The 10 Best Clear Nail Polishes To Wear Alone

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There’s nothing like a coat of clear nail polish to give your hands an instant glow-up. Not only is it a quick way to look chic and put-together, but in some cases, it can even improve the quality of your nails. The best clear nail polishes to wear alone are easy to apply, resistant to chipping and peeling, and won't discolor your nails.

Choosing the right clear nail polish depends on the current condition of your nails. If they’re in good shape, a simple lacquer is all that’s required. For those whose nails need a little extra TLC, there are treatments for everything from ridges to peeling and splitting. These speciality polishes still add the shine of a clear coat while simultaneously helping to repair your nails.

Ingredients also come into play when picking a clear polish to wear alone. For instance, formaldehyde, which is found in many standard polishes, can react with the keratin in your nails, causing weakening and discoloration, so it’s best to stick to formaldehyde-free formulas if you can. Some nail polishes also include animal-derived ingredients like oleic acid. If you prefer to avoid these, look for polishes that are clearly labeled as being vegan-friendly. For a clear polish that actually benefits your nails, check for additions like peptides, which add strength, and antioxidant-rich marine kelp, which gives a boost of hydration.

From base coats for a future layer of chic neutral polish to clear coats with a touch of sparkle, these are the best clear nail polishes on Amazon.

The Best Quick-Dry Clear Polish

Wet n Wild's quick-dry polish is not only wallet-friendly, but also has a fast-drying formula that’s earned it high marks on Amazon. A single coat dries in as little as 40 seconds and lasts up to five days for at-home manicures that are both quick and durable. Some reviewers raved about the wide brush, which speeds up application and doesn't leave streaks; another liked that the polish itself glided smoothly over their nail beds. The formula is not only free from formaldehyde, but camphor, toluene, and parabens, too.

One reviewer wrote: “This clear coat dries quicker than Sally Hansens quick dry formula and has a much better price. The polish is of a nice consistency and not too watery. The brush applicator is the perfect size. Definitely recommend if [you’re] looking to get your money's worth.”

The Best Strengthener

This strengthening polish by Ella + Mila is designed to fortify brittle, splitting, and thin nails when applied regularly over a four-week period. However, many reviewers also rely on the formula as a clear coat for neat, shiny nails. The product is infused with hydrating vitamin E, and the vegan-friendly, PETA-approved formula is free from additives like formaldehyde, toluene, dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde resin, camphor, TPHP, and xylene. Some reviewers wished for a slightly wider and longer brush, but another noted that the bristles hold the perfect amount of polish for an even coat.

A Bustle editor’s take: “I have a massive nail polish collection, but this is the one I reach for most often. It’s great for giving my nails TLC after removing a gel manicure, and it looks awesome worn by itself. It also dries pretty fast, so I can toss on a coat before I walk out the door if I’m rushing to an event and want to look a bit more polished.” — Carina Finn

The Best Budget Clear Polish

With more than 16,500 five-star ratings, this Sally Hansen clear polish is one of the most popular options on Amazon. The formula is labeled as chip-resistant, fade-resistant, and waterproof, and the brand claims that it can help your nails become stronger over time. It dries to a perfectly clear, high-gloss finish, and is also free of dibutyl phthalate (DBP), toluene, and formaldehyde. The brush’s bristles glide easily over your nails for precise application, and multiple reviewers also noted that it dries fairly quickly.

One reviewer wrote: “It's ridiculously hard to find clear polish these days. Everything is a top coat, or strengthener, or whatever. If you're simply looking for a clear polish, this is it! I put this stuff on my natural nails about once every two weeks to keep them shiny and waterproof. [...] I definitely recommend this product for anyone wanting to preserve their natural nails.”

The Best Premium Polish

This combination base and top coat by Deborah Lippmann also works as a clear nail polish to wear alone, providing a fresh, clean look when you're going au naturel. The vegan, cruelty-free formula is “10-free,” meaning it doesn't contain the 10 most common additives, including formaldehyde and DBP. The hydrating formula includes diamond powder to help strengthen nails along with biotin and hydrolyzed soy protein. The brush applicator reaches the bottom of the bottle so you don't have to tilt it to absorb the polish, and one reviewer loved that it "goes on evenly and smoothly."

One reviewer wrote: “I use two coats on bare nails because I prefer a clear look for daily use. It gives a nice fresh clear look without any yellow look to it. This really stays on and lasts and keeps my nails from splitting or breaking. And my nails are healthy. I will definitely continue to use this product.”

The Best Hardening Polish

Sally Hansen’s vegan nail hardener is formaldehyde-free and made with plant-based ingredients including potato, corn, wheat, and sugar cane — even the brush bristles are plant-based. The clear formula acts as a protective sealer on fragile nails and diminishes the appearance of ridges. Use it alone for glossy, radiant nail beds or as a base coat for other polishes.

One reviewer wrote: “This is a nice clear coat that I frequently wear alone. Honestly I have nails hard as iron, no idea why. They grow very very fast. This hardener functions very well as a nice shiny clear polish while keeping nail tears or chips at bay. Hard nails like mine doesn’t mean they don’t break!!”

The Best Ridge Filler

This 10-free nail treatment by Barielle is a savior for thirsty nails. The formaldehyde-free formula contains silk protein fibers to help fill in and smooth out ridges, while providing extra hydration to prevent brittle nails and chipping. Some reviewers mentioned that it takes up to three coats to completely eliminate ridges, but they raved about its use as a stand-alone polish and base coat in equal measure.

One reviewer wrote: “After reading positive reviews on this product, I thought ok, I’ll give it a shot. I’m so glad I did! My nails are now strong and healthy looking. Even if you only use this product alone, it leaves your nails looking smooth as glass. However when you use it under other nail polish, boy, does it make your manicure look professionally done! I’m so glad I found this product!”

The Best Polish That Won’t Peel

This clear polish by essie will help you see stronger nails in just three days, according to the salon-favorite brand. The formaldehyde-free formula also promises 60% less peeling and 35% less breakage in one week compared to similar brands. One reviewer raved that the bristles “are really big and thick, so you get even coverage without having to constantly keep dipping to get more product.” Infused with calcium and camellia extract, this polish is vegan-friendly, too.

One reviewer wrote: “I'm a huge fan of all things essie and this ‘Treat Love & Color’ strengthener doesn't disappoint. I've been using it alone for a little extra shine and protection, and also as a base coat, and it performs well in both scenarios. It lasts a good 7 days when I use it on its own.”

The Best Polish For Chip-Free Tips

While most clear polishes can be used as a base coat and nail strengthener, this three-in-one nail treatment by OPI does both, plus has the added benefit of working as a chip-resistant top coat. It’s an ideal choice for anyone who switches between clear and colored manicures, and it’s formaldehyde-free. One Amazon reviewer recommended using it “on nail tips and under” because it makes “polish hang on for its Life,” while other reviewers reported that the polish lasts at least a week without peeling.

One reviewer wrote: “This is exactly what I was looking for! I'm very happy I purchased this. It can be used by itself [...] as a base coat BEFORE applying polish and a top coat for after! My nails feel stronger after just one use and my nails look very shiny. For a product that can be used for multiple different purposes you can't beat the price!”

The Best Shimmery Clear Polish

This holographic nail polish provides a clear coat with a hint of sparkle. Wear the vegan- and formaldehyde-free formula alone, or use it as a top coat over colored polishes. One layer is all you need for a subtle holographic effect, but you can also apply extra coats for an opaque lacquer that glitters as your hands move. Reviewers were pleased with the consistency of the polish, and many noted a fast drying time.

One reviewer wrote: “This particular one is clear, glossy, and with subtle, minute pieces of glitter. As you apply more coats, the specks are more obvious. I love the hint of sparkle! And it goes on as a top coat to enhance your colored polishes. My fav nail polish, by far!”

The Best French Manicure Set

For a clear manicure with a twist, consider this vegan and formaldehyde-free French manicure set by Eternal 5. It includes one clear nail polish and four pale shades for accents and French tips. A couple of reviewers remarked that the formulas are on the runny side, but others reported that the wide brushes make each polish easy to apply. Many also added that the polishes dry quickly, minimizing the risk of marks or impressions.

One reviewer wrote: “I very much enjoy this nail polish. After a full day of housecleaning, yard work, etc., I don't have a single chip, peel, raised bump, nothing. Smooth and shiny still as if I had just applied it. This dried SUPER quick too, which is a huge plus.”