The other day I asked a nail artist a pretty broad question: What's the most popular nail colour right now? I was expecting a sidestep, something like, "Everyone's different," or an obvious pick, like a milky tone, ballet pink or a classic red, but she surprised me and said: Right now, everyone wants brown nails.
On TikTok, videos tagging "brown nail designs" have 8.8 billion views — that’s double the popularity of black or white nail designs. The reason people are searching for and sharing their brown nail experience is because a single shade of brown nail polish carries a lot of nuance: Do you want more of a red undertone or a dark chestnut? Perhaps you'd prefer a soft, beige brown? Add in the multiple art and design trends, and brown nails are varied enough that they warrant their own feature.
What is the best brown shade for nails?
Brown nails are trending in response to autumn, although nail artist Joelle Rodriguez notes a bigger trend, a kind of pendulum swing in aesthetic. "Back in the day, people were using excessive amounts of bling on their nails, but that's not really the trend right now," she explains. "Everyone's kind of toning down and finding a shade that aligns with their outfits." Think: latte brown, which has infiltrated both fashion and makeup lately.
How do you find your perfect brown nail polish?
"Brown can be a really rich colour, it's not like black that's flat," explains Rodriguez. "There are a lot of different variations." She recommends pulling a few different shades and trying them on. "When I'm working with clients, it usually takes about three or so tries to find the perfect shade," Rodriguez continues. "A lot of my clients also get up and look in the mirror so they can see themselves wearing the polish, rather than just looking at their hand."
If you're stuck, Rodriguez recommends holding your hand against your body, such as your elbow or a specific freckle. "[Brown] is neutral and we all have natural parts of our body that have browns in them, like our skin or our hair," she explains.
What are the best brown nail designs?
Hot on the heels of the "cherry cola lips" craze, "cherry mocha nails" — brown nails with a rich red undertone — have been surging in popularity, which many will credit to cosy sweaters and foliage. "Everybody is into this Emily from The Devil Wears Prada aesthetic lately," she explains.
Though they're not new, chrome powders continue to trend. "Chrome came out like eight years ago, but it wasn't popular because no one really knew how to do it very well," explains Rodriguez. But now — since Hailey Bieber's glazed donut nails — everybody loves chrome, says Rodriguez. Specifically with a light or dark brown nail polish, a chrome topper adds extra dimension. "Any shade of brown with a clear or white chrome on top would look gorgeous," adds Rodriguez.
"Tortoise designs come around every year," explains Rodriguez. But the current trend she's seeing is a tortoise jelly nail, something a little more sheer. "I have seen a popularity in Korean gel polishes in jelly shades," she explains. "I think a brown jelly colour [often referred to as 'syrup' gel on TikTok], would look extremely pretty in a tortoise design."
Because a tortoise design is a little more involved than a flat brown or even a brown chrome, there are some custom kits that make it easier. "I use Nail Thoughts collaboration with Kokoist, which is a Japanese gel brand. [Manicurist Katie Masters] has done tortoise designs for years and years and perfected it, so she made a kit to make it easy for nail techs to execute a perfect tortoise look." It's best to head to a salon to achieve a professional look, but there are also cute tortoise press-on nails if you want a less involved process. Try Lottie London Stay Press'd Tortoiseshell Twist, £6.95, or Nails. Inc Shellfie Ready Tortoiseshell Artificial Nails, £8.99.
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