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Some people think nail polish is all the same. No matter if they're in the market for a bright pink polish, a sultry red, or a vampy purple, any brand or bottle will do. Whether they're perusing the fluorescent aisles of the drugstore or a beauty retailer's virtual selection, they pick out the first color that feeds their fancy, they paint their fingernails, and they go about their business. While that's certainly one way to shop for nail polish, it's a method that we as beauty editors don't recommend due to the simple fact that some formulas are better than others. To us, it's an unequivocal truth that certain brands produce bottles of varnish that are brighter, smoother, and stronger than their counterparts in the market.
That's why we thought it was high time we shared our go-to nail polish brands—the ones we consider our defaults because we're confident we'll like the shades, the textures, and the finishes. To us, these are the nail polish brands that perform the best, allowing us to shop for new shades without a shadow of a doubt.
Below, the best nail polish brands ever, according to our editors.
Essie Nail Polish
Is there any drugstore nail polish brand more beloved or pervasive on Instagram than Essie? We don't think so. Hallie Gould, Byrdie's senior editor, counts the brand as one of her all-time favorites thanks to the wide range of shades and finishes and the smooth easy-to-apply texture.
OPI Nail Lacquer
Essie might be the current Instagram-favorite nail polish brand, but OPI reigns supreme as the longest-running drugstore classic (it was, after all, founded all the way back in 1981). While there are literally hundreds of shades to choose from, we currently keep coming back to this bright orange shade called It’s a Piazza Cake, which has a groovy '70s vibe to it.
Essie Gel Couture
Amanda Montell, Byrdie's contributing writer, swears by Essie's Gel Couture line. It's a gel nail polish that requires no UV lamps to dry, only a special High-Shine Top Coat. That means we no longer have to break the bank by heading into the nail salon to reapply gel nail polish; now we can do it at home.
I'll let her profess her love of the Gel Couture line, as she says it best. "Essie's Gel Couture line is straight-up the only nail polish that will stay on my nails for over a week with minimal chipping," she says. "Every time I decide to branch out, I regret it—it's my holy grail."
Jinsoon Nail Polish
Byrdie Editorial Director Faith Xue cites Jinsoon as one of the best nail polish brands of all time. Jinsoon's chic square bottles house shiny polishes that are free of five common harmful ingredients. As we all know by now, what's left out of your favorite beauty products is just as important as what's included. They also happen to be vegan-friendly (which is why they're a win for ethical and nontoxic beauty!). Try the shade Nostalgia, a sandy beige hue.
Tenoverten Nail Polish
Here's another cruelty-free, vegan, and eight-free nail polish brand. This time, it's Tenoverten, a brand that has brick-and-mortar salons across selected U.S. cities. The brand's minimalist bottles contain polish that ranges from the softest neutrals to the most vivid brights.
Côte Nail Polish
I was introduced to Côte polish backstage at a Stella McCartney fashion show. The models' nails looked pretty immaculate, and that's not just because they had professional manicurists on hand. The formula is smooth, streak-free, and lightweight. I'm obsessed with pretty much every single shade I've tried. Oh, they're also non-toxic, vegan, and cruelty-free. Again, I'm obsessed.
Flora 1761 Nail Lacquer
Byrdie contributing writer Erin Jahns swears by this under-the-radar nail polish brand that's vegan, cruelty-free, and free of eight common potentially harmful chemicals that are used in other nail polish formulations. Reach for the shade called Lily of the Valley, which is a soft, posh, and quintessential white. It goes with anything.
Deborah Lippmann Nail Lacquer
Deborah Lippmann nail polish was one of the first products I ever purchased from Sephora, and I've been a loyal user ever since. I like that the formulas are pigmented enough for a single coat to suffice (I don't have the patience required for a polish that needs multiple coats).
Lechat Dare to Wear Nail Polish
Lechat nail polish is my go-to when I want to use something that lasts a long time without showing annoying chips or cracks. It comes in countless shades and happens to be budget-friendly. I can pick out a few different shades at once without breaking the bank.
Beauty Pie WonderColour Nail Polish
Lindsey Metrus, Byrdie's senior editor, likes Beauty Pie's nail varnishes. The formula is flexible, breathable, chip-resistant, and infused with nourishing coconut oil. The 12 shades run the gamut from neutral to hot pink and rich red. Each one was developed by a team of nail experts. So basically, there's a reason they're named the WonderColours.