Top Ten Kickass Nail Polish Colors That Aren’t Reds Or Pinks

I feel naked without nail polish, but I also feel ridiculous wearing anything in the pink-to-red spectrum, which just so happens to be nail polish’s #1 spectrum. I usually do my nails myself these days, but when I get them done, I often gaze admiringly at the women getting painted with ruby-red or pale-pink and think “that looks very good on you, but it’s just not for me!” Sometimes I get red on my toenails though. I feel very fancy with a nice dark red toenail.

Anyhow, here are some colors I’m into right now. Tell me your favorites in the comments!

1. Naughty Nautical (essie)

it's darker than it looks here in real life

it’s darker than it looks here in real life

You’re on a boat but it’s not a real boat, it’s a dream boat. You’re on a dream boat with your dreamboat, gliding noiselessly down the river. Both shores are lined with sand the color of yellow crayons, and there are glittery fish leaping over your canoe in perfect arcs, singing songs from The Little Mermaid. Naughty Nautical is the color of those fish. I’m wearing it right now!

2. Black Oynx (OPI)

black-oynx

Imagine you are Lindsay Lohan and it’s 2006, or imagine you are Stef Schwartz and it’s today. Look at your hands. That’s Black Oynx! I wore this color every day starting in 2006. Then in mid-2014 I decided to change my life and my nails wanted in on the plan. Still, I frequently return Licorice or Black Oynx like an old friend, and we hide in our hoodies together.

3. Cashmere Bathrobe (essie)

cashmere

I’m really glad this is called Cashmere Bathrobe, because it reminds me of my favorite cashmere bathrobe! It’s hard to pick which of my cashmere bathrobes is the best cashmere bathrobe — gosh I have so many — but after laying them all out on the floor of my billiards room and rolling over them in my underwear like I was rolling down a hill (but a flat hill), I found myself, finally, settling upon this shiny grey bathrobe. The best news is that now my nails can match my chill! I think this shade would look especially nice on a person with grey hair. You would basically be a silver fox. Who doesn’t want to be a silver fox?

4. I Just Can’t Cope-acabana (OPI)

cant-cope

I’m too pale to pull off yellow nail polish, but if I was less pale, I would slather this all over my keratin because nothing says, “I know I seem weird but I’m actually really great! I’m just a little shy” like yellow nail polish. You can’t get mad at somebody whose nails look like ten tiny suns!

5. Butler Please (essie)

butler

This color is best if you imagine it’s “Butter Please,” like I did until ten minutes ago when I looked this color up on the essie website. I imagined a small pat of butter atop a blue plate. I don’t know who would eat just a pat of butter on a blue plate, but Butler Please reminds me of that one shade of blue that looks good on almost everybody and that’s why so many button-up shirts are that color. This is crisp and classic, like a summer’s day.

6. Green-Gold (RGB)

green-gold

I know it looks gold-gold, but there’s something vaguely green about it. This is the color of the magical pool of secrets or whatever it is that always comes up in a Harry Potter Sorting Hat quiz.

7. Turquoise & Caicos (essie)

turquoise

This color feels politely retro, like a color you’d pair with pink to decorate your bathroom in 1956, or the color of one of those wonderful but chalky after-dinner mints. This color says, “I’m a subtle person and a quiet classic who enjoys the cinema.” My girlfriend put this color in my stocking, which I think means “let’s spend our lives together forever, and sun ourselves in the Caicos, wherever/whatever those are.” Sometimes I wear it with a matte topcoat and I feel like a vintage automobile!

8. Jade Is The New Black (OPI)

jade-is-the-new-black

“This vibrant green is the new fashion vibe,” says OPI about this bold color. But they’re wrong about jade being the new black. Jade is just Jade, it’s its own thing, and that’s good enough for me. Let those “fashion vibes” your girlfriend knows as “your fingers” tell the story of a woman who hugs trees and turns heads.

9. Purple Pizzazz (Sally Hansen)

purple-pizzazz

If you’re gonna go purple, GO PURPLE. This color says, “maybe I’ve been to outer space or maybe I just own some space-themed leggings. Either way, I’m here to have a good time and NOBODY’S gonna stop me.”

10. After School Boy Blazer (essie)

boy-blazer

“It’s back to cool when you’re back in blue-black,” says Essie. “This academy blue lacquer is the prep-school chic must of the season.” What season? Fall, of course, even if it’s winter. Fall like you’re holding hands and running home with a prep-school chick, like in the Indigo Girls song but slightly different. This color says “I’m fancy but I’m not afraid to get a little dirty or join the Warblers.” I love this color.

Riese is the 37-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key Jewish power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2727 articles for us.

51 Comments

  1. Love this! Though, I own every one of these colours except the yellow OPI. Not sure what exactly that says about me. I def spend too much money on nail polish, for one.

    My two faves that aren’t listed are OPI You’re Such A Budapest (blue-leaning lilac with just a tiny bit of glimmer so it looks all glowy in sunlight) and Essie Master Plan (slightly warm soft grey creme, goes with pretty much any fall/winter outfit, and it might just be the name but wearing it makes me feel like a sort-of well adjusted adult)

  2. How timely!! I have just started joining my girlfriend in her biweekly home manicures and the options that I enjoy are very slim! She is always wearing pinks, yellows, and reds but you know, I did find a gray color that suits me very well but these options are fun also!

    Thanks Reise!

  3. THANK YOU RIESE FOR THIS BEAUTIFUL COMPREHENSIVE LIST. my three favorites are Lincoln PArk At Midnight, Gift of Gold, and My Private Jet, all by OPI.

    Lincoln Park at Midnight is purple with subtle sparkle and depending on the light either looks SUPER DARK or more mid-range purple. I like it because it’s more femme but isn’t BRIGHT PURPLE or some magenta shade.

    Gift of Gold is STRAIGHT UP GOLD SPARKLES and is excellent if one talks with a lot of hand gestures because then you look like a million bucks!

    My Private Jet is… once again, kind of sparkly, because I like sparkles, but because the sparkles are very small and subdued by flecks of grey it’s not over the top. The color underneath the sparkles is a kind of grey-deep purple-brown (excellent color descriptions over here) that goes well with my wardrobe of “pretty much black and leggings with some reds, greens, and blues thrown in”.

  4. dangggg i miss wearing nail polish. never thought i’d say it.
    it’s been like 10 years or more, but I used to have this rad dark sparkly blue-teal color; i could live in that color for days.

    thanks for this! great colors, great descriptions.

  5. I love Essie polish… My favourite is “Devil’s Advocate”. It’s like a dark, blood red that comes across as black. I also really like their black “licorice” topped with a matte top coat. Great post!!

  6. This makes me so happy. I love the blue essie that looks like it’s from 1956 and you could paint your bathroom in it, or match your sofa to your wallpaper or something. I wanna go buy 10 bottles of nail polish.

  7. Essie is p much my life tbh, ever since Marshalls started stocking some of their less popular shades. My nails are currently painted with “Petal Pushers” which is the same color as “Cashmere Bathrobe” but not shimmery (and it’s a perfect base for My Neighbor Totoro inspired nail art so next time I use it I’m going paint Totoro’s belly on my thumbnails. Other favorites include “Using My Maiden Name” (a shimmery blue-lilac), “Under the Twilight” (midnight blue), “Navigate Her” (a beige-green that looks gross in the bottle but really nice on my nails), and “Style Cartel” (a deep blue the color of blueberry Jelly Belly jelly beans). Also, “Jaded” by Sally Hansen (pale green), “Indigo Wave” from the same company (another shimmery blue-purple but darker than the other one), and “Posh” by Revlon (emerald green)

  8. GOLD GLITTER ALL DAY. Also FYI, before iPhones happened in my life, my sister and I would paint our flip phones with glitter nail polish. If you have a flip phone or a time machine I would recommend this.

  9. Between my kid and I, well over half our nail polish collection is neither reds nor pinks; blues are her go-to, I love purples, black metallics and a category best described as “mermaid-y” — Zoya’s Edyta (a complex mixture of gold, olive, blue-green and smoky grey) or butter London’s Jack the Lad (opaque, moss green shimmer with gold, turquoise, and green microglitter).

    Chanel’s Alchimie is a super pretty golden khaki that’s really different, and I love Zoya’s Cynthia for a really rich, creamy, unique teal that’s nearly black!

  10. When I started university, my uncle suggested this would be a great time to adopt a sophisticated and nonchalant new quirk: “Oh I always paint my nails green.” And now, it turns out, I often do. Dark chocolate brown is another winner. It’s always my toes, though, never my fingernails: easier, more durable, and pleasingly secretive, especially in winter.

  11. The answer to my personal tomboy femme struggles has been NUDE POLISHES! So classy. So chic. My current favorites are Naked Naivete by CND (requires roughly one million coats to look the right color though) and Essie’s Sand Tropez.

  12. I love grey nails, and my #1 go-to is OPI Cement the Deal with a matte topcoat:

    Another common one for me is OPI Nein! Nein! Nein! OK Fine for a near-black, slightly greenish grey:

    Also really like Essie Stylenomics, a super dark green-black:

    And my recent, most colorful love is OPI My Pal Joey, which is a hella saturated, pure bright blue:

  13. I really enjoyed this post–not because I regularly paint my nails (I think it’s been at least five years!), but because I’ve been thinking about painting my nails lately and I really enjoy thinking about colors.

    Nail painters, do you have any advice for a person who wants to paint her nails in the tomboy femme vein, but suspects that she would mess them up in, like, ten minutes?

    • Two thin and I mean T H I N coats of color and a layer of Seche Vite (you can get it at a drugstore) to top it off. I have no idea what sorts of vile chemicals they use but IMO not even the high-end fast drys can top it.

      Oh, and embrace the chip. The other day I was in Bloomingdale’s at the YSL counter and the gal helping me actually skwee’d and shrieked, “OMG, my nails are totally chipped, too!” and we high-fived.

      Last but not least, steer clear of very very dark or very very bold shades if slightly (and temporarily) stained nail beds is going to bother you a lot after you’ve removed the color. Showering just after gets like 95% of it out right away but life’s timing doesn’t always work out that way.

    • I have advice! I have the worst attention span so 2 minutes after painting my nails I usually have destroyed nails and nailpolish 100 places I don’t intend to to be (I found some on the bottom of a plate the other day).

      Sometimes a quick drying top coat helps, as does going to the bathroom before starting, and also doing something where you don’t mind sitting down not touching your nails to anything for a while helps (like watching a movie). Accepting your fate, as I do, as someone with messy but colorful nails also helps.

    • I paint mine right before bed. This is only a good idea if you don’t move much while you sleep. Buuuuut if you’re a still sleeper, it’s the perfect time to paint your nails! They don’t get smudged while they’re drying and by the morning, they’re completely dry 🙂

  14. Oh wowza! I definitely own that Purple Pizzazz one – my high school’s color was purple and I remember diligently painting my nails before every pep rally or football game (hey, I went to high school in Texas, football was serious business).

    I’m on vacation right now so I don’t have access to the exact names, but my favorite non-pink/reds are a deep midnight blue by OPI and a metallic gunmetal grey. Also a dark grey with a matte top coat. (My favorite color is grey and my mother tries to tell me it’s not really a color).

  15. One of my favorites is Mink Muffs by Essie. It’s a sort of grey/brown/taupe color that’s a little bolder and more unique than a nude but still quite classy. Also the name seems really queer to me, probably because of the muff part.

  16. The most awesome orange polish I have is Isadora’s Sultan Palace. It is seriously so good (and I have tried a loooot of orange polish). It looks amazing as it is, and also magnificent with a matte top coat. Also Isadora Wonder Nail in general are really easy to apply because of the brushes. Perfect brushes! I have another one called Isadora Black Galaxy which is soooo good.

    One of my best neutral polishes, which works especially well with a matte top coat, is something as simple as Depend’s 042. Simple, elegant and really good when I need to be serious. Depend’s 422 is also awesome, it looks like a Tardis!

    I have a really nice turquoise from OPI, This color’s making waves. Really nice color, but I actually have an even better (though slightly lighter) turquoise from Lindex of all places (really mainstream clothing store in Sweden, don’t know if it’s known in other places): sea turquoise nr 34.

    Otherwise I’m completely in love with China Glaze as a polish brand, and my new favorite glitter polish is their Electrify <3 So good over an orange/yellow basecoat (I used OPI Need Sunglasses? and In my back pocket for this one):

  17. I rarely do my nails, but I’ve never met a gold polish I wasn’t into. My favorite’s Butter London’s Full Monty! It doesn’t really sparkle, instead it looks like you put gold leaf on your fingers! soooo goood

  18. Maybe my dream job is to create new nail polish names. I wonder how their brainstorm process happens. “We should call it… Wait… I just can’t cope… I JUST CAN’T COPE-ACABANA! That’s it! We’re done.”

  19. I am far too pleased that my default color (Jade is the New Black) and my back-up I Need to Look Semi-Professional at Work color (After School Boy Blazer) both made this list

  20. I may have a slight polish obsession (cough 370 bottles and counting), but my faves from my collection are China Glaze Skyscraper, Zoya Aurora, Zoya Sansa, OPI DS Sapphire, Essie Go Overboard and A England Galahad. Blues/purples/greens and holo come to meeeeeee

  21. I’m days late to this, but my favorite is Sephora x OPI’s “Leaf Him at the Altar,” despite its name. I actually wore it for my wedding.

    So many other great ones in these comments! I might need to buy more polish for the first time in a long time…

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