the veganity of nail polish

i'm just going to come right out and admit my ignorance: what makes nail polish Not Vegan? is it potential animal testing, depending on the company? or is there an actual ingredient that is animal-based in most nail polish?

i ask because i have a large back-stock of OPI nail polish in my cupboard, and i'm wondering if i should be grossed out by it or not. i've had these bottles almost forever, seriously, because they hold up well and i only use it on my toes and i don't necessarily paint my toes year-round. i know there are a couple of vegan nail polish companies, and i've tried the no miss brand, but honestly i much prefer my OPI stuff. there is really only one shade of no miss that i like (zinnia zephyr or something like that), and while it's quite pretty, i get bored of wearing the same color absolutely all the time. also, i feel like the OPI wears better and longer. 

does anyone know the ins and outs of nail polish? is my OPI stuff okay? are there other vegan nail polish companies out there that i should know about? especially ones that don't only have "fun" colors? i'm kind of a shimmery-taupe kind of gal when it comes to nail polish, so turquoise and fuschia and bright red aren't selling points for me. someone, de-mystify nail polish for those of us who are clueless!


  1. i emailed opi a couple of years ago asking if they tested on animals and what the ingredients were. i posted on vrf (i’m too lazy to go search for the thread), but as far as i recall, they do not test on animals however, the shimmery polish has pearl dust or something in it? i think… or fish scales? i don’t remember.
    i found a completely vegan makeup company (geared to the pros, so i assume it’s good quality (i haven’t tried it ’cause it’s a bit spendy), that sells nail polish. i just looked and they don’t have a huge colour selection but there are some neutrals:
    honestly, i hate waste so i would just use up the opi stuff and when it runs out replace it with something else. but that’s me. πŸ˜‰

  2. As far as I know both OPI (with the possible exception of fish scales, which I didn’t know about- eek!) and Essie are vegan. So I wouldn’t worry about using those. I’m more concerned with the chemicals in most nail polish being harmful, but I also didn’t love No Miss. The search continues!

  3. I use SpaRitual polish. This company makes great quality polishes (with a top and base coat I can wear one color for up to 2 weeks) and has a nice selection. I get mine at the spa that I work at so maybe try a local Spa or check out their website. πŸ™‚

  4. gen, i totally remember the fish scales thing now! i bet that’s what was sticking in the back of my mind, causing doubts and other wonderment. πŸ™‚
    gen & amy, thanks for the other ideas too. i’ve seen essie around, but haven’t used it before. i’ll keep an eye out!
    kristen & melissa, thanks for the recommendation on the sparitual polish. i did a search and only one place in my city came up (it’s a salon in a hotel downtown, weirdly enough), but i’ll see what i can do to track it down. some of the colors look really pretty.

  5. Actually, I don’t think all OPI and Essie nail polish is vegan. While neither company tests on animals, some of their colors may contain fish scales for a shimmery effect. You’ll probably never see “fish scales” listed as an ingredient on the bottle though – instead look for words like “pearl” or “guanine.”
    “‘Pearl’ or ‘guanine’ is literally made from small fish scales and skin, suitably cleaned, and mixed with solvents such as castor oil and butyl acetate.”
    Cruelty-free brands will often use mica instead. SpaRitual is my FAVORITE! And Zoya, No Miss and PeaceKeeper are all safe bets too. (Zoya probably has the best range of colors).
    And I’m super excited about this OCC brand. I’m going to order the nail polish in Wasabi. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Bad news.. Essie was bought out by Loreal who is known for testintg their products on animals. I will not be getting Essie nails polish anymore.

  7. I emailed OPI recently to ask which colors were or were not vegan and I got a this very helpful reply.
    “Thank you for your email. We apologize for the delayed response. Yes, our lacquers are vegan. Our lacquer does not contain any animal ingredient and we do not test on animals, and we are registered with PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). You can visit their web site;
    OPI does not perform animal testing, nor do we contract to have it performed elsewhere. When sensitization testing is necessary, we use informed, consenting, paid human volunteers – not animals.
    Most of our products are free of animal ingredients, including our famous acrylic systems. The few exceptions recently or currently in production are as follows:
    Avojuice Lip Gloss – contain Beeswax (INCI name: Cera Alba).
    Avoplex High Intensity Hand Cream — contains Hydrolyzed Keratin from a certified BSE free source, New Zealand wool.
    Axxium Soak-Off Gels – some shades contain Carmine (INCI name: CI 75470), an insect-derived pigment. This material is also known as Cochineal.
    Ridge Filler – contains silk (INCI name: Serica), an insect derived fiber.
    This listing does not account for discontinued products, or older versions of current products, that may still be circulating in the marketplace years after we ceased manufacturing them. For example, several discontinued lip products contained carmine and/or beeswax, and several nail treatment products formerly contained certified BSE-free keratin and/or collagen derivatives.
    Guanine (INCI name: CI 75170), derived from fish scales, was formerly used in a very small number of OPI and Nicole Nail Lacquers (only 19 out of the more than 1500 in my database) but it is not used in any new colors, nor will be used in the future.
    Over the last several years, our trend and the general cosmetic industry trend has been to move away from most animal ingredients (beeswax excepted). Always check the label and call us if you are uncertain about a specific product.”

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