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When it comes to getting a great mani-pedi, it’s all about the polish itself. If the formula isn’t up to snuff, then your nails won’t be, either. There’s a lot to think about when choosing the right nail polish. Is the longevity factor the most important to you? Or the shade range? Or getting just the right amount of sparkle? If you don’t want to shell out a ton, drugstore nail polishes can do just as good a job as their more luxurious counterparts, for far less of the price. Figuring out which polishes deliver on those promises can be tough, so we did the shopping for you. Taking your main concern into account, these are the top drugstore nail polishes.
Best Overall: OPI Classic Nail Lacquer
Living up to its name, it really is classic nail lacquer! The insanely popular brand can be found lining the shelves of every salon and drugstore—and probably your makeup bag, too. Just think of a color—nudes, brights, bolds, deeps—and OPI has it. They’ve nailed everything from timeless hues to on-trend colors. They’re also known for their special effects and textured polishes, so your nails never have to be boring. Plus, the formula is formaldehyde-free.
Best Budget: 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 Gel: 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 Nail Polish, 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 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 brush and makes for easy application.
Best Quick Drying: Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Nail Polish
Even if you’re the patient sort, it seems like it can take forever for your nails to dry. 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 Natural: ZOYA Nail Lacquer
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
Just like its name says, this polish will last you for a week. Regular nail polishes break down over time, but Vinylux Weekly Polish has a magic formula that 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.
Our writers spent 3 hours researching the most popular drugstore nail polishes on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 25 different nail polishes overall, screened options from 15 different brands and manufacturers, read over 30 user reviews (both positive and negative) and tested 12 of the nail polishes themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.