Although hands are frequently tucked inside gloves during the winter, having color on your fingertips is an instant mood-booster during the colder months — and can actually help keep your nails healthy. “The need to use heat to stay warm [during the winter] means more dry air and negative impact on your nails,” says Anastasia Totty, LeChat Nails Educator. “That is why we see more breakage and dryness of cuticles, and why I recommend regular manicures.” And yes, certain colors are synonymous with winter, like holiday red, deep moody shades, and sparkles. But brown nail polish is quickly taking the lead for the season, with options like espresso, chocolate, cinnamon, and mocha proving just how versatile the color is for nails.
“Brown is the new black,” says celebrity manicurist Vanessa Sanchez McCullough. “It’s chic and sophisticated and perfect for those looking to wear a dramatic warm color, but with a softer feel.”
There are a range of brown polish options, but if you want a shade that enhances your skin tone, Deborah Lippmann, celebrity manicurist, recommends looking to your undertones. “Warm skin tone with yellow undertones should go for brown colors with warm undertones like tawny (orange-brown) and caramels,” she says. Cool skin tones with reddish undertones should opt for taupe, pecan, and coffee browns. While, neutral skin tones (with a mix of yellow or red undertones) should choose walnut, gingerbread and chocolate browns.
To help decide what brown nail shade is best for your winter manicure, ahead, find the top nine brown color trends of the season, plus the perfect polishes to try at home or at the salon.
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Boba Tea Browns
An ode to the boba lover, milk tea brown looks great on lighter to medium skin tones. To keep this color from looking too dull, Brittney Boyce, Celebrity Nail Artist and Founder of NAILS OF LA, suggests applying a top coat every two to three days and always use cuticle oil to keep your nails hydrated.
Chocolate brown is the perfect calming and grounding color for winter, and according to Sanchez McCullough, it can compliment any skin tone as it’s a fairly neutral tone. Totty also suggests chocolate brown for classic oval or square nail shapes.
Great for medium to dark skin tones, charcoal brown teeters between brown and nearly black — and is the perfect contrast for the season. Boyce recommends wearing the color with oval or almond-shaped nails or a ballerina shaped nail for a more dramatic look.
With little red undertone, mocha brown looks great on both light and darker skin tones. “With light skin, the contrast is very striking,” says Boyce. “With dark skin tones, it's a nude that matches their skin tone nicely.” And since dark nail polishes have a tendency to make smaller fingers look shorter, Emily H. Rudman, founder of Emilie Heathe, suggests wearing mocha brown on longer nails to help elongate the finger.
According to celebrity manicurist, Elle, espresso is great for fair to olive skin as the subtle rust undertone won’t read as black on the nail. And if you’re looking for a way to change up your brown look, Sanchez McCullough recommends different finishes. “Try using a matte top coat over a jeweled toned brown, for a completely different look,” the expert says.
Rudman suggests burgundy brown, a deep brown-red shade, for someone trying out brown for the first time. “This nail color would work on any nail shape, but a pointed almond silhouette would bring this color into vampy territory, which is great for fall and winter,” Rudman tells TZR.
“A cinnamon brown nail polish demands a little bit more length and a darker skin tone, that way you can appreciate the beautiful contrast,” says Totty. When applying this one, make sure you wrap the nail (painting along the top edge) to help manicure from chipping and to ensure even longer wear.
Taupe Caramel Browns
Taupe caramel brown is the perfect marriage between dramatic and subtle with its creamy finish. The color looks great on medium to dark skin tones with cooler undertones. And because it can be quite obvious when a darker color manicure chips, Rudman recommends topping your polish off with a long-wear topcoat.
If you like more of a purple undertone, eggplant is definitely the color for you. According to Totty, an eggplant brown looks amazing on any length of nail but is best used with a super shiny top coat that will make it look even deeper and darker. And because nails are more dry and brittle in the cold, Boyce recommends using a hydrating lotion and filing them often to prevent snagging and breaking. Oh, and don’t forget cuticle oil!
Terracotta, a brown-orange hue, looks great on olive skin tones as it gives a little bit of contrast with the hint of orange. Boyce recommends the slight reddish undertone of terracotta as an all-over color or accent color on top of a sheer nail.