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According to nail artist Syreeta Aaron, "White polish is a seasonless and timeless color." It looks good on everyone, goes with nearly any outfit, looks sharp on fingers or toes, and is so brilliantly versatile that it can be both subtle and statement-making at once.
"The opaqueness will make it stand out on any skin tone, and it's also a great go-to for nail art as it compliments any shade," says Aaron. But while you might think white is white, there are many gorgeous variations of the hue. We're talking sheer, shimmery, pearlescent, matte, and several versions of off-white.
Meet the Expert
- Anastasia Totty is a manicurist and a LeChat Nails Educator. She is the salon owner of Artistique Nails in Saint Johns, Florida.
- Julie Kandalec is an NYC-based celebrity manicurist and owner of Julie K Nail Artelier.
Scroll down for the best white nail polishes you can buy online.
Best Overall: Butter London Nail Lacquer in Cotton Buds
Opaque in one coat
Who else recommends it? Glamour and Best Products both picked Butter London Nail Lacquer.
What do buyers say? 81% of 1,400+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.
If you're looking for an opaque white polish with a glossy finish, Butter London won't disappoint. "White polish is something you can wear all four seasons, and it's very flattering, especially on the toes," says Aaron. The Cotton Buds shade from the brand's Patent Shine line is a true white hue in a creamy, gel-like formula. Unlike many others in its category, this top-shelf nail lacquer delivers a stunning opaque effect in a single coat. And thanks to the wide brush, one or two swipes per finger is all you need.
Patent Shine resists chipping, peeling, fading, and yellowing. It also nourishes your nail beds and promises up to 10 days of wear. Though the price per bottle is steep, you'll get your money's worth.
Shade: Cotton Buds | Size: 0.4 ounces | Finish: Glossy | Dry Time: 5 minutes | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Budget: Sally Hansen Insta Dri Nail Color in White on Time
Opaque in one coat
Sally Hansen makes some of the best budget-friendly polishes, and the Insta Dri line is no exception. White on Time is a classic glossy lacquer that delivers an opaque finish in a single coat and dries in just 60 seconds.
Shade: White on Time | Size: 0.31 ounces | Finish: Glossy | Dry Time: 1 minute | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No
Best Drugstore: OPI Nail Lacquer in Alpine Snow
Excellent shade options
You can always count on OPI for high-quality drugstore nail polish. The brand has a few white shades we love, including Alpine Snow (a crisp opaque), Funny Bunny (a soft white), and My Vampire is Buff (a subtle off-white).
Shade: Alpine snow, funny bunny, my vampire is buff | Size: 0.5 ounces | Finish: Glossy | Dry Time: 15 minutes | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: No
Best Luxury: Gucci Beauty Vernis à Ongles Nail Polish in Winterset Snow
Opaque in one coat
Gucci's top-of-the-line nail lacquer flaunts high coverage in a single coat while filling in ridges, concealing discoloration, and leaving an intense shine in its wake. The undeniably sexy bottle doesn't hurt either.
Shade: 715 Winterset Snow | Size: 0.33 ounces | Finish: Glossy | Dry Time: 10 minutes | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: No
Best Opaque: Olive & June Nail Polish in HD
Crisp white color
Can get streaky
We also like Olive & June's opaque polish. The HD shade is named after Haylie Duff, but you can count on a high-def, crisp white finish that looks striking against all skin tones.
Shade: HD | Size: 0.46 ounces | Finish: Glossy | Dry Time: 15 minutes | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Sheer: Cirque Colors Nail Polish in Linen
Enhanced natural look
Can get streaky
Want something a little more subtle? The Linen shade from Cirque Colors is the ideal sheer hue with a shiny finish. Rock it on its own to enhance your natural nails, or use it as a top coat to make your polish pop.
Shade: Linen | Size: 0.37 ounces | Finish: Sheer, glossy | Dry Time: 10 minutes | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Off-White: Habit Cosmetics Non-Toxic + Vegan Nail Polish in 36 Moon Rock
Habit makes our favorite off-white polish. The pink-leaning Moon Rock shade delivers a creamy opaque finish, while the nourishing formula promises to strengthen your nail beds.
Shade: 36 moon rock | Size: 0.3 ounces | Finish: Creamy | Dry Time: 10 minutes | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Pearlescent: People of Color Nail Polish in Chokecherry
This pearlescent nail polish offers lustrous shine and shifts slightly with light changes throughout the day. It goes on sheer, but you can apply multiple coats for a more opaque effect.
Shade: Chokecherry | Size: 0.5 ounces | Finish: Sheer pearlescent | Dry Time: 15 minutes | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Shimmery: Zoya Nail Lacquer in Genesis
Zoya's Genesis is a stunning crystalline white with a radiant shimmer. We appreciate that the clean formula is breathable, vegan-friendly, and formaldehyde-free.
Shade: Genesis | Size: 0.5 ounces | Finish: Shimmery | Dry Time: 15 minutes | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Matte: China Glaze Nail Lacquer with Hardeners in White on White
Can get streaky
Looking for a matte white polish? China Glaze has you covered. The brand's White on White shade is a milky opaque hue that dries shine-free. You can wear it alone, top it with a clear matte lacquer, or finish it with a gloss.
Shade: White on white | Size: 0.5 ounces | Finish: Matte | Dry Time: 10 minutes | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Grayish-White: UN/DN LAQR in Writer's Block
If you've yet to explore Machine Gun Kelly's nail polish brand, Writer's Block is a great gateway. A modern take on off-white, this grayish-white lacquer goes on smooth with a chic, shiny finish.
Shade: Writer's block | Finish: Glossy | Dry Time: 10 minutes | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Long-Lasting: LeChat Nails Dare to Wear Nail Lacquer in Flawless White
Aaron is a fan of LeChat's Flawless White shade. "It does not yellow or get dirty, which can happen with whites," she tells Byrdie. "It's a long-lasting color, especially when applied with a quality, high-gloss topcoat."
Shade: Flawless white | Size: 0.5 ounces | Finish: Glossy | Dry Time: 10 minutes | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best for French Tips: Essie Nail Polish in Blanc
Essie Blanc is just the thing for DIY French tips. The snowy white hue is simple yet stunning, and you can count on the formaldehyde-free formula to go on smooth and resist chipping for several days.
Shade: Blanc | Size: 0.46 ounces | Finish: Glossy | Dry Time: 15 minutes | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No
Best Eco-Friendly: Nails Inc. Plant Power Vegan Polish in Free Time Is Me Time
If you want your white manicure to be greener, this eco-friendly polish has your name on it. Containing 73 percent plant-sourced ingredients, the vegan formula comes in a glass bottle topped with a sustainable ashwood cap and arrives in recyclable packaging.
Shade: Free time is me time | Size: 0.47 ounces | Finish: Glossy | Dry Time: 15 minutes | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Gel: Deborah Lipmann Gel Lab Pro in Amazing Grace
No UV light needed
This lacquer from Deborah Lippmann offers a salon-level gel-like finish and lasts nearly as long. Best of all, you don't need a UV light. Amazing Grace is a stunning opaque shade, but if you want to veer from true white, consider Sarah Smile (a creamy beige) or Lightning in a Bottle (a shimmery opalescent).
Shade: Amazing grace, Sarah smile, lightning in a bottle | Finish: Glossy | Dry Time: 10 minutes | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Our number one pick is Butter London Patent Shine 10X in the shade Cotton Buds, a true white nail polish that delivers a shiny opaque finish in a single coat. That said, Sally Hansen's Insta Dri Nail Color in the shade White on Time offers comparable results and comes at a fraction of the cost.
What to Look For in a White Nail Polish
The first thing Totty recommends looking for in white nail polish (or any color polish) is healthy, clean ingredients. “We’ve come so far as an industry that stands for quality products that are cruelty-free and healthy,” she says. “There's no need for toluene, phthalates, formaldehyde, or formalin. The good ones usually contain vitamin E, green tea, or keratin to help improve the health of your nails.”
The Right Hue
Not all white polishes are created equal, so Totty says to make sure you choose a shade that works well with your skin tone. “A bright white nail lacquer looks great on most, especially in the summer, but some off-white colors won’t flatter everyone.” Additionally, she recommends reaching for a topcoat with a light bluish or purple tint to neutralize any yellowing from UV rays.
Opaque, but Not Thick
The last important feature Totty says to look for is a polish that’s opaque but not too thick in texture since thicker polish will lead to thicker coats, which are more prone to chipping. “White nail lacquer tends to thicken up faster because it has a lot of pigment in it to achieve good coverage,” she says. “Simply make sure you use nail polish thinner (not remover, those contain oils that will ruin your products) to keep it as good as new.”
Kandalec advises shaking the bottle before you purchase, so you can make sure to hear the stainless steel mixing balls inside move about. “If you can’t hear them, the polish might be too thick for the beads to mix the pigments and solvents properly for an even finish.”
Opt to go for bristles that are longer and softer with a gentle arch shape. “The hairs shouldn’t be too thick (causes streaks), too short (causes ridges and dips), or splay out of place because all of them will affect the way the color lays.
How long does white nail polish last?
If you prep your nails properly, explains Kandalec, it should last with no chipping for 3 to 7 days.
How many coats of white nail polish do you need to apply?
Normally, you’ll need to apply three to four coats, says Kandalec. However, sometimes two is enough.
When does white nail polish expire?
White polish can last for years as long as the neck and threads of the bottle are kept clean and tightly sealed, advises Kandalec. “White polish will get thick the fastest of all colors though because of the chemical makeup, so take extra care with white- and white-based polishes.”
Why Trust Byrdie
Theresa Holland is a commerce writer specializing in beauty and lifestyle products. She interviewed a nail artist for this story for insight into shades and product recommendations. After considering dozens of white nail polishes, she ultimately selected options that stood out in terms of finish, ease of use, and overall quality. As a lifelong DIY manicurist, she has tried several formulas on this list, including Butter London, Sally Hansen, Nails Inc., OPI, Essie, China Glaze, Olive & June, and Habit.
13 Healthy, Non-Toxic Nail Polishes That Don’t Chip Immediately. Glamour. https://www.glamour.com/gallery/best-non-toxic-nail-polishes
14 NONTOXIC NAIL POLISH BRANDS THAT ARE BETTER FOR YOUR NAILS. Best Products. https://www.bestproducts.com/beauty/g965/non-toxic-nail-polish/