There’s nothing quite as classic as white nail polish – a lacquer that looks stunning whether it’s stark or sheer, coating the entire nail or just the tips for a timeless French. However, what’s the difference between white nail polish and other shades? “The number one thing to look for in a great, high-quality nail lacquer is the pigmentation,”Heather Reynosa (Director of OPI Global Education Design) “Rich pigment [and] solid color that doesn’t streak is imperative.”
But you don’t have to be Hailey BieberFor the ultimate in customer service, “glazed donut”ManicuresYou can also have a KarJenner Gorgeous nails thanks to PEOPLE’s lengthy search for the best white nail polish. In fact, we’ve found tones to satisfy any preference – from the iciest whites to delicate, sheer shades.
However, you’ll want to be a little generous with your spending when shopping for the perfect shade, as white polishes have formulas that are tricky to work with when the quality decreases. “Bright white lacquers have a large amount of titanium dioxide, and that can make your polish thicken a little faster than most,” Reynosa shares. “So this is one color in your collection that’s best to shop for based on quality, not on price.”
These eight were the most loved of all 22 nail polishes that PEOPLE tested. Read on to discover which bottles you’ll be reaching for next time you want to switch up your mani-pedi.
When people think about perfect white nail varnish, they often think of opaque and glacial white nails. You wouldn’t be wrong to think this way, as our testers rated this polish, a stark hue, a perfect 5 out of 5 score for application, overall looks, and drying time. “The brush had a small curve to it which made application very easy and smooth,” our tester shared after painting. “The polish applied with minimal streaking and the second coat was completely opaque.”To avoid streaking, it is essential to color your icy-white polish. The polish’s high opacity and ease of application made it great. Multi-coats may cause tacky paint to smudge.
The tester added, “The…” “finish looks amazing after only two coats,”The smooth texture and shiny appearance it gives off after drying is admirable. The drying time was also impressive for our testers. The manufacturer instructed them to dry nails for at least 30 minutes. However, our testers noticed their nail dried completely in 20 minutes. It’s worth noting that this formula is also free of parabens, formaldehyde, DBP, and a myriad of other controversial chemicals.
Price at time published: $22
Opacity: Very opaque| Hue:| Size: 0.50 ounces| Vegan: Yes
Essie is an industry leader in nail polish, and we couldn’t resist testing their frosty shade. Two coats of the lacquer were applied and our testers were impressed with its ease-of-use and shiny glossy finish. “Essie makes several shades of white, and this one, Blanc, is a true intense white,”Testers shared their experiences after applying the polish. They were wowed by the shorter-than-anticipated dry time when the polish was hardened after just 20 minutes. “I always press gently on my nail polish to determine if it’s dry, and if there’s no fingerprint or smudge, [I’ll] press harder. I pressed very hard and there was no residual imprint in the polish,”These were the explanations. “I am confident I could go about my day and retain the beauty of my nails.”
The polish’s fast drying time isn’t the only advantage. Even though the polish can sometimes be thick or streaky, it dried silky smooth. However, the paper-white look wasn’t for them. “I would prefer it were more matte and if the white wasn’t quite so intense. The shade of white was more opaque than I prefer,”They agreed. If you’re someone who’s searching for a great value and high-intensity white shade, then we’ve found the polish for you. But if you have a sheerer tone in mind, keep scrolling – we’ve got other options!
Price at time published: $10
Opacity: Very opaque| Hue:| Size: 0.46 ounces| Vegan: Yes
Nothing screams classy quite like a timeless white mani, and you’ll want to go for a high-quality option to achieve the best version of this look. Like Reynosa mentioned, this is not a shade you’d want to skimp out on when it comes to quality. Static Nails’ Liquid Glass Lacquer Elixir is a top-quality product. This non-toxic formulation contains natural antioxidants which support nail health and produce shiny, rich results. The product was easy to use and loved by our testers. “It was very smooth when applied and it wasn’t thick and goopy! I am not a huge fan of white polish, but I am impressed.”
Due to the lacquer’s thin consistency, it applies and dries down smoothly, but can accentuate any natural ridges in the nails and create streaks. It was preferable to use a thin, goopy lacquer over the thicker version. “It has salon quality, [is] so shiny, and doesn’t chip off right away,”They raved. “It gives a shiny feel and no smudges.”
Price at time published: $16
Opacity: Very opaque| Hue:| Size: 0.40 ounces| Vegan: Yes
It is safer than gel manicures.
Flat, dense brush makes for even application
We all know the woes of gel polish — they make your nails look beautiful, but can damage them in the process. Deborah Lipmann’s Amazing Grace shade, which is a buildable and snowy white, is another option to achieve that glossy look. It is proud that the brand offers nail polishes which are both vegan-friendly and 10 free. This means you won’t find harmful chemicals in other lacquers. They have a gel-like appearance. “The polish dried super quickly — even after just 20 minutes, it feels dry and hard already. After 30 minutes, it is completely dry and I feel like I could go about my day without smudges,”The quick results were admirable by our tester. “It also looks like gel polish, which I am impressed about.”
The application was reviewed by this tester, who mixed the results. Although the final result was acceptable, it was not perfect. “The brush was flat, long, and slightly dense which made the polish stay on it nicely. That made it easier to apply it to the full nail with one or two strokes,”They also shared. The tester loved the brush, but they were disappointed by the streaky application after only two coats. The third coat had to be applied. “It looks pretty smooth and shiny after three coats — it’s relatively even but it looks a tad streaky in some areas (which may be a result of ridges on my nails). Overall, it’s a nice look,”The conclusion was reached. According to the brand, it promises gel-like results. The brand promises gel-like results, even if they are thicker and less glossy.
Price at time published: $20
Opacity: | Hue:| Size: 0.50 ounces| Vegan: Yes
If paper-white isn’t quite your vibe, then you may find favor with OPI’s iconic shade “Funny Bunny.”This product was loved by our tester. “hands down”It was their favourite polish. “I often heard the words ‘white-out’ tossed around today because the polishes were too opaque,”They joked about the bright white polishes that they found in the laboratory. “This polish is slightly translucent and creates a beautiful final color that is not too white.”It glided effortlessly on the product, giving it a silky smooth look and serious shine.
Our tester loved the color but was disappointed by the slow drying times. For the most dramatic effect they used three coats. Three coats gave it a lighter shade and took longer to dry. It took our tester less time to finish the job than two coats. But, he said that three coats were faster. “the final product felt unfinished as there were spots that were more translucent than others.” However, they don’t want the patience needed for this product to deter you from choosing this milky white, as they assure us that “the color is worth the wait.”
Price at time published: $8.67
Opacity: | Hue:| Size: 0.50 ounces| Vegan: No
It’s easy to apply
Shiny, gel-like finish
If a sheer manicure isn’t quite your speed, then you’ll love this sleek Olive & June lacquer in the shade “HD,” a super opaque white that’s here to make a statement. “The polish looks smooth, opaque, and shiny even without a topcoat,”The difference was obvious after two coats. They added the fact that they don’t usually love white nail polishes, but they’ve found favor with this one. “It’s a stark white but doesn’t have super blue undertones, so I feel like it looks better on my skin overall,”They elaborated. The polish is gel-like and gives glossy results with no additional steps or UV light.
It was easy to apply, however our tester thought that 3 coats would be sufficient to remove any streaks. “The third coat applied a little bit thick, but it’s fully opaque after a third coat and looks pretty smooth,”They were able to share. Although the layers were a little more time-consuming than the 30 minute limit, it was well worth it. “It took about 35 minutes for it to be fully dry enough for me to feel like I could go about my day without worrying about smudges.” So while this may not be the polish you reach for in a pinch, it’s the one you’ll grab when you want a perfectly snowy-white mani.
Price at time published: $9
Opacity: Very opaque| Hue:White Starkness| Size: 0.46 ounces| Vegan: Yes
This is a shade from d.i.d. The shade stands out because it was actually created by an “elevated shade of gray” on the product’s site, letting you know that this isn’t your typical white polish. “The color is extremely sheer and light, so there were no visible streaks,”It was a smooth application that the tester liked. The lacquer’s non-toxic formula is perfect for smooth finishes. The lacquer adheres to nails well and doesn’t settle on natural ridges. The best part? Another great perk? It dried in 15 minutes. This is about half the time it took for every polish we tried. “Due to the consistency of the polish, very thin, sheer coats dry extremely fast,”The tester recounts. This could be the one to go to if you’re in a pinch.
This polish is claimed to have full coverage, but it only requires one or two coats. It was quite sheer according to our tester. Not to be overlooked, our tester said that the polish was sheer. “would not have categorized this shade as a white polish”Because of the difference in shade to plain white. If you are looking for an off-white manicure without the harsh opacity or quick drying formula that a paper-white polish offers, this could be a good option.
Prices at publication time: $14
Opacity: Very sheer | Hue: Gray-white | Size: 0.40 ounces| Vegan: Yes
Let’s face it, who always has the time to sit around and wait for their nails to dry? Drying time can feel tedious in today’s age of instant gratification. That’s why this pearlescent shade from Auda B Beauty was a winner in the quick-drying category, as it only took 15 minutes to be perfectly hardened — no smudging or pilling. “A couple coats were dry in no time,”We are thrilled with our tester. “If I’m busy and have things to do but need to grab a bottle, this is what I’m grabbing,”The tester was thrilled. After 15 minutes, they used their opposite fingers to press down on the coats of polish they’d applied and experienced no indentations or tackiness — a win in our book.
Even though it was hard for the tester to see any issues with the polish, he did wish that the brush had been thicker. “The polish applied smoothly but due to the brush being so slim, I needed a couple re-dips to get a single coat in place,”According to them. Brushstrokes aside, our tester wants you to know that this shade consists mostly of pearlescence and not as much pigmentation, so don’t expect a stark-white mani out of this sheerer, translucent lacquer. “I can see myself wearing this every day in any season. We love a quick dry!”
Prices at the time this article was published: $19
Opacity: Sheer | Hue:Pearlescent white| Size: | Vegan: Yes
Check These Things Before You Make a Purchase
When you think of white nail polish, shades comparable to Wite-Out may come to mind, but there are in fact many options for a white manicure if you don’t (or do) want the paper-white effect. A wide variety of colors were tested by us, including opaque and white-toned shades as well as sheer grays. You can also opt for a shade that’s buildable, like a semi-sheer white (think OPI’s Funny BunnyTo achieve the look you desire, add more coats.
These are the features
Each lacquer is unique, with a different finish for each one, like a super-pigmented finish or a bright shine. It is important that you identify the most significant features in white nail polish. Some testers preferred brighter white shades while others preferred more translucent shades. Some testers preferred a nail polish that dried within 20 minutes. Others prefer building the color up and then waiting to dry. However, Reynosa recommends being wary of fast-drying polishes, as they can create some chaos in your manicure if you aren’t careful. “Fast-drying can actually work against you, especially if you are trying to even out the application — it can leave streaks and actual marks [or] dents from the brush strokes.”When you search, remember this!
As with many other products today in the beauty sector, “clean”Products are flooding the market for nail products. If you are someone who strives to use good-for-you products, then you’ll want to keep an eye on the ingredients listed on the label of your nail lacquer. Certain polishes may not be suitable for people with sensitive skin. Deborah Lipmann’s Gel Lab ProThese formulas can be used vegan. These formulas are free from toluene and dibutylphthalate. They can be irritating or even harmful. You should be aware of the 10-free warning if you are worried about what you apply to your skin.
Most Frequently Asked Questions
What are the best ways to prepare nails for manicures?
Reynosa has some great tips for you to prepare your nails prior to applying your white nail varnish. “Make sure your cuticles have been meticulously manicured, and the surface of your nail is clean and smooth. Shaping your nails comes next, which should be carefully done with a nail clipper if you need to adjust the length and a nail file for fixing any jagged edges or adding a shape (think coffin, almond, square… the list goes on).
“Don’t skip the base coat!”Reynosa cautions. Reynosa advises that nail care starts at the base. This will affect how manicures turn out. ShowYour cuticles need tender love before you begin painting.
Which nail varnish should be white?
It’s ridiculously easy to mess up your polish application, so we asked Reynosa to weigh in on this topic. “Instead of applying right at the cuticle line, start in the middle of the nail and massage the brush up towards the cuticle line, then pull down the center,”Recommendations from a nail expert “Repeat this on the sides until you have the coverage you want.”Also, different colors and consistencies require different application methods. When creating your DIY salon experience, this is an important thing to remember. “With white and with pastels, it’s best to float your brush and lightly sweep the surface instead of pressing — this will help you create an even, salon-like finish.” And don’t forget to clean up any mistakes around the nail bed with a non-toxic nail polish remover and seal off your look with a hard-wearing topcoat.
What is the best quality white nail varnish?
As Reynosa mentioned before, you won’t want to be stingy when it comes to the type of nail polish you buy in a white shade. Due to the high count of titanium dioxide required to achieve a densely white shade, it’s important to invest in a product that doesn’t thicken quickly or have a goopy consistency (which is easy to fall into with white polish). Thinner formulas often glide onto the nail much more gracefully, so it’s preferable to have a diluted, yet buildable consistency over one that is overly thick. While high-quality lacquers can be more expensive than cheaper ones, they deliver super smooth results.
White nail polish: How it was tested
The testers were given acrylic-free nails and polish nails in order to effectively test the 22 white polishes. One coat of each nail varnish was put on the right hand of each tester and left it to dry for another two minutes. Once the timer was up, each tester applied one coat of the assigned nail varnish to their right hand and let it dry for another two minutes. Then the tester could assess if they needed another coat. Based on the tester’s desired level of opacity, they determined how many coats would be needed. The average was 2 to 3 coats. It was then allowed to dry for about 30 minutes. The testers then touched the nails to check for any flaking or smudging after 30 minutes. The testers then evaluated how the nails looked overall. Finally, each tester received a rating. Each was also given a new polish.
For what purpose are people tested?
This is how we designed it PEOPLE Seal of ApprovalWe will help you choose the right products for your needs. To test the effectiveness of products, their durability, ease-of use, and other factors, we have developed our own unique methodology. Products are then rated and recommend to you based on their results.
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