how clean are these 15 nail polishes in my collection?

3-free and 5-free nontoxic nail polishes

I have a confession to make: I’m a nail polish junkie (as evidenced by my ridiculous nail polish collection).

But, after sharing a picture of a fresh mani/pedi the other day and feeling good about using three- and five-free polishes, a dear IG follower got me thinking about just how clean some nail polish brands really are.

3-free and 5-free nontoxic nail polishes

So, I thought I’d dedicate a post to getting YOUR candid feedback on 1) which nail polish brands you choose to keep in your collection, and 2) which ones aren’t worth your time or money.

Though I only have a few brands of three-free polishes in my collection, the bulk of my collection is China Glaze (three-free), OPI (three-free) and Zoya (five-free).

My obsession with China Glaze and OPI run deep, as these are the brands I used long before going green and caring about the numbers three and five.

I share this point of view that, hey, nail polish just isn’t natural, so if I’m going to use it, I’m going to use what I like.

But I also prefer to support smaller companies and niche brands that are showing me who they really are (ya know, some faces behind a brand name!) and the causes they support.

Maybe I’m just sucker for new nail polish to add to my collection.

Here’s the categories the 15 different brands in my collection file into — I suppose I’m in the right direction.


  • Butter London
  • China Glaze
  • Essie
  • OPI
  • Sephora by OPI


  • AILA
  • Chanel
  • Lakur
  • LVX
  • Mineral Fusion
  • NCLA
  • Sheswai
  • Sparitual
  • Treat Collection
  • Zoya

So, questions for you to answer in the comments section:

Do you go three-free or five free? What about cruelty-free? What brands do you prefer (because, ya know, even some drugstore brands are three- or five-free!)? may include affiliate links to featured products. Not all product links are affiliate links. If you make a purchase from an affiliate link, earns a small commission.

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  • This is a great post. These pretty polishes come in some really fun hues! I tend to choose five-free whenever I can. The less chemicals you put in your body, the better.

    • Agree. Gotta look past my brand loyalty with OPI. I really love their polish / copywriting / bottle shape / brush size. Please go 5-free, OPI!!!

  • KitKat

    I would look at the 3 free too if you are trying to thin out the heard. Most of those you can find at your local drugstore and would be easier to purchase on an impulse. Plus in the future 3 free might not be good enough for you (especially since you can now get 7 free thanks to Pacifica). I’m working on trying not to settle for products that I think are “good enough.”

    • I feel ya. I think from now on, my purchases will be 5 free … but gah, I’m a sucker for OPI.

  • Alana

    Almost all of my polishes are 3-free and 5-free. Many are drugstore brands as well, though I do have a few Essie, Zoya, and one Butter London. I mirror your philosophy: nail polish is mostly nail polish, as long as it’s at least 3-free, but I do like supporting indie brands from time to time.

    • Yeap, I wish drugstore brands would do a better job of promoting that they are 3-free. I believe even Revlon is 3-free!

  • Firstly nice shot! ;-) Secondly, you bring up a good point: nail polish is not natural anyway, so why all the fuss. I guess if we were truly concerned, we’d choose bare toesies and fingers. The nails do start to turn yellow over time and definitely could use a breather every so often. (Sometimes, I give them a lil air time in the winter, but I still like to paint them even though no one else sees them. It’s so fun and pretty!) That said, the niche brands that are 5-free are getting better and better. My new loves are AILA Cosmetics (long lasting and great colors), Treat Collection (they really nailed it with fantastic colors and long-wear too). I’m still a fan of RGB but they don’t last as long. And I found the perfect nude for my fingers with Kure Bazaar corso 22. It’s not too yellow, not too beige, and really pretty but the wear is just so-so. I wonder how Pacifica’s 7-free polishes rate. Cindy of Hello Dollface just gave them a glowing review.

    • Thanks Sarita! I like to give mine some breathing time, too, but I find that because I have such thin, peeling-prone nails, keeping polish on them prevents me from messing with them.

      AILA is very nice. I got a mani on Tuesday with it, and it’s held up fine so far. If it can last 7 days, I will be impressed! I have a bottle of Treat, too, but have yet to try it (I got it in LA a few weeks ago!). I have yet to try / purchase Kure Bazaar, Pacifica, RGB and a few other popular polishes, but perhaps I’ll give em a go (even though I DONT NEED ANY! hehe) I will check out Cindy’s post!

    • Another rave review for the Pacifica polishes also on Organic Beauty Talk!

  • I agree with you – nail polish is never going to be 100% natural. I’m also not convinced there’s a big difference between mainstream 3-free and “natural” brands, beyond the marketing. Gabriel’s 5-free polish is the absolute worst smelling polish I’ve ever used, so not sure what that says.
    Fig + Sage had a really good post on this topic a few years back, not sure if you’ve seen it:

    I guess water-based is always an option, but I haven’t figured out how to make those fully work for me. In the meantime, I go for 3-free or better and generally only paint my toes :)

    • Agree. If we’re just doing 3-free, then OPI is fine. I guess a way to weed some out is to look closer into cruelty-free (sad that we’re still testing on animals in 2014!). I think all companies should make a bigger point to show if they are 3/5/7/cruelty free up front.

      Yes, I linked that Fig+Sage article in the piece above. Oh how I miss those ladies! I’m thankful that I’ve never had a reaction to any polish (I’ve seen some gnarly pics of outbreaks around the eyes of people who wear polish on their fingers).

      • Whoops, not sure how I managed to miss that! :) I’m bad for just expecting things to be cruelty free – most of what I use is, by nature of being smaller companies – but that’s definitely something to watch for with nail polish!

  • This is something I’ve never paid too much attention to but I’m surprised (and excited) that Chanel is 5-free… somehow this helps me justify my obsession! I do have a number of OPI + Essie polishes that were mostly impulse buys at CVS/ duane reade but I use them far less… I should probably clean out my stash while I’m thinking about it now!

    • I feel ya, Elle! For me, it’s nail polish, so … never going to be super natural! But if it performs well AND is 5-free? Cool!

      I love OPI but Essie just doesn’t do it for me anymore…chip city! And it takes too many coats to get the color. I don’t buy it anymore :(

      Love Chanel Vamp for fall :) And if you do a clean-out, send them my way! (OK, no, I don’t need anymore!!!)