As someone who almost always has long nails (almond-shaped, please!), I'll admit that when I hacked them down to tiny nubs this past weekend, it was as though an alien inhabited my body. Okay, that's dramatic, but I was sick of them catching on my hair, slowing my typing speed (no good when you're an editor!), catching more food than my mouth, and being all around annoying, so I determinedly clipped them down to about half their size. For a second, I was traumatized. Having shorter nails completely changed the look of my hands and fingers, and the initial shock reminded me of receiving a shorter-than-intended haircut. In seconds, your styling and decorating options can totally change.
Now, obviously, you can wear whatever nail color you want regardless of how long or short your nails are, but as I'm learning, some colors (like neon pink, gold, and even cream-swirled shades of mocha) look cooler on my shorter length than they did pre-hack—at least IMHO! With summer officially here and tons of new summer nail color collections sitting both on my desk and in my inbox, I decided to sift through a bazillion color options to pull together a list of the best nail colors to wear with short nails. Ahead, 16 nail colors to try if you want of short-nail inspiration. Keep scrolling!
If you love dark nail colors…
Found: the best true shade of burgundy that's en vogue year-round, day or night, courtesy of the holy-grail beauty brand, Rouje Paris. Obviously, it will look fabulous regardless of nail length, but it looks even chicer when paired with crisp short nails.
If a vino-inspired shade of purple is your typical polish MO, brighten it up a tad with this Delphinium-inspired hue of metallic plum.
Love navy? This shade of teal is dark enough to satisfy a moody nail craving this summer, looks super polished atop short nails, and, thanks to OPI's gel-inspired long-wear formula, will stay chip-free all summer long (or at least for a couple of weeks).
Nothing beats a classic coat of black to complement short nails—even in the heat of the summer. That said, if you're going to take the plunge, we recommend Orly's new rendition. It's part of the brand's Breathable collection and is infused with argan oil, provitamin B5, and vitamin C. Plus, the finish and wear are so good you don't even need a base or top coat. It's summer minimalism at its finest.
If you like neutral nail colors…
FYI: L.A.'s favorite nail salon now makes polish (and a slew of other exciting nail products) and perfecting neutrals is one of the brand's many strengths. For short nails, in particular, we're keen on this brand-new summer hue called BI, short for its real-life inspiration, Blair Imani. Cool, no?
Trade in your go-to fall/winter shade of cocoa for a milkier (and slightly more shimmery) mocha order instead. This light and fresh shade is perfect for short tips, and who doesn't want to swipe a mantra like Namaste on their nails for summer?
7. Almost Bare
J.Hannah is known for its minimalist and artistic color palettes, and we've kept this pretty shade of oyster at the top of our polish pile ever since its initial debut. There's a soft, golden sheen, so it looks extra pretty when the summer sun hits it. If you prefer the look of short, virtually bare nails, look no further.
The best summer twist on a classic baby pink? A swirl of metallic. This pretty shade looks demure and subtle painted on short nails and is a brand-new shade debut from the brand just in time for summer.
If you like bright colors…
9. Hot Pink
After I clipped my nails to their now-super-short length, I painted them with this electric-pink nail polish from China Glaze. It's part of the brand's new Sesame Street–inspired collection (adorable) and is by far the best hot pink I've ever worn.
Sure, we love a great statement-making red, but we turn in our shades of scarlet and crimson for a peppier orange come summer. Plus, how can you resist this fiery shade? It's like a summer sunset in a bottle.
JinSoon makes the best nail colors when it comes to bold, whimsical shades. Yellow nail polish is all the rage right now, so obviously, we're all over this new buttercup polish called Tweety.
12. Neon Green
Even if you're not a fan of wearing neons (especially shades as bold as green) on your body, trying them out for size via a manicure can be a great alternative. Plus, worn on short nails, it's even less dramatic—more creative, less crazy.
If you like sparkly nail colors…
Do we even need to caption this? A psychedelic combination of magenta and violet, this limited-edition shade from Essie couldn't look better paired with short nails this summer. We recommend grabbing before it sells out!
We love that we can use this disco-appropriate topper on its own or layered on top of all of our other favorite shades. According to the brand, it has a clear base with silver glitter, large white hexagonal glitter, and small white glitter running throughout. So basically, it's your go-to white nail polish but on blindly sparkling steroids. (And we mean that in the most positive way possible.)
15. Spiked Lavender
If your polish preferences veer periwinkle or purple, we suggest taking your manicure up a notch with this aptly named, bedazzled lacquer of blues, purples, pinks, and even some flecks of red and green.
16. Glitter Gold
Here's the thing: A glittering, peel-off manicure could read as gimmicky or even tacky, but this brilliant new polish from Butter London is so eye-catching, pretty, and, honestly, ingenious we'd easily dispute any of the above arguments. There's a variety of pretty polishes perfect for short nails, but we've been into this gold shade the most.
This piece was published at an earlier date and has since been updated.