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10 Special Effects Nail Polishes You'll Love

Special effects nail polishes prove you don't need to be a professional nail artist to deck show-stopping nail art.


Red nail polish was a special effect in and of itself back in 3,000 B.C. when the Chinese created it for the first time using acacia, gelatin, beeswax, vegetable dye, egg whites, and crushed orchid and rose petals.

We're grateful for the nail art precedent set by the Chinese, but you have to produce a lot more than red nail polish to impress any nail art enthusiast living in the 21st century. 

In this day and age, you don't have to be a skilled nail artist to create intriguing nail art. You can decorate your nails without leaving the house and still get high quality, surreal, and ethereal results, as if you, yourself, were a special effects artist. The holographic top coats, matte finishes, magnetic gradients, and every other special effects nail polishes available to the mass market these days are nuanced and timeless enough to fascinate society for the next 5,000 years, even as nail art continues to advance.

Leopard Spots Topper by Zoya

You don't need to spend hours meticulously painting each nail with a stencil to make leopard print nail art when you have a bottle of Leopard Spots Topper by Zoya.

Leopard Spots Topper is an innovative top coat that you can use over any base coat. Try wearing it over white to make the spots stand out, orange to make your nails look like legit leopard print, or any other color for a universally fun design. 

When I use Zoya's Leopard Spots Topper, I like to apply a layer of glitter over my base coat before using this polish to add an extra edgy special effect.

It's never been easier to add animal print to your nails. When you apply Leopard Spots Topper, you can rest assured that no animals were harmed in the process. Zoya's nail polishes are always 100 percent cruelty-free and 100 percent vegan.

Shatter by OPI

If you've ever broken a nail, you know that shattered nails are usually as far from glam as you can get.

OPI proves the contrary with their collection of Shatter top coats. It's available in six shades: black, red, white, turquoise, blue, and navy. 

I've noticed that I get the best results when I use a base coat that contrasts the color of the Shatter top coat I'm using; however, Shatter can be used over any nail polish you want.

Using Shatter does take a bit of practice, but once you understand how much pressure and how many strokes are necessary, you'll be able to have a lot of fun exploring new ways of using it. For example, I like to spice things up from time to time by stroking diagonally, or from left to right, to get a different special effect.

Just remember that your base coat needs to be dry before you apply Shatter. Otherwise, you will smudge and smear your nails and you'll get an uneven texture.

Matte Top Coat by OPI

You don't have to buy matte base coats to give yourself a matte manicure. 

If you want to rock the matte look on your nails, why not try using the OPI Matte Top Coat? 

Using a matte top coat will give you a lot more creative control over your nail art. Sure, you can use it to give your nails a leathery or pastel texture all over, but you can also use matte top coats to make your nails look more dynamic and textured by using it with a gloss top coat.

Why not try giving yourself a French-style manicure and using a gloss top coat over the tips of your nails and matte over the nail bed? Or, you could also create matte geometric patterns on top of an otherwise glossy nail surface. This nail polish by OPI pairs up perfectly with any of the best special effects lip toppers for photo shoots, so don't be afraid to have fun with it!

The creative opportunities are endless with OPI's matte top coat! Think about how many cool effects you could create by using OPI's matte top coat with other special effects nail polishes!

But of Corpse by China Glaze

Is it okay to wear Halloween-themed special effects nail polishes all year round? But of corpse it is, darling!

But of Corpse is part of China Glaze's Apocalypse of Colors Collection. Paint your nails with this stuff, and you'll be amazed at what happens when the light hits your nails from certain angles. 

But of Corpse is a metallic green paint that contains tiny black micro glitter, and this shimmery combination works together to create a shiny, speckled effect all over your nails. Finish with a glossy top coat to turn your nail art into a masterpiece.

Oh Splat White Glitter Nail Polish with Rainbow Glitters by KBShimmer

Ever wanted your nail art to look like a confetti cake or a dinosaur egg? Whether or not the answer to that question is yes, you will undoubtedly fall in love with Oh Splat White Glitter Nail Polish with Rainbow Glitters.  

The nail polish is white with rainbow glitter. For such a light color, this special effects nail polish manages to be very bold and intense. 

The fun aesthetic of this white nail polish makes it the perfect choice for birthday parties, beach trips, and other fun events. 

If you're a true nail polish veteran, you know that nail polishes with white bases and glitters usually require a few more layers than usual. The same rule applies to Oh Splat nail polish. For best results, add two to three layers of the nail polish over a solid white coat, and then finish off your manicure with a clear top coat.

The polish is free of toluene, formaldehyde, and dibutyl phthalate.

Eclipse by Starrily

Eclipse by Starrily is one of my favorite special effect nail polishes, and it's a fantastic choice for anyone, whether you are a casual nail painter or a professional nail artist.

I highly recommend Eclipse for any casual nail painter, especially if you're lazy, but still enjoy decking yourself with classy and exciting nail art. Just use it as a top coat. Paint your nails any color with any nail polish, and then swipe some Eclipse over them as a top coat. You will end up with sparkly, holographic nails. I love using Eclipse on a black or navy base coat to create a cosmic look. 

If you're somebody who loves to spend time creating detailed nail art, your options are pretty much endless with Eclipse by your side.

Sea Glass by Starrily

The Starrily brand certainly has a knack for creating special effects nail polishes that look like they fell to earth from a different galaxy, especially when it comes to top coats. 

What if you want to explore the unknown however, right here on earth? Enter Sea Glass by Starrily. This special effects nail polish is something you might expect to see in The Little Mermaid's Ariel's secret grotto. 

Sea Glass is a clear top coat with oddly shaped, Caribbean Sea-colored glitter specks that look surreal and chromatic when they get hit by light. 

Sea Glass is intense and iridescent, and it can last for weeks. Add a coat of Enigma after applying two or more layers of a base coat. For best results, finish with a clear top coat to keep Sea Glass's glitter intact.

Lovebird by ILNP

There's always space on my nail polish shelf for new special effect top coats.

Lovebird is an iridescent top coat with neon pink, orange, and green flakes of rainbow glitter. The nail polish is super long lasting, but, unlike many glittery nail polishes, it's also easy to remove.

I love using Lovebird over two or three layers of black nail polish, and then finishing with a layer or two of a glossy or matte top coat—or both—to make sure the surface texture is smooth.

There's so much fun to be had with Lovebird by ILNP. It looks awesome over any color, or even alone on your bare nails. It's always a good idea to add an extra layer of glitter-free top coat to keep the Lovebird flakes in place, and this nail polish will quickly supplement the best New Year's Eve makeup products to buy for when you're feeling festive.

This Changes Everything by OPI

OPI is by and far one of the best nail polish brands on the market, and it's pretty understandable why. This Changes Everything is a glittery gold top coat from OPI's limited edition Metamorphosis collection. This Changes Everything has a very thin consistency with a few gold sparkles floating around. 

You can use it on top of any top coat, adding several layers to give your nails a gold color, or use it sparingly to create an obvious special effect.

If you like This Changes Everything, you should check out Metaphorically Speaking, which is a paler shade of gold. Other polychromatic nail polishes from the Metamorphosis collection include blue (You Little Shade Shifter), green (Ecstatic Prismatic and Can't Be Camouflaged), and lilac (Butterfly Me to the Moon).

Tranzitions by China Glaze

You can always trust China Glaze to produce fascinating special effects nail polishes. What makes Tranzitions so interesting is that it changes from a lilac blue to a deeper, more royal shade of blue when you add a top coat.

If you're like me, you may be thinking, "What's the point in getting a nail polish that changes color when you add a top coat?" 

The answer to your question is simple: Creativity! 

It took me a while to realize that you don't have to add a top coat to your entire nail! Instead, you can use your top coat sparingly and make cool designs over the base coat, and when you use Tranzitions, the patterns you create will turn out as a visible special effect. Intricate nail art has never been more accessible.

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