The easiest place to begin updating your beauty routine is with your manicure. But, before you start applying your tried-and-true shades, listen up: Experts have revealed the 12 must-have nail polish colors for 2021, which they predict will be adorning manis everywhere this year.
Nail pros, including Emily Heath Rudman, founder of Emilie Heathe, and Sally Hansen brand ambassador Hannah Lee, let Bustle in on the year’s hottest colors that clients have been requesting and adding to cart. Some of the shades — like red, nude, and brown — are already go-tos, but there are also some unexpected hues that’ll be a hit season after season. These include vivid yellows and bronze metallics, both of which will take your nail game to a whole new level. However you decide to use these polish colors, prepare to rack up the compliments.
Even if you’re still working your way through summer’s hottest nail designs, like glittery tips or ombre, you’ll want to begin stocking up on these must-have mani shades. To help, here are the 12 buzziest nail polish colors to put on your radar (and your fingertips) in 2021.
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1. Muted Earth Tones
Founder and CEO of Ella+Mila Narineh Bedrossian tell Bustle that muted earth tones are “the colors that people want,” based on questionnaires and Instagram story polls the brand has conducted. These are essentially earth, fire, and water hues, like muted brown, gray, green, and blue. The good news is that they go with everything as a more fun, elevated neutral.
2. Stripped-Down Sheer
Bedrossian also finds that sheer colors are flying off the shelves (virtually and literally), and it’s easy to see the appeal. “It’s a sheer finish but buildable [so you can] make it more opaque,” she tells Bustle. “It’s so easy to upkeep and looks polished without being too loud.” Her favorite shades for the look include Bold, Pure, and Dream from the Ella+Mila Sheer collection, but JinSoon’s Pixie is also a great choice. Pro tip? Pair a sheer nude color with the French tip trend for a classic, dainty manicure.
3. Basic Browns
Rita Pinto, founder of New York City-based nail salon Vanity Projects, says nudes and browns will remain a staple in 2021. “We plan to see a lot of brown nudes, which never go out of style,” she tells Bustle. She notes that it’s a chic and versatile option — think shades like sand and mahogany. There’s a brown to suit every style and complexion.
4. Classic Red
You can never go wrong with a classic red mani. Pinto says she is already seeings clients requesting this timeless look. “From bright cherry reds to deep burgundy, they are already a favorite for 2021,” she tells Bustle. Her pick is Dior’s 949 Rouge Cinema, a shade she dubs a “stand-out red.”
5. Floral Tone Yellow
Pantone named yellow as one of the colors of the year, so get ready to see it on manicures everywhere. Heath Rudman says we’ll be seeing a lot of gold tones, an iteration on the Pantone shade. “I see some really beautiful and bright warm tones, such as marigold,” she tells Bustle. While yellow can feel like an intimidating color to wear, it serves as the perfect shade to experiment at home with. Rudmin recommends playing around with yellow polish as you work on your DIY nail art game.
6. Sage Green
In keeping with the earth tones theme, this eclectic green hue is an essential color to keep in your rotation this year. “Earth green shades are rich and unique, and I think that is what sets them apart of your typical traditional colors,” Lee tells Bustle. “That’s why I think it’ll be a big hit.” The mossier the green, the better.
As Pantone’s second color of the year, gray also has a place in this year’s nail polish trends. Rudman says that you’re going to see plenty of “gray, deeper tones” throughout 2021. To take the color to the next level, she recommends adding a duo-chrome finish, which she notes will also be a trend to try.
One more under-the-radar color that’s going to take off this year is periwinkle. “The shade will be popular since it’s such a pretty and unique mix of blue and purple that can be perfect from spring all the way through winter,” says Lee of the it-hue. While her pick is Sally Hansen’s Crystal Blue, Essie’s As If! polish is a gorgeous iteration of the shade.
9. Metallic Bronze
Gold metallic polish is always a hit during the holidays, but these striking hues are going to remain staples 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 tells Bustle. Rather than your typical gold or silver metallics, she suggests going with more bronze shades for an upgrade on the classic look.
You can go bold with your manicures, but you could also abide by the “less is more” philosophy. For Pinto, one of the biggest nail polish trends involves a nude base paired with texture on the tips. Barely-there nudes never go out of style, she says, and they allow designs on your tips to really pop. Chanel’s Ballerina nail polish is her all-time favorite to use for the look.
11. Bright Pink
Everything’s coming up bright and technicolor, which is why you’re seeing in-your-face pink nail polish shades. “Vibrant colors are trending right now,” says stick-on manicure brand ManiMe CEO, co-founder, and color curator Jooyeon Song. “Bright pink is here for the summer. It’s all about bubblegum and fuchsia shades.” Ease yourself into the trend by combining bright pink hues with peach-toned accent nails.
12. Cobalt Blue
In the bold vein, expect lots of a particular blue to grace fingertips: Cobalt. According to Molly Romah, lead nail technician at Chillhouse, this is one of the more show-stopping bright polish colors to wear — it’s super bright and just shy of being neon. It’s the color of Frida Kahlo’s infamous Casa Azul basking in the sunlight. Wear it in a solid manicure or as a head-turning tip in a French mani design.
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