15 Best Fall Nail Color Trends You’re About to Be Obsessed With

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Ditch the basic fall nail polish and embrace this season’s biggest, boldest manicure trends.

One of the easiest and most inexpensive ways to embrace any new season is with a fresh manicure. Simply swipe on your favorite shade and you’ve successfully transitioned to the next big trend and updated your look. So, what are the best fall nail colors for 2021? From deep, vampy reds on shorter nails to Skittles-inspired ombré manicures and rich, highly reflective metallics, there are a few hot trends emerging, according to Rebecca Isa, cult-favorite nail polish brand ZOYA’s creative director.

And that’s just the beginning. “This fall, the color trends and tones are plush, strong, self-confident, and classic,” says Shel Pink, founder of SpaRitual and SlowBeauty.com. “A dynamic palette consisting of warm browns, rich reds, sage greens, deep teals, with touches of earthy oranges accompanies us this season.” The bottom line? You’re going to have some fun with the best nail polishes and gel nail polishes. If you love to experiment, you’ll also want to make sure you know how to remove that gel nail polish easily.

How we picked our favorites

So many polishes, so little time! To save you the grief of accidentally picking a polish with a less-than-stellar hue or formulation, we asked fashion forecasters and celebrity nail artists for their top choices. We also sifted through thousands of user reviews and star ratings to come up with a list of our 15 faves for the coming season, organized by trend and shade. They also make great accents for your toes if you’re giving yourself a DIY pedicure. But whether you’re going with a mani or a pedi, you’ll also need this info on how to make your nail polish last.

Nail trend: Deep red

Isa predicts that one of the fall’s hottest trends will be “short, square vampy nail with a deep red tone.” And she has something very specific in mind: “Think Uma Thurman’s perfect nail look from Pulp Fiction.” Isa is a big fan of Mila, featured in ZOYA’s Nostalgic collection for Fall 2021.

Deep red nails tend to work so well because they convey an air of chic, even if you’re wearing ratty, old jeans. And since more couture brands are launching nail products, you can feel extra without spending a fortune. In other words, maybe you can’t afford a Chanel purse or Gucci shoes, but you can splurge on one of their nail polishes every now and again. Pro tip: At-home manis can get messy, especially when using red nail polish. We love using liquid latex to keep things neat.

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Nail trend: Updated neutrals

As we get ready for the season of pumpkin-spice lattes and leaf-peeping, “turn your eyes to neutral and earthy-toned colors,” suggests Hemi Park, a nail educator for LeChat. “Classic neutrals are always fall-ready shades for those who want to keep their nails clean and classy.” But go a little out of your comfort zone this fall: Instead of the typical nudes, try a tan beige nude or rosy mauve. “Not only are these colors warmer shades for the fall,” says Park, “but trying different nudes can also uplift your mood.” Another bonus: Deeper neutral nudes have more coverage for your nails, and in general, nudes are more forgiving when it comes to chips.

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Nail trend: Autumn colors

For a fall nail color trend that will surprise nobody, the lush colors of fall leaves will be big this season. “We love rich browns for their classically strong sensibility, sage greens for harmony, earthy oranges for intuitive sensuality, and deep teals for a touch of regal glamour,” says Pink. And since the best fall colors also tend to be richly pigmented, Pink notes that these are best in classic crème finishes. By the way, here’s what your favorite nail color reveals about your personality.

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Nail trend: Highly reflective metallics

Celebrity nail artist Elle takes her cues from the runways. If you’ve been following the fall fashion shows, you’ll have noticed that metallics are having a moment. From shimmery shoes to detailed jackets, the idea is to create a bit of detail that sparkles and shines. Adding a little (or a lot!) of shimmer to your manicure for a burst of shine throughout the day is a fun, easy way to elevate your style instantly. Look for details like holographic effects or two-toned glitter.

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Nail trend: Gradient colors on all five nails

If you love the idea of nail art more than the actual process, there’s an easy way to create the effect without all of the fuss: Simply use five similar shades from dark to light. According to Gabriela Hernandez, founder of vintage-inspired Besame Cosmetics, choose one color family and then paint each nail a different color. For instance, try a dusty rose with Deep Mauve, Pastel Pink, and Bloom Beige. In case you have a mishap while applying, here’s how to get nail polish out of just about anything.

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Nail trend: Extremely bold blue hues

Remember when fall nails meant the same one or two shades of brick or pumpkin variations? Boring. Well, the best fall colors this season playfully incorporate darker colors but pack an extra punch. According to Elle, the one of the season’s coolest trends will include opulent shades of blue—from bold cobalt to inky midnight shades. Talk about a huge statement!

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Nail trend: Negative space nail art

Nail-art lovers, listen up! Isa says it’s time to get creative. “The negative-space half-moon or inverted-V manicure leaves space at the cuticle to allow the nail to be elongated, giving a visual effect of longer nails.” With a lot of retro trends back for fall, this is a great way to subtly embrace the nail art trend. Start with a nearly nude shade and paint on swirls of color or skip parts of your nail to let the negative space show through. It’s also a fantastic way to disguise chips. Simply add another color on top of your existing mani for a bit of detail, choosing fall colors to enhance the effect.

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Nail trend: Gemstone-inspired hues

Can’t choose just one color this season? You don’t have to—the best fall nail colors are all the colors! Break out your big, bold jewelry and polish your nails to match. Think deep ruby shades, hints of lush emerald, the bluest sapphires, or really rich amethyst shades. Bonus points if you wear a few colors on each hand and mix and match your gemstone jewelry, as well. Try for a shimmery finish and longer nails to maximize this look.

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Nail trend: An accent nail

All the experts we spoke with assured us that accent nails will still be a hot trend this fall. They’re also a fun way to try something dramatic that isn’t overwhelming. Consider an over-the-top chunky glitter polish, or choose a bold fall nail color that you might not otherwise wear. In other words, if you’re not a bright blue nail polish kind of gal, swiping it on your ring finger can add an updated bit of glam to your look without much of a commitment. Here are more style secrets of women who always look put together.

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Nail trend: Deep teals

Just because summer is over, it doesn’t mean you have to leave the fun of the beach behind. One of the best fall nail colors is a super deep shade of teal looks just like the ocean. Interestingly enough, it’s also a bold pick for neutrals, since it’s a color that goes great with denim and some of fall’s classic colors. Plus, a shiny teal manicure adds a bit of “regal glamour” to an everyday look, Pin says, and looks great on almost every skin tone.

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Nail trend: A retro ’70s vibe

Nearly every fall collection has a groovy grouping of shades ranging from blues and teals to oranges and mustards. What’s fun about this is that you can wear one shade to low-key jump on the vintage-vibe bandwagon or polish your nails in alternate shades to have your own version of That ’70s Show.

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Nail trend: Candy colors

Brightly polished multicolor manicures aren’t going anywhere. “As we head deeper into fall, the Skittles ombré is another great trend,” says Isa. Not familiar with that trend? It’s the one where you polish every nail a different color. To up the ante, choose a bold palette you might not normally wear. The best fall nail colors come in what Isa describes as “color flights,” which makes it easier to mix and match. If you’re shy about your nail art, she suggests going from rose to burgundy. And if you’re feeling a fall vibe, she recommends gorgeous mustard shades to deep browns. While you’re waiting for your nails to dry, enjoy these hilarious fall memes.

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Nail trend: Instant nail art

If you’ve ever marveled at some of the intricate designs on people’s nails, we have a little secret for you: Sometimes it’s just a nail sticker. Color Street makes a wide variety of nail polish strips that last for the long haul—up to 14 days of perfection! The company says the hottest trends for fall include folklore florals, swirling neutral lines, and incredibly bold glittery solids. It’s all of the fun without any of the commitment—or the hefty price tag.

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Nail trend: Naked nails

Now that you know the best fall nail colors, you might be tempted to go for a wide-ranging nail polish palette to make sure that you try them all. Then again, another look that’s hot for fall is nails that are in great shape but not visibly polished. “The most important tip is to condition the nails,” says Isa. “The better condition the plate is in, the better your nail will look and last.” The best cuticle oils can help with this, since they nourish and strengthen nails in addition to softening cuticles.

To nail this look (so to speak), you’ll also need to pay extra attention to cuticles by defining an edge line. “You can do this by taking a stiff, clean eyebrow brush, dipping it in remover, and riding it along the side edge line and cuticle,” says Isa. “This will clean that edge up nicely and make it look crisp and fresh.” She also recommends protecting this natural look with a great top coat.

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Nail trend: Silver gray

We were surprised to find out that one of the most popular neutrals this season is gray. We’re talking a soft gray or slightly deeper gray-flannel-suit-inspired shades. For an effect that’s less harsh than bright white and a bit more unexpected than pale pink, try a sheer or frosty gray. And if you’d like a bit more oomph, opt for a matte finish or glossy nail with matte gray tips. If you’re looking for an understated but impactful lip color as well, try these nude lipsticks.

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Woman holds in hands collection of color nail polish samplesBogdan Kovenkin/Getty Images

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Rachel Weingarten
Rachel Weingarten is an award-winning freelance writer specializing in beauty, fashion, lifestyle, career/business and tech. She's the author of 3 award-winning books, and co-founder of a national non-profit, the RWR Network.