Best Nail Polish: The 2023 List Beauty Awards

Versatility makes nail polish among the most creative forms of self-expression. And, since it's not permanent, you're free to switch your polish up whenever the need arises. Use it to match your mood, the season, or whatever fabulous outfit you're planning to wear tonight. Without a doubt, nail polish is a must-have cosmetic.

Sure, you can head to the nail salon to get your nails painted, but getting an excellent mani at home is just as achievable, and honestly, so much more affordable. TikTok how-tos are readily available to show you the ins and outs of painting nails at home, but we're here to point you in the right direction for the absolute best nail polishes you need in stock at your at-home nail station.

For this year's List Beauty Awards, we went to task and tested out the latest and supposedly greatest nail polishes to find the one that truly stands above them all. On our quest to find the best, we made sure to judge each nail polish based on the following criteria: formula, longevity, smoothest application, dry speed, and overall appearance. Let's dive in and see which nail polishes really sparkled this season in The List Beauty Awards: nail polish edition.

Read more about the 2023 List Beauty Awards methodology and all the top picks here.

Best overall: ILNP Ultra Chrome Nail Polish

There's a reason this nail polish gets so much love on TikTok. For now, ILNP may not be as well-known as the giants in the nail polish industry, but it's already racking up a dedicated fanbase. Just head over to #ILNP and check out any of the millions of videos gushing over this polish and claiming it as their new favorite. You can add us to that list, because this is seriously one great nail polish. It's got everything you want out of a bottle; beautiful color, a non-watery, fast-drying formula, and an ultra-cute (and practical) design. The rubber texture of the bottle top makes it easy to grip and twist, which is great -– no fighting to open a slippery bottle with wet nails!

This polish went on smooth like butter because of its short, firm brush that didn't wobble during use. And the color was absolutely amazing. We elected to try the polish in the shade Abundance and were not disappointed. The gorgeous autumnal color has a mirror-like gleam that shifts from purple, gold, and green depending on the way you twist your wrist. We spent a lot of time admiring just how prismatically pretty this nail polish is. The fact that the color stays on your nails is even better. Five days in, and we're seeing no chipping. The ILNP polish deserves its place as our favorite nail polish of 2023.

Purchase the ILNP Ultra Chrome Nail Polish in Abundance at ILNP for $12.50.

Smoothest application: essie gel couture

This is it –- this is the polish you've been waiting for if you're not exactly a whiz when it comes to nail polish application. Nail polish can get messy when you're just starting out or don't have the best hand-eye coordination. But Essie Gel Couture makes application fun and easy, making this polish a true standout. The brush was flat and slim, which actually worried us at first. How would it pick up and hold enough polish to make this a quick application? But that worry was for nothing: the flat brush meant there was no pooling or overlap onto the cuticles as we applied the polish. It was a mess-free experience, and it's always a plus when you don't have to go back over your mess with a Q-tip for cleanup. Just one coat was enough to see that the color was going to be gorgeous, and two coats proved us right. "What's the Stitch" is a lovely, satiny purple that is just muted enough to work with any outfit.

It would be a crime not to mention the unique, twisted shape of the bottle. It's perfect for anyone who considers themselves a collector of cute nail polish bottles.

Purchase the Essie Gel Couture polish in What's the Stitch at Essie for $13.

Most chip-resistant: OPI Infinite Shine

There's no surprise that nail polish from this salon-favorite brand made it to the top ranks of our list for 2023. Without a doubt, OPI crafts some good nail polish. It's won many awards, including an award for being our fave from the 2022 List Beauty Awards. OPI Infinite Shine has earned our admiration with markedly fantastic scores across the board, but it truly impressed us with its ability to withstand the elements.

We had this polish on as we went about our busy week and were amazed at how it stayed intact. It survived several sweaty fitness classes, lifting grocery bags, plenty of pet cuddling, and stood strong against nail polish's most egregious offender: bath time. Seriously, nightly baths are a no-no for nail polish longevity, but Infinite Shine lived up to its name of staying shiny for as long as you're feeling its color. There was no noticeable wear and tear on the polish by the end of the week, which is no small feat.

Purchase the OPI Infinite Shine polish in Malaga Wine at OPI for $13.99.

Best gel-like finish: Olive & June Nail Polish

Who isn't instantly mesmerized when they lay eyes on a smooth gel manicure? When done right, a gel mani will make your nails look like small, glossy pools of your favorite color. It seems as though, for a long time, there hasn't been any way to replicate that salon-quality gel effect at home without using the best gel nail polish. Fortunately, Olive & June has stepped up to the challenge to fill that gap and has given nail lovers everywhere a polish that can give a gel-like mani in just a few swipes — no UV rays or gel nail polish required.

Olive & June's nail polish immediately grabbed our attention with its promise of a 15-free formula. Per the nail polish experts at Diamond Cosmetics, most nail polishes opt for a 3-free formula. Olive & June's nail polish goes above and beyond by cutting out so many more controversial ingredients, including animal-derived products and sulfates. Instant points for giving us a polish that cares about what we're putting on our bodies. The resulting formula has a barely-there scent and creamy texture that doesn't drip off the brush.

But the gel-like finish this brand promises is what gave it the prize for this category. A single coat is enough to see a gel effect take over your nail, and we were happy to see that the shine stayed present during the entire wear.

Purchase the Olive & June Nail Polish in HZ at Target for $8.99.

Best glitter polish: Habit Cosmetics in Space Cadet

Habit Cosmetics really knows how to sell a bottle. The chunky wood cap imprinted with the brand's logo on top just screams luxurious. We have to admit that we were a little less impressed by its high price, especially considering it holds just 9 mL of polish, the smallest amount for all polishes tested. The brush was also a little flimsy feeling. A firmer brush would have made the application just a bit smoother. As it was, we experienced a little spillage while applying.

Other than those minor hangups, we loved, loved, loved this polish. It scored among the highest for quick drying, which may come as a surprise. In our experience, glitter polishes seem to take longer to dry, but it felt like we blinked a few times and this polish had already set. As far as shine, this lacquer passed with flying colors. The shine is incredible and looks shockingly like a gel, and that's just with two coats. Space Cadet was out of this world and among our favorite shades tested. The creamy black and cerulean blue color gave us Van Gogh vibes (you know, if he was a huge fan of glitter).

Purchase the Habit Cosmetics polish in Space Cadet at Habit Cosmetics for $20.