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Which brown nail polishes are best?

Whether for an evening out or a pulled-together day look, brown nail polish is an on-trend, versatile color that matches just about any outfit and aesthetic. In both cool, lighter tones and dark, dramatic, glossy finishes, brown can draw attention to your manicure or give you a look that’s polished and subdued. If you want a high-quality, versatile brown nail polish, OPI Infinite Shine Long-Wear Nail Polish in Linger Over Coffee (Java Brown) is the top choice. 

What to know before you buy a brown nail polish

Health needs of your nails

Before focusing on the color you want, be sure to assess the current state of your nails and find a nail polish line that can address that. If you have weak nails or have recently had acrylics removed, opt for a nail polish line with nourishing, strengthening ingredients. Stay away from harsh chemicals like toluene and formaldehyde. 

Blend vs. pop

If you’re shopping for an everyday color, brown offers demure, earth-toned options that give your nails polish without drawing attention to them. If you want a stand-out, dramatic tone, look for one infused with a bit of dark red or shimmer.

Skin tone

Brown nail polishes come in a wide range of tones, from cooler, almost grayish browns to warm, honey-infused hues. Those with warm skin undertones should look to the warmer side of the brown family and colors close to amber, chestnut and brick. Cooler undertones look great with fawns, khakis and burnt umbers. 

What to look for in a quality brown nail polish

Staying power

No one wants a manicure that chips after a few days of wear. Look for extended-wear brown nail polish to cut down on maintenance and reapplication times.

Shimmer or matte

Brown can take on many moods depending on its finish. A matte top coat can make a pale brown look fashion-forward and chic, whereas a brown nail polish with some warmth and shimmer can add a fun note to a beach day or a night by a seaside cafe. Play with this versatile color’s many varieties. 


Highly pigmented colors like brown can fade quickly once applied. Look for a polish that holds its color until the last day of wear, and stay away from formulas that crack on your nails. This is a particular issue with lighter browns, so look for a formula that stays flexible even after it hardens. 

How much you can expect to spend on a brown nail polish

A good brown nail polish can range from $5-$20.

Brown nail polish FAQ

How can I make my manicure last longer?

A. The key to a long-lasting nail polish application is preparation. Be sure you’re applying your color to completely clean and dry nails. Apply a base coat that helps the colored polish adhere more evenly. Next, smooth on two coats of your preferred brown nail polish, giving each coat plenty of time to dry completely (usually about 10 minutes). Lastly, put on a good top coat. This will help your manicure resist chipping and cracking. 

Do I have to take any special precautions when applying dark brown nail polish?

A. All dark-hued nail polishes can cause yellowing of your nails if applied directly to them, and brown is chief among them. The pigments seep into your nail and can leave permanent yellow stains that can last until that portion of your nails grows out. One way to prevent this is to apply a base coat, creating a barrier between your nail and the pigment of your nail polish. If you already have yellowed nails, a simple soak of three parts water and one part lemon juice can help. Some people prefer to substitute hydrogen peroxide for the lemon. Whichever you choose, be sure to test on one nail to make sure it doesn’t cause any irritation. After a five-minute soak, use a toothbrush to gently scrub your nails.

What’s the best brown nail polish to buy?

Top brown nail polish

OPI Infinite Shine Long-Wear Nail Polish in Linger Over Coffee (Java Brown)

OPI Infinite Shine Long-Wear Nail Polish in Linger Over Coffee (Java Brown)

What you need to know: OPI is the gold standard in nail polish, and their Infinite Shine line delivers on its promise: long-lasting, rich color that looks great on just about everyone.

What you’ll love: This warm, fun brown adds a pop of color that can last longer than a week. Its gloss retention is unparalleled, and this color won’t start fading a few days after application like other browns sometimes do.

What you should consider: This brown changes in different lighting and can tend to look almost reddish in sunlight. 

Where to buy: Sold by Ulta

Top brown nail polish for the money

Essie Expressie Quick-Dry Nail Polish in Take the Espresso

Essie Expressie Quick-Dry Nail Polish in Take the Espresso

What you need to know: While some quick-dry nail polishes can look thin and peel off easily, Essie’s offerings help you get a quick manicure fast without this issue.

What you’ll love: This true dark brown is the classic color you’re searching for if you want an unambiguous brown. It’s rich and dries quickly.

What you should consider: The brush can be hoppy and is at an angle, which requires some getting used to.

Where to buy: Sold by Ulta

Worth checking out

Zoya Nail Polish in Cinnamon

Zoya Nail Polish in Cinnamon

What you need to know: Zoya offers a range of gorgeous browns, from this metallic, warm hue to others with names like Kalista (dark espresso brown with plum undertones) and Emilia, a rich, chocolatey cream.

What you’ll love: Rich color and long-lasting wear make this a brand to watch.

What you should consider: The brush is thinner than the average nail polish brush and will take more strokes to finish your manicure.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Maria Andreu writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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