In-depth reviews guided by a Pediatrician

Best Nail Polish for Kids

By Abriah Wofford ⋅ Senior Review Editor
Tuesday September 22, 2020
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Wondering which nail polish to buy for little ones? So were we! We purchased and tested 6 of the top kids' nail polishes for 2020 to find out. Many nail polishes geared towards kids have fun, quirky colors, and claim to have more health-conscious formulas. For this reason, they may be better for pregnant women or anyone looking to reduce the number of harmful chemicals in the home. After using all the polishes on ourselves and a 10-year-old tester, we evaluated each brand based on metrics such as health, color quality, and ease of application. We selected our favorite brands to recommend to you here.

1

Best Overall Kids Nail Polish


Karma Kids Box Set


Editors' Choice Award
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$19.99
at Amazon
See It

Formula: Nitrocellulose based | Accessories: None
Vivid color
Good staying power
Vegan and cruelty-free
Chemical base
Strong smell

Karma Kids Box Set is a collection of 4 neon hues of organic nail polish from the Karma Organic company. The polish is "7 free" - meaning they are free of 7 toxic chemicals that are historically found in traditional polishes. Karma Organic promotes them as suitable for pregnant women, cancer patients, children, and anyone else who would like to limit the number of harsh chemicals they encounter. When applying, the polish offered good coverage after just one coat. However, to get a completely opaque color, Karma recommends using two. In terms of durability, all the colors in the Karma Kids box set impressed us with how long they stayed on, outlasting most of the competition.

Despite being 7-free, the nitrocellulose-based formula gives off a strong odor when the bottle is open, indicating that there are still some harsh chemicals present. We also found that the liquid was a bit thick straight out of the bottle, making for a less smooth application. However, if you are looking for a nail polish that may reduce the number of toxins in your home but still offers bright, durable, and highly pigmented shades, then Karma Kids Box set could be perfect for you.

After a single coat  the "Tiger Cubs" color from the Karma Kids Box Set is bright and opaque.
After a single coat, the "Tiger Cubs" color from the Karma Kids Box Set is bright and opaque.

2

Best Waterbased Formula


Piggy Paint


Editors' Choice Award
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$5.83 each (in 6-pack)
(27% off)
at Amazon
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Formula: Water based | Accessories: None
Minimal ingredients
Water base
Minimal odor
Streaky application
Chips easily
Slow dry time

Piggy Paint is a kid-oriented nail polish made with a water-based formula and has the slogan "As natural as mud." Compared to other kids nail polishes we looked at, Piggy Paint has one of the shortest lists of ingredients and skips many of the harshest chemicals typically found in nail polish. We appreciate that there is only a mild odor; it smells like the non-toxic acrylic paints many parents buy for kids' art projects. Piggy Paint offers a wide variety of color choices for children and adults alike.

Unfortunately, the absence of the binding chemicals typically used in nail polishes causes a lack of durability and color opacity. In our tests, this polish was the first to wear off. We used the color "Mint to Be" and found that we needed to apply at least 2-3 coats before getting an even finish. An extra-long dry time exacerbates this time-consuming process. Piggy Paint recommends blow-drying nails for 1-2 minutes on a low/warm setting to help this problem. Doing this will also help reduce chipping. If you want to have a fun spa day with your child, but would like to avoid toxic chemicals as much as possible, then Piggy Paint polishes are probably your best option.

One coat of the "Mint to Be" Piggy Paint does not offer enough coverage  resulting in a slightly streaky application.
One coat of the "Mint to Be" Piggy Paint does not offer enough coverage, resulting in a slightly streaky application.

3

Great Value Box Set


SuncoatGirl


Best Value Award
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$13.99
(26% off)
at Amazon
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Formula: Water based | Accessories: Nail file and decals
Many colors to choose from
Peel off removal
Water base
Inconsistent application
Slow dry time

The SuncoatGirl box set offers water-based nail polish in 10 fun shades and comes with a nail file and cute flower decal stickers. The tiny 2-ml bottles are kid-sized and may prevent you from tossing out old bottles of half-used polish. One advantage of water-based polish is that it is salvageable when it gets gummy; just add a single drop of water until the polish reaches the desired consistency. The formula is nearly odorless, and the ingredient list is short compared to other brands we tested. When kids are ready to switch up their look, there is no need for a chemical nail polish remover; the colors just peel off. We like that SuncoatGirl offers innovative alternatives to the traditionally chemical-laden manicure process.

Unfortunately, the peel off removal method also means unintentional/early peeling. SuncoatGirl colors have a relatively slow dry time due to the water-based formula, and we found that a minimum of two coats was necessary to get an even appearance. Younger children may become impatient with so much waiting and holding still, so this set may be better for older kids. We also discovered that if we have any oil on the nail when painting, it causes the polish to bead up and apply inconsistently. So be sure to start with clean hands to get the best results. Overall, we think this budget-friendly box set is a great way to get lots of shades without spending a fortune.

Some colors in the SuncoatGirl Box Set are more opaque than others  and we had fun layering and mixing the shades.
Some colors in the SuncoatGirl Box Set are more opaque than others, and we had fun layering and mixing the shades.

4

Best for a Tight Budget


Townley Girl Minnie Mouse


Best Value Award
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$9.75
at Amazon
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Formula: Water based | Accessories: Nail file and carry tin
Vibrant color
Peel off removal
Fun accessories
Slow dry time
Not durable

The Townley Girl Minnie Mouse kids nail polish set comes with three vibrant colors of nail lacquer, one nail file, and a carry tin to keep it all in one place. We tested the Minnie Mouse themed set, but there is a wide variety of Disney characters to choose from depending on your child's preference. We like the water-based formula that includes fewer toxins than some other polishes. We also appreciate the peel-off removal method for its simplicity and because it means you can bypass using a chemical polish remover. All three of the colors included in our set only need one coat to achieve opaque coverage.

Townley polishes are some of the least durable of the group. The peel-off removal can be convenient, but it can also lead to early chipping and unintentional peeling. After applying a single coat to our nails, the color started to come off after just a few hours and was entirely gone the following day. Despite claiming faster dry time, we found that Townley Girl takes longer to dry than most other polishes in our review, so it may not be suitable for an antsy toddler. However, if you have a child who loves accessories and bright colors, the Townley Girl Minnie Mouse set is sure to be attractive.

The Townley Girl Minnie Mouse comes with a cute tin that can be used to keep all the pieces in one spot.
All three colors included in the Townley Girl Minnie Mouse set are vibrant and opaque.

5

Best for a High-Quality Manicure


ella+mila Mommy & Me Set


Top Pick Award
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$16.00
at Amazon
See It

Formula: Nitrocellulose based | Accessories: Nail decals
Smooth and even application
Long-lasting
Fast dry time
Strong odor
Chemical base

The ella+mila Mommy and Me Set caters to mother-daughter manicure days with their high-quality nail lacquer. The set comes with two color choices, one in a large bottle for mom, and one tot-sized bottle for your child. With the smoothest and application of all the polishes we tested, ella+mila colors hold their own against traditional nail polishes, boasting a fast dry time and smooth consistency, all while excluding several harsh toxins. We achieved clean lines when applying, and the colors lasted over a week on our nails. The polish offers a reasonable level of opacity with just a single coat; however, a second coat makes it look that much better. For a little extra pizazz on your fingers, the set comes with cute flower decals.

ella+mila polishes use a chemical-based formula and claim to be 7-free. This makeup provides such good results; however, it inevitably has more toxins than water-based products, and there is a strong chemical odor when the bottle is open. Like many traditional polishes, you must use a chemical remover to take off the lacquer, potentially introducing even more toxins to your skin. However, suppose a smooth application and long-lasting durability are your top priorities. In that case, ella+mila polishes make a substantial effort to be more health-friendly and are on par with other leading brands in terms of quality. We recommend them for anyone who wants fewer toxins in their life without switching up their routine.

The ella+mila set comes with a mini bottle labeled "me" and a larger bottle for "mommy".
The ella+mila set comes with a mini bottle labeled "me" and a larger bottle for "mommy".

6

Easiest and Cleanest Application


Comdoit Nail Wraps


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$9.99
(23% off)
at Amazon
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Formula: Unknown | Accessories: Nail file
Mess free
No dry time
Intricate designs
Time-consuming
No disclosure of ingredients

Comodoit Nail Wraps offer pre-cut designs with a stick-on application. We think this is an excellent alternative for younger children who are less patient because there is no dry time! There is no risk of spilling or paint transfer from the nails to other surfaces. We found applying the nail stickers to be a fast and straightforward process that makes very little mess. We are also very impressed by the durability offered by this set; in our experience, the stickers last over a week without peeling. When correctly sized to your nail, they genuinely look like nail polish. The 8-pack of nail stickers offered by Comodoit wraps is a highly affordable option.

Because they are precut sizes, they may not match all nail sizes exactly, and it can be time-consuming to cut each one to fit. We are also a bit disconcerted because we can not find any information on these stickers' ingredients. There is no disclosure on how the manufacturing process, nor what is in the adhesive. If this worries you, then Comodiot Nail Wraps may not be the best option. However, we think this is a great way to get intricate manicure designs in a mess-free package.

Comodoit Nail Wraps offered intricate designs and great longevity at a good price.
Comodoit Nail Wraps offered intricate designs and great longevity at a good price.

7

Favorite Nail Polish Remover


ella+mila Soy Nail Polish Remover


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$11.49
(4% off)
at Amazon
See It

Formula: Soy based | Accessories: None
Works on traditional and non-traditional polishes
Low odor
Vegan and cruelty-free
Do not use with soy allergies
May damage household surfaces

ella+mila Soy Nail Polish Remover is an acetone free way to take lacquer off your nails. ella+mila notes that the soy-based formula is designed for use with "natural" nail polishes, but we found it works equally well with traditional options as well. We like that it contains fewer of the very harsh chemicals found in most polish removers and much appreciate that there is only a mild odor when using the product. Thanks to the addition of vitamins A, C, and E, our nails and cuticles were left feeling hydrated and supple after use, as opposed to the dryness you usually experience with acetone-based removers.

Unlike other polish removers that start working as soon as the cotton ball touches the paint, ella+mila's remover needs a minute to work its magic. You must swipe a quick layer over all the nails and let it sit for 20-30 seconds. From there, you can start scrubbing off the color. As a soy-based product, this polish remover is not suitable for anyone with allergies to soy. We also caution you not to use this without a barrier as the chemicals can damage acrylic or plastic surfaces (i.e., bathroom or kitchen countertops). However, we found very few downsides to the ella+mila Soy Nail Polish Remover and recommend it as an essential manicure accessory, even if you choose to use traditional polishes.

ella+mila's remover is very gentle on the skin.
The ella+mila Soy Polish Remover lacks many of the harsh chemicals typically found in nail polish removers  it still works just as well.

We painted fingernails of many sizes and shapes to test these products.
We painted fingernails of many sizes and shapes to test these products.

Why You Should Trust Us


BabyGearLab has been using and evaluating a wide range of baby products for more than eight years, and our team has many more years of combined experience in parenthood and childcare. Leading our kids nail polish review is Senior Review Editor, Abriah Wofford. Perfecting her nail-painting skills since she was a kid herself, Abriah has painted the piggies of countless children over the years. For this review, she dove deep into the world of polish production, researching common ingredients, their possible health effects, and more natural alternatives. In addition to this, each polish was applied multiple times on various kid and adult testers to evaluate the durability and color quality in real-life situations. With this information, we can share with you our top picks and recommendations.

Painting each nail with a different brand of polish allowed us to compare the durability of each lacquer.
We tested these polishes with a variety of users  ranging from rough and tumble little kids  to the girly girl pre-teen  and even on adults.

Analysis and Test Results



The Lesser of Two Evils?
Many polishes geared towards children claim to have fewer toxins. However, there is currently no such thing as "all-natural" nail polish. So while certain brands of kids nail polish may be better than others, there is no guarantee that you can avoid potentially harmful chemicals without giving up colored nails altogether.

For many parents  it is important to know what kinds of chemicals are being applied to their children's nails.
For many parents, it is important to know what kinds of chemicals are being applied to their children's nails.

Health


All the products we included in our review are "7-free" and this is a manufacturer's standard that strives to be less toxic and thus potentially more suitable for use with children. However, some manufacturers prioritize health more than others. Water-based formulas such as Piggy Paint or SuncoatGirl are our favorites for this metric, as they each have one of the shortest lists of ingredients that cause us concern. Ella+Mila polishes are the most like a traditional lacquer. However, they still claim to be a whopping 17-free.

What is 7-Free?


Many traditional nail polishes have an array of potentially unhealthy ingredients that may have long-term effects. A few polish companies have worked to eliminate the worst of these chemicals from their formulas and claim a "7-free" composition. Others go above and beyond, attempting to eliminate even more chemicals from their formulation. While there is no such thing as "natural" nail polish, we prefer to use colors that are free of at least the seven concerning ingredients listed below.

  • Toluene: a solvent used in paint thinner. It is considered potentially toxic through inhalation and may be harmful to the nervous system.
  • Formaldehyde: most commonly used to preserve and embalm organisms. The vapors from this chemical may be highly irritating, and it is a known carcinogen.
  • Formaldehyde Resin: a derivative of formaldehyde commonly found in coatings and adhesives. While not considered as toxic as formaldehyde in its pure form, it may still be an allergen.
  • Camphor: A chemical that is considered to be poisonous in large doses, causing seizures and disorientation. In nail polish, it acts as a cover for your nails and some feel that deprives them of nutrients, causing dryness and yellow staining.
  • Triphenyl Phosphate (TPHP): a chemical found in many plastics that improve flexibility and acts as a flame retardant. It is a possible endocrine disrupter that may affect your hormones.
  • Xylene: a solvent used to thin paint. It may be irritating to the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract if ingested or inhaled. Too much of it may affect your nervous system, possibly causing headaches, dizziness, drowsiness, tremor, nausea, vomiting, a host of other ailments.

Many of these chemicals give off strong odors and may be potentially toxic to humans via inhalation. Combined, they create that very familiar nail polish scent. So, generally, we take the position that the less you can smell your nail polish, the better. In general, our view is that the fewer concerning chemicals in a nail polish formulation the better, especially when it comes to kids nail polish formulations.

ella+mila's remover has a very mild scent and leaves nails and cuticles fresh and hydrated after taking off the polish.
ella+mila's remover has a very mild scent and leaves nails and cuticles fresh and hydrated after taking off the polish.

Ease of Application and Removal


Depending on how old your child is, sitting still can be a daunting task. Younger children will greatly appreciate a fast and fuss-free application. Brush sizes are relatively standard across all polishes but dry time and the number of coats needed vary. We found that Ella+Mila has the fastest dry time and the most consistent application on the first try, eliminating the need for two layers. Karma Kids has an average dry time, but only needs one coat. Using SuncoatGirl colors may test a toddler's patience, with sheer coverage and slow dry time.

Stick on nails like the Comdoit Nail Wraps offer a nearly mess-free application, but may take a bit longer to cut the correct size and shape for smaller nails.

Ella+Mila colors yeild the best looking manicure in our opinion.
The color "Paint the Town Red" by Ella+Mila is a bright poppy that offers good coverage and an even application after one coat.

Color Quality/Durability


There is a reason manufacturers began to use such strong chemicals: they create a better-looking, longer-lasting polish. We found that the more "natural" a polish claims to be, the more sheer and less consistent the color turns out. This fact is a bummer, but it seems to be a necessary compromise for now. In our review, the two water-based polishes, SuncoatGirl and Piggy Pain, both have very sheer color and somewhat uneven application. Two to three coats are needed to get consistent coverage on the nails. Of the two, SuncoatGirl colors seem to last the longest on our fingernails.

The bright neon colors in the Karma Kids Box Set are a hit with our kid testers. The highly pigmented formula is also one of the longest-lasting lacquers of the group. Comdoit Nail Wraps surprised us with their durability. The pliable plastic material holds tightly to your nail beds until you chose to remove them.

Mixing and matching colors adds pizazz to your kid's nails.
Mixing and matching colors adds pizazz to your kid's nails.

Conclusion


Flashy nails are fun for kids and parents alike, and doing at-home manicures can be a great shared activity. However, it is good to be mindful of what chemicals you and your child encounter from day to day. Some kids' nail polishes are better than others, and we examined each formula's performance and health aspects to help you make an informed decision.

Abriah Wofford