5 Must-Try Clear Nail Polishes That Do Way More Than Impart Shine

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Brightly colored manicures and intricate nail art are undoubtedly fun, but a sleek coating of clear nail polish will never go out of style. That said, not all clear nail polishes are created equally. The best nail clear nail polishes will be free of formaldehyde, which is commonly used to help harden polish and prevent the growth of bacteria, but is also a powerful chemical known to negatively impact health and make nails more prone to brittleness, peeling, and breakage. Formaldehyde (which can also be listed as formalin or methylene glycol) may also cause skin irritation or allergic reactions in some users.

Other chemicals in your nail polish that can be problematic include toluene and dibutyl phthalate (DBP). Together, those two plus formaldehyde are known as the 'big three,' and whenever possible, opt for nail polishes without them, out of an abundance of caution.

Clear nail polish can extend the life of a manicure, treat nail conditions like peeling and splitting, prevent polish from yellowing, and make bare nails look more, well, polished. Whatever you're looking to achieve, you'll be able to do so with the help of the best clear nail polishes, outlined below.

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The Best Clear Halal Nail Polish

Karma Organic makes vegan, cruelty-free, big three-free nail polishes that are also certified-halal (halal nail polishes are formulated to allow water to permeate so as not to interfere with ablution). This clear polish gives nail a glossy, shiny finish, and can be worn on its own or used as a top coat.


The Best Clear Matte Nail Polish

Bored of shiny manicures? Then check out this top coat from Cirque Colors, which will turn any glossy polish matte (of course, you can also wear it on its own as your primary nail polish). Aside from its mattifying abilities, it also helps prevent scratches and chipping so your manicures last longer. Cirque Colors' polishes are big three-free, cruelty-free, and vegan, and made in small batches in Brooklyn, New York.


The Best Clear Base Coat, Top Coat, & Strengthener In One

The OPI 3-in-1 Start to Finish Formaldehyde-Free Nail Treatment is a base coat, a top coat, and a nail strengthener all in one. In addition to helping strengthen nails, it creates a smooth base for any nail polish you layer over it, and when used as a top coat, it works to prevent scratches, chips, and smudges. Or, wear it on its own as a clear polish to help prevent your natural nails from yellowing.


The Best Clear Nail Hardener

This affordable nail hardener from Sally Hansen works to make nails stronger, harder, and less prone to peeling and breakage. Impressively, it's not just big three-free: it's 16-free, which is basically unheard of. In addition to their clear nail hardener (and a clear top coat), the 16-free Good. Kind. Pure. line features 22 pretty, nature-inspired shades.


The Best Clear Nail Polish That's Good For Your Nails

This clear nail polish comes from a line created by two podiatrists who wanted to offer their clients safer, healthier nail polishes for their hands and feet. In addition to being free of formaldehyde, toluene, and phthalates, including DBP, the polish contains nourishing ingredients, like the natural antiseptic/anti-fungal tea tree oil, strengthening biotin, and moisturizing kale and ginseng, to keep nails healthy and strong. Not only does it function as a base coat and top coat, but it also helps prevent yellowing and brittleness.