Makeup Products » Best Nail Polishes

Best 8 Nail Polishes for a DIY Manicure

The Glowsly editors independently test and choose the best products. We may receive commissions on purchases made from the affiliate links.

The perfect DIY manicure is achievable with the right polish. But how do you know what polish will give you the nail look you’re after? One glance at the polish aisle (or a look online) can feel overwhelming with so many shades available. And let’s not forget those subtle differences, like matte finish versus glossy finish or how easy (or not) it is to remove nail polish.

Don’t stress over finding the perfect polish for your next DIY mani. We’ve looked into the options and narrowed them down to the best eight nail polishes to help you get a perfectly polished manicure. 

Best nail polishes overview:

How we chose the best nail polishes

To compile this list, we researched manufacturer specifications, including color options, finish types, and more, to create a short list of the top nail polishes. Then, we combed through detailed product descriptions, ratings, and reviews to find the best nail polish for each category.

Our picks for the best nail polishes

Best overall
OPI Nail Lacquer

What we love

  • Dries quickly
  • Lasts up to 7 days
  • Found at salons and stores

What we don’t love

  • Somewhat pricey
  • May chip easily

There really isn’t a more iconic nail polish brand than OPI. The brand’s classic line of nail lacquers can be found at many salons, yet you can also head to a local Target or Walmart and find the same gorgeous OPI shades in the nail polish aisle. That means you can easily re-create the mani you enjoyed at the salon from the comfort of your own home. 

The brand notes its lacquer dries quickly and may last up to seven days. However, many reviews indicate the polish may chip easily, especially if you wash your hands frequently. The per-bottle price is slightly on the higher end of the polish price range, but it’s a classic go-to for any nail polish enthusiast. The brand’s original nail lacquer formula line includes 20 shades with glossy and glitter finishes, so there’s a perfect finish and color for nearly every occasion.

Shades: 20 | Finish: Glossy, glitter | Type: Lacquer

Best budget
Sinful Colors Bold Color Nail Polish

What we love

  • Can be found at local drug stores
  • Low price
  • Wide variety of shades and finishes

What we don’t love

  • Polish can be quite thin
  • Glitter finishes may not be smooth

It’s hard to believe, but Sinful Colors’ Bold Color line of nail polishes can be found at some stores for less than $2. And in this Bold Color collection, you can choose from 46 shades, including a clear top coat. Within those vibrant color choices, you’ll find glossy finishes along with both metallic and glitter options. According to a few reviewers, some of the glittery polishes might feel rough rather than smooth. 

The polish might be a bit on the thin side, so you may want to double up on the coats you apply, depending on what shade you go pick out (the brand suggests applying two coats of color). This brand of polish can be found at local drug stores like Target, so it’s easy and convenient to head to the store and find your favorite new shade for that spring-inspired mani.

Shades: 46 | Finish: Glossy, metallic, glitter | Type: Lacquer

Best splurge
Christian Louboutin Nail Colour

What we love

  • Thin brush handle
  • Matches the brand’s iconic shoe color
  • Displayable product

What we don’t love

  • Only a few shades
  • Small bottle for the price

This line of nail polish comes from the maker of those famous red bottom shoes (named for their red soles). This is the best nail polish if you’re willing to splurge a bit, as it’s quite pricey (considering you get a little less than one-half ounce of product). The Lalaque Le Vernis Brilliant is one of just a few shades, but this one matches the vibrant red of the brand’s shoes almost perfectly. 

The bottle itself is a work of art, with its faceted glass polish container and sleek, pointed gold top. It looks stunning, but it’s also functional. Some reviewers loved that the thin top, attached to the brush, helped them create a more precise manicure.

Shades: 3 | Finish: Glossy | Type: Lacquer

Best gel alternative
Dazzle Dry Mini Kit

What we love

  • Convenient kit
  • Dries quickly
  • Long-lasting

What we don’t love

  • Difficult to remove with regular polish remover
  • Pricey
  • Need to use Dazzle Dry products together

Gel nail polishes can be tough on nails, especially if you tend to pick at your polish. This is the best gel alternative nail polish since you can purchase just about all you need in one convenient trial kit. You’ll need to use the brand’s nail prep, base coat, lacquer, and top coat together, so it can be pricey if you buy full-size bottles. 

You’ll also want to spring for the brand’s remover since the color is difficult to remove with regular polish remover (speaking from experience). However, the polish dries quickly and tends to last quite a while, though it does tend to chip if you wash your hands often.

Shades: 59 | Finish: Frost, shimmer, glossy, cream | Type: Lacquer

Best vegan
Ella + Mila Dream

What we love

  • Free from toxic ingredients
  • Vegan formula
  • Variety of shade and finish options

What we don’t love

  • Chips easily
  • Works best with brand’s base and top coat

With 38 color choices and finishes ranging from glossy to glittery, Ella + Mila’s Dream collection is the best vegan nail polish. The formula itself is vegan (so no animal products) and cruelty-free.

In our experience, the polish chipped quite easily, though the brand says it’s chip resistant. For best results, you may want to use it with the brand’s base and topcoats, which adds to the cost. But we like that in addition to being vegan, it’s a polish made in the United States, and it’s 17-free, so it doesn’t contain ingredients like acetone, parabens, and other harmful chemicals.

Shades: 38 | Finish: Glitter, glossy | Type: Lacquer

Best glitter
Essie Set in Stones

What we love

  • High-glitter finish
  • Can layer over other polishes
  • Brand website includes “try on” feature

What we don’t love

  • Not opaque
  • Will need multiple coats

Is bling your thing? Then Essie’s Set in Stones is the nail polish for you. It’s packed full of silver sparkles so you can get your shine on. However, it doesn’t go on opaque in one or even two coats, so you may want to layer multiple coats if you use it as its own nail color. If you want your other nail colors to sparkle, add a thin coat of this and prepare to be dazzled with the super glittery finish. 

It can be tricky to order polish online, but Essie’s website offers a helpful “try on” feature. You can select your skin tone and nail shape to see a representation of what the color might look like on you, which can help you decide whether this sparkling option is the best one for your next manicure.

Shades: 6 | Finish: Glitter | Type: Lacquer

Best 21-free
10+ Free Clean Nail Color

What we love

  • Plenty of shades and finishes
  • Free of 21 harmful substances
  • Strengthens nails

What we don’t love

  • Some colors may go on sheer
  • Some polishes may be thick

It’s no surprise that this brand gets our vote for the best 21-free nail polish since its name suggests it’s free from at least 10 toxic chemicals. In fact, it’s actually a 21-free option, meaning the formula doesn’t include harmful substances like formaldehyde, parabens, sulfates, and several others. Plus, it’s even gluten-free, so it’s perfect for those who want to avoid gluten-containing products.

You’ll have 51 shades to choose from in varying finishes, from glossy to glitter to metallic. Reviewers have mentioned some of the polishes may go too sheer or may be too thick, so the number of coats you’ll need depends a bit on the color you choose. But this line actually strengthens and repairs nails that have been damaged, so it’s worth the extra coats you may need to apply to reap all the benefits.

Shades: 51 | Finish: Glossy, glitter, metallic | Type: Lacquer

Best quick-drying
Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Nail Color

What we love

  • 3-in-1 polish
  • Dries in 1 minute
  • Extensive shade range

What we don’t love

  • May need multiple coats
  • May chip easily

If you’ve only got a minute to spare for a manicure, you’ll appreciate this nail polish. It’s the best quick-drying polish for a reason — it literally dries in about one minute. Plus, you don’t need a base or top coat because it’s an all-in-one polish. 

The line features 30 shades to choose from in finishes like glossy, glitter, and matte. Some of them may require more than one coat of color if you’re after a more opaque look. If you picked a more sheer option, you may want to give yourself a few more minutes of dry time just to be on the safe side. Some reviews have noted the polish chips easily, so to help avoid that, try running the brush along the edge of your nail to finish up your mani and add a little protection from chipping.

Shades: 30 | Finish: Glossy, glitter, matte | Type: Lacquer

Perfectly polished nails at home

The best nail polish for you depends on many factors, not least of which are color and finish. Our overall pick for the top nail polish goes to OPI Nail Lacquer. It’s a classic that can be found at local drug stores as well as salons. It also dries quickly and can last up to a week, plus the line includes a variety of shades as well as finishes.

How to pick the right nail polish for you

Picking your perfect polish may mean studying the label for ingredients if you prefer to avoid some of the potentially harmful chemicals often found in polish. It also means selecting the right type of finish and knowing how many coats to apply.


  • 3-free. These polishes don’t contain toluene, formaldehyde, or dibutyl phthalate (DnBP).
  • 10-free. These polishes may vary a bit from brand to brand, but they’re generally free of DnBP, toluene, formaldehyde, camphor, tosylamide/formaldehyde resin, parabens, and xylene. 
  • 21-free. This type of nail polish excludes even more potentially harmful chemicals, such as endocrine disrupters and other chemicals.


  • Glossy. Glossy nail polish will have a shiny finish once dried.
  • Matte. Matte finishes aren’t glossy, so they don’t have much shine once they dry.
  • Glitter. Go beyond glossy with glitter finishes that add even more sparkle.
  • Metallic. Metallic finishes aren’t glittery, but they are shiny, so they’re kind of in between glossy and glitter. 


  • Single. A single coat of nail polish is simply one coat of nail color.
  • Double. Two coats of polish are pretty typical for many nail polish brands.
  • Base. A base coat goes beneath the nail color to prepare your nail.
  • Top. Top coats seal the color to help your DIY manicure last a bit longer.


What nail polish brands do professionals use? 

Professional salons vary in terms of the nail polish brands they use, so there’s not one “right” answer here. A common salon pick is OPI, but professionals also favor many other brands. 

Which is the best brand for nail polish?

We like OPI Nail Lacquer for a number of reasons, one being that it dries quickly. You can easily find it at local chain stores, and it helps your mani last for up to seven days.

What nail polish is the least damaging to nails?

In general, some gel nail polishes tend to be more damaging to nails than traditional polish. That’s especially true if you’re someone who tends to pick off your polish (just don’t do it!). That said, you may want to avoid darker colors that can cause your nails to turn color. You might also choose to go with a non-toxic polish that’s free from harmful chemicals.