I’ve been a fan of drugstore nail polish brands for years, both because the price is on point and the longevity always rocked – after having split and flakey nails for a few years, I found the longer and tougher the nail polish lasted the better they grew, plus what’s better than having every shade under the sun?!
Truth is, I’ve never finished a nail polish (who has?!) and always end up using the same shades (nude and blue, can you blame?) which did me well for a while until I started switching my makeup over; I didn’t know what to look for in terms of cruelty-free/vegan nail polish and the experience I’d had so far wasn’t enough to convince me off the drugstore purchases I’d grown to love, however after looking into 5-free nail polish and what it meant for the nail’s condition and product formulation, I’ve discovered some great alternatives.

5-free means that the product doesn’t contain 5 of the most widely noted toxic chemicals traditionally used to produce nail varnish, and as nails can be incredibly porus when wet, the toxins can seep in through cuticles and surrouding skin, even the mouth if you’re a nail biter! You want to make sure the nail polish is free of Camphor, Dibutyl Phthalate, Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde Resin, and Toluene to be truly safe from nasties, but with there now 3-free, 8-free, even 9-free products available and coming into production, you’re going to be spoilt for choice…

Leighton Denny has been 5-free for many years now and is stocked in both Marks and Spencers and John Lewis, however I’ve seen it pop up in TK Maxx over the years which is where I picked up these two shades (Skies in Bloom and Pink Parasol in a bargainous two-pack for £5, such a steal). I find the formula can be a bit thinner than usual, however this gives you more control in application and saturation which I like! The usual price of £12 puts this a bit higher than drugstore but with the additional formulation to remove the toxins above I’d say it’s well worth it, plus the colour range is phenomenal!

Smith and Cult became themselves quite the cult product last year (and after photographing the products for Anna, the colours and packaging started seeping into my mind a lot, so dreamy) and firmly place themselves top of the budget at £19 a pop *eek* HOWEVER these beauties are in fact 8-free *whoop!* hence the extra few pounds to get that formula spot on.

I’ve got the shades Subnormal (a soft blue grey) and Bitter Buddhist (a duck egg blue), and found that on application you need to wipe off some excess, and apply it thin yet able to cover the nail in one swoop to make it last a long time. If you use a good base coat and tough top coat (again Leighton Denny has a fab one that’s a little less gloopy than Seche Vite) then your polish will be chip resistant for 5 days and then by 7 days will need to be removed asap because it likes to peel off at it’s own accord. The saturation after two layers is perfect, and just remember the price is both for a less toxic look but also looks super pretty on display too 😉

Finally there’s Mavala, which according to my Mum as been around since she was young so you know they get their nail polish. They’ve recently launched a Delicate Collection* which is all sorts of macaron and spring inspired, and even better the bottles are tiny so you’re guaranteed to use them up, and these too are 5-free!

Out of the three shades, Mango Orchid is my fave as it’s a more glossy creme orange that would look great in the sunshine and bring a pop of colour, whilst Pink Orchid would look nice on my toes (when they finally make an appearance) for a lil summin’summin as it has a slight pearl sheen to it, and if you really dig that 90’s vibe then White Orchid is everything pearly and shiney you used to love as a kid except now it’s more saturated and grown up than before – the perfect spring throwback that’s equally chic 😉

I’m glad my hunt for better quality nail polish has discovered some real gems, and granted they may not be as long-lasting as the usual brands, but all the extra work to keep the toxic chemicals out of your body does give you a sigh of relief when using – my only concern now is which shade do I use first?! Leave your pick in the comments below…


Some products in this post may have been sent for review or gifted, and will be marked with a * or c/o. All opinions are mine are not influenced by brands or companies. Please see my full disclaimer for more.

Website | Flickr | Tumblr | Twitter | Bloglovin | Instagram | Pinterest


Brighton based Photographer, photographing your fave bloggers by day and testing the best vegan/cruelty-free skincare by night.


Looking for Something?