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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.
From everyday lacquers, glitters, and metallics to quick-dry polishes and long-lasting topcoats, there are some seriously stunning shades out there. And thanks to the Internet, you don't even have to go to an actual store. To help you wade through the abundance of options, we rounded up the choicest bottles with affordable price tags.
Scroll down for a list of the best drugstore nail polishes for freshening up your digits.
Best Overall: OPI Nail Lacquer
When it comes to drugstore nail polishes, OPI is tough to beat. The OG brand's classic formula goes on smooth, dries fast, and lasts for a solid week. This lacquer is so good it's one of the few drugstore brands widely used at nail salons.
Plus, it comes in every color under the sun. We're talking vivids, neutrals, basics, bolds, shimmers, nudes—you name it—all cleverly named with cheeky phrases and puns that make us giggle.
Best Gel: Essie Gel Couture Nail Polish
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.
Best Quick-Drying: Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Nail Color
Who has time to wait half an 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 base and topcoat that dries in a minute flat.
Best Long-Wear: OPI Infinite Shine Long-Wear Lacquer
"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."
Best Clean: Ella & Mila Nail Polish
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 quick-dry, chip-resistant formula is free of acetone, formaldehyde, parabens, and sulfates.
Best Budget: L.A. Colors Color Last
This budget-friendly nail polish has an impressively robust brush that covers your entire nail bed with a coat of lacquer in a single swipe. For only a couple of bucks, you can treat yourself to a show-stopping DIY manicure that lasts for up to ten days—now that's what we call self-care.
Best Red: Revlon Nail Enamel in 680 Revlon Red
There's something about red nail polish that makes us feel like we can conquer the world. For effortlessly fierce nails, you can't go wrong with the classic cherry hue of Revlon Red. We also love Fearless (a bold orangy-red) and Provocative (a sassy tomato red).
Best Maroon: P2 Cosmetics Volume Gloss Gel Look Polish in Geek Freak
Maroon nail polish is a go-to during the fall and winter, but you can rock the sophisticated hue year-round. P2 Volume Gloss in the shade Geek Freak is an ultra-deep burgundy color reminiscent of a glass of merlot. Plus, it delivers a gel-like finish without a drying lamp.
Best Blue: Orly Nail Lacquer in It's Brittney Beach
Blue nail polish is kind of like blue jeans: it goes with everything. While there are about a zillion gorgeous shades out there, we're particularly fond of It's Brittney Beach. The glossy stained-glass hue is so strikingly chic, we'll forgive Orly for spelling Britney's name wrong.
Best Purple: Zoya Professional Lacquer in Abby
Zoya nail polish is free of formaldehyde and chemical plasticizers. And if you're partial to purple, you'll appreciate the light lavender tone of the shade Abby. Want something a little darker? Reach for a bottle of Lois or Michaela.
Best Neutral: OPI Nail Polish in Put It In Neutral
Neutral nail polishes are everywhere these days, but OPI's Put It In Neutral is a reigning champ in the drugstore category. The pinkish beige flatters all skin tones and is perfect for professional and fancy occasions alike. When you browse the neutrals line, you'll find a bunch of other versatile colors ranging from light brown to khaki to taupe and ivory.
Best Neon: Duri Nail Polish in Atomic
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 Duri Nail Polish. We love the citrine yellow shade Atonic, but the collection has lots of other brilliant hues, like Toxic (a deep fluorescent green) and Bedeviled (a blazing-hot orange).
Best Color Selection: Sally Hansen Hard As Nails Xtreme Wear Nail Color
Sally Hansen's Hard As Nails line has the best selection of colors. From nudes and glittery shimmers to sheers and opaques, there's truly something for everyone—and new shades come out all the time. We also like that the formula goes on super-smooth and dries fast with an ultra-durable finish.
Best Glitter Finish: China Glaze Nail Lacquer with Hardeners
China Glaze comes in a bunch of fun shades. You can usually count on uncommon colors and unique finishes you might not find with other lines. Some of our favorites are of the glittery variety, like the Diamond in the Rough, Silver of Sorts, and Fairy Dust.
Best Metallic: Revlon Nail Enamel in 933 Chameleon
If you're as ga-ga over metallics as we are, you'll adore Revlon's Chameleon. Just like the color-changing lizard, this nail polish shifts from green to copper to gold to blue, depending on how the light catches it.
Best Top Coat: Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Nail Coat
"I've said it time and time again, this is the one topcoat that 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."
OPI Nail Lacquer (view at Ulta) 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 (view at Ulta), 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 (view at Ulta), which lasts two whole weeks.
What to Look For When Buying Drugstore Nail Polish
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 an excellent choice 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.
Nail polish comes in a range of finishes too. 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.
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.
Why Trust Byrdie?
Theresa Holland has been contributing to Byrdie since 2020 and has several years of experience covering cosmetics. As a religious nail-painter, she's tried nearly every brand on this list. Her go-tos include OPI, Sally Hansen, and Revlon.
According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find any drugstore nail polishes from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at email@example.com and we will evaluate the product ASAP.