As someone who views nail polish as a necessary evil (and not even that necessary), I was quite pleased to find a growing number of sheer, nail perfecting tints land on my desk. I’m a proud bare nail devotee, but I still like my nails to look nice. At the salon, I have my nails “buffed, not polished.” Years ago, I discovered Butter London’s Nail Foundation, and it’s been my go-to ever since. But now that the world is catching on to the bare-but-better nail trend, my options are plentiful. And I've been testing them all. Scroll through for the reviews!
Deborah Lippmann All About That Base CC Base Coat ($20): Technically, this one is a base coat that you can also wear solo. It has a matte finish and is more opaque than many of the others I tried. In short, I think it works best as base coat under polish. However, worn under the brand's "illuminator" product, it's great.
Deborah Lippmann Genie in a Bottle ($20): This iridescent violet polish is supposed to neutralize dull, stained, or yellow nails, and enhance, brighten, and even the natural tone of your nails. It's very sheer, so I'm not convinced it does all that, but I do like the way it looks on my nails. Top the CC Base Coat with a layer of this and you've got a winning combo.
Butter London Sheer Wisdom Nail Tinted Moisturizer ($18): Maybe I've just spent too many years in a love affair with their Nail Foundation, but I must say I prefer it to the Nail Tinted Moisturizer. Ironically, I find the "tinted moisturizer" a bit too pigmented for me (admittedly, I am quite pale). It's also quite warm. I think it would look amazing on someone with darker skin and warmer tones.
Tenoverten The Foundation ($18): This product is similar to the Butter London one but sheerer. It delivers a nice, glossy finish. It really does epitomize the no–nail polish nail polish trend. Plus, you can wear two coats if you want a little more coverage.
Zoya Naked Manicure Perfector ($10): These sheer polishes made me feel like an artist—mixing and matching shades to create my perfect match. Full disclosure: There's really not that much difference between the shades. Do two coats of each polish on every finger and you won't see much variation. But they are tints, and they do offer a sheer wash of color. The purple shade, which is supposed to act as a color corrector for your nails, works great under any of these shades.