Are All Nail Polishes Vegan?

Investigate the ingredients in your cosmetics and you'll be surprised what animal products you find. Meet the two nail polish ingredients all vegans should avoid and the one vegan-certified brand we swear by.

Nail polishes finish an outfit, add subtle glamour to an everyday uniform, and give you a pop of colour fun exactly when you need it. The last thing you'd expect to find in your nail varnish is animal-derived ingredients. But that's exactly what some nail colours contain.

There are two ingredients you should avoid when vetting vegan-friendly nail polish:

  1. Guanine
  2. Carmine


Are all nail polishes vegan?


These names sound more like chemicals than animal ingredients. Confused? Let us explain exactly what these ingredients are and why you'll find them in nail polish.

1. Avoid guanine, or pearl essence, when selecting vegan-friendly nail polish.

Whichever name it goes by, this ingredient comes not from pearls but from fish scales. Ground fish scales are used in nail polish to mimic the shimmer you see on a fish in the water. If you own a nail polish that has extra shimmer, it's likely to contain guanine.

2. Avoid carmine when selecting vegan-friendly nail polish.

Carmine is a red colourant found in many nail polishes, lipsticks, and blushers. It looks pretty, but carmine has the ugliest of sources.

Carmine is made from the crushed carcasses of the female cochineal insect. Not only does carmine production involve the death of insects, it's also apparently sexist!

Anywhere from 80,000 to 100,000 cochineals are used to create just 1 kilogramme of carmine dye. Watch out for carmine dye in red shades of nail polish.


Are all nail polishes vegan?


How can you guarantee nail polish is vegan-friendly?

Unfortunately, avoiding just these two ingredients in nail polish doesn't guarantee a vegan-friendly formula. Nail enamels can contain several other animal products unsuited for vegan living.

As with some facial serums, nail varnish formulas now come bejewelled with extras, some of which are animal derivatives. And not all of these ingredients are obvious when you read the lists.

Want to avoid trawling through the fine print on those product labels?

We recommend finding a certified-vegan nail polish brand, and we're very happy to stock one: Australian-based Kester Black. Not only is Kester Black vegan-friendly, but the brand also makes a 'five-free' promise to always eliminate the following ingredients from its products:

  • Toluene
  • DBP
  • Formaldehyde
  • Formaldehyde resin
  • Camphor

These common nail-polish solvents are known carcinogens and toxins.

Kester Black makes your commitment to vegan living AND beautiful living easy, fun, and safe. Explore our other Ultimate Guides to learn more about vegetarian and vegan cosmetics. And support Australia by exploring our country's best vegan cosmetic brands.


Are all nail polishes vegan?

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