Is there anything more classic than a gorgeous red manicure? We don’t think so—but finding that crimson color of your dreams can sometimes be harder than you think. Well, we’re here to save the day; as noted red nail aficionados, we’ve tried practically every shade and we know what’s good. From candy cane to merlot (and all points in between), here are the best red nail polishes ever.
Best candy apple red: Essie, Lollipop ($8.50, Essie)
If you want a manicure that’s the exact same shiny shade as a candy cane, Lollipop is for you. A slightly warm-toned red, this shade makes us think of autumn leaves, delicious candy and Jerry Hall’s lips in the ’70s. We especially love the jellylike consistency of this polish, which helps keep it beautifully bright AND easy to work with. A practically neon polish that’s impossible to mess up? We’re all in.
Best classic red: OPI, Big Apple Red ($9, Drugstore.com)
If you’re looking for that perfectly balanced red—bright, neither too cool-toned nor too warm, with serious opacity and shine—Big Apple Red is your new essential. Not only does this formula flow beautifully onto nails and dry in under 60 seconds (seriously!), it flatters every single skin tone and never stains. Consider this shade the Little Black Dress of your nail polish collection.
Best metallic red: Butter London, Knees Up ($15, Butter London)
If you’re looking to add some interest to your look this fall, we suggest taking the classic red and adding some shine; that’s where Knees Up comes in. An intense, neutral red, this shade shines like the top of the Chrysler building—all while remaining impossibly grown-up. Though it’s opaque in a single coat, apply two for maximum depth to the color.
Best glittery red: Deborah Lippmann, Ruby Red Slippers ($20, Sephora)
If you want to sparkle this fall, you can’t go past Ruby Red Slippers. The glitter, which comes in two sizes (small squares and large hexagons) is suspended in a sheer burgundy base—which draws even more attention to the ruby-red sparkle (and also makes it easier to remove, something really important in a glitter). Dramatic and sexy while also being fun, this is hands down one of the most beautiful polishes we’ve ever seen.
Best dark red: JINsoon, Audacity ($18, Jin Soon)
If you like your reds impossibly dark, Audacity is going to make your heart skip a beat. The deepest, richest red wine shade we’ve ever seen outside of Olivia Pope’s glassware, this shade is the perfect way to embrace the vampy dark polish trend while still looking sophisticated. As always, the formula is impeccable—one coat gives you totally opaque, flawless coverage—and removal is easy, and happens without discoloring the nail. Obsessed seems so inadequate to describe our feelings.
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