Photo-Illustration: by Stevie Remsberg; Photos: Courtesy of the Retailers
“Your nails are the best form of self-expression,” says Sarah Gibson Tuttle of Los Angeles–based salon Olive & June. That’s because they’re so low-commitment: You can go from cow-print nails one day to rainbow nails the next.
So what are the shades and trends that feel especially relevant this fall? The Cut called upon some of our favorite nail experts to find out which colors and prints they’re most excited about trying. Read on for the one shade family everyone seems into and the newest animal print for your nails, plus tips for how to make your manicure last.
- 1. Harvest Hues
- 2. Updated Animal Prints
- 3. Skittle Nails
- 4. The Modern French Manicure
- 5. Yellow
- 6. Jade
- 7. Deep Wine
- 8. Pure Black
- 9. Matte Metallics
- 10. Jewel-Tone Purples
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- Metallic Sparkles
- Updated French Manicure
- Electric Animal Print
- Cool Neutrals
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- pack a one-two punch with nail color that cares.
1. Harvest Hues
Manicurists love fall too. At Paintbox, founder Eleanor Langston is “really psyched about terracotta shades.” In L.A., Jess Hannah, founder of the J.Hannah nail polish line, says she’ll be “favoring browns and beiges with infusions of rich yellow.” Celebrity Nail Expert Mar y Sol Inzerillo (a.k.a. @NailsbyMarySoul), current go-to shades are burnt oranges and rusted metallics like Essie in Rust-Worthy.
J.Hannah Fauna Nail Polish
2. Updated Animal Prints
Making your nails look like they could be at the zoo is trendy. “Animal print is very big right now,” says nail artist Naomi Yasuda. “Leopard, zebra, snake skin, or even a cat-eye look gives off a cool, reptile vibe,” Inzerillo adds. “I’m loving all the tortoiseshell nails I have been seeing,” says Kandelac.
To set your manicure apart from the pack, Yasuda recommends choosing “an unusual base, like an unexpected color, a jelly nail, or even a matte.” Think like a slime green as a base, with tortoise on top.
3. Skittle Nails
In the Skittle manicure, also known as the ombré manicure, each nail is painted in a slightly different, gradient shade compared to the next one. Sarah Gibson Tuttle of L.A.-based Olive & June says this is a big trend. For a sophisticated version, she advises choosing one color family with minimal variation in saturation between the fingers. Then, polish the nails in the same order on each hand. “It’s nail art without the commitment,” says Tuttle. “Have fun with it.”
4. The Modern French Manicure
“I am very excited that the French manicure has made a comeback,” says celebrity and editorial manicurist Julie Kandalec. “But I need to shout this from the rooftops — this is not the same French from the ’90s! Like all trends, it has gone through a major overhaul.” According to Kandalec, the French manicure of the moment is all about a thin line (not in white!) and steering clear of flat, wide nails.
Abramcyk, who says she’s “definitely going to be wearing a two-tone French manicure this season,” recommends a neutral base (like pale pink, beige, or gray) finished off with a bold red or black tip. “Make sure the line is thin to ensure it’s an elevated French,” urges Abramcyk.
“I could not be more excited about the shades and tones of yellow this season,” says Kandalec. “This season, we are finally seeing the gamut from pale and muted to deep mustard. When going for yellow, keep your length short and pair it with a natural shape like soft square or rounded edge. Avoid extremes, says Kandalec. “Let the shade stand on its own.”
Essie Hay There Nail Polish
“Jade green is another trend I am seeing emerge for fall,” says Kandalec. “It’s inspired by the ‘gemstone’ nail art trend, which began with geode nail art, then amethyst, and the still-wildly popular rose quartz nails.” Due to green’s naturally strong pigments, it can grab onto and stain the nail surface. To avoid it, layer on two rounds of base coat. “You may also want to consider doubling up on your topcoat too (after the first is 100 percent dry) to prevent the pigmented color from rubbing off or transferring onto surfaces,” she explains.
Smith & Cult Darjeeling Darling Nail Polish
7. Deep Wine
A popular choice on the fall 2019 runways, wine was Choi’s selection for the models at the Michael Kors show. “It is provocative and elegant and it owns the season,” she says. Tuttle is also “really into deep Bordeaux.” Her polish line’s latest shade to launch is a wine color called SC. “These shades help transition to fall while easing the pain of saying goodbye to the pink summer mani,” she says.
Olive & June SC Nail Polish
8. Pure Black
“Black is a true high-fashion color unto itself,” declares Choi, who used this shade for the Marc Jacobs fall 2019 show. “It runs the gamut from classic and sophisticated to cool, edgy, and modern.” For the most sophisticated look, Choi suggests using it on either short, square shape nails or medium rounded ones. When doing your own manicure, be sure to use a base coat to protect your nails from absorbing the color pigment, she cautions, and use a top coat to provide extra shine and a smooth finish.
JINsoon Absolute Black Nail Polish
9. Matte Metallics
This is “a two-in-one trend hitter,” says celebrity manicurist Steph Stone. “For fall, I am choosing a vampy red and a neutral for my favorites, because they’re each my go-to color, depending on my mood.” Pro tip: When painting your nails with textured polishes like metallics, streaks and bumps are common. To avoid them, follow Stone’s three-step prep process. First, buff your nails before painting them. Second, clean each nail with alcohol to remove any residual dust. Third, use a ridge-filling base coat to create the smoothest surface for your paint job.
10. Jewel-Tone Purples
“Right now I am seeing two renditions of purple that are having a moment: mauve-y lavender and deep plum,” says Sigourney Nuñez, an education manager at OPI. “Fall seems to creep up a little slower on the West Coast, so nails are still pastel and nude as we try to hang onto summer.” If you, too, are a West Coast native, Nuñez advises easing into fall by wearing a mauve-lavender shade first, “to introduce a hint of purple.” Then, “once the temperature falls below 60,” it’s time to embrace the deeper jewel-tone versions, she says.
OPI Good Girls Gone Plaid
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Fall is often associated with change and starting afresh. The beloved season signals the switch-up of just about everything, from the clothes we wear to the Spotify playlists we make, not to mention to the lunch menu at Sweetgreen. For many, the shift to autumn also brings the opportunity to give the light, playful pastels and neons of summer manicures a break, and move onto a new batch of more seasonally appropriate nail colors.
And while go-to fall makeup shades haven’t really changed in decades — think deep violets, rich reds, subtle browns — the trendy current shades popping up on the radar of experts and anyone glued to their Instagram feeds alike strike the perfect balance between refreshing and familiar. According to the pros, we’ll be seeing a strong wave of new neutrals, like stark black and creamy gray, as well as deep wine-inspire tones and even some all-over glitter — rendered in a totally chic, non-tacky way (we promise).
Ahead — with the help of backstage nail pro Jin Soon Choi, celebrity manicurist Gina Alcedo and Paintbox creative Eleanor Langston — we’ve highlighted seven of the most popular nail-shade trends of the moment. Start experimenting now, and then keep wearing them all winter long.
If the color black is an important part of your usual #personal #brand, maybe this feels like a no-brainer. But if it’s not, this season is the perfect time to give it a test run. According to Choi, black fits the bill when you want to evoke power, especially with a high-gloss finish. “I predict growing popularity of black shades this fall — the ultimate gender-free nail polish shade,” she says. “It’s very hip and high-fashion, so it works in any context in which you feel bold, confident and in control.” Lean all the way in with jet-black, or reach for something more subdued and matte.
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Denim is a big deal all of the time, but that’s especially true in the fall. And its impact isn’t limited to the perfect light jacket or jeans — it’s alive and well in the beauty space, too. According to Langston, denim-hued nail polishes are “a modern neutral that goes with everything,” much like actual denim. This trend also caters to a variety of different aesthetics, with tones ranging from slate blues with gray undertones to more vibrant indigos.
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“If we say pure white is good for summertime, pearly white is the ideal seasonal shift to fall,” says Choi. She explains that the iridescent finish “adds an elegant dimension” that’s ideal for ushering into a new season — and she’s not wrong. Opal shades add a truly regal upgrade to a basic, neutral manicure.
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“As the weather gets colder and it gets darker earlier, people reach for colors, not just foods, that are rich and warming,” says Alcedo. “Merlots and burgundies are very traditional for this time of year for that reason.” And while the shade may be traditional, it certainly won’t feel tired.
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Is this an oxymoron? Maybe. But according to Choi, the best of fall’s glitter shades don’t include hi-shine, but still pack a punch. “Silver, gold any non-shiny glitter shades atop any color are great to be worn alone, or as a part of nail art without requiring any effort.”
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Behind pumpkin spice, cinnamon is one of autumn’s supreme flavors. As it turns out, it also makes for an equally great nail color: “It’s deep, but not so dark that it reads black, and rich with caramel undertones.” Whether you go for a more brick-colored polish, or something softer with ginger undertones, Langston shares that any cinnamon shade will make for the perfect, modern and unexpected neutral.
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Another big contender for the season? Underrated grays. “Their moody, smoky undertones pair well with somber fall clothing,” says Choi, also noting that the color is a perfect match for the grunge fashion that is so popular as of late. Maybe the best part of this trend is just how chameleon-like it can be, with some of its best shades varying in undertones from lavender to black.
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I find Fashion Week to be equal parts exciting and headache-inducing. It’s exhilarating and exhausting. It gets my adrenaline pumping and makes me want to take a big ‘ol nap. There’s always a lot to take from the weeklong display of shows, street style, and backstage scene. More than anything, I actually look forward to taking a mental tally of what styles and trends are emerging while I elbow my way through the chaos. This year, I found 2020 nail trends to be the most unpredictable, creative, and actually easy to pull off.
Generally speaking, runway manicures were either over-the-top or subtle and stunning. As far as Tadashi Shoji’s show was concerned, its nail design was the former. Samara Walker, founder of AudaB nail polish (and an upcoming app), chose the color combo based on the designer’s vision and told me that bright colors like these aren’t going anywhere in the new year.
“I think a look that’s really going to take off next season is sparkle and a lot of those will be matte or metallic,” she said. “People always like bright colors.”
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I created 3 nail looks for @kith Fall/Winter 19’ x @essie Matte Double-Cornered French Matte Sand x Glossy Moons Sporty Reflectors Swipe to see each look. #nyfw
Updated French Manicure
Over at Kith and Jeremy Scott, it was confirmed that the French manicure is officially back and going nowhere come 2020. Betina Goldstein, who’s known for her stunning minimalist designs, created three different looks for Kith’s Spring 2020 show and told me the French is being reinvented “in different ways,” though she doesn’t object to the versions that resemble the ’90s look. For instance, one of her Kith looks was a cornered French manicure where delicate lines were placed at the top and bottom of the nail to mirror one another.
And at Jeremy Scott, Miss Pop became my favorite person ever when she said, “I’ve been yelling at my aunt for doing a French manicure for 20 years and now I’m like…’I really like a colorful French!’” Same, girl. Same.
Electric Animal Print
Speaking of Jeremy Scott (where a whopping 11 nail art designs were created), Miss Pop also declared us “futurists” who won’t be editing ourselves in 2020. “I guess right now, what we’re saying is be extra. Life is hard enough. Indulge yourself,” she said.
She specifically spotlighted animal prints, but instead of sticking with traditional colors, we’re playing with colors that embody an “electric,” can’t-ignore vibe. Finally, a reason to do the absolute most!
Unlike the other three attention-grabbers, a different take on “nudes” or neutrals is also gaining traction according to Jin Soon Choi, founder of JinSoon polish. Backstage at the 3.1 Phillip Lim show, she told me that cool neutrals will be a part of everyone’s collection since we all need that one color that mimics our skin tone. However, keeping in line with the boldness of the other forecasts, she emphasized that these low-key stunners are “not sheer.”
Ahead, plenty of nail polish options that will make mastering any of these trends easier.
This gel-like polish is a beige creme neutral for fairer skin tones.
This bright neon pink is not for the faint of heart.
This gorgeous green dries down matte and leaves behind a dazzling metallic shimmer.
This 7-free vegan polish is a rich brown that will look flawless against deeper brown skin tones.
Combine the pink shimmer nude and glitter for a bold, in-your-face finish or use the solid color alone when you want to keep things simple.
A toffee beige.
A light, cool gray.
A rich, cocoa bean-inspired brown.
A punchy pink with sparkle.
A striking silver that commands attention.
A terracotta nude for your fall beauty look.
Like ballet slippers, but hot pink.
The turquoise shade of your dreams.
Mesmerized by this bright periwinkle blue.
The most perfect buttery yellow.
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