If you’re under the impression that white is a neutral colour, think again.
Whether you spend most of your waking hours under the cold light of office LED, or are jetting off for some summer or winter sun, white nail polish will make your hands ‘pop’ in the most hypnotic way. White is the new pastel is the new black, dontcha know?
White Nail Polish Trend
The current craze for white nails isn’t quite the first time I have dabbled with cadaverous coloured carpal-tips. That milestone was back in 1996 and involved a maths lesson and TippEx (a little incident which resulted in a trip to the headmaster’s office). However, after clocking white nail varnish across the catwalks – Rag & Bone in 2014/15, Rachel Fulton in 2015/16 – and on celebrities including Beyoncé, Scarlett Johansson and Emmy Rossum, it seems that my misdemeanour has gone mainstream.
If it all seems a little ‘school chic’ to you, too, then how about letting the A-list convince you? After all, when the likes of feminist heroine Emma Watson and model de jour Cara Delevingne are converts, you know this trend is white hot.
- Natasha Bedingfield – who lists Audrey Hepburn, Brigitte Bardot, and Kylie Minogue amongst her style icons – matches white polish with white apparel to show off her summer glow.
- English rose Emma Watson finishes off her flawless look with a white manicure, proving that monochrome is always a good idea. We also love the slick of red lippy: the epitome of elegance.
- Actress Emmy Rossum is radiant on the red carpet with her gorgeous silk dress and glowing white nail varnish.
- Scarlett Johansson enhances her timeless beauty with a modern white mani. Note, too, the matching bronze ring, earrings and eye shadow, which enrich her stunning skin tones.
- Love her or loathe her, no trend is truly a trend until Kim Kardashian has sported it. Here she proves just how fabulous white nail polish on dark skin looks.
For the perfect white nails, these easy – ahem – tips (pun intended) will help keep your mani clean, classy and grown-up (and not at all like you’ve painted on TippEx, promise!).
Tip One: Prep
Skipping a base coat is like forgetting to wear sunscreen. A base coat doesn’t just prevent staining; it also helps smooth the nail and secure the polish. This is particularly important in the case of white nail varnish, which can be prone to streaking. We particularly like Seche Clear Crystal Clear Base Coat, which is easy to apply, fast-drying, and does not yellow the nails.
Bonus tip: Even if you don’t need to remove old polish, always use a nail varnish remover before applying your base coat. This will remove any grease and help your manicure last longer.
Tip Two: Shape
White nail varnish is intended to be bright and crisp – just like a fresh coat of snow or a sizzling burst of sunshine. The downside to this is that it can be less forgiving than other shades and thus draw attention to any flaws. Counter this by ensuring your nails are clipped and filed evenly before you paint. Short, round nails work best with white varnish – remember, the colour does all the talking here.
Tip Three: Layer
Be patient when painting your nails, using thin, even strokes to layer on the lacquer. Most white polishes will require at least two coats to get the desired opacity, so take your time and don’t rush. Allow each coat to dry before layering on the next, and have a cotton bud or correcting fluid on hand to mop up any mistakes. Finally, once dry, finish with a glossy top coat – a crucial final layer as chipped white nail polish is more noticeable than most. Our favourite is Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat, which slicks on quickly and adds durability and shine.
Types of Finish
Do you know your shellac from your shatter, your foil from your flecked, your crackle from your creme? Yes, believe it or not, there is a whole language of nail laquers! And whilst, officially, there are around 20-25 different finishes (get in touch on Twitter if you want to discover the rest), below you will find five of the most popular white polishes to get you started.
Creme is the most popular finish and the type of varnish you probably use most. It is polish in its purest form: creamy, milky, liquid colour with no glitter, shimmer or pigments. The finish is glossy and smooth, and can be sheer or opaque.
Matte polishes have become increasingly trendy in recent years and, as the name suggests, are devoid of any shine so dry to look flat. Using a matte white nail polish is a great way to mix up your look, but do be warned: their consciously non-silky texture makes them more difficult to apply, and they are prone to chipping as you can’t use a glossy top coat.
Nail varnish does not need to be one dimensional. The addition of crystals, gems and sequins adds a touch of luxury to your lacquer, ideal for special occasions such as weddings.
Sparkly, glittery polishes produce one of the flashiest finishes – perfect for parties and a must for Christmas! The size of the sparkles tends to vary dramatically, from tiny flecks of frosting to chunky shapes. Always remember to use a top coat with white glitter nail polish to smooth the surface and stop the speckles catching.
Also known as crackle, this funky finish tears open upon drying, revealing the colour you have on beneath. White shatter polish is incredibly versatile and works over pretty much any base – an excellent way of updating your look.
Top 10 Best Nail Polish Brands for White Nails
OPI Alpine Snow – £12.50
A cult classic! OPI’s bestselling Alpine Snow is a whiter than white nail varnish. Use as an all-over colour when you want to make a statement, or to create sharp French white tips.
Rimmel White Hot Love – £3.69
Created in collaboration with Rita Ora, this white creme has a gorgeous hidden shimmer, giving it a very slight pearl finish. A solid high street choice.
Burberry Optic White – £15
Part of Burberry’s S/S16 makeup collection, Velvet & Lace, this limited edition varnish is flawless. Bonus points for the wide brush, which makes the painting process quick and easy.
Featuring tiny glitter and sequin particles, this Nails Inc number will leave your fingers looking like they’re coated in snowflakes. Wear alone or over a crisp white base.
Sally Hansen White On – £5.20
This long-lasting lacquer is an inexpensive option which we like wearing best as white toenail polish.
Zoya Snow White – £8.95
Great name, great polish! This pure white creme is as clean and bright as freshly-fallen snow. Even better, the vegan-free polish – like all the Zoya collection – contains no harmful ingredients.
This hot white shade boasts tan-enhancing effects and needs only one swipe to achieve the desired colour. Wear it alone or pair with glitter to complete any look.
Essie Blanc – £7.99
For an elegant mani, this Essie white nail polish leaves a sought-after snowy finish. Since you can build up the colour to your liking, it is a good one to try if you’re testing out the trend, and can also be used to create perfect white tips.
NARS Ecume White – £15
A simple white nail polish for grown up women. No fuss, no muss, just great colour and good coverage.
Barry M Classic White – £2.99
Do not be fooled by the price. Barry M white nail polish provides a strong colour and good shine. A great buy if you want to try your hand at nail art with white nail polish, too.
Best Nail Polish Design Tutorials
If you fancy taking your white on nails to the next level, then check out some of our favourite nail art with black and white nail polish. These tutorials are mesmerising and the models make them look so easy!
We love the use of household objects (shout out to the flossing stick!) to achieve this super chic Chanel-inspired look with black and white matte nails:
This video includes some really simple ideas for how to enhance your white nails. The gold strip adds another dimension to the white nail varnish and could easily be used for wedding nail art, too:
Nailed It: Final Note
- White nail varnish – like all lacquers – is so much more than just one shade. Experiment with different colours and finishes, depending on the occasion, to complete any look.
- Repeat to self: I will use a base coat.
- White polish is statement enough, so keep your nails short and sweet to ensure you remain chic, not eek!
- Don’t be afraid of experimenting with nail art. A white mani is the perfect canvas for a glitter coating, a smattering of colourful polka dots, or an easy black and white nail polish design.
Read more great articles on women’s beauty here at alexie.co – exclusively for women who are style conscious but not confident and looking for inspiration.