Try These 13 Black Polishes When You’re in the Mood for a Moody Mani

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Byrdie / Lecia Landis

In case you missed the memo, black nail polish isn’t just trendy and edgy, it’s also incredibly sophisticated. I have nothing against neutral nudes and pale pinks, but there’s something about an inky manicure that feels equal parts classic, yet also completely cool. (And also makes for an awesome pedicure color, FYI.) No matter whether you’re a black polish devotee or are just looking to take a walk on the darker side, these black polishes are worth swiping.

Ahead—take a look at the best black polishes, ranging from classic black to glittery to matte.

Best Overall: Essie Nail Polish in Licorice

4.8
Essie Nail Polish in Licorice
What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Great classic black

What We Don't Like
  • Only 3-free

Who else recommends it? Cosmopolitan, Refinery 29, and Best Products all picked Essie Nail Polish in Licorice.

What do buyers say? 6,300+ Walmart reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.

“This shade has been around forever. It’s a staple black,”  says celebrity nail artist Elle of one of her faves. Just like real licorice, it’s shiny and inky black, not to mention super affordable, and from an extremely well-trusted brand.

Size: 0.46 oz. | Finish: Glossy | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Budget: LeChat Nails Dare to Wear Nail Lacquer in Black Velvet

LeChat Dare to Wear Nail Lacquer in Black Velvet

Courtesy of LeChat

What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Great coverage

What We Don't Like
  • Only sold online

An extremely wallet-friendly pick, this is another of Elle’s faves. “It’s so opaque that you can almost get away with just one coat,” she says. And while the shade name may imply a finish that’s more on the matte side of the spectrum, the color is ultra-shiny, she adds.

Size: 0.5 oz. | Finish: Cream | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Non-Black Black: OPI Lincoln Park After Dark

OPI Lincoln Park After Dark
What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Great if you don’t want full-on black

What We Don't Like
  • Only 3-free

OPI has (and continues to launch) tons of shades, but this is one of their top classics. It’s ideal for anyone who may be hesitant about going with a full-on black; the shade is dark, with rich wine-toned hues, says Elle. In fact, in some lighting, it can even look almost like deep plum, though it still reads as dark enough that it comes across as black. 

Size: 0.5 oz. | Finish: Glossy | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Matte Black: Chanel Nail Color in Boy De Chanel

Chanel Nail Color in Boy De Chanel
What We Like
  • Versatile

  • Great for nail art

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

Elle also likes this pick, a great choice for anyone who wants to opt for a matte black. She says the finish makes it super versatile, especially for nail art looks. One of her favorites? A French mani, using shiny black for the base, and this for the tip. FYI, she suggests not using a topcoat with this to maintain that matte effect.

Size: 0.4 fl. oz. | Finish: Matte | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Glossy Finish: Butter London Patent Shine 10X Nail Lacquer in Earl Grey

Butter London Patent Shine 10X Nail Lacquer in Earl Grey
What We Like
  • Infused with good-for-your nails ingredients

  • Long-lasting

  • 10-free

  • Great coverage

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

On the flip side, if you prefer your black polish to have mirror-like shine, reach for this bottle. Diamond powder in the formula brightens the color, making it look almost like patent leather, while UV absorbers ward off fading. And speaking of the color, this deep gray creme reads as black, yet is just a tiny bit softer and not quite as harsh.

Size: 0.4 fl. oz. | Finish: Glossy | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Runner-Up, Best Glossy Finish: Mischo Beauty Nail Lacquer in Run The World

Mischo Beauty Nail Lacquer in Run The World

Courtesy of Mischo Beauty

What We Like
  • 10-free

  • Long-lasting

  • Gorgeous packaging

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

This high-shine black checks all the boxes: The durable, chip-resistant formula is 10-free in addition to being vegan-friendly, cruelty-free, gluten-free, and artificial fragrance-free. But also, can we talk about the packaging? The bottle is beautiful, you’ll want to keep it on display. 

Size: 0.37 oz. | Finish: High-shine | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Metallic: LeChat Dare To Wear Nail Lacquer in Rock the Mic

LeChat Dare To Wear Nail Lacquer in Rock the Mic
What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Long-lasting

What We Don't Like
  • Only sold online

“This shade is a classic in my kit,” says Elle of another one of her go-tos. “It’s not your basic black because it’s a glittery, gunmetal shade,” she says. Still, you get the same effect as a black mani, just with a little more pop. And, as a bonus, glitter colors tend to last longer than creams.

Size: 0.5 fl. oz. | Finish: Shimmery | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Quick-Drying: Sally Hansen Insta Dri Nail Color in Black to Black

Sally Hansen Insta Dri Nail Color in Black to Black
What We Like
  • Affordable

  • No base or topcoat needed

What We Don't Like
  • Reviewers say it's a bit thick

All of the polishes in this list have a similar, fairly standard dry time that’s typical of any traditional polish (about 15 minutes or so). Not this guy. The revamped formula offers complete color coverage and dries in, wait for it, just 60 seconds. Not to mention that there is both a base coat and topcoat built-in, so you can shave even more precious minutes off your manicure time.

Size: 0.31 oz. | Finish: Shiny | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Non-Toxic: W/S 15-Free Nail Polish in Keep ‘Em Guessing

W/S 15-Free Nail Polish in Keep ‘Em Guessing
What We Like
  • 15-free

  • Gorgeous packaging

  • Vegan

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

We’ve seen 3-free, 8-free, even 10-free polishes in the market (as a friendly reminder, this refers to how many potentially questionable chemicals aren’t found in the formula), but this pick is an impressive 15-free. It’s also cruelty-free and vegan, made in the USA, and the brand donates a meal to someone in need for every bottle purchased. The line-up of shades is fairly limited, but this black is rich and inky and deeply pigmented.

Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Sustainable: Habit Cosmetics Nail Polish in 30 Midnight Cowboy

Habit Cosmetics Nail Polish in 30 Midnight Cowboy

Courtesy of Habit Cosmetics

What We Like
  • Sustainable packaging

  • 10-free

  • Subtly sparkly

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

Nail polish is known to be, well, not the most eco-friendly beauty product out there. Habit is helping to combat this via its innovative packaging. It’s currently the only polish brand using recycled plastic components for its bottles in addition to biodegradable bamboo overcaps and FSC-certified paperboard boxes. The formula is also non-toxic, vegan, and cruelty-free, to boot. Midnight Cowboy is one of our favorite shades from the brand, a black jelly base with silver micro-glitter that lends just the right amount of sparkle without being too over the top.

Size: 0.3 fl. oz. | Finish: Shimmery | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Gel-Like: Deborah Lippmann Gel Lab Pro in Fade to Black

Deborah Lippmann Gel Lab Pro in Fade to Black
What We Like
  • Long-lasting

  • Infused with good-for-your nails ingredients

  • Comes off with regular nail polish remover

  • Great coverage

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

  • Needs the accompanying base and topcoat

For those who want the high-shine, long-lasting wear, and cushiony look of a gel manicure but don’t want to deal with curing lights or an annoying removal process, this formula reigns supreme. The eponymous line from one of the biggest celebrity manicurists in the biz is made with an exclusive combo of 10 ingredients that both help deliver that gel-like effect, while also doing good things for your nails. The line also comes in tons of colors; as far as black goes, this full-coverage black creme is the way to go.

Size: 0.5 oz. | Finish: Glossy | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Easy Application: Orly Breathable in Mind Over Matter

Orly Breathable in Mind Over Matter
What We Like
  • No base or topcoat needed

  • Infused with good-for-your nails ingredients

  • Affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Reviewers don’t love the brush

Calling all DIY mani newbies. This polish is excellent for beginners because you don’t need to use a base or topcoat with it. It’s specially formulated to go straight onto nails, which both makes the DIY mani process easier but also helps let nails breathe and keeps them healthy (per the name). Also helpful: The addition of argan oil and pro-vitamin B5. Plus, it layers nicely with metallic toppers, a nice boon for nail art fans.

Size: 0.6 oz. | Finish: Glossy | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best With Benefits: Nailtopia Plant-Based Bio-Sourced Chip-Free Nail Lacquer

Nailtopia Plant-Based Bio-Sourced Chip-Free Nail Lacquer in Respect
What We Like
  • Vegan

  • Infused with good-for-your nails ingredients

  • Affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Only true black shade in the line

As the name suggests, this formula is 85% plant-based, filled with tons of ingredients that do great things for your nails. Truly, the list reads more like something you’d put in your morning smoothie than what you’d find in nails polish. We’re talking raspberry seed extract with vitamin E to help hydrate nails, antioxidant-rich blueberry extract, vitamin A-rich spinach extract to help harden, the list goes on and on. There are 77 colors to choose from, but you can’t go wrong with this classic black.

Size: 0.41 fl. oz. | Finish: Creme | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Final Verdict

A black manicure never goes out of style. When it comes time to pick your polish, you can’t go wrong with Essie Nail Polish in Licorice, a classic, inky black that’s super shiny. If you prefer a matte finish, the Chanel Nail Color in Boy De Chanel is a splurge-worthy choice. The OPI Lincoln Park After Dark is a nice pick for anyone who wants their manicure to look black but not be straight-up black (it has deep wine and plum undertones). Finally, the Sally Hansen Insta Dri Nail Color in Black to Black gets our vote for the best fast-drying option. It sets in 60 seconds and doesn’t require a base or topcoat.

Meet the Expert

Elle is a celebrity nail artist in New York City and Los Angeles. Her clients include Jennifer Lopez, Charlize Theron, and Blake Lively. 

What to Look For in a Black Nail Polish

Good Opacity

According to Elle, this is one of the main criteria. “If you hold the bottle up to the light, you can tell how opaque it is based on if you can see through it or not, and I always like a nice solid, black,” she explains.

Shine

Unless you’re intentionally choosing a matte finish, Elle says ensuring that your black polish is nice and shiny is important to keep the final look sophisticated and classic.

How We Researched

To compile this list, our team of editors and contributors spent hours researching the best products on the market in this category, evaluating their key features—like ingredients, shade range, or design—in addition to reviews from customers and other trusted sources. We then used this research to assign a star rating from one to five (five being the best; one being the worst) to certain products on the list.

Why Trust Byrdie

Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. She has her nails polished 99% of the time, most often rotating between a nude color. That being said, she loves a dark manicure (and pedicure) especially come the fall and winter months. The Essie and OPI options on this list are two of her personal favorites.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. 10 Black Nail Polishes I Keep In Constant Rotation. Cosmopolitan. https://www.cosmopolitan.com/style-beauty/beauty/g28816455/black-nail-polish/

  2. The Best Black Nail Polish Ever Created, According To The Pros. Refinery 29. https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/shop/product/the-best-black-nail-polish-ever-created-according-to-the-pros-2-8446458

  3. THESE BLACK NAIL POLISHES DESERVE A SPOT IN YOUR MANICURE KIT. Best Products. https://www.bestproducts.com/beauty/g1010/black-nail-polish-shades/

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