Skip to main content

A Guide to Finding the Perfect White Nail Polish

Colorless color can be tricky.
  • Author:
  • Updated:

Move over pretty pastels and blindingly-bright neons--the nail polish aisle has a new 'it' color that's not really a color at all: white.

We first noticed the deceptively simple hue on the Spring 2013 runways (like at rag & bone, before it started showing up on stars like Miley Cyrus and Zoe Saldana this summer. Now, we’re finding ways to work it into our polish rotation as much as possible. And luckily, it's hard to go wrong when the shade is so versatile.

But don't be mistaken: Not all white polishes were created equal. It may seem counter-intuitive, but, because of the shade's simplicity, subtle variations, like glossy or matte finishes or warm and cool undertones, can make a world of difference. We've rounded-up and reviewed the best white polishes at ever price point--so you can be sure the white you buy is the right white for you.

Tom Ford in “Vapor,” $30

Shade: Pearly, high-gloss white.

Choose it: This sophisticated pearl-white polish by Tom Ford has an understated and classic touch, but the hint of sparkle gives it just enough flash. It may err on the dear side, but NYC-based nail artist Julie Kandalec says a timeless color like this one is worth the extra dough. “Spend a little more money on a higher-quality white polish,” she says. “The pigment will be richer and you will get better coverage with less effort and dry time.”

Wet n’ Wild Megalast in “Break the Ice,” $2

Shade: Glittery, icy white.

Choose it: If you’re curious about the white-polish trend, but not so much that you’re willing to break the bank for a bottle, opt for Wet n’ Wild’s “Break the Ice.” The pretty, icy hue is glittery (oooh sparkle), works well with a tan, and resists chipping for five days. You can’t go wrong with a guilt-free buy that costs less than your daily latte.

Deborah Lippmann in “Like a Virgin,” $17

Shade: Sheer, warm white.

Choose it: Even if you’re not typically a colored polish girl, the day-to-day wearability of a sheer white, like Deborah Lippmann’s “Like a Virgin,” gives nails just the right gloss. It’s an upscale way to polish off your entire look (no pun intended. Ok, maybe pun intended.). Nail-guru Lippmann also turned to this of-the-moment color for the spring Honor show, aiming to add both strength and softness. “Whether it’s opaque or sheer, white is definitely a trend right now,” says Lippmann. “It’s clean and neutral, yet bright for summer. You could wear it any time.”

NARS in “Ecume,” $19

Shade: Brightest white.

Choose it: This one's for you neon-a-holics: The bright, bold, snowy white is just as loud as any neon, but more versatile--especially on darker skin tones.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

RGB in “White,” $18

Shade: Neutralizing gray-white.

Choose it: Nail expert and RGB founder Gina Carney wanted a white shade that felt just right for warm weather--fresh and extremely versatile, but not chalky--and came up with a formula that she says is “modern on short nails and sexy on the longer, almond-shape nail looks we are seeing this summer.” Gray-white is a great complement for girls with edgier style. It's creamy enough to feel neutral but opaque enough to stand out.

Illamasqua in “Scorch,” $17

Shade: Super-hot white.

Choose it: We don’t know how they did it, but Illamasqua has managed to bottle up a flame so white-hot it flickers with blue undertones. It’s as striking on a girl with streamlined style as it is on a free spirit. And bonus (or three): it goes on easy, doesn’t chip for days, and dries quickly. “It's a clean way to make your nails pop without having to commit to a crazy bright,” manicurist Aggie Zaro says. “My favorite way to wear white is with ripped jean shorts, a white t-shirt, sandals and tons of gold bangles and skinny gold rings.”

Essie in “Waltz,” $8

Shade: Nearly-sheer, cool white.

Choose it: If you’re torn between shades, Essie’s “Waltz” is an expert favorite because it can be sheer for French manicures, but two coats will give you a taste of the trend without white overkill. Nail artist Julie Kandalec suggests applying a ridge-filling base coat before using a soft touch with this white shade, which is her favorite budget-friendly option. “Apply with more of a gliding, light stroke--almost like floating,” she says. “Let the polish self level, and don't keep brushing over it or it will streak.” Wise words for any white you choose.

OPI in “My Vampire Is Buff,” $9.

Shade: Vanilla nude-white.

Choose it: If you're into the nude polish look, then a vanilla shade might be for you. More of a creamy off-white than true white, we like the warmth of this OPI polish. It has the versatility of a nude, but with white’s fresher feel. And as with any OPI, it’s virtually chip-proof. The light color is great if you’re low on time, as a couple coats of “Buff” can help a mani stretch for a full week.

"Wite Out" by Bic

Shade: Hopefully similar to your white lined school papers.

Choose it: If you're a total Avril Lavigne punk and/or are in middle school and don't make enough allowance to buy your own white nail polish. It doesn't get more HxC than this.