The Best Winter Nail Trends Of 2021
5th March 2021

If there is one beauty aspect that unites us all, it’s nail polish. Nail polish is such a go-to form of self expression — from single shades of red to the minimalist designs that we’ve embraced in our 20s, nail polish and the trends within the industry not only make for beautiful nails, but serve as a marker in our lives.

Raise your hand if you spent so much time rubbing off your black nail polish when you were 14 because your mom made you. Come join the club if the Kardashians inspired you to get acrylic fingernails. Think back to the photos of nail polish sets that you used to save on Pinterest — all of these trends, however cringe-worthy or groundbreaking they were, had a huge impact in our lives. 

Nail polish and designs have transformed from a fun hobby to a bona fide art form. Some nail designs take hours and include the hottest new colors. Others are timeless, and some provide a new twist on a classic look. Nails are all the rage this winter and deserve a moment of their own. So get ready to show your manicurist what you want, because these are the best winter nail trends of 2021.

Switch up your go-to neutral polish with gorgeous stone-inspired colors

When we think of picking a neutral color, a lot of us select a light pink polish. It’s a classic, a go-to, and its versatility is hard to beat. But always choosing a light pink as your neutral is getting tired and boring, so this winter, pick up a stone-inspired color like a heather gray or a gorgeous lavender with gray pigmentation. 

As noted by Allure, the “chic, neutral hue[s]” that are the trend for the winter 2021 season are stone-inspired colors, and it’s not hard to understand why. Not only do the new go-to neutrals switch things up from the tired light pink polish days, but the earth-inspired hues look great on every skin tone. Stone-colored nail polishes are still great for everyday wear, perfectly respectable for the office setting, and best of all, the stone colors evoke the coziness and grounded vibes of winter. 

Looking for some stone-colored nail polish options? Go for the Like Velvet polish from Paintbox — a stone shade that is completely gluten-free, vegan, cruelty free, and paraben-free. Or you could opt for the TT polish from Olive and June. Either way, you’ll nail one of the best winter nail trends of 2021.

Exchange your French tip for this trendy look this 2021 winter season

Picture it — it’s 2013. You’re going to the nail salon for prom. The best option? Square acrylic nails with a French tip. You then get roped into getting your toes painted in French tips too, because why not? Thinking back on the squared-off French tip trend makes us cringe a little, but the nail look is still such a favorite. But this winter, instead of repeating the French tip look for the millionth time, go for a new twist — paint your whole nail white. Yes. 

Who What Wear spoke to influencers about the latest winter nails trends, and creator Lauren Crowe suggested the trend. “I think a full icy white manicure is also perfect for winter,” she said, and we completely see why. The full white nail still has the same polished look of the French tip, but it’s fresh and new. And besides, who doesn’t want to have nails that look like freshly fallen snow in the winter? You don’t need any kind of fancy polish to pull this look off, either. Just go for the Funny Bunny shade from OPI for an at-home manicure and you can’t go wrong.

What's the best winter nail trend? Bright blue

Nail polish and designs can stand out among a crowd. They can serve as a statement all their own, and it’s not hard to understand why. But if you’re the type of person who wants a one-coat wonder color, a polish that packs a punch just on its own, then opt for an electric blue color this winter. As noted by Harper’s Bazaar, deep blues are so on trend this season — the color is “dark and warm without being too moody,” and delivers on making a statement. 

There are a couple different hues for you to choose from, too. You could go for an almost neon kind of blue, a navy hue that looks like the perfect pair of jeans, a gorgeous dark blue, or a shade that features a little bit of sparkle. Any option is not only going to stand out, but you’ll be completely on trend, too. 

Looking for the perfect polish to create this trend for yourself? Opt for the Electric Blue polish from Sundays. It’s non-toxic, cruelty-free, and the color will “energize and brighten your day.” Can’t really go wrong with this one.

Don't miss out on the dark metallic trend this winter

Jet black nails, created by the $3.99 polish from Wet’n’Wild, were our go-to in middle school. When the polish used to chip, things got even better. The look was moody, it said, “Don’t mess with me.” It was the stepping stone that so many of us took into adolescence, and it was almost always accompanied by switching out a flowery bag for a black JanSport backpack and Converse high tops. 

So if you’re looking to evoke the same kind of moody vibe, but don’t want to revisit your middle school days, go for a dark metallic nail polish this winter. As noted by Allure, the hue is very on trend this season because of its “starry, sparkly” pigmentation and its appropriate “sweater weather” vibes. Some nail polish options that you’ll want to make a part of your at-home collection to achieve this winter nail trend include shade Spacey from Olive and June and the Liquid Glass Lacquer Alchemy polish from Static Nails. Your middle school self will thank you for bringing back the dark nail polishes in such a trendy way.

Make a statement with your nails this winter by including trendy minimalist art designs

We all went to the nail salon years ago and asked for a flower painted on our big toe or a rhinestone placed at the corner of each nail. But the trends in nail polish designs have changed dramatically, and if you want to be on trend this season, opt for minimalist art designs with delicate lines, shimmery accents, and negative space. 

Brittany Boyce, the founder of Nails of LA, told Who What Wear that nails with a lot of negative space in the designs are “classic and chic,” but accents in gold can really take the designs to a whole new level. “Every time I did minimal nail art with a little gold fixture, it would end up being super popular on social media,” she said. “It looks gorgeous on all skin tones, from the lightest to the darkest. It’s just stunning.” 

If you want to try recreating this look at home, go for the Peach Sand Creme nail polish for your base, and the Gold Foil Shimmer polish for your designs — both from Orly. It might take some practice, but you’ll be perfectly on trend.

Don't just stick to one color this winter; opt for this trendy mix-and-match look instead

Finding the perfect shade of nail polish can be tricky — the hue could be great, but the polish could chip. The polish could be a game-changing formula, but the color is just not right. Don’t worry, because this is the season to try out a bunch of different nail polishes while being on trend doing so. As noted by Harper’s Bazaar, mix-and-match nails are very on brand for winter 2021, and it’s easy to see why.

Think of your favorite color palette — you might be a black and white kind of person, or maybe desert colors are your thing. You could be a fan of florals and pastels, or maybe dark, warm tones are your vibe. What’s great about this trend is that each nail can feature a different color belonging to an overarching palette — your nails will go together without being exactly the same. This is an elevated way to switch up boring nails, and you’ll be perfectly on trend with this look.

Geometric shapes should be on your trend radar for 2021

When it comes to nail designs, it can be hard to find inspiration and be on trend. Those of us who are 2000s babies know that polka dots were once the only nail design worth having, and luckily, that look is now far from trendy. If you’re struggling to figure out what nail design is on brand for winter 2021, we have you covered. 

As noted by Harper’s Bazaar, geometric shapes are making a huge splash on the winter 2021 nail scene, and with cool graphic looks and colors, everyone will be rushing to recreate these nails. Opt for different colored lines in a squiggly pattern (a very ’70s vibe, and there’s more on that later). Or go for a basic manicure elevated by a geometric swipe. 

If you’re not good with polish, you could opt for a nail sticker to create these trendy looks. As noted by Harper’s Bazaar, nail artist Jessica Washick has created an entire line of nail stickers that feature eight different color combinations. Plus, all the proceeds go to COVID-19 relief and Movement for Black Lives Fund. It’s a win-win.

Add a trendy retro twist to your nail color with these gorgeous hues

If you’ve been paying attention by even just a fraction, you know that ’70s-inspired looks are making a serious comeback this season. The earthy hues, the ever-growing trend of roller skates, the music — the ’70s are having a moment. And the trend is extending to nails too, because gorgeous colors like mustard yellow and forest green are all the rage. 

Betina Goldstein, a celebrity manicurist, told Byrdie that hues like mustard yellow will dominate the winter season. Not only are these colors extremely on brand, but they’re easy to pair with and really fun to experiment with. Not entirely sure where to find such great colors? Don’t worry. Start off with your ’70s-inspired collection with the Want Not Need polish from Nails.INC. The dark forest green will give you Woodstock, VW van vibes for days and is a perfect color to make a statement with your nails. If a burnt yellow is more your thing, go for the Mustard polish from Glam & Grace. Stick to these two, and you’ll be happy.

Black and white nails have never been trendier than winter 2021

There’s something really striking about nails that have such contrasting colors. These looks are difficult to achieve, but trust us when we tell you that they’re worth the effort. As noted by Harper’s Bazaar, black and white nail designs are very trendy for winter 2021, in part because the contrasting looks really redefine what black and white nails (so often separated colors) can accomplish when put together in a single design. 

Not entirely sure where to start? Try this. Instead of giving yourself the classic French tip, switch it up with a black tip in a downwards triangle shape. Bust out the fine nail polish brush and give your nails a linear look with white and gray space. If you’re really feeling adventurous, you could try painting your nails white, then paint a different letter in black on each nail. Ever wanted your nails to do the talking for you? This is your chance. 

The rule of thumb is to just let your polish dry in between designs so it doesn’t bleed together. Have some patience, put on the TV while you go to work, and you’ll shock yourself with the results.

Choose these unexpected trendy colors for the 2021 winter season

When it comes to winter nails, a lot of us opt for dark red. But the 2021 winter season is bringing a much needed shake-up to the go-to cozy hue, and according to celebrity manicurist Betina Goldstein, there are a couple different colors that you should be on the lookout for. 

Goldstein told Byrdie that instead of the “ultra-dark, semi-brown shades” that the winter is typically known for, earthy oranges and terracotta colors “will dominate winter 2021 nail trends.” The brighter, warmer tones will be a hit this season, not only because the hues themselves are gorgeous, but because everyone will be dying to incorporate the trend into their own look. 

Need a couple of suggestions for polishes? Get the Bolt and Be Bold polish from Essie — a ” yellow red quick dry nail polish with brown undertones.” Or opt for the Cold Brew Crew polish, also from Essie — a “mid-tone brown quick dry nail polish with red undertones.” And when they say quick dry, they mean quick dry. Both polishes are part of the Expressie line, so doing your nails will be a breeze.

Redefine your relationship with glittery nail polish with this 2021 winter nail trend

Remember when you used to get the glittery nail polish from Claire’s that would take an entire bottle of nail polish remover and a mound of cotton balls to get off? So do we, and the experience scarred a lot of us for life and completely put us off any kind of nail polish with a glitter component. But winter 2021 might just be the season to redefine the tumultuous relationship we all have with glittery nail polish, because the look is coming back in a big way. 

As noted by Harper’s Bazaar, glitter nail polishes — coupled with regular or even a matte finish polish — is the latest winter nail trend. You could opt for a classic clear polish and add just a hint of a glitter polish at the top of your nail. Or mix and match a black nail polish with a glitter look, creating a very on-brand geometric look. You could even put an actual piece of glitter or confetti on your nail and seal it with a top coat, if you’re really feeling bold. Don’t worry, glitter polish won’t harm you like it did all those years ago.

The best 2021 nail trends to look out for

When we transition from winter to spring, the typical mentality is that everything you wear — from your clothes to your nails — has to be somewhat floral-inspired. This is not true, and it shouldn’t be the only option if you want to spruce up your appearance in the upcoming spring season with a nature-inspired look. As noted by Byrdie, the nail polish trend that everyone will need to keep an eye out for is light, dusty blue hues — a perfect ode to the blue, spring sky that the season brings. Celebrity manicurist Gina Edwards told Byrdie that “blue-meets-gray shades” will be a must have, and given just how gorgeous the shades are, it’s not hard to understand why. 

Patterned nails will also see a huge increase in the spring as well. As noted by Cosmopolitan, checkerboard nail designs and animal print-inspired nails will be huge in the spring. So you heard it here, get on those spring trends so you can set the scene for spring.

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