All you have to do is mention OPI or Essie, and we’re instantly planning our next manicure. That’s because these once-boutique favorites have become standout staples for DIY manis and salon-level nail art alike — they’e household names. But the tried and true lacquers aren’t the only awesome shades on the market. A handful of indie brands — from bottles still under-the-radar to those generating buzz from both beauty bloggers and major fashion voices (try Vogue, Nylon, Cosmo and more) — are ready to become your new nail polish go-tos for both everyday wear and for those mani-to-remember moments. Scroll through our favorite 10 up-and-comers soon to be crowding your lacquer shelf.
1. Smith & Cult: Nail color junkies, you’re not alone. Dineah Mohajr, creator of the glittery ‘90s cosmetics brand Hard Candy, is feeding the addiction with her latest hyper-hued brand Smith & Cult. Made with an exclusive 5-Free formula that shuns sketchy toxic ingredients like Formaldehyde, the explosive colors deliver next-level shine to match its metallic packaging.
Staple shade: Psycho Candy ($18): Juicy coral a cut above the rest.
Must-have fall hue: Lovers Creep ($18): A deep burgundy tease.
2. Flossgloss: Imagine if the coolest chicks you know started their own nail polish line — that’s Aretha Sack and Janine Lee of Flossgloss, a San Francisco-born brand of high-quality nail lacquer made for and by color snobs. If one or two of the otherworldly hues don’t immediately catch your eye (at their under-$10 price point, they really should), opt for a curated set.
Staple shade: Glowstar ($8): The ghost of green.
Must-have fall hue: 95% Angel ($8): The dreamiest shade of periwinkle.
3. tenoverten: Designed to fill a void in spa-style New York neighborhood salons, tenoverten is as boutique as nail polish brands get, and its lacquer is just as luxe. Each streak-free shade promotes strong and healthy nails, is 5-Free, cruelty free, vegan and made in the U.S.A. The long-lasting shades are named after different NYC locales and promise to be just as unique.
Staple shade: 001 Jane ($18): Ballerinas, eat your hearts out.
Must-have fall hue: 021 Wall St ($18): A holographic metallic. ‘Nuff said.
4. Formula X: If you’re ever at a loss for mani inspiration, Formula X marks the spot. Its website is a kaleidoscope of color inspo — just pick your fave lacquer shades to get the look, from solid color standouts to exclusive effects like gleaming metallics, high-voltage neons and shade-shifting ombre glitters. Once your nails are coated, become someone else’s muse by uploading your nail art to the site.
Staple shade: Incandescent ($13): Gorgeous glowing cantaloupe orange.
Must-have fall hue: Law of Attraction ($13): A cocktail of champagne-colored glitter and micro purple specks.
5. Rescue Beauty Lounge: Creator Jil Baek is a nail polish legend known for her tireless dedication to high-quality polish — it took her two years of tinkering to develop what’s now one of today’s most sought after cult beauty brands. But it’s not just her lightweight and always-sophisticated lacquers that keep fans coming back: Baek is known for holding open calls for new color submissions, so start the inspo board for your dream shade now.
Staple shade: Burn the Evidence (Anatomy of a #KDrama) ($20): Fiery auburn to heat up your digits.
Must-have fall hue: Cue the Montage (Anatomy of a #KDrama) ($20): A glitter-specked yellow chartreuse fit for ALL skin tones.
6. Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics: On top of their high-intensity lip tars and eye pencils, this 100% vegan and cruelty free cosmetics brand slings quick-dry, camera-ready nail polish that you’ll probably find in any beauty editor’s bag. Use the super long-lasting shades as your go-to for those out-the-door mornings or whenever you need a pro-level nail pick-me-up on the fly.
Staple shade: Vapid ($8): Barely-there lavender cream.
Must-have fall hue: Pond ($8): Too true blue.
7. Knock Out: You have Hedwig and the Angry Inch makeup artist Mike Potter to thank for your obsession with matte polish — he started the flat finish style back in 2008, and the line has since surged into a celebrity fave (Karen O. models the iconic Flatte Black on the website’s landing page). The no-shine hues are as statement-making as their frosted, vintage-feeling bottles — paint on two coats for most magnetic results.
Staple shade: Karen ($14): Classic red, all shine removed.
Must-have fall hue: Ox ($14): Deep and dusty aubergine.
8. Mischo Beauty: Chic and toxin-free, this maternity-friendly nail polish line was developed by then-mom-to-be Kitiya Mischo King. The chemist’s winning 5-Free formula doesn’t mean that pigments suffer in the slightest: shades are elegant, but never fussy… and they’re selling out fast.
Staple shade: Lincoln Center ($18): Nope, we never thought we’d love a brown polish either.
Must-have fall hue: Empire State of Mind ($18): A teal to make the peacocks jealous.
9. JINSoon: Open any fashion magazine and you’re sure to see a JINSoon bottle in its pages as a celeb, stylist or editor fave (and soon to be your own). The brainchild of acclaimed editorial manicurist Jin Soon Choi, the high-gloss lacquer stands its own with just one coat or (naturally) wows as salon-approved nail art — even in the hands of mani hackers.
Staple shade: Pop Orange ($18): A timeless hot orange.
Must-have fall hue: Mica ($18): Not-quite-chrome. Just don’t call it gray.
10. Julep: More is more with Julep, a brand that’s merging breakthrough technology with the creative process to launch over 300 cosmetics a year, including a massive A-to-Z nail lacquer selection that promotes stronger, harder nails after just two weeks of wear. Its core collection shows that the Julep girl is classic with a twist (just like their reds) and never afraid to paint on a daring hue (think bright kelly greens or vivid purples). This brand’s got a Lazy Girl’s back, too: monthly subscription boxes will show up at your door with new polishes, and its innovative Plié Wand is making at-home manis easier than ever.
Staple shade: Hope: ($14) Silky satin white
Must-have fall hue: Mia: ($14) A luxe, holiday-ready metallic.
What’s you’re favorite below-the-radar polish brand? What is your all-time favorite polish shade? Tell us in the comments below.