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Timeless, bold, iconic, daring—these are just a few words to describe how we feel about the color red. Consider it a “power color”—any time you wear it or flaunt it, your body immediately surges with confidence. Donning the shade on your nails is no different. There are many reasons why this shade is a popular go-to manicure pick, but our favorite is that it gives the wearer an instant classic coolness that only the color red can provide. So we went ahead and rounded up our favorite lacquer iterations of this time-tested shade.
Read on for the best red nail polishes money can buy.
Best Overall: Chanel Le Vernis Longwear Nail Color in Gitane
If you’re looking for a true red, this show-stopper is it. While there are many versions of the color red, this one stands out as the truest, reddest red we’ve ever seen. Not only is it bright and vibrant, but the formula boasts strengthening benefits that help to protect the nail bed.
Best Budget: Essie Nail Polish in Lacquered Up
Think of this polish as your dessert red. Equal parts appetizing and vivacious, this creamy shade can be worn all year round. The high-gloss finish makes it pop even more—and is also resistant to chipping and fading. All you need are two coats of this pigmented red for a truly dazzling manicure.
Best Luxury: Christian Louboutin Nail Colour in Rouge Louboutin
Is your shoe closet lined with Louboutins? Discover the infamous sole’s red shade encapsulated in a unique bottle, fashioned after the shoemaker’s Ballerina Ultima heel. Although it looks like a piece of art, inside you’ll find a precise brush that delivers even color. Apply a primer before brushing on one or two coats for a super glossy finish.
Best Drugstore: Sally Hansen Mega Strength Nail Polish in Class Act
Brittle nails got you down? Try the new strengthening formula from Sally Hanson in this lively red shade. The formula helps to protect the nails from cracking, peeling, and breaking. The best part? The rich, smooth color is a great conversation starter. One reviewer notes that she gets compliments whenever she wears this polish.
Best for Pale Skin: OPI Nail Polish in A Little Guilt Under The Kilt
A few things come to mind when we see this red shade—rubies glittering under the sun, ripe cherries, and roses dipped in sparkle. If any of these glamorous things appeal to you, then this nail polish is your new go-to.
Best for Olive Skin: Dior Vernis Gel Shine & Long Wear Nail Lacquer
With a name as straightforward as “Rouge”, this nail polish means business. The intense red gives us fire-engine vibes, but obviously in the chicest way possible. The formula provides a gorgeous shine and a gel-effect, but without the hassle of removal.
Best for Dark Skin: Smith & Cult Nail Polish in Kundalini Hustle
An electric cherry red, this happy hue especially pops on darker skin tones, thanks to its lustrous tones. Reviewers love the opaqueness of the formula—one found that two coats were more than enough to get an even, creamy color.
Best for Summer: Deborah Lippmann Gel Lab Pro
Thanks to this polish’s soft, wide brush, reviewers find that application is easy—even with your non-dominant hand. The formula is velvety when painted on and dries to a smooth, vivid red that works well with all skin tones, especially on sun-kissed skin.
Best for Fall: JINsoon Quintessential Collection Nail Lacquer in Coquette
When we think of the ultimate fall polish, the words “dark”, “inky”, and “lush” come to mind. One shade that checks all these boxes is Coquette—a red that straddles the line between sophisticated and rebellious. For a really saturated color and long-lasting wear, apply two coats over a primer base and finish off with a top coat.
Best for Winter: Marc Jacobs Beauty Enamored Hi-Shine Nail Polish in My Glaze
Consider your search for the perfect holiday red over. This translucent garnet shade has a moody, deep red tone that just feels festive. When dry, the finish has an extremely glossy look. One reviewer raves that all she needed was one coat for major color payoff.
Best for Spring: Tom Ford Nail Lacquer in Scarlet Chinois
Because of its radiant red hue with hints of orange, this scarlet shade is ideal for almost anyone. Reviewers love the rich formula that doesn’t streak when applied and dries smooth. One reviewer notes that it lasts for up to two weeks, even after washing dishes and doing household tasks.
Best Shimmer: Zoya Nail Polish in Nidhi
There’s nothing we love more than a subtle pop of sparkle. With a slightly metallic finish and cool red tone, this shade is like a classic red with a shimmery twist. What reviewers love most about this color is that it’s eye-catching and fun. Brush on two coats for the best results.
Best Gel: Nails Inc. Gel Effect Nail Polish in St James
A true red through and through, this formula acts like a gel without the trip to the salon. Formulated with plasticizer technology and flower extract, it delivers a super-glossy finish and conditions and strengthens the nails. Almost every review praises how long-wearing the formula is and how quickly it dries.