Are Acrylic Nails Vegan

Are Acrylic Nails Vegan?

Vegan-friendly products do exist, but a vast majority of salons are still using non-vegan equipment and it all depends on the products your nail technician uses.

As a cosmetologist in training, I get asked about vegan nail products quite frequently. Vegan beauty trends are on the rise! More and more people are looking for animal-friendly alternatives to old classics. Acrylics are no different.

That said, whether or not the process of getting new faux nails is vegan largely whittles down to individual salons and technicians!

In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at how acrylics fit into the vegan-friendly ecosystem. Keep reading to learn more about how acrylic nails work and what parts of the process aren’t vegan-friendly.

What Are Acrylic Nails?

First things first, let’s clear up some confusion about acrylics.

You’ll hear many people use this term interchangeably with other types of manicures, such as gel or paraffin. While they all have the same end goal of changing your nails’ look, these techniques go about the task very differently!

When an artist creates acrylic nails, they’re forming synthetic acrylic onto your existing nail or a nail form. It’s not pressing preformed plastic onto your fingers or applying a coat of gel-based lacquer. This process involves molding and shaping a brand-new nail!

Acrylic nails are one of the more versatile and long-lasting options! A good set of acrylics can last upwards of eight weeks with proper care. Not only that, but your nail tech can shape the nail however you please! Whether you want something natural or extreme, it’s all possible with acrylics.

Other kinds of manicures have their merits, too. However, acrylics are the most open-ended. Nail technicians can create some genuinely masterful works of art! The sky is the limit with acrylics, which is what sets them apart from other manicures.

How Do Acrylics Work?

Believe it or not, there’s a lot of chemistry involved with acrylic nails!

The two main constituents, however, are acrylic monomers and acrylic polymers. Before application, technicians keep the two ingredients separate. That’s because the two must react to create a moldable consistency that will harden into the acrylic plastic we know and love!

To shape your nails, your salon expert will soak a brush in the liquid monomer. Then, they’ll dip it into a dish of powdered polymer. Once mixed, a unique chemical reaction occurs. We won’t go into the nitty-gritty here, but it involves hardening molecular polymer chains!

Before the substance hardens, it’s in a putty-like consistency. Your technician can mold it to the desired shape. From there, they can grind, buff, and paint to get the finished look you want.

How Vegan-Friendly Are Acrylic Nail Products?

Are acrylic nails vegan? The answer depends entirely on the products used. Several products go into making those killer claws!

Acrylic Powder and Liquid

Interestingly enough, the main ingredients that go into forming your new fake nails aren’t a huge problem for vegans. Typically, the acrylic powders and liquids are vegan. That’s not always the case, but it is in most instances.

The concept behind acrylic nail formation is the same one that dentists use. In fact, some say that the origins of acrylic nails started with a dentist who wanted to stop his wife from biting her nails!

These ingredients are all chemical-based and usually don’t contain animal byproducts at all. Now, that doesn’t mean they’re entirely safe. There are still some potentially dangerous chemicals involved. But that’s a discussion for another time!


Here’s where most of the trouble comes. Most people would be shocked to find out that the most non-vegan part of the process doesn’t even involve acrylics! It’s the brushes that technicians use to apply them!

According to The Beauty Academy, the most commonly used brushes for acrylics are Kolinsky. These brushes use hair that comes from a specific type of weasel. You might also see standard sable-hair brushes. Either way, these brushes are made from the coat of an animal!

There are many arguments as to why natural brushes are the go-to choice. Some say that it soaks the liquid monomer better. Others believe that it provides a smoother application. It’s the same arguments you hear surrounding natural hair makeup and artist brushes!

Some nail technicians are starting to move away from Kolinsky brushes as higher-quality synthetic alternatives are beginning to come out. However, the adoption is not mainstream just yet.

Nail Polish

The final step in the process is nail polish! You can get many kinds of polish. Whether you get gel, old-school shellac, dip powder, or basic polish, it’s important to ask about the vegan status.

Vegan nail polishes are pretty prevalent these days! They’re still rarer than non-vegan options. However, many salons will offer an excellent selection of vegan-friendly products.

Traditional polishes contain many animal byproducts. They might have guanine from fish scales, carmine from beetles, and oleic acid from animal fat. These ingredients help to create a specific finish or color.

Vegan polishes contain none of that stuff! Manufacturers utilize chemical alternatives to achieve the same finish. You may even use vegan polish without even realizing it!

The Final Word

So, are acrylic nails vegan?

If your focus is on vegan beauty, you might want to lay off the acrylic manicures for now. Most modern technicians use natural hair brushes and non-vegan polishes to create their masterpieces. The chemicals to develop the nails aren’t a problem. But, the tools used to craft them aren’t the most animal-friendly.

The good news is that it is possible for salons to go vegan. In fact, many are starting to make that switch. However, the transition to full vegan beauty is a slow one.

If you’re thinking about getting acrylic nails, make sure you talk to your nail technicians first. Give them a call and ask about the products they use. Pay close attention to the brushes and polishes, and don’t be afraid to ask if there are any vegan-friendly options.

Who knows? You might find a salon that can accommodate your ethical lifestyle!

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