By Emma North
Summer nail colours to lust after—the 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, 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 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.
"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 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.
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.
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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.
A photo posted by on
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
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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
Manucurist Nail Polish in Gold Sand
Nail Kind Nail Polish in Easy Sunday
OPI Nail Polish in Big Apple Red
Nailberry L'Oxygene Nail Lacquer in Noirberry
Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure in Commander in Chic
Le Mini Macaron Gel Polish in Milkshake
Nails Inc Nail Polish in Walker's Court
Chanel Les Vernis Longwear Nail Colour in Rouge Noir
Essie Nail Lacquer in Cocktail Bling
Emma North is the Beauty Writer at Future Publishing working across print and digital titles including woman&home, Woman, Woman’s Weekly, Woman’s Own, Chat and GoodtoKnow.
Before pursuing a career in beauty journalism, Emma worked as international cabin crew for over 4 years. Travelling around the globe and working night flights across several time zones at once, she is the perfect person to judge whether makeup and skincare claims actually hold up. If you want to know which foundations last 18+ hours or how to keep your lipstick looking flawless in 40º weather, she’s your go-to girl.
Emma’s flying career came to an end when she realised that beauty journalism was her true passion and she undertook internships across 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.
Her big passion is finding truly beneficial skincare but, when she’s not testing out the latest products, you’ll find her trying to muscle her way into London’s best restaurants or relaxing at home in Devon with her dogs.
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