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Our Favorite Winter Nail Trends That Don’t Involve Holiday Glitter

The hottest colors, shapes, and nail-art recommendations straight from the experts.

winter nail trends

The holidays really are the most wonderful time of the year for beauty junkies. Even with the season looking much different than years past, it’s safe to say that we’ll be experimenting with our favorite products from now until the new year in order to celebrate in style—starting first and foremost with our nails.

However, just because the holidays are right around the corner doesn’t necessarily mean we want to pile on a few pounds of glitter. Sure, the occasional pop of sparkle is fine, but what if you’re looking for a manicure that’s a little subtler (and easier to remove)? We spoke with three leading nail artists to learn what winter trends, colors, and shapes they’re loving this season: Miss Pop, Canishiea J . Sams, and Cecily Ellis.

Winter’s Must-Have Colors

Dark, moody nails are the norm du jour this time of year, but our experts are also seeing a surge in neutral, earthy tones for the upcoming season. From chocolate brown to glowy champagne, there’s a certain richness these colors bring to the holidays. They also have the added benefit of elongating your fingers for an elegant look that’s just begging for a ring stack or two to finish off your handscape.

Despite the resurgence of dark and neutral colors, Miss Pop stresses that she’s still occasionally reaching for a pastel lacquer in “cheerful, hopeful, candy-colored” shades. Sams reveals that mixing your dark and light shades (even going for a different color on each nail for a tonal effect) is still a major nail trend for the months ahead, and Ellis feels that a metallic nail, as opposed to a pure glitter finish, can elevate your nail look for all your upcoming holiday Zoom parties.

Cecily Ellis Picks:

Auda B. Beauty Nail Polish in High Fashion

“[This] is the perfect metallic turquoise to pair with your holiday outfit.”

Auda B. Beauty

Pretty Woman NYC Nail Polish in Put a Cork in It

“A gorgeous burgundy. Perfect for those that are wanting a deep red.”

OPI Nail Polish in Funny Bunny

“For a lighter look, a staple in my collection is OPI’s Funny Bunny. It’s a soft white for when you want a nice clean look.”


OPI Nail Polish in Lincoln Park After Dark

“One of my go-to lacquers for the winter month when I’m wanting a dark look is OPI’s Lincoln Park After Dark. It’s a deep rich purple, a classic for sure!”


Miss Pop Picks:

CHANEL Longwear Nail Polish in Vamp

“Chocolatey CHANEL Vamp isn’t just a nail polish to me, it’s an obsession.”


Zoya Nail Polish in Alyssa

“I sent it down the runway twice for fall [at] Prabal Gurung and Oscar de la Renta.”


Canishiea J. Sams Picks:

Winter Nail Shapes

Has the reign of the almond nail finally come to an end? Well, according to all three artists, this shape will always be a classic to elongate the nail, but there are a few other styles that are rising in popularity. Ellis and Sams both feel that the practical short, rounded nail is making a comeback (which is one of the easiest for typing away on your computer at home all day) and is ideal for wider nail shapes. You also don’t risk breaking your nails as often. Miss Pop favors an oval nail, which is less tapered than the almond nail, and is also more stable for anyone prone to breakage. But for the remainder of the year, she’s following the CDC-recommended short, round nail as well, which offers a new challenge when it comes to designs (since there’s less surface area to work with). Necessity is the mother of (beauty) invention, after all.

Winter Nail Art

Since it’s not always possible to go in and visit your favorite nail tech these days, many of us are growing our at-home nail-art skills. But that doesn’t mean you have to have expert-level technique—our artists recommend a few variations of the ombré nail for beginners. You can either use five different lacquers on your nails, moving from dark to light or in complementary shades, or use a handy-dandy makeup sponge to create a gradient effect on each nail. You can blend each color onto a section of the nail, or you can apply the colors on a flat surface and blot the makeup sponge on top, and then press it onto your nail. Easy!

Negative space is still a major nail-art trend and is ideal for anyone looking for a more minimalist approach to holiday designs. “Negative-space nails can be done with tape. Just grab a piece of Scotch tape and place diagonally on your nail bed, [then] paint over and gently remove the tape,” says Ellis. Your options are pretty limitless on where to put the tape, so don’t be afraid to experiment and have fun.

Lastly, the classic polka-dot nail is an easy and playful look for the holiday season. You can use anything from a thin eyeshadow brush, the end of a bobby pin, or a toothpick to apply your individual dots. Just apply your base coat, wait for it to dry, and then add your preferred color. Allow your spots to dry, and then apply a top coat for a seamless finish. Bonus points for throwing in a line or two to contrast with your standard dots—remember, there are no rules when it comes to your nails!

Makeup Sponge

Wonder Wedge

Makeup Brush

Simply Essentials

Top Gloss

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