When it comes to scoring a totally flawless mani, the actual polish used is just as important as the polishing technique. In other words, no matter whether you’re a nail painting novice, expert DIYer, or like to BYO polish to the salon, picking the right formula is essential. (Because if you’re anything like us, there are few beauty issues more stress- and anxiety-inducing than a chipped manicure.)
From affordable drugstore options to splurge-worthy buys—and with shades to fit every preference—here are the best nail polishes for all of your mani and pedi needs.
Best Overall: Essie Nail Polish
Arguably one of the most iconic polish brands out there, you’d be hard-pressed to find any nail salon that doesn’t carry row upon row of these signature white-top bottles. Originally founded in 1981 with just a dozen shades, the mega-company continues to grow and expand, with a wide range of permanent colors along with seasonal collections. (Although if you’re overwhelmed by the selection, you can’t go wrong with the cult-classic Ballet Slippers, the beloved pale pink that’s even a go-to for the Royal Family.) No matter which color you choose, smooth application, even coverage, and excellent chip-resistance are the norm. Byrdie Readers Share Their All-Time Favorite Essie Colors
Runner-Up, Best Overall: OPI Classic Nail Lacquer
We appreciate the cute and clever names of OPI polishes (“I’m Not Really a Waitress,” “Taupe-Less Beach”) almost as much as we do the standout formula. Ultra-shiny, it delivers up to a week of wear. Plus, not only is there a jaw-dropping collection of colors to choose from, but there also all kinds of unique textures and finishes, from metallics to mattes.
Best Drugstore: Sally Hansen Miracle Gel
There’s a good reason why this is the number one best-selling gel polish in the US. Simply put, the formula is pretty darn epic. It packs serious shine and impressive staying power, and the flat-headed brush makes application a breeze, not to mention that there are nearly 100 colors to pick from.
For best results, the color is meant to be used on bare nails and topped with the Miracle Gel Top Coat. (But in our experience, even if you use that top coat over another brand of polish it helps up the longevity.) Woman-Founded Brand
Best No Chip: Deborah Lippmann Gel Lab Pro
If even the teensiest of chips is enough to send you frantically searching for cotton balls and remover, this is the polish for you. A unique combo of 10 active ingredients works to create the look and feel of a gel manicure, without any curing light or extensive (and potentially damaging) removal required. The brush is also noteworthy, boasting 320 bristles plus a rounded tip to help you perfectly coat your entire nail.
Runner-Up, Best No Chip: Essie Gel Couture Nail Polish
Byrdie Senior Editor Lindsey Metrus loves this lacquer, Essie’s alternative to an in-salon gel manicure. Chip-and fade-resistant, all you have to do is swipe on the color (onto bare nails, no base coat required), then top it with the Gel Couture Top Coat. Then sit back and prepare to admire your handiwork for days to come.
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