The online magazine
for vegetarians, vegans
& the veggie-curious


  • Leiths Vegetable Bible
    Leiths Vegetable Bible
    by Polly Tyrer
  • Rose Elliot's New Complete Vegetarian
    Rose Elliot's New Complete Vegetarian
    by Rose Elliot
  • Delia's Vegetarian Collection
    Delia's Vegetarian Collection
    by Delia Smith, Victoria Wood
  • Good Food: 101 Veggie Dishes
    Good Food: 101 Veggie Dishes
    by Orlando Murrin
  • Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook
    Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook
    by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Terry Hope Romero

Animal-Friendly Manicures

Have you ever thought about what goes into your nail polish? Did you know that it was possible to buy

vegan nail polish? Have you ever asked your nail salon for a vegan manicure?

You might be surprised to learn that not all nail treatments are creature-free or animal-friendly!

Is your nail polish vegan?

Most polishes are chemically created from a mixture of nitrocellulose dissolved in a solvent (e.g. butyl acetate or ethyl acetate) and either left clear, or coloured with various pigments. It’s the source of these colour pigments that can cause problems for vegans.

Most vegans will probably be familiar with E120, which is a dye made from the cochineal insect – this same dye is used to produce many red-coloured polishes.

Also, in addition to colour pigments, other ingredients can be added depending on the effect and hue of the desired product. For example, micas – tiny reflective minerals, also used in some lipsticks – are a common additive, as are ‘pearl’ or ‘fish scale essence' (literally made from small fish scales and skin!)

What's in Shellac?

Shellac is a durable gel that coats the nail like polish but cures under UV light. It lasts longer than polish, has a great shine and is much kinder upon removal than other nail systems – which accounts for why Shellac has gained in popularity.

However, the gel is produced by the lac bug as tree resin before being dried and sold as flakes. These flakes are then dissolved in ethyl alcohol to create brush-on liquid shellac – and therefore, the process inevitably contains crushed insects. So, if this is something you are not comfortable with, you might be better off sticking to nail polish after all.

Are there animal ingredients in your hand cream?

The key components of a skin-care lotion, cream or gel emulsion are the aqueous and oily phases, and an emulgent to prevent separation of these. A wide variety of other ingredients such as fragrances, glycerol, petroleum jelly, dyes, preservatives, proteins and stabilising agents are also commonly added.

Some of the added ingredients that might be found in hand creams include:

  • Civet oil – from the civet cat
  • Musk – from the male musk deer
  • Castoreum – from the beaver
  • Ambergris – from the sperm whale

Other non-vegan toiletries

Also, look out for the following ingredients, which can be found in shampoos, conditioners and skin-care products, or which are used in the general production of toiletries and cosmetics:

  • Chitin – from insects and crustacea
  • Keratin – from hair, horn, hoof and feathers
  • Beeswax / honey
  • Propolis – collected by bees

Avoiding animal testing

And finally, although your cosmetics and skin-care products may be free of animal ingredients, many brands cannot guarantee that their products have not been tested on animals, so remember to also choose brands that are free from animal cruelty.

If in doubt, ask for advice

When it comes to having a manicure, the availability of vegan manicures is on the increase. However, if it's not clear whether your salon can provide an animal-friendly manicure talk to your nail technician. They can check the products they use ahead of your appointment to put you at ease when you arrive. Any good salon will do their best to accommodate you, and if they don’t, take your business to a salon that will value your custom.

When it comes to using nail polish, hand creams and toiletries at home, look out for brands that specifically advertise their vegan credentials or contact the relevant company for advice.

Perhaps try places like these for a start!


Thank you to LUSH Nails for providing this guest article to MTM!

Check out our review of SpaRitual Nail Lacquer

Reader Comments (2)

Can't wait for the SpaRitual review. I've tried a lot of polishes but never tried any SpaRitual - hope it's good!
February 24, 2013 at 7:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnna
Your wish is my command!
February 25, 2013 at 1:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterMore than Mushrooms

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