All That Glitters – Handmade Vegan Polish Review…

I’m just a little bit obsessed with my nails – I have a 3 tier acrylic rack on my desk here with over 40 colours on it …. i think being a big lover of jewellery and anything sparkly in general, the two just go ’hand-in-hand’ so to speak.
Also being a huge animal lover, I was very interested in trying out some colours from Liv Oliv (previously Box Polish) , which is a UK-based nail polish company who are cruelty free, vegan and 5-Free. They describe themselves as an ‘Artisan’ polish company because every bottle is hand mixed by the business owner.

So what is 5-Free – is it just the latest beauty buzz or are there really ‘poisons’ in polish?

Obviously nail polishes are made from chemicals, but apparently some are more toxic than others and with an increasing trend in consumers caring about what products they put in and on their body, it’s becoming much more common for people to look for alternative cosmetics that are healthier.
The 5 most toxic chemicals commonly found in nail polish are:
  • Formaldehyde – a known human carcinogen – a factor known to be directly involved in causing cancer and its vapours are irritating which can contribute to the development of asthma.
  • Formaldehyde Resin – derived from formaldehyde, not quite as toxic or harmful, but can still be an allergen.
  • Toluene – a liquid solvent used to thin the nail polish – a skin irritant which may also cause liver and foetal development damage.
  • DBP (Dibutyl Phthalate) – a plasticiser that has been linked to cancer and connected to birth defects.
  • Camphor – a poison, plasticiser and rust repellent. Enough exposure to it can cause seizures. This chemical also prevents your nails from receiving oxygen, vitamins from sunlight and causes that dreaded yellow staining to the nail.
‘5-Free’ means that these have been removed from the formulations and replaced with ‘healthier’ alternatives.

So enough about the technical and onto the fun stuff – playing with sparkly polish!

The first colour I tried was called ‘Autumn Glimmer’ – a rich, burnt orange colour with lots of fine glitter – no obvious particles, just a bright glimmer as the light catches it:

The formulation went on very smoothly with a medium-sized brush, no streaking and with two coats, dried down to a slightly darker, creamy and almost bronzy-orange colour that had what I would describe as a satin finish.
It’s a very unusual shade, not too bright and would look nice against most skin tones – I’m fair and it was very flattering, but it would look stunning with an olive or darker skin tone. The shade of the polish changes in different lights, from a light sparkly bronze to a deep rich orange.
If you like to wear reds I think this would be a nice alternative and it had an expensive look about it. For the party season it would look fantastic against metallic or sequin dresses or black leather leggings:


 (Product Image Box Polish)

Next I tried a rich red colour called ‘Empower’ which had larger pieces of holographic glitter in it:

The consistency of this polish was quite different, thicker with almost a gel-like texture (I later realised it is listed as a jelly polish on their website) and 2 coats gave a mouthwatering raspberry colour that was very glittery and kept its gloss as it dried down:

Despite its thicker formulation, it didn’t seem to take any longer to dry and something I really loved was that it wasn’t too difficult to remove as the balance between polish and particles was just right.
I would say this shade gives you the ultimate vampy, party manicure and would look stunning with an LBD:


Finally I applied the metallic polish ‘Glass Slipper’, which is the most luxurious of the range – apparently containing real sterling silver! I’d never heard of that before have you?

This had a similar formulation to the first colour I tried, creamy and smooth, giving a very pretty semi-sheer look with one coat and full coverage with two.
Although this polish has sterling silver in it, I actually think in many lights the colour is a pale, cool toned gold rather than pure silver and it is super shimmery, so very glamorous – if you are a magpie like me or love nude shades, this would be a great option for you as the colour is bright and sparkly but still elegant and quite subtle.
It would suit any skin type and because of its neutral tone, go with both silver and gold outfits and accessories – perfect if you are planning on wearing the latest party metallics this Christmas:
(Product Image Box Polish)


Wear – I was wondering whether having different chemicals in the formulations would affect their colour payoff or longevity….
but that was not the case. I found the polish to be just as hard/long wearing as the brands I normally use and my manicures easily coped with day-to-day house work, typing etc.
My nails also felt strong without being too hard – what I mean by that is there are a couple of brands I have tried that made my nails feel extremely hard and quite brittle – with one particular vegan brand I had a couple of nails actually break, shattering at the end where they were so rigid.

Price – So how does the price of handmade nail polish shape up compared to the bigger cosmetic companies?
There are a few high street brands who offer vegan/cruelty free polish such as Barry M, Orly, Butter London and Ciate.
Liv Oliv retails at £7.99 for 5 ml of colour, £5.99 for base and topcoats.
The high street options vary from £2.50-£12.00, but I only found a couple of ‘3 free’ options, not ‘5 free’. There are some other 5 free options available online.
So I would say Liv Oliv is mid-range price wise.
Yes you can probably find similar colours for less, however they won’t necessarily be 5 free and certainly not handmade – so if more healthier cosmetic products are important to you, paying a little more for less toxins seems the same to me as paying a bit extra for organic fruit and vegetables.
(There is discount code at the bottom of this page – Liv Oliv have 30% off with their Xmas offer, available till next weekend).

Cons -The bronze shade, Autumn Glimmer, had a stronger smell to it than the other colours and I found that a tiny bit irritating whilst applying it – but it wouldn’t stop me using the product so the only negative I can really say about this brand is at the moment they don’t have any glittery or confetti style topcoats and that’s something I really like to use and play around with.
They also don’t have many nude colours, other than the traditional french manicure or a pale pink, but apparently they are expanding their range of colours next year.

I had a few questions for the business owner Sue about cruelty free cosmetics and the range she has available:
What made you want to run a company that is specifically cruelty free and vegan?
I saw an opportunity to buy a company with these values already in place and as they match my own feelings about cosmetics, I jumped at the chance to get involved with this industry and see if I can provide even more access to Vegan, cruelty free & non toxic products.
How important do you feel it is for people to start looking closer at the type of chemicals they are using on their bodies?
I feel we should be looking very closely at what we are putting into and on our bodies, as the rate of serious illness is getting progressively higher every year.
I also feel as a mother that I now look at everything that touches my daughter with a very critical eye and since finding out about the serious toxins that are in mainstream nail polish, I have stopped her completely from using it and given her a collection of mine.
Hopefully we can begin to return to a more natural lifestyle by educating people about what should and shouldn’t be put into or on our bodies.

Here are a couple of my ‘Party Pics’ from their range, for full on glitter glam: 


Final Verdict:

This is an artisan nail polish company who have their formulations spot on, proving that cruelty and toxin free doesn’t mean foregoing any quality or product performance.
I think it might take me a while to replace my hoard of polishes(!) but I would certainly buy from this company and will definitely be going down a healthier route now I understand more about the type of chemicals that are involved with the mass produced formulations…… and that there are high performing alternatives.
(Please note this isn’t an advertisement, I wasn’t paid to review the product and the views here are my own).
Discount Code – Xmas offer:


For further information on cosmetic brands that are cruelty free:
Next month I will be featuring a whole host of cruelty free and vegan, natural beauty and skincare products!




  1. Nicola Richardson
    January 17, 2017 / 5:28 pm

    I had no idea there were companies like this out there, what lovely colours I’m definitely going to give them a look!

    • January 17, 2017 / 5:36 pm

      Hi Nicola, yes definitely give them a look… I was impressed with the polish! X

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