Pastel nails may bring country-club sweaters and Easter egg hunts to mind, but they don’t have to be so predictable. Pale pink will always be a classic, of course. There’s a reason Ballet Slippers is one of the top-selling shades of all time. But there are also plenty of unexpected twists to try now: Creamy lilacs, offbeat greens, and sky blues. And paired with trendy nail art like checkers, French tips, or elongated acrylics, pastels feel fresher than ever. (They’re also the perfect contrast to all the black sweaters we’ll wear until spring gets going.)
More of a classic kind of gal? No worries, pastels have you covered as well. Try a ballerina pink or almost-nude peach. No matter your vibe, we rounded up the best pastel nails to try from now until the fall.
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This fabulous purple manages to be bright and pastel at the same time, and it looks incredible on darker skin tones. To get the same super-opaque look as the above, start with a layer of white polish before going in with a lilac-like Essie Play Date.
This metallic ombre situation couldn’t be any prettier. For a similar effect, dab a few shades of polish on a wedge makeup sponge and press it on your nails.
Paired with chocolate brown and celeb-approved smiley faces, lavender has never looked cooler.
Herby, muted greens are the coolest take on pastels for this year and beyond. Try WKF by Olive & June for the perfect olive shade.
Checker nail art is having a significant moment, and done up in springy pastels, it feels twice as timely. Try Sally Hansen Miracle Gel in Crying Out Cloud and Street Flair for a similar look.
Thin mint green tips over a nude nail or sheer base are chic. A super-shiny topcoat like Essie Gel Couture ups the impact.
Playful patterns in various pastel shades make a sweet palette feel less saccharine.
Put a cool spin on a classic by only keeping the polish on half your nail. Try using some nail tape to divide your nails for a super clean line.
For a shade worthy of the Sugar Plum Fairy, try Orosa’s Arabesque.
Put your polish collection to work with a different shade of pastel pink on each finger (or mix increasing amounts of white polish with your base shade). A pop of hot pink keeps things interesting.
Nothing is cuter than a smattering of stars, and pastel shades are a much more unexpected choice than classic metallics. Try Nailtopia Polish in Harlem Shake, Mellow Yellow, and Juice Cleanse for a similar vibe.
Peach polish is the best of both worlds since it’s just as versatile as nude but slightly more interesting. Try Olive & June’s Wild & Free for a peach that flatters all skin tones.
It doesn’t get any cooler than a matte finish, skinny French tips, and contrasting pastels. We love Essie Expressie in Skip the Track for the base and We Don’t Mesh for the information.
Zhuzh up your go-to pale pinks with a pretty ombre fade. After painting on a base layer of light pink, dab on a darker layer of pink with a disposable makeup sponge. Easy-peasy.
Key Lime Pie
Last year was all about slime green, but this year’s spin on the cool-girl shade is a pastel lime that’s muted but still poppy. Blogger Melanie at Overglowedit used OPI in How Does Your Zen Garden Grow to perfectly nail the trend.
Is there anything sweeter than an assortment of candy-colored tips? Didn’t think so.
Pastel Skittles Mani
The “Skittles” nail trend (a different shade on each finger) isn’t going anywhere. Make it feel ready for spring with varying shades of lavender, peach, and pale coral.
Not quite blue, not quite purple, totally pretty. Essie’s Gel Couture in Perfect Posture has a similar vibe.
If you’re skilled with the tiniest brushes (or plan to take a masked-up trip to the salon soon), go for ditsy daisies on pastel tips. This mani will instantly feel like spring, even if the weather says otherwise.
Tie-dye pastels, checkerboards, and retro flowers have significant nail moments, so why not combine them all? Keep things from getting too crazy by sticking the same color palette across each nail.
If a full mani of happy faces feels like a bit much, keep it simple with a minimal smiley face on one finger. The perfect backdrop is a creamy lemon shade like Sally Hansen Miracle Gel in Lemon Chilo.
One way to make shades of blue and green even cooler? Marble it with white and alternate shades on each nail.