Summer nail colours to upgrade your manicure

Beautiful summer nail colours to flatter every skin tone and brighten your look

summer nail colours on a pink background
(Image credit: Getty)

Summer nail colours to lust afterthe hottest shades to wear as the weather warms up

Nothing completes a look better than polished nails, whether they're painted, gel or acrylic. Tiny details, like a fresh manicure or long, defined lashes coated in the best mascara (opens in new tab), can add a touch of glamour to everyday style. Whether you opt for classic, neutral French polish or a vibrant pop of red, summer nail colours are back and more glamorous than ever before.

Should you choose a gel or acrylic manicure (opens in new tab) or master the DIY manicure, colour is everything. Much like finding the best cream blush or nude lipstick to flatter your skin tone, the right summer nail colours can compliment your outfit and make you feel great. But with so many shades to chose from, it's tricky to know what's on trend and what will suit you.

If you're looking for some inspiration, we've rounded up the must-try nail colours to go with this season!

Top summer nail colours

It's all about nail care and health this year and polished, healthy and natural-looking nails are this summer's hottest trend. "This year we see a big spike interest in nail health. In terms of aesthetic, a natural looking healthy nail with minimal accents or nail art is the preferred choice of our customers," says Krisztina Van der Boom, co-founder of uber-cool blow-dry and nail salon, DryBy (opens in new tab)

"From a colour standpoint, nudes are in highest demand while colour isn't requested so much, despite the upcoming summer." 

But, Alex Fox, Editor-in-Chief of Scratch (opens in new tab) magazine has a different spin, "Citrus shades of yellow and orange punctuated the London spring/summer catwalks."

"We’ll see corals, smooth nudes and whites promenading alongside the colour of the year—grey—and a gorgeous look for summer was seen sashaying down the runway of Olivia Ruben with hands adorning a pastel palette of lilac, pale blue, yellow, red and coral.”

As well as the 2021 trending colours, nail art will take a much more paired-down approach. “Nail art will be minimalist,” says Alex, while that perpetual favourite—the baby French mani – also features but in revised versions, “French will appear in a myriad of ways from a thin line or doubled up to sensational coloured tips.”

How to pick summer nail colours that flatter

Nail artist Madeline Poole says that finding the best shade for your skin is simple. "First, consider the tone of your skin, meaning the lightness or darkness level. Then look at the warmth or coolness. If you have an undertone of pink or red, nail colours with blues in them are more flattering for your complexion. If your undertone is more neutral, golden or olive, yellow-based shades with more warmth will look fantastic for you."

How to tell if your skin tone is warm, cool, neutral or olive

If you ever wear a certain colour and get a lot of compliments the chances are you’re wearing the right shade for your skin tone. But while you’ll know if you’re fair, golden, olive, medium or dark, the colour of your skin is greatly influenced by its undertones—the colours beneath our skin’s surface. Discover these and you’re far less likely to suffer a colour clash.

There's an easy way to determine if you have warm, cool or neutral undertones just my turning your palms up towards the sky. Looking at the inside of your wrist, the visible veins will either be blue, green or a combination of the two. Blue veins mean you have a cool or 'pink' tone to your skin; green veins mean you have a warm or 'yellow' tone to your skin; a combination of blue and green mean you'll most likely have a neutral skin tone. 

Summer nail colours inspiration 

Baby French polish

The 2021 version of the much-loved French polish has gone micro. Tiny tips with the shiny, neutral base make for an ultra modern take on this classic style.

Take it a step further by adding a small pop of colour to the tip with a bright orange or pink to let your nails do the talking. In a rush? Our guide on how to dry nail polish fast can help you hurry things along a bit.

Tangerines and hot oranges

Medium or tanned skin usually has warm or neutral undertones. “Medium skin can play with hot corals and peaches," says Alex. Try a coral, tangerine or warm red polish.

If you prefer a more subtle look, an orange tip will look great without being overpowering.  

Tiny accents

Nail art has gone minuscule for 2021 and the designs popping up all over the place are a gorgeous shade of metallic gold and silver. 

Think clean, fine lines and delicate accents on one nail or across both hands. 

Vivid red

A bright red on nails never goes out of style. It's the shade look that adds a pop of colour and makes your look go from subtle to chic. 

Warm skin tones should go with a yellow/orange based red, whereas cooler skin tones will suit a blue based red. 

Cool greys, lilacs and blues 

Fair skin is generally cool in tone and Alex recommends "lilac, blue and greys" to complement this. Lighter skin tones need summer nail colours with blueish undertones to emphasise the natural paleness in the skin and elongate fingers for a more elegant look.

Deep and dark

Dark nail polish just oozes sophistication but don't think a dark manicure is only for autumn/winter, summer is the perfect time to wear this glamour-puss look. 

To really *nail* this style, opt for a deep plum, berry or brown shade as straight black can look too harsh. 

The best summer nail colours to buy now

Dior Vernis in 431 Pow

(Image credit: Dior)

Dior Vernis in 431 Pow

Manicurist Nail Polish in Gold Sand

(Image credit: Manicurist)

Manucurist Nail Polish in Gold Sand

Nail Kind in Easy Sunday

(Image credit: Nail Kind)

Nail Kind Nail Polish in Easy Sunday

OPI Nail Polish nail colour in Big Apple Red

(Image credit: OPI)

Nailberry L'Oxygene Nail Lacquer Noirberry

(Image credit: Nailberry )

Nailberry L'Oxygene Nail Lacquer in Noirberry

sally hansen complete salon manicure commander in chic

(Image credit: Sally Hansen)

Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure in Commander in Chic

Le Mini Macaron Gel Polish Milkshake

(Image credit: Le Mini Macaron)

Le Mini Macaron Gel Polish in Milkshake

Nails Inc Nail Polish in Walker's Court

(Image credit: Nails Inc)

Nails Inc Nail Polish in Walker's Court

Chanel Les Vernis Longwear Nail Colour in Rouge Noir

(Image credit: Chanel)

Chanel Les Vernis Longwear Nail Colour in Rouge Noir

Essie Nail Lacquer in Cocktail Bling

(Image credit: Essie)

Essie Nail Lacquer in Cocktail Bling

Emma North is a Beauty Writer who works for digital titles including woman&home, Woman, Woman’s Weekly, Woman’s Own, Chat and GoodtoKnow. Emma’s career in beauty journalism began with internships at publications including Vogue, Elle, The Telegraph and Glamour. She was then taken under the wing of Funmi Fetto, Contributing Beauty Editor at Vogue where Emma assisted with Funmi’s debut beauty book, Palette.