While some people might bristle at the idea of men embracing “feminine” things, it’s worth bearing in mind that it wasn’t so long that men wore makeup, wigs, and high heels. With that precedent in mind, it’s not surprising that there’s been a consistent growth in the men’s beauty industry. In fact, the only thing that’s surprising is that it’s taken this long.
Part of self-care for men is a matter of personal expression and style. But it’s worth remembering that self-care means taking care of yourself. Whether that’s healthy hair or glowing skin, the beauty industry doesn’t just have to be surface level. It can be about taking care of your health, inside and out. That applies to nails, too, which can go through a lot.
If you’re looking for a way to take care of your nails, a manicure may be in order. But short of that, you can also take care of your nails by using a variety of products that strengthen and restore nails. It’s possible to apply a base or top coat that will help keep your nails happy, even if you don’t want to have painted nails. In fact, some polishes are specifically designed for protecting and restoring nails while leaving a minimal amount of gloss or color.
And, if you want to add a little flair, there are nail polish brands that cater specifically to men, whether you want a punk rock look a la Iggy Pop or a muted but statement-making tone. Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from just using a nail polish that’s marketed to women in a color that suits your taste. Whether you’re looking to protect and restore brittle nails or make a statement, we’ve picked out some nail polishes for men.
1. OPI Nail Lacquer Top Coat
This matte top coat from OPI is a great way to protect nail polish from chipping. Since it has a matte finish, it’ll give more of an understated look than the high-gloss finish some top coats provide. It’s designed to protect the underlying color and will last up to a week. The added benefit of a matte finish is that if you don’t want color, but still want to protect your nails, you get a natural, healthy look that protects brittle nails.
Pros: Understated matte finish, can protect manicures, polish, or nails by themselves.
Cons: Somewhat expensive.
2. ZOYA Men’s Starter Manicure Kit
This option is specifically marketed toward men who are looking to take care of their nails with a home manicure. It’s designed to provide a natural and neutral look. This order consists of three bottles — there’s a naked base, perfector, and satin seal. It’s designed for restoring and protecting nails. Vitamin B5 improves flexibility and reduces brittleness, and vitamin E supports cellular renewal. In addition to substantively improving nails, it also improves the look of them by reducing discoloration.
Pros: Specifically designed for restoring nails with vitamins, proteins, and botanicals. Each order consists of three bottles, making it a reasonable value.
Cons: Can take a while to dry.
3. Essie Nail Polish, Glossy Shine Finish
If you’re looking for something that’s both statement-making and subtle, consider this option from Essie. It’s available in a range of muted and deep shades of blue, green, and gray. It’s designed to provide a high-gloss finish. An added benefit is that it’s free of DBP, toluene, and formaldehyde. While some polishes are designed to go on easily without the use of a base or top coat, these polishes are designed to be used with a base and top coat, so that will need to be purchased separately as well.
Pros: Available in many muted but high gloss shades. Long-lasting finish.
Cons: Polish is somewhat thin, so it may take extra applications.
4. OPI Nail Envy Nail Strengthener
This is a good option for those looking to protect their nails without painting them. Whether you paint your nails a lot, are a nail-biter, or simply have brittle nails that are in need of some care, OPI’s polish is specifically designed to strengthen nails. It comes in a bottle and is applied the same way a nail polish or top coat would be. Calcium and protein help fortify and protect nails. Best of all, it’s also available in a matte finish. You can get all the benefits without any unwanted gloss. There are also formulations specifically for dry and brittle or soft and thin nails.
Pros: Matte finish won’t leave too much shine. Specifically formulated for restoring and protecting nails by providing protein and calcium.
5. ManGlaze Matte Black Nail Polish
If this matte black nail polish looks like it was inspired by hard rock and punk, that’s because it was. Matte is murder, as it’s called, is marketed specifically for men. Of course, anyone who wants a matte black look can wear it. It’s designed to dry quickly and provide a smooth, opaque look. There’s a little of what they call “sparkly stuff,” which adds a hint of depth and dimension to the look while still remaining matte.
Pros: Sleek matte black finish that dries quickly.
Cons: May still have too much shine for some.
6. Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Nail Coat
If you’re looking for a top coat, consider this well-regarded option Seche Vite. It’s designed to add a shiny, high-gloss look. It’s dries quickly and effectively protects nail colors from fading, chipping, or yellowing. In addition to protecting the color of polish, it can also be used to help strengthen brittle nails. You can feel good about using it, too, because it is not tested on animals and is free of parabens and sulfates.
Pros: Dries very quickly. Effective and high-gloss top coat for protecting nails and polish.
Cons: Somewhat thick, making it harder to apply a thin coat as needed.
7. OPI Nail Lacquer, Long Lasting Nail Polish, Nude
Another entry on this list from OPI is this set of neutrals. The popularity of the brand is owed to the fact that they produce tons of great shades that last long. This option comes in many muted blush tones, and some are designed to have a “nude” look. That means that the polish won’t make as much of a statement; they will blend in more with your natural nail color while still having some shine and luster. These polishes are actually lacquers, which are generally thicker, more protective, and give a glossier look than traditional polish.
Pros: Thick lacquers in muted blush shades.
Cons: It can chip somewhat easily.