The nomenclature around nail polish has recently become more complex. Terms, like  “5-free,” “7-free,” and “8-free,” are now used to describe nail polishes thanks to the nontoxic beauty trend taking hold. It may sound a little confusing, but what it really means is how many toxic chemicals are absent from the polish at hand.

Years ago, the majority of brands were making “3-free” polishes; nail polish without “The Big Three” toxic chemicals – dibutyl phthalate, toluene and formaldehyde – all of which were found to be carcinogens and endocrine disruptors. But with the recent consumer demand for nontoxic nail polish, brands have taken it further by removing more chemicals and calling themselves “5-free,” “7-free” and even “8-free.” We can all agree 8-free polishes are amazing, but opting for at-least 5-free nail polishes will keep you in the clear. (Think of it this way, 5-free is like eating organic produce from your local grocer, while 8-free is like eating organic produce from your local farmers’ market.)

Thankfully, on this quest towards safer nail polishes, wearability, color choices and longevity have not been compromised. Below we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite nontoxic polish colors for spring so you’ll be safe, chic and ready once pedicure season hits. (All nontoxic nail polishes below are vegan and cruelty-free)



Free of: Formaldehyde, Toluene, Dibutyl Phthalate, Camphor, Formaldehyde Resin

Color: Peace

Why we love it: This pale blue will pair nicely with newly emerged winter skin and be your go-to while you transition from pasty to bronzed in the coming months.

netaporter.com, $18



Free of: Toluene, Camphor, Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde Resin and Dibutyl Phthalate

Color: Mary

Why we love it: Zoya’s subtle, yet chic “medium raisin” color sounds like something your grandma would wear, but the understated sexy of this brown mauve with a hint of gray makes it fresh. Dare we say, currant.

www.amazon.com, $10



Free of: Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde Resin, Dibutyl Phthalate, Toluene, Camphor, Xylene, Triphenyl Phosphate, Parabens, Gluten

Bond pick: Mineral

Why we love it: An edgy alternative to white that begs to be paired with black leather leggings and a silk blouse. Perfect for transitional dressing. 

amazon.com, $18

RMS Beauty


Free of: Dibutyl Phthalate, Toluene, Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde Resin, Camphor, Xylene, and Triphenyl Phosphate, Petrochemicals, Parabens

Color: Diabolique

Why we love it: All the old rules are being broken: white is worn after labor day, navy with black, and for springtime we love a deep purple nail. Florals and pastels feel dated. Go vampy this spring with RMS’s Diabolique.

netaporter.com, $15



Free of: Dibutyl Phthalate, Toluene, Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde Resin, Camphor, Ethyl Tosylamide, Xylene, Triphenyl Phosphate

Color: 040 cliff

Why we love it: This rust-orange color is tenoverten’s best seller for a reason; it’s timeless elegance and uber chic. The hue feels straight out of a safari themed Ralph Lauren shoot. 

netaporter.com, $18

Curious to learn more about the dos, don’ts and what to avoid when it comes to the nail world? Read our interview with tenoverten cofounder and Creative Director, Jaclyn Ferber. She sheds light on steps you can take for a safer, less-toxic nail salon experience. 

-by Amy Chang
Main image photographed by author
Product images sourced from brands


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