The Ultimate Summer 2016 Nail Polish Guide

Because no one should settle for a basic, boring pedicure.
22 April, 2016

Summer instantly conjures up thoughts of cut-off denim, leather sandals and off-the-shoulder tops to help survive the heat in style. It also, of course, brings to mind tanned skin (sunless tanner, obviously) and perfectly pedicured toes — now that we have to reveal them to the world after being hidden away inside boots for months.

While fashion weeks have informed us season after season that neutral polish colors are going nowhere, summer always brings a burst of color with it, and the new nail collections for 2016 are no different. But, instead of all brights, this year's offering includes plenty of whites, pastels and nudes to balance out the usual bold shades that signal the warmer months.

We spoke to Michelle Saunders, Essie's celebrity manicurist, about what she has been noticing (and painting) on nails as the weather warms up, and she agreed. "I was seeing a lot of the vibrant coral shades, but I'm also seeing a lot of pastels." And, she reminded us that even nail art is back, albeit simple, so the balance of soft neutrals and bold shades makes perfect sense.

Here are some of the hottest shades for the summer, many of which are available to shop online now — just in time for your first pedicure of the season.

Vibrant Corals

Photo: Essie

This bright coral shade is truly a classic, and always looks best with a tan.

Buy: Essie in Sunshine State of Mind, $8.50, available at

Photo: Deborah Lippmann

Deborah Lippmann's brand new collection is called Happy Days, and it's oh-so-retro. The namesake polish from the set is a creamy coral shade with a pastel tint, in case you don't want to go too bright.

Buy: Deborah Lippmann Happy Days, $20, available at

Photo: NCLA

NCLA's I Only Fly Private is a bright orange that is essentially made for the beach — and somehow looks great on everyone's skin tone.

Buy: NCLA in I Only Fly Private, $16, available at



Photo: Marc Jacobs

Pastel colors aren't just for spring anymore. Marc Jacobs's Good Friday, a soft, mint green, may just replace Essie’s Mint Candy Apple in your mani rotation.

Buy: Marc Jacobs Enamored in Good Friday, $18, available at

Photo: Formula X

This muted, cornflower blue shade from Formula X is ideal for essentially any occasion — especially one that consists of an afternoon sunning yourself in the park.

Buy: Formula X in Free Spirit, $10.50, available at

Photo: NCLA

NCLA's lavender crème nail polish in As If! — the one that Kendall Jenner has in heavy rotation — is a must-have.

Buy: NCLA As If!, $16, available at

New Neutrals


This soft nude shade from Sally Hansen's Miracle Gel line has a hint of pink and definitely requires multiple coats as it can go on a bit sheer. But, it's great for a lighter neutral in the summertime when you're looking for an option other than white.

Buy: Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Nail Color in Birthday Suit, $7.99, available at

Photo: Essie

Described as a "blush nude," Essie's High Class Affair is truly that — a mix of blush and nude. This neutral shade has just a hint of pink in it to warm up the hue.

Buy: Essie in High Class Affair, $8.50, available at

Photo: MAC Cosmetics

From MAC's new Future Forward collection, this soft, beige-like nude polish is simply a classic neutral shade with high-shine power.

Buy: MAC Cosmetics Sweet Potion, $12, available at

Classic Whites

Photo: Marc Jacobs

This limited-edition polish from Marc Jacobs was one of the shades that debuted during the designer's fall 2015 show (alongside a red, aptly named Poison Apple). The hue is a fairly sheer, high-shine white, but with multiple coats it gives you a perfect porcelain hue.


Buy: Marc Jacobs Enamored Nail in Snow White, $18, available at

This opaque white from Formula X has just a hint of lavender to it, adding a touch of something special.

Buy: Formula X Full-Strength Nutrient-Enriched Opaque Nail Color in Statuesque, $12.50, available May 2016 at

Photo: Ulta

From OPI's new Soft Shades collection, the soft, stormy It's in the Cloud is a creamy white you'll want to hold on to.

Buy: OPI It’s in the Cloud, $10, available at Ulta.

Bold Blues

Photo: Formula X

This bold blue from Formula X is a classic cobalt hue, ideal for that summertime pedicure.

Buy: Formula X Full-Strength Nutrient-Enriched Opaque Nail Color in Game Changer, $12.50, available May 2016 at

Photo: Nails Inc.

The latest collection from Nails Inc. is infused with coconut water to nourish the nails while you paint. If you don't want a cobalt blue, this teal shade is a good in-between.

Buy: Nails Inc. Portobello Terrace, $15, available at

Photo: Zoya

The brand new Dory, from Zoya's upcoming summer collection, is worth the wait until its release in June. It's a vivid blue with a densely saturated and smooth application, so if you're in the market for a bold polish, it definitely fits the bill.

Buy: Zoya in Dory, $10, available June 2016 on

Punchy Purples

Photo: Essie

A bright — almost neon — purple when painted on the nails, Shades On looks great on fair to dark skin tones, and can be worn all year 'round.

Buy: Essie in Shades On, $8.50, available at

Photo: Nails Inc.

From Nails Inc.'s coconut water-infused collection, this bright lavender polish is both healthy for your nails and also a good pick-me-up.

Buy: Nails Inc. Soho Gardens, $15, available at

Photo: Zoya

Zoya's Liv, a new bright purple from the brand's summer collection is a super-saturated hue that you can pull off with just about any skin tone.

Buy: Zoya in Liv, $10, available June 2016 on


Photo: NCLA

Metallics are still making a statement even in the warm weather, so find some that you love. NCLA's Prima Ballerina is a fun take on the rose gold trend, turning your nails into your next best accessory.

Buy: NCLA Prima Ballerina, $18, available at   

Photo: OCC

This magenta shimmer from Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics is the perfect way to take a bright purple and put an extra spin on it.

Buy: OCC in Robohoochie, $10, available at

Photo: ButterLondon

Aptly named Seaside, butterLONDON's metallic aquamarine nail polish has just the right amount of shimmer to glisten in the sun.

Buy: butterLONDON in Seaside, $15, available at

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