Maybe I'm disturbed, but one of the first things that come to mind when I think of fall-centric nail colors and trends is that infamous line from The Joker: "Why so serious?" But really, though, why?! Sure, I get that the days are shorter, the temperatures are colder, and the mood can get a little, well moodier, but why must we constrict ourselves to ultra-deep shades of polish or vampy, gothic-inspired nail art vibes the second the clock strikes fall? Of course, if all of the above is your jam once autumn rolls around, keep doing your thing, but as far as 2021 trends are concerned, I'm excited to report that things will be a bit different, dare I even say fun?
To find out what nail looks will eclipse all others in popularity this season, I reached out to two A+ experts—Brittney Boyce, founder of Nails of L.A. and Celebrity Nail Artist, and Mazz Hanna, owner of Nailing Hollywood Agency and founder of Mazz Hanna Beauty. From whimsical 3D nail art reminiscent of our dizziest daydreams à la the early aughts to chic polish alternatives that will make brooding burgundies and emeralds feel obsolete, we're highlighting nine of the most exciting nail trends for fall 2021 just ahead. Keep scrolling!
Trend #1: Shades of Moss
"Green, in general, has been big all year, but for fall, we'll see more muted, neutral shades rather than bold kelly greens or lime greens," says Boyce. "Mossy green hues look gorgeous across all skin tones, have an earthy, grounded vibe to them, and look great as a base for a lot of nail art—try pairing it with blue or orange accents this fall!"
Trend #2: Muted Opulence
"Muted opulent colors are going to be big this season," continues Boyce. "For instance, instead of a bright fuchsia, swap in a rich berry-ish shade. It reads warmer and more inviting, yet it's still really eye-catching."
Trend #3: Ombre French Tips
"This fall, minimal nail art with understated color blocking will continue to be super chic," Boyce notes. "Think ombre french tips featuring complimentary colors. For french tips, try the new TikTok hack using a silicon nail stamper. To get that ombre look at home, carefully apply the two shades on the stamper, then press your nail into the stamper."
Trend #4: Colorblock Designs + Lots of Negative Space
"Color block designs with a lot of negative space look really nice with rich yet muted fall colors, too," Boyce adds. "I typically use a long striper brush and carefully freehand my work. That takes a lot of practice and a very steady hand. You can use washi tape that's cut to different pieces and cut out the shapes you want. You can even use the Half Moon Guides ($5) from Orly to create circular and more rounded shapes."
Trend #5: 3D Nail Art Meets Y2K
Trend #6: Moody Brush Strokes
"I love the trend of moody brush strokes for fall," Boyce tells us. "In past seasons, I liked brushstrokes that were very minimal with a lot of the neutral or bare nail showing underneath. It was very precise and done with a light hand. This season, however, the vibe is moodier, the art strokes are heavier—more layered—and the entire nail bed is used as the full canvas. The end result is like a modern art acrylic painting where you feel the artist's emotions. Find three to four colors that work well together and go to town with a heavier-handed brush stroke. Let each color dry in between, so the colors don't blend and get muddy."
Trend #7: Light + Fun
"I think we'll see playful nail art carrying straight through summer into fall, and I suspect even through winter," predicts Hanna. "Since our fashion and beauty aesthetics have drastically changed with COVID, so have nail trends. Nails are often an easy place to express your creativity and can make you feel dressed even when you’re wearing athleisure or a mask. With that in mind, everyone is looking to keep it light and fun!
"The Orly Dry Brush ($10) is my ride or die and the difference between having a manicure that looks professional vs DIY. It’s perfect for cleaning up around the cuticles or smoothing out the edges of a negative space nail art look."
Trend #8: Color Pairings That Juxtapose the Season
"Negative space nail art never seems to go away, and it’s easy to play with various colors and simple to DIY since errors can easily be corrected with a quick swipe of a clean-up brush dipped in acetone," Hanna explains.
"Zoya's Remove Plus Nail Polish Remover ($10) is nourishing but also highly effective at cleaning up the edges of negative space nail art looks—the convenient dispenser also makes dipping your clean-up brush a breeze! This season, try mixing classic dark tones of fall with a few brighter variations mixed in."
Trend #9: Shimmer + Shine
"While typically reserved for the holiday season, I also think we will be seeing a lot of metallics and glitters this fall, specifically in jewel tones to match what we saw on the fall runways during New York Fashion Week," notes Hanna. "If a full nail of glitter is too much for you, (in my opinion there is no such thing as too much glitter) then consider a sparkly french, instead."
Hanna also recommends keeping your at-home mani extra shiny and professional looking with a glossy topcoat (she likes this quick-dry, nontoxic option!) and high-quality cuticle oil like her own ultra-healing concoction complete with an amethyst roller.