- Despite what the colors may look like in the bottle, not all nail polishes are the same.
- Some are made with biotin, keratin, or vitamin E to help keep nails healthy, while others are formulated specifically for longwear.
- The best nail polish overall is CND Vinylux Long Wear Polish because it’s made with vitamin E and jojoba oil to nourish nails and lasts almost seven days without chipping.
With salon-quality manicures easily costing more than $50, it makes financial sense to paint your own nails at home. Nail-care brands are becoming increasingly innovative with polish formulas, so DIY manicures can still look professional and maybe even last longer than if you did it at a salon.
In my experience, I’ve learned that using a good base coat is important. Even the best nail polishes don’t tend to sit as well without a good base. Similarly, Dave Crisalli, founder and CEO of wellness-focused nail boutique PROSE tells Insider Picks that a "thorough cleansing and preparation of the nail plate both on top and the underside of the nail will create better adhesion and wearability." This can help extend the life of your manicure up to two or three more days.
Crisalli said that nail polishes made with biotin, keratin, or vitamin E are the best to help strengthen, grow, and nourish nails, leading to overall healthier nails. On the other hand, formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate should be avoided at all costs as they’re known to negatively affect the health of the nails (and your body, in general) as well as the durability of a manicure.
While every nail polish will eventually chip, ones made with the right ingredients can last longer than others. When looking for the right nail polish brand, it’s important to find a brand that not only uses nourishing ingredients, but also offers a wide range of colors that dries quickly, has easy applicator brushes, and is easy to shop online.
There are quite a few factors that go into making the right nail polish, so we’ve done the research for you through years of extensive testing both at salons and at home, and narrowed down the best five nail polish brands to shop.
Here is the best nail polish you can buy:
- Best nail polish overall: CND Vinylux Long Wear Polish
- Best budget nail polish: Sally Hansen Hard As Nails Xtreme Wear
- Best gel polish: Essie Gel Couture
- Best luxury nail polish: Tom Ford Nail Lacquer
- Best for nail health: Butter London Patent Shine
The best overall
True to its name, the CND Vinylux Long Wear Polish stays chip-free for at least five days, dries quickly, and leaves nails looking professionally manicured.
About 90% of my nail polish collection is CND Vinylux Longwear Polish.
I first discovered it a few years ago through a manicurist whose salon was stocked almost exclusively with CND Vinylux — now I swear by this nail polish. Most polish brands will start chipping within two days of my manicure, yet CND Vinylux stays on at least five days without fail. The brand claims the color will last seven days chip-free, but five is pretty impressive for me.
CND Vinylux comes in a very wide range of colors, including classic everyday shades as well as more trend-focused options. The polish itself is an all-in-one base coat and color, which streamlines the usual manicure routine. I typically use a base coat with CND Vinylux as I experience greater longevity with the color and find it’s better for nail health, though I have experimented without the base coat and find that the polish stays on almost as long. You can also use the CND Gel-Like Effect Long Wear Top Coat too, which the brand recommends using with the color polish for the best results.
The CND top coat top coat is made with cellulose acetate butyrate, which prevents the color from yellowing while giving a professional-seeming glow. The company describes the finished look as a "gel-like shine, without the gel," and I completely agree. The color polishes are also infused with keratin, jojoba oil, and vitamin E to help keep nails healthy. With both the polish color and top coat, regular natural light will cure the polishes so you don’t need a special UV lamp or light.
Pros: Longwear, made with nourishing ingredients, gel-like finish, easy application
Cons: Nail polish can clump up in the bottle after a few months, doesn’t last a full seven days for all users
The best on a budget
With a wide range of colors, hardening finish, and a price tag just under $3, Sally Hansen Hard As Nails Xtreme Wear is an excellent bang for your buck.
Sally Hansen has been doing nail care since 1957, with wide-reaching solutions for nail needs from promoting growth to cuticle care, and tons of color options that span quick-drying to salon quality. When it comes to an inexpensive polish that does everything you want, Sally Hansen Hard As Nails Xtreme Wear is the answer.
Hard As Nails Xtreme Wear provides both strength and shine with long-lasting color that is formulated to resist chipping and fading. It comes in more than 30 color options, most priced under $3. It’s meant to be applied with at least two coats of color and the Xtreme Wear Invisible Top Coat for the best results.
I love shopping this brand for its wide range of color options that are easy to apply and dry quickly. At its low price point, Hard As Nails Xtreme Wear is a great and inexpensive way to test out trendy colors. While it doesn’t offer a nourishing formula to care for nail health, Sally Hansen sells base coats and nail oils made with enriching ingredients like Vitamin E.
Compared with other nail polish brands at a similar price point, Sally Hansen Hard As Nails Xtreme Wear lasts the longest for me.
I typically experience between three and five days of chip-free wear, and other shoppers on Ulta have reported even longer time periods without chipping. One reviewer who wore this polish with a Nicole by O.P.I. Top Coat Plus said that her nails "didn’t chip for over a week and through vigorous hand washing" and the only complaint was that the color began to fade after a week and a half.
Pros: Inexpensive, great value, dries quickly, 30 color options, easy to apply
Cons: Chips easily, strong smell, hard to remove, requires specific top coat for best results
The best gel polish
Essie Gel Couture polish provides a salon-quality look that lasts up to 14 days, and has more than 100 colors to choose from.
When it comes to getting a professional-looking at-home manicure that will last longer than a week, most of us choose for a gel polish. Essie’s Gel Couture line is the best in this category.
The brand has become an authority when it comes to modern, trendy nail polish colors in its 30+ year history of creating new formulas and shades, and its gel line is no exception.
The Essie Gel Couture range has more than 100 colors and lasts up to 14 days. Not every online or physical retailer sells all the shades, so we’d recommend checking out a few places to find your favorite.
Gel polishes are typically much longer-lasting than regular polishes, and while I’ve found that no at-home gel manicure will go two weeks without chipping at all, the Essie ones have lasted longer than any other I’ve tried.
While gel manicures typically require a UV lamp, Essie gel polishes, similar to CND, just requires two coats followed by the accompanying gel top coat for the best result. The top coat is made with a hard-shell technology that protects color, leaves a glossy finish, and provides durability — it’s a main reason behind the polish’s long wear.
The hard shell of both the gel polish and top coat provide a great protection to the color of your nails, but because it doesn’t let in a lot of oxygen, your nails might seem weaker after removing the polish.
Ulta shoppers have given Essie Gel Couture an average rating of 4.2 out of 5 stars, with 83% of shoppers reporting that they would recommend the product. The majority of shoppers shared experiences similar to my own — a professional, salon-like manicure that is easy to apply and lasts at least a week. The only issue I have found with this nail polish is that it is usually difficult to remove; I’d recommend a nail polish remover with acetone.
Pros: Long lasting, 100+ color options, easy to use, goes on smoothly, dries quickly
Cons: Not great for nail health, hard to remove, requires specific top boat for best results
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