Metallic silver and gold nail polish are popular for fall, but look gorgeous all year long. (Photo: Jon Paterson)
As someone who’s painted her own nails at least weekly for 20-something years, I refuse to abruptly transition from bright nail shades to dark colors with the change of the seasons. Thankfully, there’s one fall nail polish trend that looks beautiful year round: Metallics. Gold, silver, rose gold, and bronze lacquers are everywhere this season, from the runway to the retail shelves of drugstores and department stores. They’re the perfect gleaming accent to chunky sweaters, leather pants, suede miniskirts.
“Metallic nails are having a moment,” says Michelle Saunders, Essie’s celebrity manicurist. “Any trend you see with nails now directly reflects what’s happening in fashion. I think of nails as an accessory and metal jewelry has had a big comeback — gold rings, rose gold bracelets, chunky silver earrings, as are metallic handbags, belts, even shoes. So why not do it on your nails?”
As someone who doesn’t really believe in following trends, I do think this shift towards metallic manis makes sense because it can be a neutral year-round staple. Here’s how to find your most flattering shade and apply it without any dreaded streaks.
Rose gold, copper, and bronze nail polish can look beautiful on every skin tone. (Photo: Jon Paterson)
Selecting your shade
“I think most people are pretty aware of the kind of jewelry that looks best on them,” says Saunders. “When you go to the jewelry store, are you in the gold section or are you in the silver section? That’s what you should go to with nails.” Partial to rose gold? Saunders says it’s a blend of silver and gold, so it’s a neutral shade that works on anyone. Same with copper and bronze. “Bronze is like if rose gold went really deep — there’s something really beautiful about a bronze whether you’re fair skinned or dark skinned.” To remove the guesswork try Essie’s Penny Talk, a pretty copper, or Leggy Legend, a new bronze shade for fall — Saunders says they both look great on everyone.
Prepping your nails
Metallic polish can be tricky to apply because it somehow picks up any little flaw that’s on the nail. Saunders recommends always using a ridge-filling base coat for a smoother application. “If your nails are really ridged or have an imperfection, you can take a light buffer and buff your nails before you apply the metallic and it will go on smooth,” she says. “It’s kind of like painting a wall — you have to sand and prime it before adding the color.” As someone with super-ridged nails, I love buffing, but always heard it was bad for the nail. “Buffing is not damaging if you don’t do it more than once a week, and it should be a super light file,” says Saunders. “You want the highest grade, which is anything above 180 for your nails. Anything below that is too rough for the top of your nail.”
Applying the polish while avoiding streaks
Another tricky factor: Each swipe of the brush seems to leave a streak or smudge in the polish that’s hard to correct. Thankfully Saunders has a clever tip. “You want to start with a nice thicker coat at the cuticle and pull it down,” she says. “Try to do that only three times, because the more strokes you have, the more lines you’re gonna get.” And don’t stress it — if one nail looks a little messy, just grab your remover and try again.
Add a finishing touch
While an ultra-glossy topcoat can really make a metallic manicure pop, brushing on a matte topcoat adds an unexpected twist. “If you put a matte on top of a metallic, it gives it a completely different look — kind of like an iPhone case,” says Saunders. No matter how you wear it, metallic nails are a winner, making an eye-catching statement while looking cool with any outfit, no matter how casual or fancy.