Fact Checked

How Do I Choose the Best Cheap Nail Polish?

Patti Kate
Patti Kate

To purchase cheap nail polish that looks good on you, determine which colors favor your skin tone. Don't shop at salons or boutiques for your nail color if you want to save money. Cheap nail polish can be found at dollar stores or discount department stores. Don't buy off-name brands, however, because the quality of the nail polish may be poor. Check the ingredients in cheap nail polish and avoid fragrances that cause sensitivity.

Choosing cheap nail polish doesn't necessarily mean compromising quality, if you look for a good sale. Often you can find name brand-nail polish at a discounted price if you know where to shop. Inspect the nail polish bottle carefully for signs of age. Settling of color at the bottom of the bottle could indicate the polish has been sitting on the shelf for a very long time.

Cheap clear nail polish.
Cheap clear nail polish.

Some discount stores have a decent variety of cheap nail polish colors. Choose your nail colors according to the season. Wearing vivid and bold colors in the wintertime may not be a good idea. During winter, you should choose nail color with a subtle hue. Conversely, during summertime, don't be afraid to be more daring and bold with your nail color.

Name brand polishes can often be found at discounted prices.
Name brand polishes can often be found at discounted prices.

If you have dark or olive skin tone, choose nail colors such as red, orange, or purple, all of which should look attractive on you. If your skin tone is fair to medium, you should avoid bright red nail color. Choosing tans, pinks, and other pastels will enhance your natural complexion.

Consider the amount of jewelry you normally wear. If you tend to wear rings and bracelets, tone down the look with a pale or subtle shade of nail color. Wearing bold nail polish might clash with your fashion accessories and create a disorganized look.

Basic colors, like various shades of red, can be found at low prices.
Basic colors, like various shades of red, can be found at low prices.

Nail colors come in various finishes as well. Whether you prefer matte or pearl finish is a matter of personal preference. Choosing the right texture and finish can be decided with the help of a professional. Ask for advice at the salon, but don't feel pressured into buying expensive nail color.

When buying cheap nail polish, you might not have the option of choosing a preferable nail brush. Most cheap nail polishes come standard with a small brush. Exceptions to this rule do apply, so shop around for polish that includes a proper-sized application brush. When buying cheap nail polish, avoid products made with formaldehyde, which can cause sensitivity in people with allergies and asthma.

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Discussion Comments


@bagley79 - Your tip to use a base and top coat is invaluable, especially with cheaper nail polishes.

A while ago I thought I'd gotten a bargain, with something labeled as 'long lasting' nail color. Well it certainly lived up to its name, as I couldn't get it off my poor toe nails.

I hadn't used a base coat and the cheap dyes soaked deep into the nails. I think I'll have to grow them out completely before I can paint them again.

From now I'm going to look out for quality brands with discounts attached, anything else just isn't worth it.


I’m sort of the exception to the norm when it comes to painting my nails. I prefer exotic colors to frosts, pinks, and reds. I like to paint designs with a small brush, and you will hardly ever see me wearing a solid color nail polish.

However, I do use the cheapest polish I can find that isn’t old and on its way out. This way, I can collect more colors to use.

I often do things like painting the top diagonal of my nail green and the bottom diagonal black. I do vertical or horizontal stripes of red and white around Christmas, and near Halloween, I make candy corn nails by painting the bottom stripe yellow, the middle section orange, and the tip white.

Sometimes, I get fancy and paint flowers or dragonflies on my nails. Having a vast supply of cheap nail polish colors to choose from makes my designs more interesting.


My advice to those seeking cheap nail polish is to try out several brands. Once you find one that goes on smooth, lasts nearly a week on your nails, and doesn’t clump up inside the bottle for many months, stick with it. Seek out that brand whenever you are looking for a new shade.

If you can find a cheap nail polish that dries in one minute, then it will probably be a good buy. Lower quality polishes typically take longer to set.

Also, if two coats of a polish provides you with rich color and adequate coverage, then you have found a good one. Any more than two coats can put unnecessary weight on your nails and contribute to breakage.


If I see a good quality bottle of nail polish at a cheap price, I will certainly grab it. I often look for it at a discount store that sells overstocked or slightly damaged items, but I have to be careful to check for signs of aging first.

Some bottles of polish for sale there show a clear dividing line between the polish on top of the bottle and that on the bottom. If I see a line, I know that the polish has begun to dry up. Though shaking it may mix the parts back together, it won’t be long before the polish loses its moisture and becomes too thick to use.


My local discount store has several brands of nail polish for under $5. They also carry some that cost $7 and above, but I won’t pay this much for it. I know of several cheap brands that perform well, and if I need to seek out a new brand for any reason, I know what to look for because of trial and error.

For starters, I look for opaque colors. I don’t like wearing a frost, because my nails are somewhat yellow, and I need a polish that will completely cover that. If I see even a hint of frost in a bottle, I will not buy it.

Next, I open the bottle and sniff it. If it has a spoiled odor, I put it back on the shelf. No nail polish smells wonderful, but one with an odor that suggests it has deteriorated will not last long before it coagulates and dries up.


I have bought expensive nail polish from a salon, and cheap nail polish from a discount store. I don't think it is so much the price as it is the brand of polish.

I have had good ones and bad ones either way. I do get really frustrated when I purchase an expensive nail polish, only to find that it doesn't stay on any longer than a cheap one.

Other times I have found certain brands, that really do last a lot longer and these are the ones I continue to buy if I want an expensive polish.

When I buy cheap nail polish, I usually figure you get what you pay for. If it only stays on a couple of days, I am not disappointed because I didn't really expect anything different.


I love to buy brand name items at a dollar store. This can really add up and save me a lot of money over time. I have found nice nail polish and nail brushes at most dollar stores.

What I have found most important is to make sure I use a base coat and a top coat. The base coat helps protect my nails, and the top coat helps the polish stay on longer.

I have found that when I do this, it doesn't matter if I use a cheap nail polish or an expensive one - the polish stays on the same amount of time before it starts chipping.

If I just put on a coat of cheap nail polish without the extra base and top coats, I find that it starts chipping within one or two days.


I don't wear finger nail polish every day, so I look for cheap nail polish when I am looking for a new color. Because my polish does not get used very often, many times it is dry when I get ready to use it again, and I feel like I have wasted my money.

If I buy a cheap nail polish and only use it a couple times, I don't feel so bad if it dries out. I will usually pick up a bottle of cheap nail polish at a dollar store. I can save up to three or four dollars by doing it this way.

Most of the dollar stores have name brand polish, so this is a great way to go. Many of the colors are just colors that they are closing out and there is nothing wrong with the quality of the nail polish.


@Monika - While I'm certainly not knocking cheap nail polish, I definitely don't think it works as well as salon brands. I've found that when I use the salon brand polish my manicure lasts around a week. But when I buy the cheap stuff my nail polish starts chipping after about 3 days!

That being said, cheap nail polish is a good alternative if you don't mind doing your nails every few days. I just don't have that kind of time!


I buy cheap nail polish all the time. I've tried a lot of different nail polishes and I honestly think the cheap stuff works just as well as the more expensive salon brands.

Sally Hansen is one of my favorite brands. I usually buy the kind that costs about $3 a bottle. It comes in so many colors! And I can buy three different colors of that brand for the price of one bottle of a more expensive brand.


There are always cheap nail polishes available at big box stores, you just have to know where to look. Usually there will be a bin on the bottom shelf tucked away somewhere in the cosmetics area that have a huge variety of colors.

While a lot of the colors in the discount bin are technically out of season I think following color conventions is silly. If you like a nail polish color I think you should wear it.

Another good idea is to check and see if you can find a coupon for the nail polish brand you like if you must have a certain brand. I have gotten free bottles of nail polish just from e-mailing the company that makes the polish I love.


Dollar stores have a huge selection of nail polish if you are on a budget. Honestly, I see nothing wrong with saving a few bucks and just buying a color that you like in a discount store.

Sometimes if you visit dollar stores you will find perfectly good brand name polishes at deep discounts. The only real difference I see in these nail polishes is that they are often trial sizes, or just a bit smaller than what you would see in a larger department store.

I am not sure about you, but since I hardly ever finish a bottle of nail polish anyway, there is no problem with buying discounted trial sizes. They do the job and if you don't like the color after awhile you didn't waste a lot of cash.

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    • Cheap clear nail polish.
      By: Africa Studio
      Cheap clear nail polish.
    • Name brand polishes can often be found at discounted prices.
      By: Dmytro Titov
      Name brand polishes can often be found at discounted prices.
    • Basic colors, like various shades of red, can be found at low prices.
      By: larisabozhikova
      Basic colors, like various shades of red, can be found at low prices.
    • Choosing cheap nail polish does not necessarily mean compromising quality.
      By: Alliance
      Choosing cheap nail polish does not necessarily mean compromising quality.