The Best Nail Colors Of 2021


The past year has taught us that we're resilient and resourceful and that basically anything can be done at home. From work meetings to haircuts to school, we've mastered the art of multitasking at home. On the beauty front, DIY manicures and pedicures may be a self-care ritual you want to continue from the comfort of your home, even once salons are fully open. So, whether you're an expert at painting your own nails, or you're hightailing it to the closest manicurist, here's what you need to know about how to perfect your nail polish game.



If you want to upgrade your traditional tips, look no further. Trying new trends can be daunting, especially in the beauty space. Luckily, one of the easiest ways to switch up your beauty routine is with a new nail color. It's a fun (and cheap!) way to experiment and express yourself. Whether you want an everyday basic or a bold statement-making shade, we've got the best nail polish colors of 2021 right here.


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Deep reds are a romantic nod to an exciting 2021


Whether on your pout or your polish, a bold red never goes out of style. Rita Pinto, founder of nail salon Vanity Projects in New York City, told Bustle that she's seeing an uptick in requests for the timeless hue, saying, "They are already a favorite for 2021." When it comes to rocking red, this year experts say it's the deeper variations that are really taking off. Rich burgundies and burnt crimsons are adventurous renditions on the classic cherry. And like a fine wine, an intoxicating Bordeaux nail color only gets better with time.



During Fashion Week, designer Prabal Gurung even incorporated the color into his Fall 2021 collection on the runway, which he described as "a love letter to New York City," according to Yahoo! Style. His models rocked long nails painted in a deep garnet, adding to the unrelenting grit, passion, and devotion of New Yorkers that Gurung hoped to convey with his clothes. Swoon!



Natural nudes are anything but basic


Sometimes, less is more. Because of the pandemic, some people have been using their extended period of time at home as a way to detox their nails from damaging gel and acrylic treatments. It's the perfect time to heal and renew. Thankfully, bare nails are always a trend, nail artist to the stars Elle Gerstein told The Cut. "Women are finding minimalistic nails are an easier upkeep," she said. Gerstein, who has worked with top talent like Blake Lively, also told Allure that a natural nude is a fit for any occasion, whether it's a wedding, a Fashion Week show, or a red carpet premiere. Hannah Lee, a professional manicurist and Sally Hansen brand ambassador, agrees. She told The List, "You can match nudes to everything and it gives a chic vibe to any outfit." With a fresh coat of a subtle beige, you'll always look put together and polished — it's one of the best nail colors of 2021!


Another benefit of barely-there neutral shades: Lighter hues are the most forgiving. If you're painting a do-it-yourself manicure, little mistakes aren't as noticeable with a nude shade. A faint tan tint also acts as a great base if you want to try your hand at nail art designs.



Marigold yellow ushers in a sunny outlook for 2021


Every year the Pantone Color Institute, the premier trend forecaster in color, picks a winning shade to give its top honor, and companies around the world take notice. Their selections influence product development and purchasing decisions in multiple industries, including fashion, home furnishings, and, yes, beauty. This year, they named two different hues color of the year. The first, dubbed "Illuminating," is described as a cheerful yellow. Pantone's Executive Director Leatrice Eiseman said the color is meant to "give us resilience and hope." She explained, "We need to feel encouraged and uplifted."



Simply put, this shade will make you smile. Which is why we think it's the perfect nail color. Beauty professionals concur, too. Marian Newman, author of The Complete Nail Technician book, told Vogue, "For once, I'm in agreement with Pantone's color of the year." She mused that the bright yellow is a "beautiful, sunny and hopeful color that we all need to brighten up our lives." And you don't have to choose a blinding marigold to try the trend. Pick a mellow mustard or a subdued butter-inspired shade. Basically, any sunny hue will do! Here's to better days ahead!



Calming gray is a great new neutral


A far cry from your boring gray sweats, this take on a traditional color officially got its seal of approval when it was named one of Pantone's 2021 colors of the year. "Ultimate Gray," a mellow easy-on-the-eyes pigment, was selected for its qualities of fortitude and reliability. Pantone describes the color as practical and rock solid, but, at the same time, warming and optimistic. No wonder the universally-appealing tone reminds us of unbreakable granite or a city's steely industrial facade. In a time of uncertainty (hello, global pandemic), colors can help convey a certain mood or feeling. With Ultimate Gray, Pantone hopes it projects a sense of strength, "encouraging feelings of composure, steadiness and resilience." After 2020, we need anything that can help us to self-sooth and keep calm.


When it comes to nails, gray is a great alternative to a boring beige for a subdued but still dramatic effect. And don't be afraid to play around with the tints if you want to try out one of the best nail colors of 2021. Pick a lighter silver shade for a look that's both effortless and sophisticated, or choose a darker concrete lacquer for a more modern, striking impact.


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Pretty pinks add a perfect pop for a brighter 2021


Say so long to last year's coveted millennial pink, the newest adored hue is moving away from pastel and becoming punchier. Think less bubblegum blush and more flush fuchsia. "Pinks were a popular choice amongst designers this season, so I expect them to have a moment," Jin Soon Choi of Jin Soon Hand and Foot Spas in New York City told Oprah Daily. During Fashion Week, designers from Fendi to Tom Ford painted their models' nails in a hot pink hue, making it a recurring trend (via StyleCaster).


Rita Remark, an editorial manicurist and Essie's global lead educator, told Refinery29 she particularly appreciated Tom Ford's take. For his spring/summer 2021 collection, she said, "He included a shade that I've been desperately wanting to come back: bright, bold fuchsia nails." As Remark describes it, the pumped-up pink nail color is "so flashy that it's punk." Now that's a rosy look that rocks.



Navy is the new black when it comes to classic colors for your nails


Navy reigns supreme as a timeless color that gives off major royal vibes. Pick it for a polish and it's like pure decadence for your digits. Brittney Boyce, a celebrity manicurist and founder of Nails of LA, said to Who What Wear she predicts navy will be a huge trend: "It's another classic color, and in general, I see 2021 being a year where we lean on classic colors, things that we're familiar with." 



Manicurist Rita Remark told Refinery29 she loves the hue for its versatility. "Navy blue is my favorite deep, dark nail color because it gives drama without me having to consider what I have to match it with," Remark explained. Wear the sultry shade and you'll exude confidence. 


Need more convincing? The Zoe Report uncovered that, in addition to top nail artists, countless celebrities have embraced the midnight nail trend. Manicurist Tom Bachik posted a photo of superstar Jennifer Lopez with the twilight tint (holding a bedazzled cup and rocking her dazzling $1 million engagement ring, to boot), and model Hailey Bieber shared a selfie, showcasing her matte blue version of the mani.



Brown tints are an unexpected highlight for 2021


Almost as satisfying as a cup of your favorite coffee, mocha is becoming a mainstream color of choice. Aline Moreira, a licensed cosmetologist and nail artist, explained to Who What Wear that brown tones are going to be big this year. "They say blondes have more fun, but in this case, I beg to differ. This brunette shade will definitely steal the spotlight in 2021," Moreira, who works at Paragon Nails, said. "It can also be a beautiful nude for my melanated sisters." From chestnut to cinnamon to chocolate, there's a brown to suit everyone.


Bee Lalli, owner of Classy Claws in Vancouver, told Refinery29 this is another case of trends recycling. "There are a lot of '90s R&B styles coming in," Lalli noted. She credits musicians like SZA and Summer Walker for bringing the era's popular mahogany hues back into the news. Lalli said she favors "deep, deep brown" for her clients, but also loves creating sets in all spectrums of the shade. Hot tip: If you're not ready to try a dark brown, opt for a lighter linen hue or a creamy caramel color instead, so it's not as harsh.


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Shades of green signify growth and prosperity for 2021


Going green is taking on a whole new meaning for 2021. With the movement toward more eco-friendly products ever-growing, more nail polish companies are offering earth-conscious options, such as luxury nail polish brand Madam Glam, which was officially certified as vegan in January 2021. Allure also reported that, starting in 2021, Essie is only producing nail polish formulas that are vegan and "eight-free," which means without harmful ingredients like formaldehyde and phthalates. 


The color green is also getting its turn in the spotlight. Brittney Boyce, founder of press-on brand Nails of LA, explained to Who What Wear why she thinks the color is about to blow up. "Greens started gaining traction this year, and I think they'll be huge in 2021," Boyce said. "Everything from Baby Yoda greens to The Grinch greens are everywhere in beauty." All variations of the nail color — from olive to apple to peppermint — get the green light from beauty pros. Julie Kandelac, a nail artist and author of the Nail Art Design Book, said to Oprah Daily, "I think emerald will be particularly trendy, because it feels like being on a tropical beach — even if we're actually stuck at home." 




Gold and bronze metallic will be a hit beyond the holidays in 2021


A glamorous metallic brings a festive feel to any nail — anytime, anywhere. Seriously, adding a swatch of shine to your digits will instantly improve your mood. Professional manicurist Hannah Lee (who's worked with celebs like Jennifer Lawrence, Zoe Saldana, and Millie Bobby Brown, to name a few) told Bustle that the glistening finish will be a staple throughout the year. "They've been popular for a while, but I see the trend continuing since everyone loves to add some sparkle into their life," Lee said. Lee explained that she suggests picking bronze for a modern update on the perennial polish, but gold also gives your tips an opulent upgrade. 


And you don't need a special occasion to sport the look. Dazzling metallics are guaranteed to deliver a statement-making megawatt manicure, no matter where you are. So, why not try one the best nail colors of 2021?




The best upcoming 2021 nail colors to look out for


"I'm really feeling a fun tropical vibe," Smith & Cult brand ambassador Jessica Tong told The List. "Since we still have to mask a lot, going a little extra fun on the nail is important," she explained. The celebrity manicurist said her top picks include "fun bright colors" like a poppy coral, a primary yellow, and a guava with glitter. These hues, she said, are perfect for an exotic beach getaway or just some much needed "me time."


ZOYA's creative director Rebecca Isa echoed Tong's sentiment on getting playful with polish. "We are seeing a trend of soft, subdued tones that are effortless and classic; as well as a mix of pops of colors like bright pinks and corals that really bring the nail to life," she told us. "It feels as though everyone can use a bit of fun with the nail as we transition into the warmer months."


If you can't decide on just one color, then try rainbow nails. Celebrity manicurist Deborah Lippman explained to Harper's Bazaar that you can just paint "a different color on each nail." Lippman added, "It's such a simple way to change up your look."


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article written by BY RACHEL LEWINTER for thelist