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These are the best nail polish brands to know for at-home manicures

With regular nail polish back in the spotlight, these are the brands rated by our beauty editor

Lauren Cunningham
Monday 26 February 2024 15:00 GMT
Keep your claws looking fresh, with our tried-and-tested favourites
Keep your claws looking fresh, with our tried-and-tested favourites (The Independent)

There are many reasons why you may want to create your own manicure at home. Once you get the hang of it, the best nail polish brands can help you achieve flawless claws, saving you money and time, compared with a trip to the salon.

Stepping away from traditional nail salons also means you can change up your nail look every few days or even daily. In fact, after our fashion and beauty editor picked up a bottle of regular polish for the first time in ages, they fell back in love with painting their nails. One big plus point is there’s no picking or peeling off gels, which can be a real bane when it comes to the beauty treatment.

Alongside being relatively straightforward to apply (so long as you have a steady hand), easy to remove and much more purse-friendly than professional manicures, using regular nail polish can sometimes be safer as well, according to some experts. “Though uncommon, skin irritations or allergies can arise from chemicals in gel nail products or UV light exposure during manicures,” shared Dr Yuliya Krasnaya, specialist dermatologist at Evolution Aesthetics Clinic.

So, if you feel like ditching the gels and going back to basics, we’ve tried and tested a range of options to bring you a handy list of the best nail polish brands that are sure to make your at-home manicures even easier.

Nails Inc

Founded in 1999, Nails Inc has built up quite the reputation as a go-to nail polish brand. With countless colours, there really is something to suit everyone. However, we’re probably most sold on the brand’s plant-power vegan nail polish. You may be surprised to know a significant number of nail polish brands aren’t vegan, with the red-coloured carmine coming from crushed beetles, and fish scales being used to help add shine. So, if you are meat-free, it’s always best to double check the label.

Luckily, this brand’s plant-power vegan nail polish has removed all traces of animal-derived products and is free from a whole host of potentially aggravating ingredients, including formaldehyde, acetone and parabens. Our favourite shades are the bestselling ‘glowing somewhere’, the pretty baby-blue ‘soul surfing’, and the nice and neutral ‘what’s your spirituality’ (£9 each, Lookfantastic.com). Plus, when applying with a base coat, such as the Nails Inc nailkale base coat (£15, Lookfantastic.com), we’ve managed to eek out a whole week’s worth of wear.

Visit Nails Inc at Lookfantastic.com now

Every product from Leighton Denny is vegan and cruelty-free (Leighton Denny)

Leighton Denny

We’ve raved about Leighton Denny’s nail polishes before. Not only is founder Leighton the first nail expert to be awarded an MBE (by Queen Elizabeth II, in 2015), all the brand’s products are vegan and cruelty-free.

Our favourite item from the Leighton Denny range is actually the bestselling crystal nail file (£13, Amazon.co.uk), which quickly whips your nails into any shape you desire, with minimal effort. When it comes to the brand’s polishes, our long-term favourite ‘glazed expression’ (£11.75, Amazon.co.uk) takes the top spot, alongside bright and bold ‘main squeeze’ (£11.76, Amazon.co.uk) and the sparkly ‘super wings’ (£12.50, Amazon.co.uk). Although, we would say less is certainly the way forward with these shades, two coats are more than enough for a sleek and shiny look, no base or top coat required. When opting for more than two coats, we’ve found the polish can peel off.

Visit Leighton Denny at Amazon.co.uk now

Chanel

While the French fashion house’s nail polishes – elegantly named le vernis (varnish) – are more expensive than many, they add a little touch of luxury do your everyday manicure. Plus, they last an incredibly long time – we’ve had some of ours for years now.

Chanel’s most popular nail polish shade is the pretty pink ‘ballerina’ (£29, Chanel.com), which is a great go-to for a subtly chic look. Alongside the colours for which the luxury label is most famous, there is an impressive number of seasonal shades, including ‘cavalier seul’ (£29, Chanel.com) and ‘tuxedo’ (£29, Chanel.com), which caught our eye and have become regulars in our rotation. Again, we’ve found there’s little need for a base and top coat with the Chanel nail polishes.

Visit Chanel.com now

Essie

‘V.I.Please’ and ‘sizzling hot’ are some of our favourite picks from Essie (Essie)

If you’re new to doing at-home manicures, we’ve found Essie has the easiest polishes to apply. Thanks to it being rounded and a little longer in length, the brush seems to enable you to cover an entire nail in just three strokes.

For a longer, stronger manicure, the brand’s gel couture range is the one to cop, as it offers the high shine and durability of a gel manicure, without the need for a UV lamp. Unsurprisingly, we’ve never been able to stretch ours to the two-week mark of a normal gel manicure, but we have found the polish can last for more than a week, which is impressive for a regular polish. ‘V.I.Please’ (£9.99, Lookfantastic.com), ‘sizzling hot’ (£9.99, Lookfantastic.com) and ‘matter of fiction’ (£9.99, Lookfantastic.com) are a few of our favourite shades, while the speed setter top coat (£8.99, Lookfantastic.com) helps to lock in the shine and extend its lifespan.

Visit Essie at Lookfantastic.com now

Mavala

If you’re short on space, or indecisive about colour, Mavala’s mini nail polishes offer the perfect solution. Making things easy, the brand sells shades in small collections, such as this nude trio (£16.50, Lookfantastic.com), which we find ourselves using all the time. If you’re after just one colour, we’d also recommend ‘72 nice’ (£6.40, Lookfantastic.com), ‘candy floss’ (£6.40, Lookfantastic.com) and ‘Bangkok’ (£6.40, Lookfantastic.com). The lower price point of the Mavala polishes is another big draw, plus we’ve found the top coat (£6.40, Lookfantastic.com) adds a significant amount of shine and helps the polish last for about four days.

Visit Mavala at Lookfantastic.com now

Dior

Similarly to Chanel, Dior offers a more luxurious take on your standard nail shades. As well as looking incredibly chic on your bathroom shelves, the brand offers an impressive range of colours.

‘Pied de poule’ is the perfect pick for those after a strong, black shade. ‘Mirror’ is great for those after a splash of sparkle, and ‘mirage’ is a nice and bright coral (£27 each, Dior.com). Plus, so long as you give the bottle a good shake, we’ve found we only need two coats of polish for the colour to be nice and strong (it tends to last around four to five days).

Visit Dior.com now

Ciaté

Ciaté’s nail polish is one of the longer-lasting formulas around (Ciaté)

You may remember Ciaté from the 2010s, when everyone and their mum seemed to be slicking on the nail colour, but the brand is still going strong today. Famous for its little bow motif on every bottle, the polishes are among the longer-lasting options out there.

Vegan-friendly and cruelty-free, the brand can be enjoyed by almost everyone, and the innovative plant pot polishes are formulated with 80 per cent natural ingredients, which are said to be a little kinder to your skin, too. Our favourite shades are ‘ice scream’ (£10, Ciatelondon.com), ‘sweet blush’ (£10, Ciatelondon.com) and ‘good as gold’ (£10, Ciatelondon.com). The brand’s nail stickers (£16, Ciatelondon.com) make for an easy extra design detail, too.

Visit Ciatelondon.com now

Orly

If you’re looking to strengthen your nails without too much faff, Orly is certainly a brand to know. The breathable treatment (£11.81, Amazon.co.uk) is said to enable oxygen to reach your nail, and is infused with argan oil, pro-vitamin B5 and vitamin C to help strengthen and add shine.

When our nails are feeling weak and prone to breaking, it’s the Orly nail defence (£12.95, Amazon.co.uk) we reach for. Thanks to a blend of proteins, it helps strengthen nails and stops any peeling and breakage. After all, the base of a great manicure comes from having healthy nails.

Visit Orly at Amazon.co.uk now

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For more beauty recommendations, read our honest thoughts on TikTok-trendy brand Refy

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