Falling into a makeup rut is a fairly common problem, but I tend to suffer from a lesser-known obstacle: The nail polish rut.
Each season when the cosmetics companies release their juicy assortment of new fashion-inspired polishes, I ooh and aah at them as if they're precious gems, admiring the perfect tone of a sapphire blue or the metallic sheen of a burnished gold. But when it comes time for my weekly manicure, I always end up falling back on some new variation of an old classic: Red, coral, or dark wine polish. Truth is, I want to be adventurous and try something a little wild—after all, I have the luxury of working in a job where no one would flinch if I showed up to work with a yellow manicure—but I always chicken out in the end, fearing I'll look silly if I try to go too trendy.
Since I can't be the only person in need of a nail makeover, I asked the queen of polishes, Essie Cosmetics founder Essie Weingarten, for a few tips on how to break out of a nail color rut.
1. Test without commitment. Want to see what a new color will look like on you without the fuss of painting your nails? "Cover your nail with a piece of Scotch tape, then paint the tape to see what the color looks like against your skin," says Essie. "You can test numerous shades this way by trying a different color on each finger."
2. Go dark. Bright or metallic polishes are a big leap from conservative colors, says Essie, so ease into unconventional shades by choosing one that's dark, such as the forest green Going Incognito or the deep purplish-gray Smokin' Hot. "It's a subtler way to try something different because the darker colors aren't so obvious," she says.
3. Follow your fashion instincts. If you'd never wear next season's bright orange shift dresses, chances are you won't like a bright orange mani, either. Essie advises peeking through your closet and trying a nail shade that's in tune with the colors in your wardrobe—you're more likely to be happy with a polish that mimics your clothing style. (But please, don't try to match your polish to your outfit—that's never chic.)
4. When in doubt, choose gray. If you're really shy about looking too trendy, try a gray polish. "In the past few years, these earthy greige colors have become the new classics," says Essie. "They're more mainstream and aren't considered so wild anymore. The tamest versions are grays with a tinge of plum or brown, such as Merino Cool or Mink Muffs," she says.
5. Create an original color. If you just can't bear to verge from your usual polish, play around by layering two shades in the same color family. "This way, you create your own custom shade," says Essie, who practices what she preaches. "I only wear sheer colors such as Mademoiselle or Ballet Slippers on my fingers, but I always layer two shades and change up the combination with every manicure to create variety," she says.