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The Cruelty Free Guide To Nail Varnish:

The Cruelty Free Guide To Nail Varnish:

Milan Kundera: “Humanity’s true moral test, its fundamental test… consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals”

I’m not sure if this will be the last instalment in my Cruelty Free Guide series, but it’s one of my last ideas. When I think about ‘Cruelty Free’ things, I tend to think of makeup, or products that you put on your face. I’m not sure if nail varnish is classed as makeup, so I bet not a lot of people are bothered whether their polishes are tested on animals or not. I am not here to preach, therefore this post is merely one of interest in finding out if any brands aren’t tested on animals. I would ultimately like to use only cruelty-free products, but not have to sacrifice anything from my lifestyle. i.e, I would like all shades possible, please.

Nail varnish has such a varied price range, from as little as £1 to i’m sure £30+, and there are also many ‘types’ for want of a better word. Since it is Christmas soon, you can guarantee that Instagram will be inundated with thousands of ‘new nail’ photos of bright red/gold glittery nails. I saw a couple earlier which inspired me to write this post and do some digging for myself. Glitter, felt/suede, those ones that have teeny hundreds and thousand bits in (god knows what they are) are probably not cruelty free due to the fibres and microbead particles in them, but I will endeavour to find out!

Edit: I was wrong! Many of these brands do glittery/chunky polishes – get your Insta captions ready! However, most metallicy/holographic shades aren’t because fish scales are used to create that shade, but check the back.

For those who simply want a list of cruelty-free nail varnish brands, I will  get to these now. For anyone who wants to know more about harmful ingredients in our varnishes, keep reading until the end!

Non-Cruelty Free Brands:

  • Sally Hansen
  • OPI
  • Essie
  • Maybelline
  • Bourjois
  • L’Oreal
  • Avon
  • Revlon
  • Sinful Colours (owned by Revlon)

Cruelty free brands became harder to decipher. The following brands don’t test in China and claim that no animal testing takes place, however some can still contain harsh chemicals (as it is a chemical substance at the end of the day).

  • Ciate
  • Barry M (7 in 1 treatment IS NOT)
  • Colourpop
  • e.l.f
  • Essence
  • GOSH
  • Milk Makeup
  • Orly
  • Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics
  • China Glaze
  • L.A. Girl
  • Urban Decay
  • Milani Beauty

Cruelty free nail varnishes contain less harsh chemicals, so smell less strong and can be worn by pregnant women and are safer for children.

Remember: There is also a difference – especially in this case – between cruelty-free and vegan. Many nail varnishes contain non-vegan ingredients such as;

  1. Guanine – derived from fish scales and animal tissue. ALSO CALLED ‘PEARL’ watch out.
  2. Carmine – present in red colours, crushed beetles no less!
  3. Oleic Acid – Derived from animal oils and tallow

There are also distinctions between levels of harmfulness of the products in nail varnishes. There are ‘3 Free’, ‘5 Free’ and ‘7 Free’, which don’t contain harmful ingredients that are present in a lot of beauty products.

‘3 Free’ Products don’t contain:

Formaldehyde: carcinogen
Toluene: can cause neurological damage and in some cases, abnormal fetal development
DBP (Dibutyl Phthalate): decrease fertility and can interfere with childhood growth and development

‘5 Free’ Products don’t contain:

Any of the above, also:

Resin: formaldehyde by-product
Camphor: could cause nerve damage and abnormal development

‘7 Free’ Products don’t contain: 

Any of the previous, also:

Parabens: linked to breast cancer
TPHP (Triphenyl Phosphate): can disrupt hormones, which could impact fertility

I hope that you’ve learnt something from this post, its’ much harder to adhere to the ‘Free’ products, and I can’t even proclaim that I know if any of my nail varnishes fall under this category, but now I know about them I will try and check before I buy any more. The lists are the most important for me, don’t forget to check out my other guides!


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