A vegan person does not eat any animal or any product of an animal. Vegans do not wish to use animals for human consumption, and so, they can extend the vegan lifestyle to other nonfood products such as cosmetics. Cosmetics such as nail polish can actually contain parts of an animal or animal products. Vegan nail polish fulfills the vegan lifestyle as it does not contain animal products and may also go further and not be tested on animals or contain less synthetic chemicals than regular polish.
Common ingredients in nonvegan nail varnishes include fish scales, animal fats, and crushed insects. Pearl essence, which is fish scales, gives a shimmer to pearlescent nail polishes. Carmine, which is a dye formed from crushing up the cochineal beetle, imparts a red color to the product. Oleic acid, which derives from animal fat, may be present as another ingredient. A vegan nail polish manufacturer must use other substances, which have similar properties, to give the red color or shimmer to the varnish.
Examples of vegan alternatives to pearl essence are the naturally occurring mineral mica or the artificial substance synthetic pearl. Particles of metals such as bronze or aluminum can also have the appropriate glittery quality. Oleic acid can be obtained from plant sources instead of animal sources. Dyes from animal sources can be replaced with vegetable dyes such as beet juice or the color from the root of the alkanet plant.
As well as not containing animal products, a vegan nail polish often contains less artificial chemicals than a regular nail polish because this may be a concern for some vegans. Common chemicals such as toluene, formaldehyde, and phthalates may not be part of the ingredient list, and instead of these chemicals and others such as alcohol, the polish may contain water as a base. A water-based vegan nail polish dries through evaporation in the same way as a regular nail polish will and may not release chemical vapors like a regular product during the drying process. Many vegan nail polishes contain both synthetic chemicals and natural, nonanimal-derived products together, however.
Animal testing is another factor in some vegan nail polishes. Often, the polishes are not tested on animals and labeled as cruelty free. Vegan nail polish removers are also available commercially as an option to regular nail polish removers. These removers contain ingredients such as ethyl acetate from fermented corn and vegetable glycerin.