You might think you're a good decision-maker but no one would blame you for hesitating — even panicking — when faced with a nail colour wheel at the salon. Should you go for Barbie pink or vanilla chrome? Milk bath nails or lip gloss nails? To be real, choosing the right shade is by no means the most difficult choice you'll ever make but post-manicure regret is a thing and the abundance of hues can be a little daunting.
There's a lot to consider. Will Aperol orange suit your skin tone? Does the French fade work best on short or long nails? Then there's the question of how you dress. While colour clashing is more of a trend than a faux pas (see: red and pink), figuring out which shades will complement your aesthetic is no mean feat.
To save you humming and hawing in the salon chair, we asked nail artist and session manicurist Ami Streets for her tips. Here are the nine nail polish colours that go with absolutely everything.
Blueberry Milk Nails
Blueberry milk is the blue jeans of nail colours, as nail artist and content creator Amber proves here. "This beautiful, baby blue colour takes inspiration from its predecessor, the milky manicure," says Ami. "A pale tint of pastel blue [mixed into] a sheer, creamy shade makes this a unique tone." Ami says that this viral nail colour trend works perfectly for summer but the soft, icy hue will also add contrast to darker outfits and transition well into the winter months. It's so versatile that Ami asked for the shade to be mixed up for her a few years ago, as it wasn't sold in stores. Whip up your own using Essie Nail Polish in Allure, £8.99, and Lottie London Plant Based Gel Effect Polish in Feeling Myself, £3.95, or apply one coat of Mavala Blue Siesta Nail Colour, £6.40, followed by a glossy top coat for a look that's similar to this one by nail artist Alexandra Teleki.
This is the ultimate classic manicure colour, says Ami. Take inspiration from London pro nail artist Julia Diogo on Instagram. "Red adds vibrancy to your manicure or pedicure and works well all year round, from summer holidays [where it complements a sun-kissed glow] to the festive season." Picking the right shade of red can also add a rich contrast to your skin tone, says Ami. "Blue-based reds suit paler skin tones," like Essie Expressie Nail Polish in Seize The Minute Red, £7.99. "Orange-based reds are best for those with a more olive or warmer complexion," adds Ami. Try Nailberry Oxygenated Nail Lacquer in Joyful, £16.
"Surprisingly, lilac is universally flattering on all skin tones," says Ami, who thinks the shade has a playful energy to it — and that it's about to knock millennial pink off its perch. Variations on the pastel hue have gone viral this year, including "digital lavender" (lilac with a chrome overlay) and "milky lavender" (a sheer take on the colour).
This swirl accent manicure by nail artist Alexandra Teleki is equal parts cute and chic. Try OPI Infinite Shine Long Wear Lacquer in Do You Lilac It?, £16.90, Manucurist Nail Polish in Lisa Lilas, £14, or Lottie London Plant Based Gel Effect Polish in Mood, £3.95.
Taupe is a truly versatile neutral, says Ami, but experiment with other earthy tones like olive, moss and rust to figure out which best complements your individual skin tone and matches your mood. "Go darker and choose delicious chocolate brown to add depth and richness," says Ami, like Orly Breathable Nail Polish in Double Espresso, £13.50. "Or select taupe for a sleek and modern-looking manicure." Try Rimmel London 60 Seconds Nail Polish in #Yolo, £3.99, or Nails INC. What's Your Spirituality Plant Power Vegan Nail Polish, £9. Taupe tips, as seen on luxury manicurist Lois Samantha, are a subtle alternative to a wash of colour.
Rouge noir occupies a comfortable space between jet black and pillar-box red. Though the brooding hue is often associated with autumn and winter, its red nuances really pop in sunlight. "Opulent deep rouges are a decadent choice for a sophisticated nail look," says Ami. "This cult colour has reached iconic status over the years, having been featured in classic films and on various catwalks. It remains highly requested as a suits-all statement shade."
This shade posted to Instagram by Peggy Nails is perfect. Chanel Le Vernis Nail Colour in Rouge Noir, £25, hits the nail on the head. Also try Dior Vernis in Nuit, £27, and CND Vinylux Long Wear Polish in Black Cherry, £9.95. It's best worn ultra-glossy so throw on a gel-effect top coat like Essie Gel Couture Clear Top Coat, £9.99.
If milk bath nails are a little too understated for you but you want to keep things simple, try sheer pink. "Barely there, nude shades make all nails look well groomed and expensive," says Ami. "The hint of pink enhances the natural undertone of nails and camouflages any imperfections, resulting in brighter, healthy-looking nails with a high shine," just like these nails by Julie Dovolis.
R29 rates Essie Gel Couture Nail Polish in Inside Scoop, £9.99, Jessica Phenom Vivid Colour Nail Polish Pink-A-Boo, £14.50, and Shoreditch Nails The Primrose Hill, £12. When it comes to sheer shades like this, you might need a total of three coats. To further avoid streaks, start with a smoothing base coat like Leighton Denny Undercover Ridge Filling Matt Base Coat, £14, and finish with a glossy top coat.
"Black polish is always in style and instantly adds an edge to any ensemble," says Ami. Just keep nails short and chic. "Choose a luxe, highly pigmented formula for a bold, high-shine manicure," Ami adds. R29 loves OPI Nail Polish in Lady In Black, £14.90, Leighton Denny Nail Polish in Steal Appeal, £12.50, and Gucci Vernis à Ongles Nail Polish in Crystal Black, £26.
"Metallic-effect nail polish can work with any outfit; it adds subtle interest and dimension compared to standard colours," says Ami. She particularly recommends choosing opalescent polishes in sparkling pale or pastel shades as these are a softer, more minimalist option. These nails by Mina are a great example. "Colours like these are a contemporary update to a traditional metallic, chrome or glitter manicure," adds Ami.
Try Nails INC. Plant Power Nail Polish in Glowing Somewhere, £9, which lends an oyster shell effect, Leighton Denny Nail Polish in Get Glazed, £10.58, for mermaid vibes or My Mood Nail Polish in So Fantasy, £5, which is a pretty pearly pink. Just one coat is enough to lend nails a gauzy finish.
When layered, this semi-sheer polish (also referred to as "milk bath nails") is reminiscent of the opacity of clouds, says Ami. If you want more of an opaque finish, take inspiration from Julia, who calls this shade "liquorice soft serve". Try OPI Nail Lacquer in It’s Ashually OPI, £17.50, or Essie Nail Polish in Press Pause, £8.99, with a drop of the aforementioned baby blue.
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