These Are the Best Essie Nail Colors, According to Byrdie Readers

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.
essie nail polish

Essie

In 1981, Essie Weingarten created 12 stylish nail colors and began selling them in Las Vegas. Almost four decades later, Essie is one of the most recognized nail polish brands in the country. Beloved for its massive and always current shade range, matchless staying power, chip resistance, and unforgettably whimsical color names, Essie has won over the hearts of nail painters everywhere.

It's now fall-mani season, but with over 300 Essie polishes on the market, choosing the perfect hue can be difficult. Some Essie colors have outdone the others in terms of their iconic-ness, and since we know Byrdie readers are connoisseurs of the brand, we wanted to get their take. So we posted in Byrdie’s secret Facebook group, The Beauty Line, and asked our readers to tell us their holy-grail Essie colors. Let’s just say they had strong opinions.

Keep scrolling to see what they said. Is your favorite Essie color below?

Essie Nail Polish in Ballet Slippers

4
Essie Ballet Slippers

 Courtesy of Essie

What We Like
  • Works for any occasion

  • Vegan

  • Sheer color

What We Don't Like
  • Some may prefer something more opaque

No single Essie shade has stolen readers' hearts like the soft pink Ballet Slippers. The color is "always my simple go-to," says a reader named McKenzie. Joey agrees: "Ballet Slippers is a perfect sheer for when you want a little something, but not too much color." As a third reader named Kate adds, "even if it makes me the most boring person alive, [Ballet Slippers] always makes me feel like A Real Adult."

Size: 0.46 ounces | Finish: Glossy | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

What We Like
  • Great color payoff

  • Ideal for summer

  • Doesn't stain nails

What We Don't Like
  • More like jelly polish than a creme

“The only red I feel I can take myself seriously in,” says Byrdie reader Erika of this vibrant shade, which a different reader named Joey calls “the perfect jelly orange.”

Size: 0.46 ounces | Finish: Glossy | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Essie Nail Polish in Midnight Cami

Essie Midnight Cami
What We Like
  • Great color payoff

  • Opaque in one coat

What We Don't Like
  • Messy removal

This deep midnight blue punctuated with bright blue shimmer is another of Emily’s favorites. "It resembles the night sky and reminds me of my connection to the universe," she says.

Size: 0.46 ounces | Finish: Glossy | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Essie Nail Polish in Bikini So Teeny

Essie Bikini So Teeny

 Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Ideal for summer and spring

  • Long-lasting

What We Don't Like
  • Slightly runny

Mariana calls this flirty pastel shade "a fun blue color that’s very cute."

Size: 0.46 ounces | Finish: Glossy | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Essie Nail Polish in Big Spender

Essie Big Spender
What We Like
  • Works for any occasion

  • Great color payoff

What We Don't Like
  • Color doesn't match online images

This one's "a great magenta color that can be worn year-round," says Emily.

Size: 0.46 ounces | Finish: Glossy | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Essie Nail Polish in Wicked

Essie Wicked
What We Like
  • Ideal for fall and winter

  • Great color payoff

What We Don't Like
  • Can apply streaky

This deep burgundy is a top pick for multiple Byrdie readers, who call it "vampy but classic" and "a great deep red for fall and winter."

Size: 0.46 ounces | Finish: Glossy | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Essie Nail Polish

Essie Nail Polish

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Works for any occasion

  • Great color payoff

What We Don't Like
  • Can apply streaky

Lovers of neutral colors are in agreement about this timeless shade. As Joey says, it's "the perfect, opaque nude without having any pink. Very classic."

Size: 0.46 ounces | Finish: Glossy | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Essie Nail Polish in Bordeaux

Essie Bordeaux
What We Like
  • Ideal for fall and winter

  • Doesn't apply streaky

What We Don't Like
  • Chips easily

Another one on the vampier side, Bordeaux is "a deep wine which is a great alternative to black, and it's more grown-up and sophisticated," Joey says.

Size: 0.46 ounces | Finish: Glossy | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Essie Nail Polish in Lace Me Up

Essie Lace Me Up

Courtesy of Essie

 

What We Like
  • Long-lasting

  • Works for any occasion

What We Don't Like
  • Some may prefer something more opaque

This dainty shade is "the most amazing pinky white color, which is great for year-round wear, and it lasts forever," says a reader named Mollie. "Simply gorgeous!"

Size: 0.46 ounces | Finish: Glossy | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Essie Nail Polish in After School Boy Blazer

Essie After School Boy Blazer

 Courtesy of Walmart

What We Like
  • Great color payoff

  • Ideal for fall and winter

  • Opaque in one coat

What We Don't Like
  • Chips easily

Multiple readers mention this classic deep blue as a favorite. As one reader named Susan describes, the shade "is such a dark, beautiful navy, when you put it on you can't tell if its navy or black."

Size: 0.46 ounces | Finish: Glossy | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Essie Nail Polish in Au Natural

Essie Au Natural
What We Like
  • Elongates fingers

  • Long-lasting

What We Don't Like
  • Some may prefer something more opaque

A Byrdie reader named Melanie calls this "a gorgeous sheer nude with a hint of sheen/glitter. So pretty and elongating for the fingers!"

Size: 0.46 ounces | Finish: Iridescent | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

What to Look For in an Essie Nail Polish

Color

It’s all about the color when choosing between different Essie nail polishes. Remember that there’s no hard and fast rule about what colors you can wear throughout the year. Some people sport nude nails every season, while others are constantly experimenting with vibrant hues. Choose whatever color speaks to you! 

Finish

If you want a solid, glossy finish opt for opaque nail lacquer. If you want your nails to look translucent, opt for a sheer polish. Shimmery polishes often come in either an opaque or translucent base, whereas glitter polish is often meant to be worn over an opaque color or on its own. 

Dry Time

Essie nail polishes typically dry quickly, but if you lack patience or don’t have the time to wait, look for a quick-dry formula. Additionally, you can apply any quick-dry topcoat over your nails to speed the process up.

FAQ
  • Is Essie an "8-free" formula?

    Yes, according to the brand, its polishes are free of the following ingredients: formaldehyde, toluene, dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde resin, camphor, ethyl tosylamide, xylene, and triphenyl phosphate.

  • Should I shake my nail polish prior to application?

    Instead of shaking your nail polish, which can cause bubbles, roll the bottle upside down between your hands. However, if your formula has separated from lack of use, you should shake thoroughly it so that everything mixes back together. 

  • Does Essie polish expire?

    Yes. Unopened, Essie nail polish has a shelf life of two years.

Related Stories