Best Nail Polish for Kids
The Karma Kids Box Set features four hues of organic nail polish from the Karma Organic company. The polish is "7 free," - meaning they are free of 7 concerning 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, the selection of colors in the Karma Kids box set impresses us with how long they stay on, outlasting most of the competition. We tested the neon-themed set, but Karma Organic has a wide variety of colors to choose from.
Despite being 7-free, the nitrocellulose-based formula gives off a strong odor when the bottle is open, indicating that there may still be some harsh chemicals present. We also found that the liquid is a bit thick straight out of the bottle and does not apply as smoothly as some others. However, if you are looking for a nail polish that may reduce the number of chemicals in your home while still offering bright, durable, and highly pigmented shades, then Karma Kids Box set is a great choice.
The Piggy Paint is a kid-oriented nail polish made with a water-based formula. Their slogan "As natural as mud" is printed on every bottle. 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 is not abrasive and smells somewhat 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 this brand. During testing, this polish was usually the first to wear off. We used the color "Mint to Be" and found that at least 2-3 coats are necessary to achieve an even finish. An extra-long dry time for each layer exacerbates an already time-consuming process. Piggy Paint recommends blow-drying nails for 1-2 minutes on a low/warm setting to speed the process if the wait time is unbearable. Using a hairdryer also helps to reduce chipping. If you want to have a fun spa day with your child, but would like to avoid excess chemicals as much as possible, then Piggy Paint polishes are probably your best option.
The SuncoatGirl box set offers a water-based nail polish in 10 fun shades. It comes with a nail file and cute flower decal stickers as extras. The tiny 2-ml bottles are perfectly kid-sized and may prevent you from tossing out old bottles of half-used polish when they get too sticky to use. One advantage of water-based polish is that it is salvageable when it gets gummy; add a single drop of water until the polish reaches the desired consistency, and you're good to go. 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 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 can happen. 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.
The Townley Girl Minnie Mouse kids nail polish set comes with three vibrant colors of nail lacquer, one nail file, and a small tin to keep everything in one place. We tested the Minnie Mouse-themed set, but there are many Disney characters for kids to choose from. We like that the water-based formula includes fewer chemicals than traditional polishes. We also appreciate the peel-off removal method for its simplicity and because it means you can bypass the chemical polish remover. All three of the colors included in our set only need one coat to achieve bright and opaque coverage. This set is easy on the wallet and is one of the most affordable options we tested.
Townley polishes are some of the shortest-lasting colors of the group. The peel-off formula is convenient but also leads to chipping and possibly early removal. 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 antsy toddlers who have a hard time sitting still. However, if you have a child who loves accessories and bright colors, the Townley Girl Minnie Mouse set is sure to be attractive.
The ella+mila Mommy and Me Set will fit right in with your mother-daughter spa day. Their high-quality nail lacquer comes in a set of two color options, one in a large bottle for mom and one tot-sized bottle for your child. With the smoothest 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. The formula allows for clean lines when applying, and the colors can last over a week in our experience. 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 while providing impressive results. However, it inevitably has more potentially concerning ingredients 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. 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 traditional leading polish brands in terms of quality. We recommend this option to anyone looking for fewer chemicals in their nail polish routine.
The Comdoit 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 the bottle or accidental paint transfer from fingernails onto other surfaces. Applying the stickers is 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 nail stickers can 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 Comdoit wraps is also one of the most affordable options we found.
Because they are precut sizes, the nail wraps may not match all nail sizes exactly. To cut them down to size can be a time-consuming task. We are also a bit concerned that we are unable to 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 Comdoit 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 with no dry time.
The 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 tried it out on traditional options and found it works equally as well on both formulas. We like that it contains fewer of the very harsh chemicals found in many polish removers and much appreciate that there is only a mild odor when using the product. Our nails and cuticles felt hydrated thanks to the addition of vitamins A, C, and E instead of the dryness you usually experience with acetone-based removers.
Acetone-based removers typically start working as soon as the cotton ball touches the paint, but 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 scrub the color with ease. 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 paper towel or some other barrier underneath. The formula can damage acrylic or plastic surfaces that it touches (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.
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, we dove deep into the world of polish production and common ingredients. Each kids' nail polish was purchased and used on multiple testers to evaluate durability and color quality before ranking our overall favorites.
Analysis and Test Results
With multiple kids' nail polish options on the market, it's hard to know which option is best for you. The good news is our review ranks the top contenders of 2021. We've hands-on tested each polish in our lineup, including countless applications on nails from children to adults, evaluating qualities we consider important, such as durability and color quality.
Many polishes geared towards children claim to have fewer potentially concerning ingredients. 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.
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.
- Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP): a chemical frequently used to make plastics more flexible. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency DBP could potentially cause adverse effects on reproduction and developmental growth.
- 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 improves 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.
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.
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 top-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.
Flashy nails are fun for kids and parents alike, and doing at-home manicures can be a great shared activity. At BabyGearLab, we prefer to err on the side of caution to limit the amount of chemicals children encounter, and nail polish is no different. Some kids' nail polishes are better than others, and we examined each formula's performance and ingredients to help you make an informed decision. If nail polish is what you're after, there may be an option in our lineup that works for you.
— Abriah Wofford