Want to give your nails a break from heavy gel polishes but still keep them looking gorgeous? We’ve found polishes that are all non-toxic, vegan-friendly and 100 per cent cruelty-free. 

Many people remain unaware that regular polish can contain animal products: ingredients derived from crushed up beetles, fish scales and oyster shells that help give your nails that shimmery look. Similar products are also found in some lipsticks to get a glossy effect. 

The polishes we’ve picked are often just as durable and give close to the same finish as your regular nail polishes, minus any harsh chemicals, such as formaldehyde, toluene and camphor. This makes them even more environmentally friendly and your nails won’t be left as brittle and dried out by chemicals.

Vegan polishes are also recommended as a natural, safer option for children and pregnant women. They fall into different groups depending on the number of common polish toxins that are left out of their formula. For example, a polish that is designated “5-free” is made without the use of toluene, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, or camphor. The polishes we tested ranged from “5-free” to “7-free”. 

Generally, vegan polishes still tend to be slightly more expensive than others – with the exception of Barry M in this round up – and they may have a little less of a sheen than their counterparts, but make no mistake, all on this list are high-performing products.

We tested option from all the brands we could find for sale in the UK, taking into account the ease of application, durability and number of coats needed for it to live up to the promises made on the bottle. 

1. Barry M Coconut Infusion Nail Paint Lemonade: £4.99, Superdrug

The child in us was hoping that this gel paint from Barry M actually smelt like coconut. Unfortunately it doesn’t, but it’s still a great polish with a slightly sweet smell. We loved the true-to-the-bottle, bright colour. It has a thick brush so only two or three strokes were needed to cover the nail and it dried super-fast. It has a great shine even without a top coat and our nails stayed looking freshly-painted for days. It comes in a range of 19 bright colours.

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2. Jin Soon 5 Free Nail Polish Nocturne: £15, Liberty London 

This brand from Korean-born, New York-based nail artist Jin Soon Choi makes top notch cruelty free polish. It comes with a really small brush, which is great for precision when painting and producing neat-looking nails. They will stay looking immaculate too – this one came out on top for us for longevity. It only started showing signs of real wear after day seven and it didn’t chip. The finish on this shade is a metallic black that catches the light and it doesn’t have a strong smell when painting. Coming in a cool little rectangle bottle with a cap over the round screw top, all of Jin Soon’s polishes are 5-free so there’s a whole range of other colours to choose from too.

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3. Pacifica 7 Free Nail Polish Totally Coral: £9.99, Love Lula

Natural fragrance brand Pacifica also makes nail polishes and we found this gave good, even application and the colour came out bright and strong, and had more of a matte finish than others on the list. We also loved the gold shell motif on the bottle lid making it a good gift idea. Since this one is 7-free, there’s also no overwhelming polish smell. Pacifica has whole range of 100 per cent cruelty-free, vegan beauty products and its polish comes in 12 other summery shades. Our only gripe was that it did start to chip a little earlier than the others. 

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4. Zoya Brigitte: £11, Holland & Barrett

From the US brand, we used this shade with the matching top coat, and it wasn’t until a week later that our nails started to look a little rough around the edges. The polish was thinner than some so needed two coats for a fully opaque look, but it was easy enough to apply with the narrow brush. Zoya has the biggest range of cruelty-free polishes that we’ve seen and has a huge selection of different colours and finishes, all 5-free.

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5. Maggie Anne Nail Polish Grace: £10.50, Love Lula

Here’s an impressive entry from a UK brand. Maggie Anne polishes have a thick, wide, flat brush that gives a smooth application, covering the whole nail in just one sweep. The end result is super-glossy nails with a shiny finish. The polish is also fantastically chip-resistant and we found it gave a salon-like look. The chic, rectangle bottle has a square lid that comes off and the actual handle is round so it’s easy to paint with, and there are over 30 colours to choose from. 

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The Verdict: Vegan nail polishes 

We’ve picked out Barry M’s polish as the best buy because of its impressive coverage and low price. We also liked the range of funky tropical colours.

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IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.