At this point, we’re smack-dab in the middle what is arguably the golden age of nail polish. There have never been so many amazing options on the market—so many, in fact, that when it’s time to shop, it can be hard to narrow the field. One thing that bumps a polish to the top of my wishlist, even more than a beautiful color, is the perfect brush.
If you’ve encountered one, you’ll know what I’m talking about: a wide, flat shape that makes application much, much easier. Wide enough that you can cover the whole nail bed in three swipes (one down the middle, then one on each side), with minimal streakiness. There are old polish standbys with wider brushes (Sally Hansen, OPI) but these three picks, one for every budget, are clear standouts. Each comes with a near-perfect brush that will make DIY manis not only easier to do, but also longer-lasting. Remember—a smoother application means fewer chips! All are free of formaldehyde, DBP, and toluene, too.
Essence Colour & Go | $1.99
You might not expect a nail color this inexpensive to have a pro-quality brush, but Essence’s is ideal for distributing color quickly and accurately. The line has a huge selection of both classic and on-trend colors—we especially love the variety of perfect, sheer pinks. The other nice thing about these is that the caps are color-coded, so if you stow your polishes standing up in a box, bag, or drawer, it’s easier to find the right shade.
pictured: Iced Strawberry Cream
Rimmel Lasting Finish Pro Nail Enamel | $3.99
Rated four out of five stars on our site, Rimmel’s Lasting Finish Pro just may be the best nail polish out there if you plotted options on a graph comparing formula vs. wear vs. brush vs. price. The brush is so easy to grip, and one of the widest we’ve seen (with more than 800 bristles, according to the brand). It truly works with your natural nail shape as it’s curved at the end, meaning you can get the color on cleanly up to the cuticle. Just make sure to wipe the excess before starting. I must say, this is one of the longest-lasting polishes I’ve tried—with base and top coat, it’s gone chip-free more than a week on a mani and almost 3 weeks on a pedi. Seriously!
pictured: Baby Pink
Giorgio Armani Nail Lacquer | $20
Chanel, Tom Ford, and other designer nail lines may want to take cues from Armani’s new Nail Lacquers. There are 18 gorgeous, sophisticated shades, each with a broad-tipped brush that was custom-designed in Armani laboratories. The attention to detail paid off; application is a bubble-free breeze, and the gel-like formula lends a lot of shine. For a high-end brand, the price is reasonable. It’s one of those little luxuries that can be so nice to have in your kit!
pictured: 602 Night Viper