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The beauty industry has been at the forefront of the natural product trend, and nail polish is no exception. Once confined to specialist health products and a limited selection, chemical-free products are now part of the mainstream. You won’t have to settle for a limited rang or low quality when you go natural.
So, what’s the difference? The main thing that separates these products is the absence of the chemicals you’ll find in traditional polishes. The best-known of these is formaldehyde, but among them are carcinogens and chemicals linked to problems from headaches to reproductive abnormalities. These substances are there to harden the nails, and keep the polish supple and glossy. Understandably they have faced a backlash after it has been shown that the skin can absorb trace amounts.
Let’s look at some of the best products out at the moment, and help you find your place in the world of natural nails.
You can’t talk about natural nail polish without mentioning this power player, a firm favorite in the organic beauty world. From the brains behind huge 90s brand, Hard Candy, yet these polishes don’t compromise. They’re free from eight of the most common toxins and come in 35 shades.
The immediate attraction of Smith & Cult is its packaging. The stylish lines and freeform gold lid, the sophisticated bottle and simple luxury of the logo - this natural brand is really part of the elite, regardless of its toxin-free status.
Continuing with the deluxe theme are the colors. With a range more than thirty-strong, this isn’t an organic offshoot with a few shades. We love the evocative names, take Glass Souls for a glitter top coat. We’ve chosen the muted, dusky Powder Posse as our ambassador for this chart-topping brand, but you can’t argue with what’s on offer here.
Our main question was whether the quality justifies the price. Smith & Cult has proven to fare well in tests, with shine and wear lasting a week or more without chipping.
Butter LONDON started life as a ‘3-free’ brand, graduating to being completely free of eight major chemicals via their Patent Shine 10x Nail Lacquer range. This British born, and as they admit, “a ‘lil obsessed”, American brand promises to be ‘pure, posh & playful’.
Not to be underestimated, butter LONDON’s partnership with PANTONE is proof of their status. Not only that, but PANTONE’s decision to partner with a natural brand to showcase the color of the year shows the popularity and current interest in this movement. The collection is inspired by ultra violet, PANTONE Color of the Year 2018. With a range of purples from Mauvelous to Purple Reign, and the eponymous Ultra Violet, they’re out of this world colors with ingredients only from nature.
Standing up in tests, many of the shades need only one coat, dry in 15 minutes, and went six days without showing signs of wear. Fans have described the finish as looking like a gel, another bonus for team natural.
We’re proud to present one of our own here, taking the lead in the organic beauty world. A long-established player, having been around since 2006, Bio Seaweed is always big-5-free, a huge achievement for a gel polish. The benefits don’t stop there, its UNITY range has built-in base, color, and top coat all-in-one, doesn’t need a lamp and soaks off. No sticky residue from 30 seconds, and they claim more than two weeks of shiny, chip-free nails.
Their range is testament to their long-standing position, with nearly 160 shades there’s a color for everyone and every mood. Try the electric orange Papaya of the Tropical Getaway Collection, the navy glitter of Starry Nights and the gorgeous, soft pink Marshmallow.
At full price they’re in the mid-high range but if the claims bear out, this established brand is worth the price. Prepare your cuticles and file your nails ready for the long-haul lasting polish. You can also use a lamp to dry if you don't have the benefit of Californian sunshine
The claim’s not just a name - this 5-free range was started by two podiatric surgeons. However, you won’t find clinical top coats and bland shades here, there are 40 colors to choose from.
Dr’s REMEDY is specially designed to protect and strengthen nails. The polish boasts tea tree oil, vitamins and whey protein alongside its toxin-free status. Like many natural brands, it’s also vegan friendly. We like this one because it’s not only about getting the look without the chemicals, it’s made to protect and strengthen your nails as well.
Our favorite shade to showcase the versatility of this polish is Pink Champagne. This sophisticated, shimmering gold proves that a product formulated for health doesn’t have to be bland. Two coats should take you through six days chip-free.
We couldn’t review natural nail polishes without a trip to the high-end. Dior’s natural offering is 5-free and of course comes with the undeniable nametag as a marker of luxury.
Obviously, at nearly $30 it’s among the most expensive out there, so does the price match the quality? Many regard Dior as the best, and it seems that for the most part it lives up to the hype. The brush, consistency, and color richness have received particular praise. Especially good if you don’t paint your nails often, the curved brush helps those less skilled to reach the whole nail, while the shine lasts for days without a top coat.
With a fairly limited range of 15 shades, it’s a quality capsule collection at this level. Rouge 999 is representing our barnstorming reds here; this classic nail color had to be our pick from Dior.
This brand takes it right back to basics, the simple design and minimal fanfare really signalling its natural status. Not only 8-free, it’s cruelty-free, gluten-free and vegan!
Started by two friends in New York City, this company has the the feel of a grassroots passion project and campaign, perfectly suited to the organic agenda.
Loved by fans for its range of soft pastels, there’s a huge variety of understated yet statement shades. You can go disco vamp with Wall Street, be Worth your weight in gold, or strike a pose for homegirl lady Liberty. We’ve chosen The Shield top coat here, which, along with The Foundation base coat, highlights tenoverten as the full nail care package. Not to be outdone, a few coats of the colours also last a week without a top coat.
Ok, we admit we chose this one for its name, but found so much more. The price, which is also cheaper than its namesake, can’t be denied among others in the natural range. But how does that translate to the product?
Alongside the usual natural credentials, Karma Organic boasts no odor and 100% recyclable packaging. It’s a fan favorite for its uncompromising stance on being toxin-free and environmentally friendly.
The colors are as much of a draw as its organic benefits. If it’s not Wine O’Clock, there are 100 shades to choose from. The dreamy, pale pink May Blossoms is a fan favorite, while Bailey and Curtain Call take you to a sultry, evening look.
A couple of applications and a top coat should see you through the normal wear of others in this category.
And now for something a bit different. The chances are you’ve heard of SNS, widely regarded as the first name in dipping powders. The nearly 30-year-old company claims to have invented the process and now leads the pack. While SNS powders may not be completely natural, they’re packed with vitamins and minerals, protect and strengthen the nail bed, are odorless, and don’t need a UV lamp to dry.
Dipping powder is obviously up against shellac, gels and traditional polish, but we understand the appeal. A see-through base coat, dip, top coat and you’re done - say goodbye to rushed brushing and smudges. What’s more, it takes on the rest of our list in terms of wear time; the promise is two weeks or more.
SNS is no exception to the color boom, and theirs is 400 plus shades - surely enough to make the others ‘Gelous’. Our favorites are Hola Fuchsia and Greenpeace USA at both ends of the summer spectrum. Go on, dip your toe (or thumb, or all of your fingers) in.
We’re going out with a bang with our final pick, and we couldn’t choose between these two megawatt shades. Fans flock to this brand for the colors, but make no mistake, they don’t mess around with the ingredients of these vegan, 5-free, PETA-approved polishes.
One of the most established natural brands around, and started by makeup artist David Klasfield in 2004, so these guys know their nails. We love that it’s all about high-definition brights and their strong identity; you know you’re wearing an OCC shade.
Widely hailed as being opaque in one layer and having one week’s wear with no top coat, it’s an undeniable bonus for a natural polish. Fans are die hard and for them the range is a must-have. It seems OCC has found the perfect formula for unreal color on a kind base.
So having reviewed the wide range available, what strikes us about natural nail polishes is their pure abundance in the market. Not only are huge luxury brands like Dior carrying toxin-free products, but PANTONE, the authority on color, has chosen to partner with an organic brand as well.
Stars and standouts for us include Bio Seaweed for its no-lamp-needed gel; tenoverten because of their homegrown simplicity; and Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics for their screaming shades.
Mostly we hope we’ve shown that by going natural you’re not confined by color, quality, price or availability. Being chemical-conscious no longer means you have to scour the market for a few niche brands; you can find something to suit both style and health.
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