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Which matte nail polishes are best?

If you love the sleek, modern look of a matte nail polish, you’re not alone. Matte makes hands look young and fresh and breathes new life into your go-to colors. If you’re looking to dip your toe in the pool of matte nail polishes with a minimum of expense, finding a mattifying top coat is an inexpensive, smart way to get started. For this, OPI Matte Top Coat is the top choice.

What to know before you buy a matte nail polish

Mattifying top coat vs. pigmented matte

One easy way to get started with matte polish is to add a mattifying top coat to your favorite shades. Simply add two layers of your favorite color, let them dry, then add a mattifying top coat. This works best on darker, non-metallic colors, as a mattifying top coat can look milky on a lighter color. Experiment on one nail to see if you like the look before committing. Otherwise, buy a matte polish with the tint already in the bottle.

Dark vs. light

The matte trend began with dark colors, and it’s easy to see why: they look great in matte. Non-traditional colors, in particular, look great in matte, especially those in the gray and black family, as well as rich blues and greens. But light mattes can add a fresh, fun look to your hands, so don’t overlook them. A nice peach or light blue in matte is the perfect complement to a sundress or other summery outfit.


Matte polish tends to chip more readily than shiny polish, so be sure to prep your nail well and extend the mattifying top coat over the tips of your nails. If you’re buying a tinted matte polish, look for a formula that resists chipping and apply on a solid base coat for greater adhesion.

What to look for in a quality matte nail polish 

Rich color

One of the fun things about matte polish is layering on the deep, rich color. Go as daring as you like with matte, since the lack of shine means you can lean into bolder colors. Matte polishes tend to be color-saturated and audacious, so they’re a great look for an evening out or an outfit with some drama. Draw attention to a matte manicure with some modern, fashion-forward rings.

A great base for nail art

Another fun look to try with matte nails is nail art. Design your own with other polishes if you’ve got a steady hand, or buy ready-made stickers to layer on over your polish. To make the look cohesive, look for matte nail art as well, or add a few rhinestones to matte for an eye-catching look.


Another benefit of a matte nail application is how fast matte polishes dry. (This benefit applies less if you go the route of using regular nail polish and adding a mattifying top coat). So if you need to splash on some color and run, reach for your favorite matte nail polish.

How much you can expect to spend on a matte nail polish

Expect to pay between $6-$20 on a good matte polish.

Matte nail polish FAQ

What’s the most popular matte nail polish design?

A. One fun, easy look you can try is a variation on the classic French manicure. Instead of painting the tips of your nail white, you apply your matte polish as your base coat, wait for it to dry, and apply a glossy top coat just to the nail tips. This makes the bed of your nails matte and the tips of your nails glossy, but maintains a monochromatic look. It’s a subtle, modern twist on the old classic.

How do you keep matte nail polish from staining your nails?

A. The trick to doing this is the same as it is with shiny nail polish: apply a base coat. Don’t worry if the base coat is shiny. The matte polish will cover any shine from the base coat, and the base will keep the heavy pigment (particularly in reds) from yellowing your nails. 

What are the best matte nail polishes to buy?

Top matte nail polish

OPI Matte Top Coat

OPI Matte Top Coat

What you need to know: Double your nail polish collection instantly with this clear, mattifying top coat that turns your favorite shades matte without a big investment in new colors. 

What you’ll love: This formula can add 7 days of wear to your manicure, and will make all your existing nail polishes new again by giving them a modern update.

What you should consider: The matte finish will wear down on busy hands, so if you need something longer-lasting, you may want a pigmented nail polish that goes on matte.

Where to buy: Sold by Ulta Beauty

Top matte nail polish for the money

Essie Matte About You Matte Nail Finisher

Essie Matte About You Matte Nail Finisher

What you need to know: Like the OPI top coat, this drugstore favorite offers a way to make all your favorite shades matte.

What you’ll love: Essie applicators are comfortable and glide the polish on smoothly, making for an even coat.

What you should consider: This top coat can be prone to chipping.

Where to buy: Sold by Ulta Beauty

Worth checking out

Ownest 6 Colors Mist Effect Matte Velvet Nail Polish

Ownest 6 Colors Mist Effect Matte Velvet Nail Polish

What you need to know: This is a great collection of beautiful mattes in a range of pastel colors.

What you’ll love: You’ll have a beautiful matte color for every mood (or every nail!) with this great range of lavender, gray, yellow, pink and more.

What you should consider: These are tiny bottles of polish, so be sure to look at the fluid-ounce content to avoid disappointment.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Maria E. Andreu writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money. 

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