Which shades can make your hands look particularly happy?
Not all of us are blessed with youthful hands, dainty feet, or gorgeous nail beds, but we can fake it by using certain nail polish colors. We interviewed two of the industry’s biggest experts to find out which shades can make your hands look younger, longer, tanner, and more. Deborah Lippmann, founder and creative director of her eponymous nail brand, and Jin Soon Choi, celebrity manicurist and founder of her own brand and nail salons, weigh in on the most flattering shades for every skin tone.
The color that makes your hands look younger
“As hands age, skin tends to naturally become a bit more yellow or sallow,” says Lippmann, who also provides the reminder to use SPF on your hands. “Because of this, a good rule of thumb is to avoid any harsh grey lacquers, as they will accentuate this. You may also want to stay away from neon or bright colors as these will draw attention to your hands in general.” Choi agrees that ultra brights are a mistake. “Choose colors that are not too immature or too neon-like,” says Choi. “They should be more elegant and have sharp color pigmentation to make your skin look vivid.”
Fair skin: Lippmann prefers a sheer shade or polish with a pink undertone. Choi says a retro blush pink (like her Dolly Pink shade $18) or a classic cerulean blue is your best bet.
Medium skin: Choi says a coral orange polish will pop while Lippmann likes a full-coverage yellow-based nude.
Olive skin: Lippmann’s says her own Naked lacquer ($18) is ideal for all skin tones since it’s not too beige or too yellow, but works great on olive skin. “It’s not too beige or too yellow, so no matter what your undertones are, it looks sheer to your nail color.” Choi is impressed by a hot orange polish’s anti-aging effects.
Dark skin: Lippmann looks for an illuminating effect. “My No More Drama polish ($18) was inspired by Mary J. Blige and has a golden shimmer that adds brightness with gold caramel pearl-essence,” she says. Choi is not afraid of color, and says a bright mint blue will look youthful on dark skin.
The color that makes your hands look more tan
“Bright, vibrant colors and those with white undertones tend to universally pop against the skin and make it appear darker by comparison,” says Lippmann. Choi says there are certain specific hues that fake a tan “such as orange, yellow, green or opaque pastel colors.”
Fair skin: Choi says a deep ocean green will give your skin a glow. Lippmann suggests a bold, dazzling orange, like Lara’s Theme ($18), to make skin look brighter.
Medium skin: Both nail experts cite bright coral as the way to go, but Lippmann says fuchsia can also make hands look more tan.
Olive skin: Choi likes hot orange like Orange Pop ($18) on olive skin tones, while Lippmann says teal or mint will accentuate natural yellow undertones.
Dark skin: Contrast is the name of the game, as you want a dramatic effect. For Lippmann this means a pure white or baby blue. Choi suggests lemon yellow.
The color that makes your nail beds look bigger
“Applying a nude lacquer will help to make the finger appear elongated and camouflage the nail bed,” says Lippmann. “By choosing a nude that blends well with your skin tone, hands will look more refined.” Choi on the other hand, says “Opaque whites to pastel tones make your nail beds look bigger.”
Fair skin: Lippmann says you should find a nude that matches your skin tone, but Choi says a blush pink is the way to go.
Medium skin: Choi’s pick for medium skin? Kookie White ($18) and off-white polish with a hint of gray and blue, sure to make your nails pop.
Olive skin: Choi p says a whitish beige will do the trick.
Dark skin: A powdery pink nude is Choi’s top choice for darker skin tones.
The color that makes your nail beds look smaller
Not everyone loves wide, lengthy nails — some might prefer smaller ones. “Darker shades tend to make nail beds look smaller so make sure that you choose dark colors that are good for your skin tone in the summer,” says Choi. Lippmann, however, feels nudes are the most flattering for this instance.
Fair skin: Choi says a deep electric blue, like her best-selling Blue Iris ($18) is the color to use if you feel your nails look too big.
Medium skin: If you have medium skin, Choi says a dark gray blue will shrink nail beds.
Olive skin: Choi feels vampy shades like deep, dark reds will flatter nails while making them look smaller.
Dark skin: A deep ocean green is Choi’s pick.
The color that makes your hands look slimmer
“Use more natural and elongating colors that don’t highlight your nails, this way your nails become an extension of your fingers,” says Choi. Lippmann concurs. “In terms of slimming lacquer shades, I love a nude on all skin tones.” She says nail shape can help, too. “Stay away from a super square-shaped nail, it’s not the most flattering and makes fingers appear shorter. Shape your nail so it mirrors your cuticle and elongates your fingers.”
Fair skin: Both experts say sheer pink is best, while Lippmann says a clean beige can also slim the hands.
Medium skin: Choi opts for a sheer nude polish, but Lippmann likes more opaque, full-coverage, yellow-based shades like her taupe shade, Fashion ($18).
Olive skin: Both women say a neutral pinky beige is best.
Dark skin: Choi says a toffee beige looks wonderful on darker skin. Lippmann likes a light caramel shade for a bit of contrast.
The color that makes your feet look daintier
“Many women feel more comfortable experimenting with color on their toes than on their nails,” says Lippmann, who favors creamy pastels or pale pinks for the prettiest of feet. “Overlaying them with a light layer of shimmer will also enhance the feeling of delicateness.” Choi feels bold shades can work, too. “I recommend quintessentially feminine colors for this look,” says Choi.
Fair skin: Lippmann opts for sheer, iridescent pink, while Choi suggests a ripe berry.
Medium skin – Choi likes a true red on medium skin tones, and Lippmann says shimmery pastel pink will look lovely.
Olive skin – Lippmann likes a sheer petal pink on olive skin, but Choi says a coral orange like her Enflammee ($18) is prettiest.
Dark skin – Choi prefers a light coral on dark skin, while Lippmann says a creamy mauve polish like her Modern Love ($18) is the key to dainty toes.