The 18 All-Time Best Drugstore Nail Polishes, According to Byrdie Editors

Updated 09/20/18
the best drugstore nail polishes

Here at Byrdie, we love nail polish. Maybe it's the limitless color options or the smooth, reflective flash when you move your hands, but there's just something satisfying about a fresh manicure. Whether we stick to classic nude shades or combine colors (like black and gold, which has been our obsession as of late), it gives us the appearance of being put-together and on top of things, even if that's not actually the case. Our motto is something like "get a manicure and take on the world."

And while we love treating ourselves to a luxurious professional manicure or using ridiculously expensive high-end nail polish, we're most often happy with reaching for a bottle of the drugstore stuff. What's not to love? It's budget-friendly and caters a shade to our every colorful whim. While there are literally hundreds of drugstore shades and brands we love (at this point, our collection looks like it was curated by Pantone), we do have a few special ones that we keep coming back to. Behold 18 of the Byrdie editors' favorite drugstore polishes.


Essie Nail Polish in Midnight Cami $9

Senior editor Hallie Gould swears by this Essie polish, which is a dark twilight blue with a hint of finely milled shimmer. It's basically the nail polish equivalent of a starry summertime sky.

Essie Nail Polish in Wicked $9

Another shade beloved by Hallie, this one is a deep merlot. It looks amazing on anyone who wears it, and between you and us, we love wearing it all year round.

Essie Gel Couture Nail Polish in Matter of Fiction $12

This one is from Essie's gel couture line, which offers the shine and staying power of gel nail polish without a gel light needed. This powder-pink shade is a personal favorite for spring and summer days.

Essie Gel Couture Nail Polish in You're Golden $12

Another favorite from the brand's gel line, this one is a true gold, with a rich shine and shimmer that are only amplified when you apply the gel topcoat.


OPI Nail Lacquer in It's My Year $10

This dual-tone glitter nail polish has a violet base that flashes to a gold/green color in a certain light. It basically gives our nails a chameleon effect, and we're obsessed.

OPI Nail Lacquer in Big Apple Red $9

Every polish collection needs a vibrant true-red shade. Big Apple Red is inspired by (what else?) New York City. 

OPI Nail Lacquer in Dulce de Leche $9

Dulce de Leche is a classic OPI shade since it's flattering to any skin tone. It's a true caramel color, looking like a mix of taupe, yellow, and pink.

Sally Hansen

Sally Hansen Miracle Gel in Mauve-olous $8

Sally Hansen's Miracle Gel line is another Byrdie favorite. This true mauve color makes us want to wear a big hat, drink tea, and eat cucumber sandwiches in the most sophisticated way possible.

Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Nail Polish in Grey $8

Byrdie's editorial director, Faith Xue, loves this soft gray shade from the Sally Hansen line. It's still a neutral but a little less expected than traditional pinks and nude tones.

Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Nail Polish in Cinna Snap $5

If waiting for your nails to dry is the bane of your existence, you'll enjoy this one from Sally Hansen's Insta-Dri line. It's the perfect mix of red and brown for a particularly '90s vibe.

CND Vinylux

CND Vinylux Weekly Nail Polish in Asphalt $11

CND Vinylux seems to be more under-the-radar compared to other brands on this list. We love the shade Asphalt, which is a steely blue-gray color that looks incredible with a shiny topcoat.

CND Vinylux Weekly Nail Polish in Untitled Bronze $11

Although this one is described as a bronze, it reads pinker when it's actually applied. Consider this the rose gold of drugstore nail polishes.


Revlon Colorstay Gel Envy Nail Polish in Wild Card $4

Revlon has a lot of great nail polish shades, but a particular favorite is this vibrant blue, called Wild Card. Between you and me, there's no better color for a summer pedicure.

Revlon Colorstay Gel Envy Nail Polish in Winning Streak $4

We love pastels, and we consider this lilac color from Revlon the perfect pastel purple.


Pacifica 7-Free Nail Polish in Frame $9

All of Pacifica's nail polishes are vegan and cruelty-free. Plus, they're free from the harsh chemicals found in other formulas. We love that, especially since that's almost unheard of with drugstore nail polish.

Pacifica 7-Free Nail Polish in Dragon Scale $9

We love this mermaid-esque color, which is a holographic mix of green, khaki, and bronze.

Pacifica 7-Free Nail Polish in Desert Princess $9

This terra-cotta brown shade is our dream Coachella color. After all, it's not called Desert Princess for nothing.

Wet n Wild

Wet n Wild Nail Polish in Wet Cement $3

Features editor Amanda Montell considers this Wet n Wild nail polish her trustworthy go-to. The unique shade sits somewhere between pink, mauve, gray, and taupe.

Whichever brand you prefer, rest assured there are literally hundreds of amazing nail polish shades at the drugstore. Next time you're running errands, why don't you stop and pick up one (or two, or three, or four…) of your favorites?

Related Stories