Is OPI Cruelty-Free and Vegan? (Cue For Disappointment)

September 29, 2022

OPI is famous for its diverse nail polish ranges with quirky names like “I’m Not Really a Waitress” and “Tickle My France-y.” But fun and games aside – the brand has proven it can be cruelty-free and vegan. So why is it not there yet?

OPI is not cruelty-free as it distributes its cosmetics where animal testing is required by law. While OPI has products free of animal-derived ingredients, it is not considered a vegan brand.

We want to help you understand who you are supporting by looking at OPI’s animal testing policies and its cruelty-free and vegan status.

We look at some of the brand's most recommended “plant-based” products or alternatives from cruelty-free brands.

We then look at how safe the brand's ingredient choices are, what to avoid, and whether you can confidently spend your money knowing animal welfare and the environment are considered too.

In the end, you'll know whether to click "add to cart" for your next OPI buy or if you need to fill out a feedback form with the words, " we think you can do better."

Is OPI Cruelty-Free and Vegan?

OPI Nail Polish

OPI is Not Cruelty-Free

It does not:

  • Test any of its products or ingredients on animals; or
  • Purchase any ingredients tested on animals within its supply chain.

But it does: 

  • Distribute its products to any countries that require animal testing by law.

While OPI is quick to say that they don’t personally test on animals, they may pay for third-party testing. Unfortunately, they do sell in countries that require animal testing by law.

OPI is also owned by Wella Operations, which is not a cruelty-free company.

However – the brand has come out with a “Nature Strong” range which it claims is 100% cruelty-free & vegan.

According to OPI, it does not allow third-party testing on Nature Strong. It also does not distribute to countries requiring animal testing by law.

This brings us to the next point:

OPI is Not Vegan

Although OPI claims to have its vegan range, “Nature Strong,” it’s hard to consider any of its products free of animal-derived ingredients as “vegan” because the brand is not 100% cruelty-free.

Does it have products that are free of animal-derived ingredients? Yes.

Are these products considered holistically vegan? Not in our opinion.

Some common animal-derived ingredients that OPI uses are:

  • Oleic Acid – this ingredient can be animal or plant-based. It is a common fatty acid extracted from beef or mutton fat (tallow). In nail polish, it is used as a moisturizing lipid and emollient.
  • Stearic Acid – like oleic acid, this ingredient can be animal or plant-based. It is a common fatty acid commonly extracted from pigs’ stomachs.

    However, it can also be derived from cows or sheep. In nail polish, stearic acid helps emulsify, thicken, bind and stabilize the formula

If you're interested in which products are plant-based or finding vegan brand alternatives – keep reading or click on this link: OPI plant-based products.

Animal Testing Policy and History

OPI is cautious with how they word their animal testing policy statements.

Of course, no one wants to be associated with animal testing in 2022 – so OPI is very careful with how they word their animal testing policies.

The brand may say that it does not personally test on animals, but this doesn’t mean that they don’t pay for third-party testing.

Nature Strong makes it incredibly confusing because it’s the only range that is actually cruelty-free and vegan. So, if you’re not paying attention to what you’re buying – it can deceive you.

Long story short, one small range as the exception does not change the fact that they have always allowed animal testing.

Cruelty-Free Status in 2022

Here is a screenshot of OPI’s official statement regarding its cruelty-free policies, taken from its website:

OPI nature strong cruelty-free statement


OPI has no cruelty-free certification.

As much as it would be nice to see cruelty-free certification – it cannot happen as long as the brand continues with its current animal-testing policies.

Besides PETA, a far more reputable organization you can trust is the Leaping Bunny association, which has rigid (but excellent) standards.

Leaping Bunny is the only internationally recognized certification that ensures a brand adheres to the following strict criteria:
  • No animal testing is conducted on the ingredients, formulas, or final products they sell.
  • No animal testing is conducted by the brand suppliers or on their ingredients or formulas.
  • No animal testing is done by someone else that the company itself paid for.
  • Any other form of testing (beyond ingredient and consumer safety), such as worker safety and environmental health, is considered and evaluated.

If you want to support a brand that doesn’t conduct animal testing – ensure that they have the cruelty-free symbol at the back of their products, usually marked by a rabbit.

If you see a bunny stamp on the back of your product bottle – that's a really good sign. But don't be fooled by the image itself.

A lot of brands are using fake logos to fool consumers.

Do your homework and see which products are genuinely cruelty-free first. This article will help you: Which Cruelty-Free Logos Can You Trust?

Is OPI Sold Where Animal Testing is Required By Law? 

Yes, OPI distributes its products in China, where animal testing on cosmetics is required as products arrive at the border.

China has a shocking track record. It is the country with the most animal testing globally, with over 20 million animals used per year.

However, if you live in China or are concerned about its cruel beauty policies, there are a couple of loopholes.

Here's how to find cruelty-free cosmetics in China: Are Cosmetics Made in China Cruelty-Free?

What OPI Products Are Vegan?

In 2021 OPI came out with the ‘Nature Strong’ range, which offers 30 shades of nail polish that are 100% vegan and cruelty-free.

Some popular shades include:

  • Emflowered
  • Once and Floral
  • Raisin Your Voice
  • Simply Radishing
  • All Heal Queen Mother Earth
  • For What It’s Earth

You can find a complete list of Bondi Sand’s vegan products on its website.

Vegan Alternatives to OPI

Although Nature Strong ticks many good boxes (it’s even certified by The Vegan Society) – it’s a tiny exception to their general policies, which are a lot less ethical.

Can you consider this 30-product range vegan when the brand is not 100% cruelty-free?

We’re finding it hard to do so!

Having said that, if you’d like to check out the range, you can find a complete list on OPI’s website.

Is OPI Natural and Organic? 

OPI is not a natural or organic brand, nor does it claim to be.

However, its Nature Strong range is made with a non-GMO naturally derived formula. It uses plant and mineral-based ingredients like wheat, corn sugar cane, manioc, potatoes, clay, and corn.

Unfortunately, this does not apply to the rest of their products, but they do try to use cleaner ingredients.

Clean vs. Natural Ingredients

The term "natural" is not regulated for cosmetics and skincare. In other words, it doesn't hold one specific meaning.

Usually, it means a product is free of certain more toxic synthetic ingredients, including parabens, phthalates, sulfates, and more. But people also interpret "natural" to mean ingredients of immediate plant origin.

Here's the thing: "natural" is not necessarily good. Just because an ingredient is natural (take egg whites, for example) doesn't mean you should rub it on your skin and risk a salmonella infection!

All products use a certain amount of synthetic ingredients in their formulas. OPI is no exception – but it chooses to use better or clean synthetics.

If a synthetic ingredient is "clean," it means it is safe and non-toxic for us. Its purpose is to preserve the stability of a beauty formulation.

Does OPI Use Safe Ingredients?

According to Skin Safe, OPI has a 73-100% allergen-free ranking for each product.

Many of OPI’s products are free of allergens such as gluten, coconut, nickel, lanolin, parabens, MCI/MI, soy, propylene glycol, oil, and dyes.

OPI boasts about being free of the toxic trio (formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate DPB). Its Nature Strong range is “toxic 9-free”. #progress

Reading the ingredient list is crucial because OPI is not 100% hypoallergenic or non-comedogenic, and they do not claim to be.

It’s important to note that while OPI’s US website does not share the ingredient list, its UK website does.

The EU/UK Have Stricter Ingredient Regulations

We don’t want to scare you, but you HAVE to read up on any product’s ingredient list before you make a purchase – especially if you live within the United States. The reason why will shock you.

The FDA has only banned or restricted 11 harmful chemicals from cosmetics within the country. Europe and the UK, on the other hand, have banned 1,328!

OPI sets a moderately good example with its ingredients, but it is not the epitome of clean beauty by any stretch.

Luckily, you shouldn’t worry about any serious hidden nasties in the products you use.

In general, you always want to avoid these personal care and nail polish ingredients:

  • Propylene glycol (pg) & butylene glycol
  • Butylated compounds (BHA, BHT)
  • Ethanolamine compounds (DEA, MEA, and TEA)
  • Formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives
  • Coal tar and benzene
  • Quaternium-15
  • DMDM Hydantoin
  • Homosalate
  • Hydroquinone
  • PEG compounds

Are Cruelty-Free Ingredients Safe?

If you’re worried about how safe it is to use cosmetics not tested on animals – please relax and take a sigh of relief.

There is no reason why cruelty-free products shouldn’t be as safe as anything tested on animals.

Not only is it easy to test ingredients without using animals altogether, but there are so many pre-approved ingredients you can use to make cosmetics that there is no need.

If you’re interested, here’s more on the subject: Are Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Safe?

Is OPI Sustainable and Ethical? 

OPI is putting a lot of charitable focus on women’s health, education, and anti-violence issues.

Some of the ethical causes OPI supports are Delete Blood Cancer, Look Good Feel Better, and City of Hope.

The brand is also involved in local Los Angeles clothing and food donations, bone marrow, blood drives, and charity walks.

It's no secret that the world has a huge waste problem, and cosmetic brands only make it worse by using unsustainable packaging and harmful ingredients.

OPI is taking environmental accountability through its Nature Strong range by:

  • Developing formulas that are kinder to the environment.
  • Making bottles and brushes with 20% PCR (post-consumer recycled) plastic.
  • Partnering with Green Salon Collective in the UK.

While this is a good start, we would love to see more from OPI. Some good initiatives could include:

  • Formulating biodegradable nail polish that is kinder to the environment.
  • Working on sustainable packaging developments.
  • Ensuring that the plastic containers they use are recyclable and have some recycled components.
  • Encouraging consumers to recycle their products.
  • Reducing their use of virgin plastic in their product and shipping packaging.
  • Avoiding extra packaging and only using sustainable or recycled materials (paper) when needed.
  • Prohibiting synthetic microbeads that pollute our waters and harm marine life.
  • Using either synthetic or ethically mined MICA sourced without using child labor.
  • Using sustainably sourced paper (FSC certified) and soy-based inks to create its packaging.

Final Thoughts

OPI is one of the most well-known nail care brands in the industry. They’ve been going strong for over 40 years – selling in over 100 countries and almost every salon.

But for such a well-developed brand, you can’t help but be disappointed at their approach to cruelty-free and vegan beauty.

Sure, their Nature Strong is a step in the right direction, but it feels more like a modest attempt compared to what its competitors manage to achieve.

OPI even acknowledges that natural beauty products are taking over the market. So the question remains – can’t they apply its Nature Strong range values to the rest of its products?

This 30-product range is cruelty-free, vegan, has cleaner ingredients, and is packaged with 20% PCR plastic.

If you want to see OPI improve its policies, then reach out to them and share your concerns – every voice counts!  

And if you have to buy anything, then make sure it’s from the Nature Strong range! If there’s any language, a big brand understands it’s money!

If the healthier and kinder products bring in more money, OPI may see a financial reason to invest in the range. 

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