Best nail polish
Bing: Essie Nail Color
Essie Nail Color ($8, over 200 shades; drugstores, amazon.com)
This standout pulled top points for shine and also did well in five other categories. "It was easy to apply and looked shiny and bright throughout the time I wore it," said a volunteer. Our manicurist gave it perfect scores for how evenly it went on, while many women loved that it came off easily without staining their nails.
Maybelline New York Color Show ($4, 30 shades; amazon.com)
Volunteers reported that this bargain pick stayed put for an impressive six and a half days on average. "I'm very hard on my hands — gardening, playing sports, scrubbing pots — but the polish stayed perfectly on my nails as if it were the first day," raved one.
Bing: OPI nail lacquer
OPI Nail Lacquer ($9, over 200 shades; amazon.com)
This speed demon was way ahead of the competition when it came to drying time, besting the runner-up by almost a minute and a half on average. Women also loved the classic red shade Big Apple Red, one of the brand's best sellers.
CoverGirl Outlast Stay Brilliant Nail Gloss ($5.50, 45 shades; amazon.com)
In-lab and at-home testers rated this newbie — the only winner with a built-in base and top coat — best chip-defier, and its staying power nearly matched Maybelline's: "It was long-lasting and never chipped," noted one pleased tester.
How we tested
First, we sent the 10 best-selling nail polishes (185 bottles total) to women nationwide. They applied two coats of color — each brand's best-selling non-shimmery red shade — without a base or top coat, then reported back on how shiny the polish was, how quickly their manicure chipped, how many days they left it on, and more.
The top six performers were then tested in the GHRI lab on another set of panelists. A professional manicurist applied polish to the nails of 60 women, this time to evaluate shine and determine drying speed — and find out if it varied with color. (We compared reds with each brand's best-selling nude shade.)
Our testers weighed in on shine, wear, and chip-resistance.
The naked truth
In a rush? Paint your nails a pale shade: In our lab tests, nude dried more than two minutes faster than red!
- 39% of lab testers' manicures lasted a week
- 225 total number of nail polish bottles used
- 2,280 questionnaire answers analyzed