Chemicals plastered to your 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. If you’ve been on the hunt for formaldehyde-free nail polish, you’re not alone.
To the rescue is a group of trailblazing, wellness-savvy lines like Priti and Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics who are helping 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.
Want formaldehyde-free nail polish? Keep reading for 23 top picks.
Known for: Super-shiny, edgy polishes created by Dineh Mohajer, the beauty mastermind who launched Hard Candy.
Shade to try: Kundalini Hustle, $18, a classic 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 are influenced by its founder, Brazilian-model Kartika Luyet.
Shade to try: Cappuccino, $16—the ultimate go-to nude.
Known for: Chip-resistant lacquers in shades inspired by each season’s fashion trends.
Shade to try: Paraiso, $16, a serene sky blue, which pairs perfectly with your leather jacket and leggings.
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: My 2 Jeffs, named after founder Dr. Cary Gannon, MD’s ex-husband…and new BF. Irony goes with everything.
Known for: Super fun sparkles, metallics, opaques, and holographics—if you can dream it, NCLA has probably made it.
Shade to try: Saltwater Baths, $18, because the only thing more transfixing than glittery nail polish is holographic glitter nail polish.
Known for: Simple, wear-anywhere hues with minimal streakage, from the cult-fave natural beauty brand.
Shade to try: Myth, $15, for those days when you just need a little shimmer.
Known for: Vegan lacquers in almost every shade imaginable, and one-handed grippable handles.
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: Beauty School Dropout, $20. Dusty rose totally works as a neutral.
Known for: Being one of the first 5-free polish brands to offer bold, creative colors.
Shade to try: Tecnhopagen, $10. Consider it a fashionable shout-out to your dark side.
Known for: An impressive lineup of more than 54 non-toxic colors, the Berlin-based company also has a soy polish remover, too—it gets the job done sans toxins or weird smell.
Shade to try: Arthouse, $18. Because sometimes all you need is a rich, dark hue to channel your inner iconoclast.
Known for: Super-rich (yet wallet-friendly) vegan lacquers in tons of solid shades, metallics, and shimmers.
Shade to try: I’m So Over Him, $12, a surprisingly wearable bright purple.
Known for: Chic vegan lacquers that are high-shine and have a UV inhibitor.
Shade to try: #1976, $14.99, 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: Metallic Chrome Silver. An $8 answer to a fail-proof high-end nail job.
Known for: Being a backstage go-to at New York Fashion Week. (Priti’s been spotted on model hands at The Row, Coach, H&M, and Acne Studios.)
Shade to try: Ice Plant, $9.99, for those moments when you need to feel more grounded.
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: Maggie, $14, for days when you just want to wear purple glitter.
Known for: Going the distance with 7-free formulas and a wide,100 percent vegan paint brush.
Shade to try: Nirvana Nirvana, $9, to give yourself instant vacay vibes.
Known for: Chip-proof, salon-quality paints that last up to ten days, and Fashion Week cred galore.
Known for: Gel-caliber staying power and a new color collections launched every few months.
Shade to try: Barefoot, $10.50, for when you want a little something on your toes during yoga.
Known for: Its Los Angeles-based, toxin-free nail art salon and more than 100 hand-poured polish colors.
Shade to try: No. 92, $18. There’s nothing basic about this shiny black.
Known for: Mini polish sets created by Hipp, who is known as the “Celebrity Green Nail Stylist.”
Shades to try: Air Kisses, $9.95, to finally replace your go-to chemical-laden Mademoiselle and Ballet Slippers hues.
Known for: A mind-blowing array of color options (seriously, there are so many) and a new Naked Manicure nail correction system that makes roughed-up tips look like new.
Shade to try: Evergreen, $10, for the perfect electric touch.
Known for: Runway-ready manicures (Jin Soon is a New York Fashion Week staple) in the chicest-of-chic hues.
Shade to try: Kookie White, $18, perfect for when you want a clean look without going full-blown white.
Known for: Going beyond 5-free with an 8-free, vegan polish line, available online and at Tenoverten salons.
Shade to try: Cliff, $18, the perfect burnt orange for fall.
Originally published October 2012, updated August 2015.
Nail polish isn’t the only beauty staple getting a clean makeover. There’s a whole clean beauty revolution going on. And if you want to go all out, here are seven tips to help make the transition to all-natural makeup.