always been a solid option, especially for those with a smaller budget that don’t want to skimp on performance. The brand was flying under the radar for many years and was known in smaller circles for things like their amazing concealers (which, if you haven’t tried, you definitely should), but they most recently went viral for their clear holographic lip gloss.

What they haven’t gone viral for yet are their cruelty-free nail polishes. L.A. Girl Cosmetics polishes are extremely cheap, but the quality isn’t.


  • Great quality for the price.
  • Easy to find.
  • Offer their own base coat.


  • Chips faster than other brands.
  • Not particularly fast drying unless combined with the fast-drying top coat.
  • Needs a base coat.

Shop L.A. Girl Cosmetics here.

2. L.A. Colors

la colors nail polish Best Cruelty Free Nail Polish
L.A. Colors Nail Polish
  • Price average: $4.00.
  • Color range: Expansive range of colors.
  • Availability: Available both online and in drug stores.

L.A. Colors is one of my personal favorite budget cosmetic brands. Every L.A. Colors polish I have ever tried always performed beautifully, and the best part is they are very reasonably priced. If you’re on a budget but don’t want to sacrifice your results, L.A. Colors is always a brilliant option.

L.A. Colors polishes are extremely pigmented, with the darker colors in particular only needing one coat. They also last a decent amount of time without chipping. They’re not chip-proof for weeks or months on end by any means, but the L.A. Colors base coat will extend the longevity of your finish for at least a week.


  • Extremely affordable.
  • Easy to find in most drug stores.
  • Most colors only require one coat.


  • Requires a base coat.
  • Chips easily, especially when doing dishes or other activities involving water.
  • Glitter shades can be a little sparse.

Shop L.A. Colors here.

Read more about L.A. Colors’ cruelty-free pledge here.

3. Essence

Best Cruelty Free Nail Polish essence nail polish
Essence Nail Polish
  • Price average: $3.00
  • Color range: Hundreds of colors and finishes to choose from.
  • Availability: Both online and in stores such as ULTA and drug stores.

Essence has been a holy grail nail polish brand for me for years. The color range is phenomenal, the price is affordable, and the performance is always flawless. If I was going to suggest one cruelty-free nail polish brand to you, it would be Essence.

It can be a little confusing when shopping for Essence nail polish, however, because of their wide range of The Gel nail polishes. Gel polish is a completely different product to nail polish. It’s almost like a resin and requires the use of a nail lamp to cure or ‘dry’ it.

Essence’s The Gel polishes are regular nail polishes, though, so don’t let the fact that you don’t have a nail lamp stop you from trying them out! They are bright, long-lasting, flawless, and don’t require a nail lamp or any other crazy device to dry.


  • The cheapest polish brand on the list.
  • Has one of the largest color ranges.
  • Great packaging.


  • The brush is on the smaller side. This is a con for some people, but others find it easier to handle.

Shop Essence here.

Find more information about Essence’s cruelty-free pledge here.

4. Pacifica

  • Price average: $10.00
  • Color range: Great range of colors.
  • Availability: Available online and in stores like ULTA.

Pacifica nail polishes tick both the vegan and cruelty-free boxes, but that’s not where it ends. Pacifica has some of the most beautiful packaging on this list as well. But we all know it’s what’s on the inside that counts. So the real question is, how do these polishes perform? And if you can’t tell from all the praises I have been singing about Pacifica so far, the answer is brilliant.


  • 100% vegan as well as cruelty-free.
  • Great range of finishes.
  • Eye-catching packaging.


  • Not as cheap as other brands on the list.
  • Pacifica suggests reapplying the top coat every two to three days to extend wear. That could be hard to maintain for most people.

Shop Pacifica here.

5. Fairypants

  • Price average: $8.00.
  • Color range: Medium range of colors and finishes.
  • Availability: Online.

Fairypants is a small UK-based company that specializes in a whole range of vegan products, from cosmetics to nail polish.

I often like to buy from small businesses that aren’t as well-known as major brands because I know my money is going toward making someone’s dreams a reality. That may be corny, but it also means I have some extremely unique and long-lasting nail polishes in my collection.

Fairypants offer a wide range of speckled polishes, which add more texture and interest to the nail compared to regular solid nail polish, so I definitely recommend those if you want something a little different.


  • Bonus points for being a small business.
  • Has a very large range of unique finishes that aren’t easy to find.
  • The polish comes packaged in a big bottle that holds a lot of product.


  • Fairypants is a UK-based brand and is only available online.
  • The price is reasonable but becomes more expensive when you combine it with shipping costs.
  • The range is unique but not as expansive as other brands on this list.

Shop Fairypants here.

Find out more about Fairypants’ cruelty-free pledge here.

6. Orly

  • Price average: $10.50
  • Color range: Great range of colors and finishes.
  • Availability: Available both online and in stores such as ULTA and Sephora.

Orly Beauty has an absolutely massive range of colors to choose from for very reasonable prices. They also focus almost exclusively on nail treatments and polishes rather than offering a mix of nail and cosmetics products.

When a brand focuses on one type of product, it gives me more confidence in them because I know that every resource is going into making that one product incredible. That is certainly the case with Orly.


  • Orly polishes are very fast-drying. Every nail polish lover knows the frustration of spending ages perfecting your nails only to bump or nick them during the drying process!
  • Orly offers a wide range of both treatments and colors.
  • 100% vegan.


  • Some colors require a number of coats to build up a fully opaque finish.
  • Large brush that can be hard to work with for those with smaller nail beds.
  • Can chip easily.

Shop Orly here.

7. ULTA Beauty

  • Price average: $6.50
  • Color range: Wide range of colors in varying shades and finishes.
  • Availability: Available at all ULTA stores and online.

There are countless nail polish brands sold at ULTA stores, but one of the most underrated is ULTA’s own brand, the ULTA Beauty Collection. Those polishes are affordable, cruelty-free, great quality, and the color range is stunning.

You can find most of the brands on this list at your local ULTA, but make sure you don’t sleep on the ULTA Beauty Collection polishes. The ULTA Beauty Collection also has its own cruelty-free nail polish remover, which is one of my top favorites, so pick that one up at the same time if you are looking for a good-quality option.


  • Great quality.
  • Very cheap.
  • Great range of more subtle and muted shades.


  • Only available in ULTA stores, so isn’t as easily accessible for those who don’t live in the US.
  • ULTA carries many of the brands on this list, so it can be easy to look past this particular polish.
  • Not extremely long-wearing.

Shop ULTA Beauty here.

Learn more about ULTA’s cruelty-free pledge here.

8. Hanami

hanami nail polish Best Cruelty Free Nail Polish
Hanami Nail Polish
  • Price average: $20.95
  • Color range: Great.
  • Availability: Mainly online.

Hanami nail polishes aren’t as cheap as the previous entries in this list, but they truly are top quality. Hanami nail polishes are opaque, very long-lasting, and come in a wide variety of colors and finishes, many of which are very unique as well. Hanami nail polishes cost around $13.00 to $15.00, but you can often find a good deal on sale.

Hanami also carries an excellent range of treatments, base coats, and top coats to make your polish last even longer while nourishing your nails at the same time.


  • The quality is excellent.
  • Carries more unique products like a matte top coat.
  • Beautiful packaging.


  • A bit more on the expensive side.
  • Not easily accessible in person.

Shop Hanami here.

Learn more about Hanami’s cruelty-free pledge here.

9. Manic Panic

  • Price average: $7.00
  • Color range: On the smaller side.
  • Availability: Mainly online.

Manic Panic is a master of all things color. The company is most well known for its incredibly vibrant and quality hair dyes, but Manic Panic also specializes in nail polish. There isn’t a whole warehouse of Manic Panic Claw Colors to choose from, but the ones that they do have are perfect for those who love spooky vibes.

The color range is definitely on the darker side, which is perfect for anyone alternative or even anyone in general. A black nail adds the perfect amount of edge to even the girliest of outfits!


  • Brilliant range of alternative colors.
  • Neons are extremely vibrant.
  • You could pick up a nail polish that matches your hair dye.


  • The color range is rather small, and require a couple of coats to achieve full opacity.
  • Not easy to find in person.
  • No nudes, pinks, or more wearable options.

Shop Manic Panic here.

10. Butter London

  • Price average: $18.00.
  • Color range: Quite decent.
  • Availability: Sold both online and in stores.

Butter London is a more pricey option, but their products are great quality and well worth the investment. There is also a lot to choose from, and not just in terms of nail varnish alone. Butter London has a great range of treatments so you can rebuild the strength, shine, and vitality that your nails may have lost after prolonged nail polish use.

They also have lots of different jelly nail polishes to choose from, which are particularly popular. Jelly nails feature semi-opaque yet vibrant colors that allow you to see through them. Try pairing your next set of jelly nails with a glitter top coat for a nostalgic 90s-style mani!


  • There aren’t many brands that sell jelly polish, so that is a major plus for Butter London.
  • Luxurious packaging
  • The bottle shape and size are easy to hold while painting.


  • Not easily accessible in person.
  • They aren’t as cheap as others on this list.

Shop Butter London here.

Learn more about Butter London’s cruelty-free pledge here.

11. Sienna

  • Price average: $25.00
  • Color range:
  • Availability: Mainly online.

Sienna is more of a high-end nail polish brand that specializes in its formula and the mastery of nail products. If you’re looking for a reliable nail polish that you can count on for long-lasting wear, great color selection, and smooth application, Sienna polishes would be a great pick.

They are more on the expensive side, but sometimes that’s worth it for a product you can rely on. Especially if you are looking for a polish you can trust for a big event like a wedding. There would be nothing worse than chipping or peeling your nail polish on your wedding day, after all.


  • Trustworthy, consistent, and great quality.
  • Beautiful packaging.
  • Smaller company.


  • Sienna polishes are only available online for most of the world, which makes it hard to know what the colors look like in person until you buy them.
  • Pricey.
  • Plenty of colors available, but not a lot of different finishes.

Shop Sienna here.

Learn more about Sienna’s cruelty-free pledge here.

12. HoneyBee Gardens

Best Cruelty Free Nail Polish honeybee gardens nail polish
HoneyBee Gardens Nail Polish
  • Price average: $12.99.
  • Color range: On the smaller side.
  • Availability: Mainly online.

If you hate the smell of nail polish fumes, HoneyBee Gardens polishes will be the best option for you. HoneyBee Gardens polishes are water-based, which makes them free of many of the harsh chemicals you can find in other polishes and makes the smell much easier to inhale.

If you’re anything like me, you will often find yourself bent over with your face mere inches from your nails, trying not to flood your cuticles, so a great quality nail polish that doesn’t make you dizzy is very helpful.


  • Toxin-free and 100% vegan.
  • HoneyBee Garden’s polish doesn’t give off heavy fumes like many other polishes.
  • Big focus on natural ingredients.


  • The formula is on the thin side, so you really have to layer it to build up your color.
  • Can be a little streaky.
  • Only solid color options are available.

Shop HoneyBee Gardens here.

Learn more about HoneyBee Gardens cruelty-free pledge here.

13. Nailtopia

  • Price average: $5.00
  • Color range: Big range of colors.
  • Availability: Sold at many different locations in-store and online.

Nailtopia polishes are guaranteed cruelty-free, very affordable, and extremely long-wearing. All polishes come with a guarantee straight from Nailtopia itself, stating that you can expect days and days and days of chip-free wear.

Nailtopia also does a lot of collaborations with other well-known brands and entities. Because what’s the only thing cuter than a shimmery golden polish? A shimmery golden polish with Pooh Bear’s adorable face on it, of course!


  • Cheap and cheerful, perfect for children who want to experiment with nail art.
  • Lots of cute collaborations.
  • Widely accessible.


  • Nailtopia offers a lot of colors and shimmers but no groundbreaking or particularly unique finishes.
  • Some colors can be streaky.
  • Requires several layers to reach full opacity for some shades.

Shop Nailtopia here.

Find out more about Nailtopia’s cruelty-free pledge here.

14. Cirque Colors

  • Price average: $12.50.
  • Color range: Large and diverse.
  • Availability: Sold at many different locations in store and online.

If you love being unique and expressing your own individual style, Cirque Colors polishes could be a great addition to your cruelty-free collection.

The Cirque Colors website has some of the most unique polish colors and textures I’ve seen in one place, from color-changing mood-ring polish to a peel-off base coat for those who want to easily switch designs.

Extended or repeated exposure to nail polish remover can be damaging to your natural nails, so having the option to go for a peel-off base coat can help you significantly during the removal process.


  • Cirque Colors offers interesting finishes and a great range of treatments.
  • One of the only brands on this list that sell a peel-off base coat
  • Glitters in glitter polish disperse evenly.


  • Once you try one, you might want to spend your inheritance collecting every color.
  • These polishes aren’t quiet as cheap as others, but the quality more than makes up for that, and the price is still reasonable.

Shop Cirque Colors here.

Learn more about Cirque Colors cruelty-free pledge here.

15. People of Color

people of color nail polish Best Cruelty Free Nail Polish
People of Color Nail Polish
  • Price average: $11.00
  • Color range: Wide range of colors, particularly different shades of nude.
  • Availability: Mainly online.

Finding the perfect nude polish isn’t always easy. Many cosmetics brands fail to embrace the diversity of people’s skin tones to the fullest, leaving people without the perfect match. People of Color specializes in not only producing cruelty-free and vegan products but creating the most diverse and inclusive range of colors so everyone can find their perfect nude.


  • 100% vegan.
  • The most diverse and inclusive color range of nudes I have seen.
  • Brilliant quality.
  • The bottles are very large, so you are getting more product for your money.


  • Not easily accessible in person.
  • Purchasing online makes it difficult to properly match your shade.
  • Fewer finishes than other brands on this list.
  • The shimmer doesn’t translate strongly on the nail for some shades.

Shop People of Color here.

Find out more about People of Color’s cruelty-free pledge here.


Question: Does every brand that is cruelty-free have a bunny icon?

Answer: No. Most do, but not all. If there is a product that you really want but are hesitant to purchase because it doesn’t have the bunny icon, do your own research to ascertain whether it is cruelty-free or not.

Question: Is cruelty-free and vegan the same thing?

Answer: No. Cruelty-free means the brand does not test on animals, whereas vegan means that the brand doesn’t test on animals OR use any ingredients derived from animals or insects.

Question: Where can I find the products listed here?

Answer: Each of the above brands has its own website you can visit, and many are available in drug stores, ULTA, and Sephora stores.

You Don’t Have to Sacrifice Quality for Conscience

Vegan or cruelty-free nail polishes are just as good as other nail polish brands, and the cruelty-free seal of approval doesn’t automatically mean they are more expensive. These options offer a great place to start on your cruelty-free adventure, but they are by no means the only ones.

There are many more online or local brands you can find that have taken the pledge not to test on animals. And now that you know what to look for and how to find them, you can be absolutely sure that there were no animals harmed in the making of your nail polish.

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