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Unlike fashion trends, beauty trends tend to be a little more narrow. Think: Instead of “menswear-inspired suits” or a broad insurgence of sneakers, things like popsicle lipstick, thick neon eyeliner, bold, brushed up brows or those faux freckles that Gen Z couldn’t get enough of in 2019 usually top the list. The same goes for nail polish trends, which aren’t necessarily ones that go down the runway first before becoming international phenomena. Instead, they happen to be a mix of what editors and influencers are wearing (and posting) on Instagram, colors that brands tend to release at the same time and a bit of personal preference sprinkled in.
In fact, the top nail polish trends for summer 2021 aren’t exactly brand-new at all, and some of them have carried over from the winter. Summer-ready hues like lemony yellow, bright lime green and lavender have made their way to the forefront — but there are also some unexpected shades that have made their way back into the trend cycle, like a very ‘90s-inspired brown hue, a bright cornflower blue that we last saw make waves in the early aughts, and even fire-engine red, which is typically a color that peaks around the holidays.
Ahead, the top seven nail polish trends that I can’t wait to try again and again.
Summer 2021 Nail Trend: Fire-Engine Red
Sure, fire-engine red is technically always trending, but it’s enjoying an unexpected summertime uptick now, too. (I’m betting it’s because we couldn’t get to the salons during the holiday season, so we’re making up for it now.) I love wearing a bright red on my fingernails and balancing it with something more neutral, like an off-white on my toes for a fun summer vibe.
Summer 2021 Nail Trend: Lavender
Lavender can veer a little saccharine — especially if your style is feminine. But something as cheerful as lavender can balance out masculine wardrobe pieces, like an oversized blazer, a chunky loafer or even a vintage leather jacket.
Summer 2021 Nail Trend: Lemony Yellow
Halfway between butter and lemon, this shade of yellow looks great on darker skin tones. Still, it can be a tricky color to pull off — if the color’s too sheer, it might look like your nails are yellowing; too severe, and it can come off juvenile, not unexpectedly chic. For a foolproof choice, look for a creamy yellow that has white undertones, like this pick from OPI’s Hollywood Infinite Shine Collection called Bee-Hind The Scenes.
Summer 2021 Nail Trend: Bright Blue
The bright blue nail polish trend isn’t for the faint of heart. In fact, some of the brighter blues out there are bold enough to feel like they’re part of your outfit. For those who want to get in on the action but can’t commit to cornflower, FOR TMRW’s more midnight blue can be a beginner’s blue.
Summer 2021 Nail Trend: Bright Lime Green
When OPI’s Malibu collection came across my desk and I saw that a creamy, bright lime green was one of the six hues, I knew it was on its way to trend status. I love how a citrus-inspired green instantly conjures vacation vibes. (I’m currently manifesting a tropical vacation with Pear-Adise Cove on my toenails.)
CND – Shellac Crisp Green, $14.60
Summer 2021 Nail Trend: Browns
Is there any nail color more unexpected for summer? Browns like warm sand or mocha latte are cropping up all over, and I love how sophisticated a muddy hue looks on a summer wardrobe backdrop of soft linens, ribbed tanks and silk slip dresses. J. Hannah’s cult-favorite Carob nail lacquer is one of my all-time favorites for mid-season, and OPI’s new Infinite Shine polish in Endless Sun-Ner is a more beige-based brown.
Ok, fine: Sage green is a trending nail color no matter the season. I love how it feels like a true fall color but somehow feels more refreshing than tangerine or off-white. Plus, sage green feels like enough of a color for those who aren’t afraid of it — but it’s muted enough to satisfy the color-adverse minimalists among us, like me.
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