The 17 Best Drugstore Nail Polishes of 2022 for Your Freshest DIY Mani

Our best overall pick is OPI Nail Lacquer

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

different color nail polishes

Milena Milani/Stocksy 

Treating yourself to a spa manicure is great once in a while. But if you're anything like us, you fall back on DIY mani-pedis more often than not. Taking your time and carefully gliding your favorite color over your nail beds can be a relaxing activity. It can also save you a chunk of change—especially if you reach for a wallet-friendly polish from the drugstore. Nail artist Syreeta Aaron says, "It's easy to get confused with what to purchase when you have phrases like 'no-chip,' 'lasting color,' 'non-toxic,' 'quick-drying,' etc."

Byrdie Researched & Approved

Our best overall pick is OPI Nail Lacquer, a classic that’s used in salons everywhere. The formula goes on super smooth, dries in a flash, and resists chipping, up to a full week. If you prefer at-home gel nails, consider Essie Gel Couture Longwear Nail Polish, which lasts two whole weeks without chipping, and is a breeze to apply.

From opaques and sheers to glitters and metallics, there are some seriously stunning shades to choose from. And thanks to the Internet, you don't even have to go to an actual store.

We conducted hours of research on the best drugstore nail polishes, evaluating brands on formula ingredients, colors and shades available, finish, and ease of application. We also took into consideration how long a polish lasts, and whether or not it chips easily. With expert recommendations from a nail technician and artist, we considered dozens of formulas. Insight from Byrdie editors and our knowledge of fan-favorites helped us land on these best in show.

Ahead, find the best drugstore nail polishes for freshening up your digits.

Best Overall: OPI Nail Lacquer

4.8
OPI Nail Lacquer

Ulta Beauty

What We Like
  • Dries quickly

  • Smooth application

  • Used in nail salons

What We Don't Like
  • Some shades oxidize quickly

When it comes to high-quality nail polish, OPI reigns supreme. The OG brand's classic formula goes on smooth, dries fast, and lasts a solid week. This lacquer is so good, it's one of the few drugstore brands widely used at nail salons.

Not only that, but it comes in every color under the sun. We're talking vivids, neutrals, basics, bolds, shimmeries, nudes—you name it—all cleverly named with cheeky phrases and puns that make us giggle.

Finish: Glossy | Size: 0.5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Budget: L.A. Colors Color Last

L.A. Colors Color Last
What We Like
  • Great color payoff

  • Long-lasting

  • Dries quickly

What We Don't Like
  • Can be streaky

This budget-friendly nail polish has a wide, robust brush that covers your entire nail bed with a coat of lacquer in a single swipe. For only a couple bucks, you can treat yourself to a show-stopping DIY manicure that lasts up to ten days—now that's what we call self-care!

Finish: Glossy | Size: 0.5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Quick-Drying: Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Nail Color

4.6
Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Nail Color

Walmart

What We Like
  • Two-in-one formula

  • Dries in a minute

  • Contoured brush

What We Don't Like
  • Chips easily

Who has time to wait a half-hour or more for their nails to dry? Not us. Made for folks on the fly, Sally Hansen's Insta-Dri polish is a two-in-one polish and top coat that dries in a minute flat.

Finish: Glossy, metallic, shimmery | Size: 0.3 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Long-Wear: OPI Infinite Shine Long-Wear Lacquer

OPI Infinite Shine Long-Wear Lacquer

Amazon

What We Like
  • Great color payoff

  • Gel-like finish

  • Expert-recommended

What We Don't Like
  • Three-step system

"I love OPI Infinite Shine since they are formulated for longer wear and have a gel-like finish without the commitment," says nail artist Christine Doan of Gloss House. "It's a longer-lasting version of their normal lacquer."

Finish: Glossy | Size: 0.5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Chip-Resistant: China Glaze Nail Lacquer with Hardeners

China Glaze Nail Lacquer with Hardeners

Sally Beauty

What We Like
  • Wide brush

  • Great color payoff

  • Contains hardeners

What We Don't Like
  • May stain nails

China Glaze is a tried-and-true drugstore nail polish brand. Thanks to a blend of hardening polymers and resins, you can count on this lacquer to resist chipping and peeling for several days.

Finish: Glossy, glittery, shimmery, metallic | Size: 0.5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best All-in-One: CoverGirl Outlast Stay Brilliant Nail Gloss

CoverGirl Outlast Stay Brilliant Nail Gloss

Amazon

What We Like
  • Smooth application

  • No top coat needed

  • Unique color selection

What We Don't Like
  • Not fast-drying

Reminiscent of Chanel's iconic Le Vernis bottles but with a much more agreeable price tag, CoverGirl Stay Brilliant is a base coat, nail lacquer, and top coat in one. This multitasking product goes on smooth, delivers a glossy shine, and lasts up to a week. The unique shade range is something to admire too.

Finish: Glossy | Size: 0.4 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Sheer: Cirque Colors Nail Polish

Cirque Colors Sheers Nail Polish

Amazon

What We Like
  • Subtle colors

  • Long-lasting

  • Formaldehyde-free

What We Don't Like
  • Requires up to three coats

Cirque Colors makes our favorite affordable sheer polish. The translucent shade selection ranges from soft peach and pinky nude to pearlescent white and even a semi-transparent blue.

Finish: Sheer glossy | Size: 0.4 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Matte: Sinful Colors Sheer Matte Nail Polish

Sinful Colors Sheer Matte Nail Polish

Bed Bath & Beyond

What We Like
  • Statement colors

  • Chip-resistant

  • Long-lasting

What We Don't Like
  • Can be streaky

For a DIY matte manicure, go with Sinful Colors. This shine-free nail polish comes in several highly pigmented statement hues, like flamingo pink, burnt orange, and icy turquoise. What's more, the reliable formula resists chipping for a full week.

Finish: Matte | Size: 0.5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Glittery: LeChat Dare to Wear Nail Lacquer

LECHAT Dare to Wear Nail Polish

Amazon

What We Like
  • Excellent color selection

  • Long-lasting

What We Don't Like
  • Not fast-drying

Aaron stands behind LeChat, and if you're craving a little glitz, this is the brand to get. The glittery color selection includes options with super-fine shimmery pigments and large reflective particles. They're great on their own or as a glammed-up top coat over opaque nail polish.

Finish: Glittery, shimmery | Size: 0.5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

What Our Experts Say

"To make things simple, purchase a base coat in the color of your choice, and for a fast-drying process, a quick-dry to put on top."Syreeta Aaron, Nail Artist

Best Classic: Revlon Nail Enamel

Revlon Nail Enamel

Walmart

What We Like
  • Excellent color selection

  • Chip-resistant

  • Anti-fade technology

What We Don't Like
  • May stain nails

Revlon is another great fallback for drugstore polish. The brand's chip-resistant Nail Enamel comes in a broad range of shades and finishes from glossy to shimmery to metallic. But if you're looking for classic hues of red, maroon, or pink, you won't be disappointed.

Finish: Glossy, sheer, shimmery, metallic | Size: 0.5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Color Selection: Essie Expressie Quick-Dry Nail Polish

Expressie Quick-Dry Nail Polish

Amazon

What We Like
  • Unique shade range

  • Dries quickly

  • No top coat needed

What We Don't Like
  • Chips easily

Just when you think there couldn't possibly be any uncharted nail polish colors, Essie comes out with a new collection that blows us all away. Known for its unbeatable shade selection, you'll find hues ranging from teddy-bear brown to almost-black burgundy to retro greenish-yellow inspired by 1970s kitchen appliances. The brand's Expressie line sweetens the deal even further with a quick-dry formula that doesn't require a top coat.

Finish: Glossy, shimmery | Size: 0.3 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Neon: Nails Inc. Naked in Neon Nail Polish

Nails, Inc. Naked In Neon Nail Polish

Sally Beauty

What We Like
  • Wide brush

  • Smooth application

  • Great color payoff

What We Don't Like
  • Not fast-drying

Neon is surprisingly versatile, and it can really liven up an at-home manicure. If you love the day-glow look, pick up a bottle of Nails Inc. polish. The collection includes supersonic yellow, hot orange, and a brighter, bolder Barbie pink. This lacquer goes on smooth and requires minimal strokes, thanks to the wide brush and highly pigmented formula.

Finish: Semi-matte | Size: 0.5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Plant-Based: Nailtopia Plant-Based Bio-Sourced Chip-Free Nail Lacquer

Nailtopia Plant Based, Bio-Sourced, Chip Free Nail Lacquer

Ulta Beauty

What We Like
  • Strengthening

  • Chip-resistant

  • Unique color selection

What We Don't Like
  • May stain nails

If you're partial to plant-based products, go with Nailtopia. This bio-sourced vegan nail polish contains 85 percent naturally derived ingredients. The strengthening, chip-resistant formula is available in nearly 70 shades. Standout colors include avocado green, creamy periwinkle, mustard yellow, and almost-white pastel pink.

Finish: Glossy, shimmery | Size: 0.4 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Clean: Ella+Mila ELITE Collection Nail Polish

Ella+Mila ELITE Collection Nail Polish

Amazon

What We Like
  • PETA-certified

  • Formaldehyde-free

  • Chip-resistant

What We Don't Like
  • Not fast-drying

If you prefer clean beauty products, Ella+Mila Nail polish was made for you. The Elite Collection is totally vegan and PETA-certified as cruelty-free. Not only that, but the chip-resistant formula is free of acetone, formaldehyde, parabens, and sulfates.

Finish: Glossy | Size: 0.5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Breathable: Orly Breathable Treatment + Color

Orly Breathable Treatment + Color

Ulta Beauty

What We Like
  • Permeable

  • Wide brush

  • No top coat needed

What We Don't Like
  • Multiple coats for full color

Orly's breathable nail polish line is permeable, meaning air can pass through the paint. We also appreciate that this all-in-one formula triples as a base coat, lacquer, and top coat. What's more, the 600-bristle brush makes it easy to apply with fewer strokes.

Finish: Glossy, glittery | Size: 0.6 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Gel: Essie Gel Couture Longwear Nail Polish

Essie Gel Couture Longwear Nail Polish

Amazon

What We Like
  • No UV-lamp needed

  • Long-lasting

  • Easy to remove

What We Don't Like
  • Requires gel top coat

DIY shellac manicures are more accessible than ever, thanks to brands like Essie that make affordable gel polishes. The Gel Couture line comes in a bunch of lovely colors you'll be happy to rock for the full two weeks.

You don't even need a UV lamp to cure the lacquer. Just swipe on a layer of the Gel Couture Top Coat, and you're good to go. Best of all, it comes off like regular nail polish—no scraping or soaking needed.

Finish: Glossy | Size: 0.5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Top Coat: Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Nail Coat

seche vite dry fast top coat nail polish
Amazon
What We Like
  • Dries quickly

  • Long-lasting

  • Expert-recommended

What We Don't Like
  • Consistency changes quickly

"I've said it time and time again, this is the one top coat I think everyone should keep on hand," says Doan. "The formula is thick enough to where it will self-level any small divots, and it's super fast-drying. I've gotten about 22 days of non-chip wear with this before, so I'm very impressed every time."

Final Verdict

OPI Nail Lacquer reigns as the best drugstore nail polish of all time. The tried-and-true formula goes on super smooth, dries in a flash, and lasts a full week. If you finish it with a coat of Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat, you can expect it to hold up even longer. However, for at-home gel nails, your best bet is Essie Gel Couture Longwear Nail Polish, which lasts two whole weeks.

Meet the Expert

  • Syreeta Aaron is an Alabama-based nail artist. She is also a nail educator and brand ambassador for LeChat.
  • Christine Doan is a nuclear engineer turned licensed cosmetologist. She specializes in natural nails and advanced nail art.

What to Look For When Buying Drugstore Nail Polish

Color

The main thing to consider when buying drugstore nail polish is the color. Reds and neutrals are great year-round, pastels are fun in the spring, pinks, blues, and neons are perfect for summer, and maroons, grays, greens, and other deep hues are excellent for fall and winter

However, there are no real rules as to which colors can or should be worn throughout the year. It's all about expressing yourself and rocking a shade that makes you feel happy.

Finish

Nail polishes come in a range of finishes. There are opaque lacquers, which have a solid, glossy finish. Then you've got sheer options that offer more of a translucent tint, even with multiple coats. You can also get shimmery polishes, which can be opaque or translucent. And then there's glittery nail polish, which you can wear over an opaque color or on its own.

Dry Time

As you're probably aware, some drugstore nail polishes dry much faster than others. If you have some time to kill, this isn't as important, but if you've got things to do and places to be, look for a quick-dry formula. You can also apply a quick-dry topcoat over any nail polish to speed things up.

FAQ
  • What is the most popular nail color?

    Red nail polish is a longtime favorite in the manicure world, though of course every season will have its own stand out favorite of the moment. Red is a classic nail polish color, and there are dozens of ways to wear it.

  • Should you match toe and fingernail polish?

    While you certainly can match your nail polish between your hands and feet if you care to, there is no rule that says you must. Feel free to apply the same exact shade to your fingers and toes, or complementary color combos, or entirely different hues altogether.

  • What color nail polish makes hands look younger?

    Helping your hands achieve their most youthful appearance can be aided in a few ways: choose a peach or orange polish for a youthful look, according to some makeup artists, and opt for oval or almond-shaped nails to make them appear more slender.

  • What is the most elegant nail color?

    A French manicure is a classic, elegant nail polish choice that is always in season. It's easier than you may think to DIY, too. Just follow the simple steps, and do your best to adhere to them all. Particularly important ones include buffing your nails and using a pink shade prior to your top coat.

How We Researched

To compile this list, our team of editors and contributors spent hours researching the best products on the market in this category, evaluating their key features—like ingredients, shade range, or design—in addition to reviews from customers and other trusted sources. We then used this research to assign a star rating from one to five (five being the best; one being the worst) to certain products on the list.

Why Trust Byrdie

Theresa Holland has been contributing to Byrdie since 2020 and has several years of experience covering cosmetics. She interviewed two experts for this story, including a nail artist and a cosmetologist specializing in nail care. As a religious nail-painter, she's tried nearly every brand on this list. Her go-tos include OPI, Essie, Sally Hansen, Nails Inc., and Revlon.

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