Dare we say it but, at long last, summer finally seems to be on the horizon — in fact, it’s so close that we can practically taste the Aperol. But before we dust off our sandals, load up on SPF, and declare it yet another hot girl summer, we’re starting with the easiest summer upgrade to enjoy right now: nail polish.
The upcoming summer nail trends truly have something for everyone, with electric brights and chromatic finishes for the maximalists and warm neutrals with sheer pastels to appease the more pared-back amongst us. One thing’s for certain, though: Each of this summer’s nail shades will undoubtedly add a welcome dose of sunshine to our manicures. And, to make sure we’re giving you the rundown on the hottest colours for the season ahead, we spoke to top nail experts for their predictions on the specific shades everyone will be wearing this summer.
Under-the-sea hues will make their way onto dry land, thanks in huge part to the release of The Little Mermaid earlier this year. Turquoise, seafoam green, and cerulean will be everywhere, but it’s a soft baby blue with a sparkling or pearlescent top coat — call it the "mermaid manicure" — that will be the biggest hit for summer.
Red is such a classic nail polish shade that there’s a hue for every season, but this summer it’s all about the brights to really make a bold statement — think fire-engine red and ripe tomato. “It’s a colour that works well on short nails and it offers a playful, colourful and romantic look that’s perfect for holidays,” says Yana Gushchina, founder of nail and beauty salon Browfique.
In 2023, Barbie had us embracing pink in all its forms. In fact, the hashtag #barbiecore currently has 1.2 billion views on TikTok, such is its influence across the worlds of beauty and fashion. Naturally, vibrant magenta nails — that same hot pink as the iconic Barbie logo — will be top of everyone’s mani wishlist for sunshine season. Take inspiration from this manicure by London pro nail artist Julia Diogo.
“Neon brights will be a go-to this summer,” predicts manicurist Julita Fagan, “and this year, greens will be a hugely popular choice.” From zesty lime to vibrant chartreuse, green is the perfect way to inject an electric shock of colour to a basic manicure or pedicure. Go fresh and grassy to keep it on trend for this summer.
Every summer there tends to be one pastel hue that dominates, and we’re calling it: This year, it’s all about lavender nails. Unlike the sugary lilacs and rambunctious periwinkles of previous seasons, though, this summer’s take on purple is barely there. Opt for a sheer wash of lavender, allowing your natural nail to shine through, and a jelly-like finish, like this look on content creator Melanie Graves.
Minimalists rejoice: This summer’s take on "clean" nails comes courtesy of this milky white hue. Forget the Wite-Out bright manicures of Y2K — this season it’s all about soft, creamy, gossamer nails with a pearlescent quality. It’s an undeniably fresh spin on neutrals that leaves nails looking polished and put together, and goes effortlessly with every summer look.
It’s all about the creamy neons and '80s-inspired brights this summer, according to celebrity manicurist Michelle Class. But it’s this high-voltage orange, inspired by everyone’s favourite warm-weather spritz, that she’s marking as one to watch in particular. “It’s fun and lends a pop of colour to a neutral wardrobe for that cool-girl aesthetic,” she says.
Nail artist Aamirah Essof (who you may know from her popular Instagram page, A Brown Girl Recommends) describes this summer’s answer to last year’s glazed doughnut nails as “a fun and colourful rebrand with tones of blue, pink, purple and white.” The key to achieving this colour’s magic is by using a sheer pearl polish or rubbing a chrome powder onto a neutral gel polish to imitate “the way that opals change in the light.”
Brown nails seem set to be an emerging nail trend for the latter half of 2023, and this warm, bronzy hue is the perfect way to ease into the ‘90s-inspired colour palette. A true terracotta, this summer shade is a delicious blend of burnt orange and intense chocolate brown and is ultra-sophisticated. Look to this manicure posted to Instagram by The Mani Club.
“With #balletcore reaching 1.1 billion views on TikTok, ballet pink will be inspiring everything from clothes and makeup to hair and nails this summer,” says Yana. Beloved by celebs like Bella Hadid and Hailey Bieber, this dewy pink shade is pretty, pared back, and ultra-polished, and makes a playful alternative to a classic nude mani. We love this shade on Bambi Nails.
It wouldn’t be summer without the sunniest of nail shades having a moment to shine: yellow. From vanilla chrome to punchy passion fruit à la Hailey Bieber, the coolest way to wear yellow this season is in soft sorbet tones with frosty finishes, like nail artist Alexandra Teleki of The Hot Blend. So refreshing.
If you love an oceanic hue but also want your summer manicure to make a bold statement, Sydney-based nail artist Victoria Houllis (of Mannequin Hands) suggests opting for cobalt blue. "It pops on its own but looks great with chrome detailing or blobs," she tells Refinery29 Australia. And if you want to visit Houllis yourself, you can find her at her press-on pop-up with Adidas Originals, happening in Sydney on November 17 and 18.