The All-Time Best Drugstore Nail Polishes

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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, 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.

Scroll to discover the best drugstore nail polishes to shop now.

Best Budget: Wet n Wild Shine Nail Color

Wet n Wild Shine Nail Color

For less than a latte, you can score a bottle of nail polish from drugstore favorite Wet n Wild. The brand actually launched with this nail polish in 1979 and it’s still one of their best-sellers. It comes in an array of colors and textures, from creams to metallics to glitters. At this price point, you can stock up to your heart’s content.

Best Quick Drying: Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Nail Color

sally hansen insta dri

Even if you’re the patient sort, it seems like it can take forever for nails to dry sometimes. And who hasn’t accidentally smudged a fresh mani thinking it was all done? You’ll never have to worry about instantly ruining your nails again with Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Nail Polish.

It only takes 60 seconds for one coat to dry, and that’s all you need—really. Another reason it’s a major time saver is the 3-in-1 formula has a built-in base and top coat. The polish is shiny and long-wearing thanks to its chip-resistant touch. There’s a color out there for every mood and personality. 

Best Gel: Essie Gel Couture Nail Polish

Essie Gel Couture Nail Polish

Essie makes it possible to get a gel manicure at home, no UV lamp required. Their Gel Couture nail polish can last up to a whopping 14 days, with the color and shine intact. And unlike regular gel, it comes off easily, just like regular polish—you won’t have to soak your nails.

For extra staying power, be sure to apply their Essie Gel Couture Top Coat, which delivers a high gloss finish, prevents chipping and is quick-drying. The nail polish is highly pigmented, doesn’t require a base coat, and the color goes on evenly and streak-free. There are four color families for Essie Gel Couture Nail Polish: The Atelier: neutrals; The Backstage: pastels; The Runway: brights; and The After Party: deeps.

Best Vegan: Pacifica 7 Free Nail Polish

Pacifica 7 Free Nail Polish Collection

Every single Pacifica nail polish is vegan, cruelty-free, and seven free, meaning it’s formulated without parabens, phthalates (dibutyl phthalate), toluene, xylene, camphor, formaldehyde, and resin. What makes that even more impressive is it’s practically impossible to find all that in one polish at drugstore prices. Plus, the colors are vibrant and long-lasting. And the custom wide brush is 100% vegan and makes for easy application.

Best Classic: Essie Nail Polish

essie nail polish

You can't go wrong with this fan-favorite nail polish. It's a total classic available in dozens of shades. In fact, Byrdie Senior Editor Hallie Gould swears by this Essie polish, especially in shade Wicked, a deep merlot. It looks amazing on anyone who wears it, and you'll love wearing it all year round.

Best Natural: Zoya Nail Polish

Nail polish is notorious for having plenty of harmful chemicals, so if you’re looking for a more natural option, ZOYA is for you. With a color range inspired by fashion runways, the brand never sacrifices fun shades for your health. The line is safe for vegans and free of toxins. Since it’s five free, they never use formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, toluene, dibutyl phthalate or camphor.

Best Staying Power: CND Vinylux Weekly Polish

CND Vinylux Weekly Polish

Just like its name says, this polish will last you for a week. Regular nail polishes break down over time, but Vinylux Weekly Polish actually gets stronger as it wears. There’s no need to spend extra time applying a base coat, because the color is self-adhering. If you want it to last even longer, use the Vinylux Weekly Top Coat

Best Overall: OPI Classic Nail Lacquer

OPI Classic Nail Lacquer

This insanely popular brand can be found lining the shelves of every salon and drugstore. Just think of a color—nudes, brights, bolds, deeps, you name it—and OPI has it. They’ve nailed everything from timeless hues to on-trend colors, which only adds to their appeal. They’re also known for their special effects and textured polishes, so your nails never have to be boring.

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