Chemicals plastered to our nails for a week? Um, no thanks.
Until fairly recently, our digits were often subjected to five sketchy—and outright toxic—ingredients every time we got a mani-pedi. We’re talking formaldehyde (yes, the stuff they use to preserve dead bodies), dibutyl phthalate (DBP), toluene, formaldehyde resin, and camphor, which can do a bunch of nasty things to your body, from triggering allergies to disrupting your endocrine system.
But a group of trailblazing, wellness-savvy lines like Priti and Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics came along and helped change the nail game big time. Now, even more manicure companies are jumping on the 5-free bandwagon—and they don’t skimp on quality, color, or creativity, either.
With so many healthier mani options on the market, does that mean chemical-heavy formulas will soon be a thing of the past? We have our (well-polished) fingers crossed. —Larkin Clark
Known for: Super-shiny, edgy polishes created by Dineh Mohajer, the beauty mastermind who launched Hard Candy.
Shade to try: Bitter Buddhist, $18, a zen moss color that goes from office to yoga mat in a single breath.
Known for: Its 85 percent natural formulation (it’s based on wood pulp, wheat, cotton, potatoes, and corn), and cool concepts like the Jeans color collection, influenced by its founder, Brazilian-model Kartika Luyet.
Shade to try: Stiletto, $16, “represents the ideal red to me,” Luyet says. We agree!
Known for: Chip-resistant lacquers in shades inspired by each season’s fashion trends.
Shade to try: Cirque, $16, a sophisticated ballet pink that’s ready for barre class.
Known for: Fresh, high-pigment hues that span the rainbow—plus, they’re vegan, gluten-free, and developed by a doctor (true story).
Shade to try: The New Black, $17, which is—you guessed it—orange.
Known for: Super fun sparkles, metallics, opaques, and holographics—if you can dream it, NCLA has probably made it.
Shade to try: Peppermint Crush, $18. It lives up to its name, so don’t go nibbling your fingertips.
Known for: New to market, simple, wear-anywhere hues with minimal streakage, from the cult-fave natural beauty brand.
Shade to try: Beloved, $15, the lush red that will be your anytime go-to.
Known for: Super affordable vegan lacquers (just $5 to $8 a pop) in almost every shade imaginable, and one-handed grippable handles.
Shade to try: Firefly, $8, a bright neon that complements your nighttime running gear.
Known for: Inventive, professional-grade polishes made for literally every occasion—including red carpet affairs (Lippman is a celeb and fashion editor favorite).
Shade to try: Across the Universe, $20. Because if you can’t actually be a mermaid, at least you can have nails that look like one.
Known for: Being one of the first 5-free polish brands to offer bold, creative colors.
Shade to try: Tarred, $10. Consider it a fashionable shout-out to your dark side.
Known for: An impressive lineup of more than 54 non-toxic colors. We’re fans of the Berlin-based company’s soy polish remover, too-—it gets the job done sans toxins or weird smell.
Shade to try: Dream Vacation, $18, because, well, it reminds us of vacation.
Known for: Super-rich (yet wallet-friendly) vegan lacquers in tons of solid shades, metallics, and shimmers.
Shade to try: Unbothered, $12, a surprisingly wearable bright purple.
Known for: Chic vegan lacquers that are high-shine and have a UV inhibitor.
Shade to try: #1977, $12.99, a blast of minty freshness without the added sugar.
Known for: Show-stopping nail wraps. But you should also know about the brand’s creamy, 5-free lacquers for when you want to keep things clean and simple.
Shade to try: Ash, $15, the minimalist’s answer to a fail-proof nail job.
Known for: Being a backstage go-to at New York Fashion Week (most recently spotted on model hands at The Row, Coach, H&M, and Acne Studios).
Shade to try: Envy, $15, the polish version of a sun salutation.
Known for: That pretty, sustainable wood bottle top (ciao, plastic!) and a super affordable price point.
Shade to try: Nice, $10, the nearly-nude nail that rarely needs changing because chips, if they happen, are barely noticeable.
Known for: A constantly rotating roster of polish colors available a la carte or as part of a monthly subscription Maven box.
Shade to try: Randi, $14, for days when you just want to wear hot pink.
Known for: Going the distance with 7-free formulas and a wide, 100 percent vegan paint brush.
Shade to try: Rainbow Gloss Top Coat, $14, to make any mani opalescent.
Known for: Chip-proof, salon-quality paints that last up to ten days, and Fashion Week cred galore.
Shade to try: Rather Red, $18, which is not so much red as a luxurious, deep wine you’ll want to wear all winter.
Known for: Gel-caliber staying power and a new color collections launched every few months.
Shade to try: Black Tie Affair, $10.50. It’s a starry night at your fingertips (literally).
Known for: Its Los Angeles-based, toxin-free nail art salon and more than 100 hand-poured polish colors.
Shade to try: No. 71, $18. Even on the grayist days, this sky blue pulls through.
Known for: Mini polish sets created by Hipp, who is known as the “Celebrity Green Nail Stylist.”
Shades to try: What’s Hot Now Nail Collection, $32, twelve mini nail polishes in Hipp’s most popular pastels, jewel tones, and metallics.
Known for: A mind-blowing array of color options (seriously, there are so many, we can’t keep track) and a new Naked Manicure nail correction system that makes roughed-up tips look like new.
Shade to try: Iris MatteVelvet, $10, a moody purple with a cool matte finish.
Known for: Runway-ready manicures (Jin Soon is a New York Fashion Week staple) in the chicest-of-chic hues.
Shade to try: Enflammée, $18, a sexy orange-red that transports you to summers by the Mediterranean Sea.
Known for: Going beyond 5-free with an 8-free, vegan polish line, available online and at Tenoverten salons.
Shade to try: 034 White, $18, the purest way to make a statement.
Known for: Modern, pro-quality lacquers that fashion girls (and regular girls) love.
Shade to try: Periwinkle, $18. Springtime for your hands? This is it.
Whew! That’s a lot of #nailspo. But for the obsessed, we do have more … here.