2020 was the year that many of us mastered the art of the at-home manicure. After months without salons, those of us who could once barely color inside the lines of our cuticles are now painting our dominant hands with ease. Now that we’ve upskilled our abilities, we can all spend our time focusing on the more fun part of the process—choosing a color. These days, the best nail polish brands have figured out how to create gorgeously pigmented shades without any harsh chemicals, which means you can lacquer your fingernails without having to worry about what you’re putting on them.
Our nails are very porous, which means that they tend to soak up whatever we’re putting on top of them. Because of this, the Personal Care Products Council’s (PCPC) has encouraged brands to remove things like formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), toluene, formaldehyde resin, and camphor from their products—which is where the term “5 free” comes from. Some brands have opted to go above and beyond and remove other ingredients, like ethyl tosylamide, xylene, parabens, animal by-products, and fragrance from their formulas, which is while you’ll see brands advertise being “7-free,” “9-free,” and “10-free”.
To prove that ditching toxic chemicals doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the appearance of your nails, we rounded up the prettiest colors from the best nail brands around—every single one of which you can feel good about applying.
Smith & Cult
Not only do Smith and Cult’s polish shades come in some of the most beautiful hues you could possibly imagine, but the bottles are so chic they’re practically works of art. The brand’s products are cruelty-free, and this dusty rose color is perfect for any season.
Olive & June
Olive and June’s founder, Sarah Gibson Tuttle, has set out to make the at-home manicure as simple as possible. In addition to a wide range of rainbow-colored polishes (all of which are 7-free), you can also grab a Mani System that will help you paint your nails with ease.
Celebrity nail artist Jin Soon’s eponymous nail-care line is made up of 9- and 10-free polishes that are formulated without any harsh chemicals, but still pack a serious punch. My personal favorites? Her high-impact sparkle glosses, which give even the most novice nail artists the chance to create a statement-making mani.
The best thing about Orosa’s gorgeous, non-toxic polishes? You don’t have to choose just one. The brand has put together different color-coordinated kits so that you can wear each shade on its own or mix and match it for a manicure that’s sure to score you dozens of compliments.
Mented Cosmetics set out to redefine nude nail polish. These 10-free formulas come in four shades to match every skin tone, and the opaque pigments won’t fade over time as you wear them.
Sundays was founded on the basis of wellness and simplicity, and that’s exactly the message the brand’s polish collection sends. The colors are all 10-free and beautifully blended, and the bottle and flat brush that they come with are designed to make application quick and easy.
Add a little shimmer with this iridescent white shade from Kure Bazaar. The brand’s formulas are some of the most eco-friendly around, and are made from ingredients like wood pulp, wheat, cotton, potatoes, and corn—yet somehow manage to stay on your nails for the long haul.
This kit—designed in partnership with celebrity nail artist Maz Hanna—comes with crystals that you can stick right onto your mani.
If you like your nails extra shiny, consider making Butter London your go-to brand. The 10X Shine polish collection—which happens to be 10-free—is made with a good-for-nails formula that strengthens your nails (and protects them from UV rays). And it lasts so long, you’ll swear you’re wearing gels.
With hundreds of colors to choose from, Côte’s got a 10-free polish option for everyone. The brand’s products go on easily and stand up to chips, which means you’ll never have to worry about messing up your mani.