15 Best Nail Polishes for the Best Manicure
For a gorgeous manicure that lasts, you’ll want to add these expert-recommended polishes, base coats, and top coats to your beauty arsenal.
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The perfect pop of color
Looking to add a little flair—or a whole lot of it—to your everyday style? A flawless manicure with one of the best nail polishes can do that at any time of the year, but in the summer, you can get even more playful and really turn up the volume. Think of it this way: Even if it’s too hot for a full face of makeup, you can still have fun with a really great manicure. “Summer is the time to play with color,” says Samara Walker, a beauty tech and the founder of luxury vegan nail lacquer brand Àuda.B. She adds that the best colors this summer will range from bright pastels to neons, and there will be an emphasis on nail art like French manicures, negative space, and abstract art, so you can get really creative.
Whether want to splurge on a few new bottles for your at-home manicure or pedicure routine, or you prefer to buy nail polish at the drugstore and then head to your favorite salon, we have some great picks for you—ranging from traditional polishes to chemical-free polishes to the best gel nail polishes on the market. One thing to keep in mind, since you’ll be more active during the summer months: You might want to keep an eye out for chip-free formulas or top coats. You’ll also want to bookmark this information on how to make your nail polish last longer and how to remove gel nail polish, especially if you happen to be on vacation when the chipping happens.
Orly Nail Lacquer Tangerine Dream
Neon colors are hugely popular right now, according to celebrity nail artist Brittney Boyce, founder of Nails of LA. “Think bright lime green, tangerine orange, hot pink, and neon yellow,” she says. If you’re planning to use a solid neon, she suggests going with a shorter round or natural tip so the color doesn’t feel overwhelming. We are crushing on this gorgeous yellow-orange shade from Orly, which has the best overall nail polishes this season. Meanwhile, if you’d like to try some nail art, Boyce loves “bright pops of colors on minimal bare nails. An angled French with a bright shade or even a simple vertical color blocking down the middle of the nail can look super cool.”
Essie Not Red-y for Bed Nail Polish
Do you ever find a nail polish color that is so perfect, you just stare at it in the bottle and then marvel at the perfect way it looks on your nails? We’re convinced that this is the most perfect shade of red ever formulated. It’s bright without being overwhelming and sexy without being too much, making it the very best red nail polish in our book. By the way, here’s what your nail polish color reveals about your personality.
Dr.’s Remedy Enriched Nail Polish in Perfect Petal Pink
If you love the look of barely-there polish, this sheer shade offers a hint of tint, so your nails will show through. This is one of the best non-toxic nail polishes you’ll find, especially since it also happens to be formulated with anti-fungal properties (an actual pair of MDs is behind the brand). Other ingredients include nail-strengthening biotin, tea tree oil, garlic bulb extract, lavender, wheat protein, and vitamins. Plus, this quick-drying, hydrating polish is vegan and cruelty-free. What’s not to love?
Emilie Heathe Nail Artist in Emma
From the arty rounded bottle to the spectacular shade of blue-tinted lilac with a hint of shimmer, everything about this nail polish is gorgeous. All Emilie Heathe nail polishes are vegan, cruelty-free, and also 10-free, meaning they don’t have 10 toxic ingredients found in most mass-market nail products. At $28 a bottle, this one is our pick for the best splurge nail polish, but trust us: It’s totally worth it.
ILNP MEGA Ultra Holographic Nail Polish
Want to know a secret about the best indie nail polish brand out there? ILNP (I Love Nail Polish) pioneered the ultra holographic trend that so many top brands have tried to duplicate. If you want a hint of holo, wear this nail polish on its own or on top of your favorite color. With more than 2,300 five-star reviews on Amazon, this polish is a fan favorite; actually, people are obsessed. “I don’t think I’ve ever been more satisfied with a nail polish,” writes verified reviewer Liz Osborn. “Not only does it look GORGEOUS in the light—it makes me feel like a unicorn—but I’m on day six and only three nails have the tiniest of chips. No curing, no waiting, two easy coats (it dries super fast), and it’s got incredible staying power.”
ella+mila Nail Polish in Ibiza Breeze
Even if you don’t get to go away this summer, this cool aqua green shade provides a mini escape in nail polish form. This clean brand also makes their polish without 17 harmful chemicals, and you can pick up a bottle at places like Walgreens, Rite-Aid, CVS, and their online counterparts. If you’re shopping for polish in a drugstore or at Target, where this ella+mila formula racked up more than 3,600 five-star reviews, this is the brand you’ll want to find.
Zoya Nail Lacquer in Missy
It’s hard to choose your favorite shade of Zoya nail polish, especially since the brand’s new collection is ’80s-inspired and boasts gorgeous neon shades, but we went with this bubblegum-pink shade because it’s fun and summery. Zoya nail polish is also incredibly shiny, so even after a few days of wear, your nails will still look perfectly glossy. If you’re looking for the best high-shine nail polish, congrats—you’ve found it!
Essie Gel Couture in Steel the Show
Looking to streamline your nail routine without sacrificing quality? Use this incredibly long-lasting nail polish and you’ll only need two steps. Simply apply the color directly to clean nails, and then follow with the flawless gel-like top coat. It looks amazing and surprisingly like a gel mani. Best of all, it lasts for about two weeks, even with constant keyboard activity or anything else you throw at it. “I’m beyond impressed,” writes one Ulta reviewer. “I cooked/cleaned/went in the pool. A full week so far and no chips at all!” You can’t go wrong with this peachy-bronzey shade, which looks great on any skin tone. If you accidentally spill your new purchase while you’re applying it, you’ll want this info on how to get nail polish out of just about everything.
Color Street Nail Polish Strips in Long Time No Sea
If you’re heading away for the weekend but don’t have time for a whole nail polish routine, check out Color Street’s peel-and-apply nail polish strips. While they won’t last all that long (expect them to start peeling off after a few days), they’re a fun way to try a DIY mani with barely any commitment. Plus, check out the bold ombré shade and sparkles you’ll get with this instant manicure.
Nails Inc. Freshly Juiced Nail Polish Duo
If you’re looking for a polish that keeps your nails healthy, you’ll love this kit. Nails Inc. has combined vitamin C and other vital oils to ensure nails get the same glow as your skin. This cute set contains two highly pigmented, ready-for-summer shades. And the best part? One is orange scented, while the other has a watermelon scent. They also come with a patented ergonomic nail brush that makes application so much easier. For more nutrient-packed products that will help your mani last longer, check out these cuticle oils that nourish and strengthen nails.
Deborah Lippmann Hard Rock Nail-Strengthening Top & Base Coat
Celebrity manicurist Deborah Lippmann knows a thing or two about perfect manicures. Actually, she knows everything about perfect manicures. Her summer 2021 Body Electric collection includes trippy shades of pink ranging from bare to bright pink, while her totally awesome ’80s-inspired, six-piece summer nail polish set goes the full neon route. But it’s her dual action protein-rich dual use top and base coat that gets our vote for best nail strengthener. Also worth knowing: This clear nail polish is ideal for weak nails or extra sensitive nails after you remove a gel manicure.
Nailtiques Formula 2 Plus
Do your nails peel and crack? Add all that chlorine from the pool and it certainly won’t help matters. Nailtiques has long been a cult favorite product for women who want stronger nails, and it has more than 1,000 five-star Amazon reviews to prove it. “I’m not one to write glowing reviews, but this is the real deal,” raves one reviewer. “Do you have nails that you can literally bend back because they are so weak? Mine do that. They also split and peel. After using this product for a week, I had beautiful nails. They are long and strong. Even when I’m not wearing it, my nails are three times harder than normal.” Plus, since this Nailtiques Formula is loaded with protein, it’s works great as a base coat or nail treatment.
LeChat Dare to Wear Nail Polish in Shocking Pink
If you love statement nails, you can’t miss with this bright candy-colored hue. Not sure this is the perfect pink for you? LeChat offers more than 240 shades of Dare to Wear Nail Lacquer and Perfect Match Gel Polish, making this brand our pick for best color selection. Whether you’re looking for glitter, metallics, hologram, color shifting, neutrals, moods, holo, chromes, ravishing reds, or anything in between, it’s pretty much guaranteed to find a shade that fits your mood.
Red Carpet Manicure Gel Polish Pro Kit
A gel manicure at home that saves you a bundle in the long run? Sign us up! This kit comes with seven products, including gel polish remover, a prep sanitizer, a base and top coat, and a bold red polish for summer statement nails that should last for weeks. There’s even a professional LED light to cure the polish. But don’t just take our word for it—listen to Ulta reviewer Margot, who adores it so much that she never goes on vacation without it. “I have owned and used this kit since 2012. I love it and it has paid for itself many times over,” she writes. “My once beautiful nails were destroyed after cancer treatment. Gel manicures have been their salvation—long and strong again, often going four weeks between manicures (when I’m wearing clear color) that I can do on my own schedule.”
Essie Gel Setter Top Coat
If you love the idea of a gel manicure but not the actual gel process, you really need to try this super glossy top coat. Maybe it’s magic, but this top coat is somehow plumper than most polishes and seals in a super shiny look that compares to gel manicures. The only difference is that it won’t last for weeks the way a gel manicure would. But it’s arguably the best top coat option you’ll find. Next, check out the other things you’ll need for a relaxing spa day at home.
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