For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a manicure maximalist. I love nail art and bright colors; Fire engine red has practically become a neutral for me. Lately, however, I’ve been drawn to more muted tones. Maybe it’s the season, which makes me bundle up in all black and be moody across the board, but more and more I’ve been reaching for shades that can best be described as “dusty.” Imagine periwinkle blue with a film of grey over it, or baby pink dialed down a few notches. According to Essie celebrity manicurist Michelle Saunders (whose clients include Emily Blunt, Kate Beckinsale, and Mandy Moore) I’m on to something.
“At New York Fashion Week last season, I remember being asked for options for a ‘neutral but not nude’ nail polish,” she says. “That’s when I realized that a neutral does not have to be beige—and that this would be a trend.”
According to Saunders, what makes a color belong to the muted family is when its “vibrancy is diluted with a lighter opaque.” Think of a cup of coffee, and how it gets lighter as you add creamer she says.
As for why we’re starting to see these shades get more popular now, the artist thinks that the subdued shades are a “small revolt against elaborate, cumbersome, extreme nail art.” It’s not only less time consuming, but also more of an achievable, low-maintenance look for even amateurs. Saunders pointed to Essie’s new Serene Slates collection, nine toned-down hues fittingly inspired by unplugging (shade names include “On Mute” and “Wire-less Is More”).
“I love the color ‘Toned Down’— a subdued smoky blue. Perhaps you wouldn’t wear a bright royal blue, but when muted, it gives a more neutral tone,” she says.
After making the switch from my usual red to a low key, lilac pink, I noticed the hue still matched seamlessly with any outfit, plus these shades allow you to add color to your look without being loud or distracting. Another bonus: They also make for an easier DIY manicure because less pigmented hues are a lot more forgiving if you’re not as neat. If you’ve ever tried removing bright red nail polish, you know what I mean (hello, red-stained hands).
That being said, Saunders did offer one smart tip for making your at-home manis more professional: Do it on a Sunday and the following Friday, re-apply one coat of color and a top coat. “This technique could help your manicure last up to another week,” she says. Genius.
Find more muted nail ideas, ahead.