We Tried 10 Red Nail Polishes For Winter & Our Winner Shines Brighter Than Holiday Lights

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Whether or not you've gotten into the spirit of the season just yet, winter's upon us once more. With year-end celebrations comes the need for manicure inspiration, and the color red just so happens to go hand-in-hand with many festive nail ideas. Though bright red is traditionally associated with wintry color palettes, there are countless variations of the hue. Still, choosing the perfect red polish isn't always easy, as some products are too thin, translucent, or poorly formulated. There's nothing less festive than a chipped set of nails, and no one wants to waste a moment returning paltry products during the busiest time of the year.


Fortunately, you don't have to worry about wasting your hard-earned dough on dismal nail varnish any longer. Glam gathered some of the best red polishes in a variety of shades and finishes for you to explore. From money-saving stocking stuffers to premium polishes, we've got all the details you'll need to create the most sensational manis of the season.

Hold everyone's attention wearing Habit Cosmetics' Hussy

We can't say enough great things about Habit. After a stellar experience with its off-white polish in a previous test run, we were ready to check out the brand's approach to red. Habit's Hussy was slightly harder to track down than other products in our roundup, but we didn't mind. Following its arrival in the mail, we excitedly uncapped it and got straight to work.


Of all the reds listed in our roundup, Habit's Hussy was our favorite. From its buttery smooth application to its mirror-like shine, Hussy is a shining example of what nail polish should be. Described as a "true, maraschino cherry red creme" by the company, it retails for $12 a bottle, and its performance is on par with the luxury lacquers that we've tried. Its formula is easy to work with, quick-drying, and low-odor, but best of all, Hussy's color is a truly striking red — one that will look great in every photo op at your next winter get-together.

For foolproof manis, grab Ella+Mila's Unwrap Me

Another lacquer on our list with a spirited name is Unwrap Me by Ella+Mila. It took us a little effort to get this bottle of polish to open, so we'll offer a tip for those in a similar boat: If you have a bottle of nail polish that's too tight to uncap, clamp a grippy jar opener around its cap and twist. With our freshly opened bottle, we were pumped to see what type of results Unwrap Me would deliver.


Ella+Mila's Unwrap Me, which retails for $12.39, is an ultra-bright cherry color with a thin, self-leveling formula. We adored its silky consistency, which coated our nails neatly with almost no effort at all. Those who can't stand messy at-home manicures will love Ella+Mila's product, as its design makes it easy to get into the nooks and crannies of your nails without a single smudge. Ultimately, we think it's a great choice of polish for beginners, so be sure to pick a bottle up for the aspiring nail artist on your holiday shopping list.

L.A. Girl's Amour is a shade worth falling for

L.A. Girl's products are fixtures of drugstores and dollar stores, beloved by beauty fans watching their budgets. Interestingly enough, L.A. Girl's Amour Color Pop nail polish was the only one we tried that mentioned anything about diamonds. According to the product description, this red polish is infused with real diamond powder. While we didn't see much evidence of this, we were thoroughly impressed — after all, this nail varnish costs just $3.69.


It may not have the most luxe-feeling formula, but Amour gets the job done. We'd also like to point out that this is one of the pinker polishes on our list, appearing to be more of a watermelon shade than a fire-engine red. It applies relatively sheer on the first coat, making it ideal for jelly nails or a gloss effect. With that in mind, we'd caution you to take your time if you choose to apply additional coats of polish, as its drying time leaves something to be desired. Another tip we picked up while using L.A. Girl's red was to use thin layers, as it tends to build up or pool on the nails. But once it's dry, this warm color has a beautifully glassy finish that looks just like a candy apple. Thus, we can definitely see Amour being a part of some exciting nail art concepts in the year ahead.


Get cozy with Courtney by Zoya this winter

Red can mean many different things to different people, and some of us prefer our manicures with an edge. Bright, bubbly reds like cherry or poppy certainly have their place, but Zoya's Courtney, which retails for $12, is perfect if you're after a darker hue. Courtney is one of many stunning shades offered by the nail color manufacturer. Zoya describes it as a "beet root red," though we found it to be much deeper than its description suggested.


What we loved most about Courtney was its thin, elegant brush design, which made detail work incredibly easy. Its consistency is thicker than we expected, so we advise those who use it to load up their brush to counteract this. The rich, maroon color is exceptional, calling to mind a glimmering glass of Merlot wine. There's just one downside: The inky Courtney bleeds into the cuticles at times, so it's important to keep your hands steady as you work. Overall, it was one of our favorite reds to work with because the final result was nothing short of showstopping.

Get on Santa's good side with OPI's Rebel with a Clause

Normally, we don't judge products by their names, but this OPI Polish from the Terribly Nice Holiday Nail Lacquer Collection caught our attention with its merry moniker. The brand's Rebel Without a Clause ($8.04) is a bold, cool red that's perfect for holiday parties. And given our good experiences with OPI's products in the past, we couldn't wait to crack into Rebel Without a Clause and begin painting.


OPI is synonymous with high-quality nail color, and we loved everything about this fiery, festive polish. It has OPI's signature, free-flowing formula, which glides onto each nail's surface with ease. Rebel Without a Clause is a picture-perfect medium red with bluish undertones. It dries to a glamorous, glossy finish, meaning you won't even need to add a top coat before you fly out the door. This alluring crimson looks gorgeous on its own, but it'd also be great to use alongside wintry nail art designs, like crisp white snowflakes or candy stripes.

Nailtopia's Don't Kill My Vibe is a winning winter red

The first product on our list comes from one of our favorite nail companies: Nailtopia. The brand is known for its unique polishes, easily identifiable bottles, and collaborations like Nailtopia x Disney. We've tried several colors from this fun-loving beauty brand before, though this was the first time we took a chance on one of its reds.


Nailtopia's Don't Kill My Vibe, which sells for $10, is a brilliant, medium red with a gleaming finish. We've always loved the line's ergonomically shaped caps, and painting with this polish was a dream. It isn't quite as pigmented as other brands we sampled, so we did need to use a couple of coats to get an opaque result. Another important aspect to note is that Nailtopia's formula does take longer to dry than other polishes on our list, so we suggest using a quick-drying top coat or nail-drying fan to move it along. Despite these issues, we were very pleased with the color and the overall finish of Nailtopia's red. As such, we'd suggest Don't Kill My Vibe to anyone looking for a classic red to sport for their holiday celebrations.


Seize the Minute is another seasonal favorite from Expressie

In case you weren't aware, Expressie is an exciting line of quick-dry polishes produced by nail-care giant Essie. Before purchasing its sharp-looking red, Seize the Minute ($10), we'd given Essie's coffee shade, Cold Brew Crew, a go. It turned out to be our favorite color of the bunch during our fall roundup, so we had high hopes for Expressie's red.


Seize the Minute is more of a muted, brick red than other crimson colors we experimented with. If bright, bold colors aren't your cup of tea, it could be your go-to winter shade. For us, its fast-drying formula was its most attractive feature. We applied two hefty coats of polish, and they were bone-dry to the touch in under a minute each. When we get a last-minute invite to a festive function, we know which red we'll reach for to jazz up our nails before we leave.

Pomegranate is the perfect present for gel polish fans

Le Mini Macaron is a nail-care brand that's getting a lot of attention thanks to its popular polishes and attractive gel manicure kits. These days, gel nail polish is taking over with home manicure fans, as the long-lasting lacquer blows traditional offerings out of the water. On our hunt for a holiday-worthy red gel, we stumbled across Le Mini Macaron's Pomegranate — a rich magenta shade.


It's important to note that you'll need a UV lamp to use Le Mini Macaron's polish. Without it, your polish won't cure (dry), and you'll be left with quite a mess. When using a UV lamp for gel nails, always use gloves and sun protection on your hands, as the process can damage the delicate skin around your nails. Once we applied Le Mini Macaron's Pomegranate, we instantly fell in love. Some nail polishes only faintly resemble their names, but Pomegranate truly reminded us of the wintry fruit. With its vibrant color and its breezy application, it's a must-have gift for fans of gel polish.

Feel Fearless all season long with this stunning red by Revlon

Revlon has been making red nail polish since 1932, and we were eager to explore its current color offerings. Though the brand's classic red, Fire and Ice, was nowhere to be found at our local beauty store, we found a dazzling alternative in a similar shade called Fearless. Between its fierce red hue and its familiar name, Revlon's Fearless gave us major Taylor Swift vibes.


From start to finish, we loved using Revlon's Fearless. Underneath its black and gold cap is a petal-shaped brush that makes the painting process super smooth, and the polish itself has a pleasing, fluid consistency. Its color turned out to be one of the most attractive of them all, a shockingly bright scarlet that bordered on neon. With its clean, even application, it dried in no time at all. While you're out shopping this season, we strongly suggest you pick up Revlon's Fearless.

Paint a pretty top coat with Sally Hansen's Peppermint to Be

Sally Hansen's Peppermint to Be may be closer to a hot pink or fuchsia than a true red, but it's an incredible holiday top coat for crimson manicures. We were intrigued by its design when we ordered it, thinking it might contain candy-cane-shaped pieces of glitter. To our chagrin, it did not. But, true to its name, the jagged sparkles inside its bottle reminded us quite a bit of crushed peppermint candy.


Like most translucent nail varnishes, Peppermint to Be's formula is slightly looser than your standard polish. As a result, it takes a bit longer to dry between coats, but it's nothing the right top coat or drying tool can't fix. We layered the glaze over a coat of white nail polish to get a good look at its sparkly effects and were pleased with what we found. It's not your typical polish topper, but we liked its bright tint and irregularly cut confetti pieces. If you're looking for a festive way to step up your manicure this season, add a layer of Peppermint to Be over one of your favorite red polishes.