This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

Which crackle nail polishes are best?

Sometimes you want to try something a little different, especially when it comes to your manicure. When you want a bit more drama for your nails, consider a good crackle nail polish. Simply apply a base coat and then the crackle nail polish to create a shatter effect that adds visual interest. This type of polish also gives you the chance to highlight more than one color in your manicure. When you need a great crackle nail polish, Sally Hansen Treatment Big Crackle Top Coat is a top choice.

What to know before you buy a crackle nail polish

Light vs. dark

Depending on how dramatic you want your manicure to be, you’ll want a crackle nail polish that creates contrast and visual appeal. A lighter-colored crackle creates glimpses of your base coat, giving it a shiny, peek-a-boo effect. A darker one is great for a starker, deep contrast. 

Clear vs. pigmented

You can choose between a clear crackle topcoat to crackle any color applied on top of it, or one with its own pigment. Choosing clear expands your color options so you can make any nail polish crackle. However, this adds time to creating a look. A product that has both color and crackle effect cuts down the time needed to do your nails. 

Length of wear

Just because you want a crackle effect doesn’t mean you want chips in your color. To keep your manicure looking stellar for a while, buy a crackle topcoat that also acts as a protective barrier to your manicure. Or you can layer a clear topcoat over it once it’s dry.

What to look for in a quality a crackle nail polish


The effect of a crackle topcoat changes significantly depending on the thickness of the coat. A thicker coat creates more pronounced crackling, but too many layers will ruin the effect. And most pigmented polishes don’t layer very well. Consider the kinds of colors you plan on using before deciding between a pigmented polish and a clear one.

Hydrating ingredients

Nail polish can dry out your nails, so it’s important to find products with ingredients that nourish your nails. This will help them stay strong and make the color last longer. Look on the label for things like mastic oil, which will hydrate your nails and prevent breakage. 

A color that goes with everything

If you do opt for a color crackle nail polish, your best bet is to find one that can accent a variety of base coats. Black is always a great choice, as are silver and white. Other colors can be fun but restrict the base colors you can match it with.

How much you can expect to spend on crackle nail polish

Crackle nail polish ranges from $5-$15 depending on the brand, color and ingredients.

Crackle nail polish FAQ

What makes crackle nail polish crack?

A. Quick-drying agents make the color separate and cause the crackling effect. This contrasts the smooth, even color that regular nail polish provides. Alcohol creates this effect and makes the nail polish dry quickly, causing it to separate.

The crackles on my nails are different on each nail. Why?

A. A bit of variety is common and even desired in crackle, to give your nails that edgy, fun look. If the variety is too much, or some nails don’t exhibit enough crackle, re-do the manicure and focus on making each layer about the same thickness. Don’t reapply crackle over an existing crackle layer, as this will just cause bumps and cover the base coat.

Does crackle nail polish damage nails?

A. No, it shouldn’t damage your nails any more than normal nail polish. Nail polish formulas tend to have a drying effect. That said, it’s always a good idea to let your nails breathe a bit between nail polish applications. If you have nails prone to brittleness and breaking, apply a nourishing base coat beneath your base color to keep nails supple and healthy. A good cuticle oil can help keep the area hydrated, too.  

What’s the best crackle nail polish to buy?

Top crackle nail polish

Sally Hansen Treatment Big Crackle Top Coat

Sally Hansen Treatment Big Crackle Top Coat

What you need to know: Sally Hansen is a powerhouse nail polish brand, with fortifying formulas at reasonable prices.

What you’ll love: Besides offering an even crackle, this formula strengthens nails and lasts a long time. This helps keep your nails from breaking as well as maintains your manicure.

What you should consider: It may take a few tries to get the crackle effect you want.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top crackle nail polish for the money

Sally Hansen Crackle Overcoat Nail Polish

Sally Hansen Crackle Overcoat Nail Polish

What you need to know: As a leader in the crackle nail polish trend, it’s unsurprising that Sally Hansen offers several great options. This crackle overcoat is no exception.

What you’ll love: Somewhat more subtle crackle than its Big Crackle offering, this product gives you a softer effect great for daytime and summer.

What you should consider: This polish has a tendency to chip, so apply a good top coat to secure it.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

China Glaze Metals 6-Piece Set

China Glaze Metals 6-Piece Set

What you need to know: China Glaze produces several high-quality, long-lasting nail polishes, and this six-piece sampler gives you a lot of great alternatives to choose from.

What you’ll love: When you’re ready to embrace the fun of crackle nail polish, this selection of pretty metallics gives you a range of warm and cool colors. It’s easy to match it with most of your makeup and outfit color schemes.

What you should consider: The crackling has a more subtle shatter effect, so if you want a bold look this may not be the right choice.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

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

Copyright 2022 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.