I know how hard it is to get good at painting your nails. I’ve been practicing for so many years that I can do a pretty sweet job half asleep, but even I have my bad days. The trick is practicing, and enjoying it. But a big part of good nail polish application is GOOD POLISH! This doesn’t mean expensive. It just means the right formulas. So here are my picks for good polish if you’re just starting out or aren’t very good at doing your nails yourself yet. My criteria is that the polish is easy to work with, only takes a maximum of three coats, dries decently fast, and has a color that you actually want to apply! To me, an easy to work with formula is pretty Goldilocks- not too thin, not too thick… And add in a good brush!
It’s pretty impossible to know if the polish you’re looking at in Target or whatever actually has a good formula that won’t have you throwing it across the room and declaring nail polish just isn’t for you. So I do the work for you! Read on!
*Lastly, I would like to add that a good top coat is incredibly important. I ALWAYS use top coat. My #1 favorite is Seche Vite Quick Dry. You only wait about 30 seconds to a minute after your last coat, apply a coat of Seche Vite, and the nail will be done in about two minutes. No blowing on your nails or waiting around.
💋THE FUN SHADES!
(1) Orly – Push The Limit
This is a creme polish. It looks perfect after two coats, but I always prefer to do three coats and a seche vite quick-dry top coat. This is truly a 10/10 formula for me. It was a dream to apply. If you don’t have a ton of experience with nail polish, I recommend you check out a creme polish by Orly. They apply easily and look great, even if it’s an imperfect paint job. You’ll see a lot of Orly polishes on this list since they’re very reliable for a good formula and have a great rubberized grippy cap that makes nail polish application easier.
(2) Orly – Royal Navy
This is a bright, pure blue with gold shimmer. A lot of blues can be finicky- pale ones can need a ton of coats, which leads to gloopy nails, and dark ones can stain, which sucks for newbies since getting polish on your cuticles is basically guaranteed. So a good blue that doesn’t stain but has a huge color payoff had to be included! This polish is perfectly opaque in three thin coats. It definitely needs top coat to bring out the glowy shimmer. It dries pretty quick, and it doesn’t stain the nails or the cuticles.
(3) Orly – Purple Crush
This formula is magical. It’s beautiful. It’s just excellent. This polish dries very glossy, and it goes on easily. I only need two coats. This color is also very punchy and fun, so the payoff is pretty big. It’s a fun magenta with a very easy formula to work with. Win win!
Another great magenta polish with a great formula is OPI’s Koala Berry- a total classic and one of my faves!
(4) Essie – Mod Square
This is a nice pink that goes with everything and is a staple color in any nail polish collection. It also has a great formula. I had to go back into the bottle three times for each coat, and applied it evenly. But it was easy to work with and doesn’t flood the brush or cuticles. Do not do more than three coats. If you buy this one, you’ll have fun doing your nails!
(5) Orly – Haute Red
I picked this red over all of my others because it only takes one dip into the bottle per coat. Make sure the brush isn’t flooded (with that big blob of polish at the end) and apply. This polish is perfect and opaque in two coats! It looks so glossy and amazing in two coats that you can actually SKIP top coat with this one. It’s also long lasting, and it dries very quickly. My only issue with this otherwise incredible formula is that it sometimes stains if you don’t use a base coat. But with only two coats for a bold red manicure, this is pretty much perfect if manicures are not your strong suit. And if you do thicker coats, you only need ONE coat! Buy it here.
Avoid: OPI’s Thrill of Brazil. I love this blue based red, but it’s a cuticle stainer!
(Because you know I love a dark mani 😈)
(6) OPI – Lincoln Park After Dark
This is a classic dark polish (one of the most famous in the world, I’d argue), and it has a great formula. If you get it on your cuticles, it won’t stain them after you remove it. And when you are ready to remove this polish, your nails won’t be stained, either. It’s easy to work with since it’s a great consistency. It has the wide OPI pro brush and has a huge payoff since it’s such a gorgeous, bold color.
(7) Essie – Little Brown Dress
This dark chocolate brown has a GREAT application. It is perfect and opaque in two coats. I applied a glossy top coat and loved how dark and elegant this polish came out. It’s got a very skinny brush, and a very easy formula. It dries darker than it looks in the bottle and doesn’t stain the cuticles. Here is my official review, and here is where you can pick it up! Another good dark Essie is Sole Mate, which has that skinny Essie brush!
(8) Orly – Naughty
This is a high-shine creme polish that looks perfect in two coats. It’s easy to apply because of the grippy cap, and it’s just a perfect formula texture. Some dark polishes (Black Onyx comes to mind) can be difficult to apply since they’re liquidy and unforgiving, but this one is just the right thickness. You won’t even need a third coat! It didn’t flood my cuticles, it was easy to move around the nail, and because it’s so dark I could see exactly what I was doing. You can buy this one here, and my review of it is here.
(9) China Glaze – Rock N Royale
This is a creme polish with a knockout formula. It is almost a one coater, except it really needs two for opacity and perfection. It’s a dreamy, easy formula that’s not streaky or sheer. I did two coats and a top coat. This polish is so easy to work with and doesn’t flood the cuticles or pool up on the brush. Some China Glazes dry matte or are prone to chipping, but this one wears excellently on me and lasted for days without any chips.
(10) OPI – Incognito In Sausalito
Wait until you see this one. I love this polish so much- it’s been one of my favorites for years. It’s a light navy that made the list because it’s good in ONE COAT!! Yes!! You can overload the brush or not be that careful, and it still applies well. You can apply one coat and literally be done- although I’d recommend top coat, and personally I always do two so it looks perfect and lasts longer. This polish lasts a long time, it doesn’t chip or stain, and it was a semi-thick formula that dried quickly. Overall, a winner.
Here’s where you can buy it. My review for it is coming soon!
There you have it!
My favorite polishes for those of us who are trying to get better at painting nails. Let me know if you decide to try any of these! You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and check out my nail polish Instagram account, which is @taylordorothynails. I am working on a tips post for nails newbies, so stay tuned for that, too! Thanks for reading and happy painting!