Like a killer scarf or a one-of-a-kind necklace, your nail color can be a key accessory. Whether you get your nails done at a beauty salon or use a drugstore nail polish, the secret to the ideal mani-pedi is great nail polish. Because there’s really nothing like the feeling of freshly lacquered nails.
And since we live in the age of instant gratification, we expect a lot from our nail polish. For starters, nail color choice is of the utmost importance: The nail color has to speak to you, be in season and fit the event you’re attending.
Beyond that, the nail polish has to offer good value (read: long-lasting and not too expensive) and look the same way on your nails as it does in the bottle. Plus, since we’re always looking for ways to slice time off our beauty routines, we also want our nail polish to dry super fast.
Finally, our nail polish must be chip-resistant. Think our standards are too high? Or can one nail polish really do it all? Our readers tried and tested many a nail polish to weed out the not-so-great ones from the gems. Here, the 13 best nail polishes.
Best Nail Polish No. 14
Chanel Le Vernis Nail Colour, $28
Average Member Rating: 7.9
Why it’s great: When readers crack open their Chanel nail polish, they feel like they’re getting the royal treatment. “It’s like having a manicure at a professional’s,” says one TotalBeauty.com member. Even without a top coat, users say this polish stays “shiny” and “can last up to two weeks.” They admit that the price is “steep” and you’re “paying for the brand name,” but also insist that “you’re paying for a great quality polish,” too.
Best Nail Polish No. 13
Jin Soon Nail Polish, $18
Average Member Rating: 8
Why it’s great: Known for its 9-free formula, Jin Soon nail polishes know how to impress. “The colors are really cool and different,” said one reviewer, who also commented that the polish had a “shiny finish” and was “long-wearing.” Another fan complimented the brand’s chip-resistant formula, which is always a plus.
Best Nail Polish No. 12
Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure, $7.99
Average Member Rating: 8.1
Why it’s great: For readers who don’t care for the meticulous process of applying a base and top coat, this polish is “a lot less work” for a manicure that “lasts forever.” The polish boasts “amazing color payoff” that “stays bright with high shine,” according to users. Reviewers especially love the wide, flat brush that “only takes one stroke” to completely cover the nail. Some report long drying times (between 30 and 40 minutes), but still say they can do an at-home manicure “so much faster” with this all-in-one polish.
Best Nail Polish No. 11
Wet n Wild MegaLast Nail Color, $2.49
Average Member Rating: 8.1
Why it’s great: Readers are delighted that this budget-friendly polish outlasts products five times the price. “This stuff lasts longer than the most expensive polish I have — a full week with minimal chipping,” a user writes.
Reviewers are also impressed by the pigment and user-friendly brush. “Color goes on smooth, is true to the color in the bottle and dries super quick,” another reader writes.
Best Nail Polish No. 10
Butter London Nail Lacquer, $15
Average Member Rating: 8.2
Why it’s great: Reviewers say that although Butter London’s “polishes are pricey … really what you are paying for is their very unique selection of colors.” Plus, the shades are “well pigmented and last,” according to users. One TotalBeauty.com member writes, “Butter London offers beautiful nail colors, and the quality of their polishes is top notch. With many, just one coat offers a completely opaque manicure.”
Best Nail Polish No. 9
Sally Hansen Miracle Gel, $9.99
Average Member Rating: 8.3
Why it’s great: Readers who gave up on keeping their peeling nails fresh consider this “long-lasting,” “amazing” polish the Holy Grail of chip-free nail polishes. “Finally, I can have painted fingernails!” exclaims one reviewer. “I can get six, seven, sometimes eight days of wear out of this polish,” says a user who previously couldn’t get a manicure to last past day two.
Readers recommend swiping your nail with alcohol before applying, which makes an “enormous difference” in how long the manicure lasts. While some reviewers initially balked at purchasing the required top coat (an additional $9.99), they admit it was “worth it,” especially considering there are “no hassles with a light,” which the polish doesn’t require.
Best Nail Polish No. 8
Essie Nail Polish, $9
Average Member Rating: 8.4
Why it’s great: “It is a rich formula, easy to apply and resists chipping for a long time, especially when worn under a great top coat,” sums up one reader of this “excellent,” wallet-friendly nail polish. Other readers agree, adding that the colors are “very pigmented and very opaque.” Users also love that Essie is “readily available at most drugstores,” yet is still an “amazing quality” polish.
Best Nail Polish No. 7
Deborah Lippmann Nail Lacquer, $18
Average Member Rating: 8.5
Why it’s great: Readers agree that Deborah Lippmann nail lacquers are “polishes to pine for.” The formula “allows it to be applied thinly (no goop!)” and “the bottle/brush design prevents the application process from getting messy.”
Though this high-end polish has a high-end price, readers say Lippmann’s rich, trendy colors “are well worth the investment.”
Best Nail Polish No. 6
Zoya Nail Polish, $10
Average Member Rating: 8.7
Why it’s great: “Great all-around polishes that are non-toxic and vegan,” sums up one reader of this five-free polish. Another reader adds, “It covers easily, [has] a great texture” and “there are shades for every woman to fall in love with.” Other users agree that Zoya offers some of their “favorite nail polish colors ever.”
Best Nail Polish No. 5
Smith & Cult Nailed Lacquer, $18
TotalBeauty editors’ pick
Why it’s great: Believe us, these luxurious nail polishes definitely live up to the hype. The shade range contains the perfect mix of classic staples and of-the-moment must-haves, and the formula is glorious. It’s so easy to work with and goes on glossy and smooth, with nary a streak or bubble in sight — plus it wears forever without chipping.
Best Nail Polish No. 4
Deborah Lippmann Gel Lab Pro Color, $20
Average Member Rating: 8.8
Why it’s great: “Though it is not actually a gel manicure, my color lasted me all week,” remarked one reader. Another reader noted, “The colors are pretty, glossy and easy to paint,” while a third said she liked the brush best since it “makes application so easy!”
Best Nail Polish No. 3
China Glaze Nail Lacquer with Hardeners, $7.50
Average Member Rating: 8.9
Why it’s great: The affordable price tag isn’t the only thing to love about China Glaze’s “charming” lacquer. Reviewers also appreciate the polish’s unique formula, which includes nail hardeners. “I have very thin, very peely nails, and the hardeners in the China Glaze polish make all the difference for me,” says one user.
Best Nail Polish No. 2
OPI Nail Lacquer, $10
Average Member Rating: 9.1
Why it’s great: Reviewers say that OPI’s kaleidoscopic polishes are “vibrant, rich and long-lasting.” These posh polishes come in an extensive array of shades that “go on smooth and leave a beautiful finish.” What’s more? Reviewers gush over the staying power of OPI polish, saying it resists chipping longer than other brands. Some of our reviewers’ favorite OPI shades are Hot & Spicy, Midnight in Moscow and Beauty Junkie.
Best Nail Polish No. 1
Revlon ColorStay Gel Envy Longwear Nail Enamel, $3.99
Average Member Rating: 9.2
Why it’s great: “This is the closest nail polish that has come close to a gel-like nail finish without the LED light,” says one impressed reviewer. This polish stands up to more than just everyday wear. One reader reports that it lasted through activities like sanding and painting. And even though it’s “durable,” readers say it’s also “easy to remove with regular nail polish remover.” One reader sums up this polish with one phrase that nail polish nuts will recognize as the gold seal: “Must get more colors!”