Introducing the new nude nail polishes for spring. (Photo: Sandbox Studios / For complete product listing see end of post.)
Thanks to a serious dose of nail art backlash, beauty has gone minimal this season with nude manicures taking the forefront. But spring’s new nudes—think lavender, blue-gray, off-white, dusty mauve, and camel—are far from boring. We reached out to Essie’s celebrity manicurist, Michelle Saunders, and Deborah Lippmann, creative director and founder of her eponymous line, to explain the trend and find out the best way to select the perfect shade.
While last season’s hot manicure was a perfect skin tone match, Lippmann feels the new nudes are stepping out of the box. “Our interpretation of what is acceptable for nudes and neutrals is expanding, such as the warm camel that we used at Narciso Rodriguez,” says Lippmann. “Everyone is clamoring for a new way to wear nudes. The person who thinks they’re boring by wearing neutrals can take this and not feel that way.” She says the shades are in high demand with her celebrity clients and customers alike.
These light shades may not be as simple and non-committal as pale pinks or beige—Lippmann defines the fashion-forward shades as “boundary pushers”—but they’re just as versatile. “The new nudes we’ll be seeing a lot of this season will vary, including colors like dusty mauves, blue-greys, and camel/khaki browns,” says Lippmann. “In clothing, we’ve been seeing these subtle distinctions of neutral for years; this is now making its way to the beauty space.” And since they are neutral, there’s no need to fear about them clashing with your outfit.
“The new nudes are just as easy to apply and look great on all shapes and sizes of nails—and it’s because of these two facts that we are seeing it everywhere,” says Saunders. “Adding pastel tones like a floral lavender, a ‘70s tan, or a modern gray creates the new difference which is modern, fresh, and current.” There are an abundance of these soft colors at all price points. A few of our faves: Butter London in Kip ($15), Sally Hansen Insta-Dry in Nude-trals ($5), CND Vinylux in Field Fox ($11), Jin Soon in Doux ($18) and Formula X’s White Party set ($23 for four mini shades).
When it comes to selecting a color, Saunders says the trend at New York Fashion Week was less about matching your skin tone and more about rocking the shade you really gravitate towards. “If you like the hue of the nude, wear it!” If only all trends were so foolproof. Lippmann advises testing everything, since polish looks quite different once it’s applied. “Sometimes a sheer white is very strong, although white isn’t considered a color,” she says. “Sometimes a soft muted grey is actually less. Sometimes shimmer looks shinier in the bottle, because the pearls attach themselves to the side of it, but they may not actually be that shimmery on the nail. Finding the perfect nude for your skin is like finding the perfect T-shirt—it requires trying on a bunch.” In the end, the answer is in your cuticles. “If the nude lacquer isn’t right for your skin tone, your cuticle will actually look red or dirty,” says Lippmann.
Nail prep is key with any manicure, but it’s especially important when wearing pale shades. “The tried and true way of making any polish look smooth is to wear a base coat,” she says. Ridges and imperfections may appear more visible with light lacquer, so look for something to help smooth the nail’s surface like Essie’s Ridge Filling Base Coat ($9) or Deborah Lippmann’s All About that Base CC Base Coat ($20), which primes the nail, smoothes ridges, and corrects discoloration. A nail buffer like Ms. Manicure’s 4 Way Smoothing Block ($1) can help achieve an ultra-even look.
And lastly, another way to add interest is by playing with the finish. Textures run the gamut right now from ultra matte to high gloss shine. “I prefer ultra glossy for sure,” says Lippmann. She says matte topcoats can be cool and unexpected, but when combined with flesh-tone shades it can create a mannequin-like effect to hands. Saunders thinks the finish can go either way. “There is a finished and elegant feeling to a glossy nail…[but] I saw a matte nail this season at Alexander Wang, which felt a bit rebellious,” says Saunders. “If you want to go in between with a satin finish, try the Cashmere Collection by Essie. My fave is All Eyes On Nudes ($9).” Zoya’s new Natural Satin’s collection ($9) also has some soft-finish lacquers in taupe, mauve, sage, and slate. With so many options, it’s easy to fall in love with them all. Thankfully, the new nudes have already made their way to fall runways, so stocking up isn’t a bad thing.
Polishes pictured above, clockwise from top center: Essie Cashmere in Matte All Eyes on Nudes, Zoya Satin in Brittany, Jin Soon in Doux, Formula X in Blushing, Butter London in Pink Knickers, Formula X Sheer Strength in Wondrous, Essie Cashmere Matte in Wrap Me Up, Zoya Satin in Leah, Sonia Kashuk in French Macaroon, Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure in King of Shadows, Formula X Sheer Strength in Fierce, Formula X in Delightful, Butter London in Kip, CND Vinylux in Creekside, Deborah Lippmann in Misty Morning, OPI in Cement the Deal, CND Vinylux in Field Fox, Deborah Lippmann in Like Dreamers Do, Lancome Vernis in Love in 559M Gris Rivoli, Sonia Kashuk in In the Flesh.