According to manicure experts, these are the best red nail polish looks this season

Everything from deep wine tones to bold apple reds, plus all the manicure inspo you need

Close up of street style image showing woman's hands wearing red nail polish
(Image credit: Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images)

The best red nail polishes have played a role in some of the most iconic beauty moments in history. Think I’m exaggerating? Princess Diana’s revenge dress was paired with a red manicure, while both Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton have ditched perceived royal nail protocol with burgundy and blue-red nails respectively. Chanel’s Rouge Noir polish is synonymous with Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction, and need I mention the more recent viral red nail theory? What I’m trying to say is, red nail polish is a classic nail trend and has been for decades. 

To sum up what makes it so very popular, I tapped into the expertise of two nail experts for their thoughts. “The ultimate classic manicure colour, red adds vibrancy to your manicure and looks great with any ensemble all year round,” session manicurist, Ami Streets tells me. “It’s an easy way to add a pop of colour and it exudes confidence while also being subtly sexy, as this colour has long been associated with seduction and love.”

There are also so many shades of red to choose from. “Red is one of the most classic, chic polish colours out there, especially when it's really glossy and has a well-manicured finish,” says beauty and health journalist Tori Crowther, who is also a qualified nail tech. “It’s also one of the most stylish shades to wear on super short, square nails, too, making it a fantastic all-rounder. There are far more shades to choose from than you might think, including apple, pillar box—which is all over Instagram right now—crimson, burgundy, oxblood and merlot. Whatever your choice in red, one thing is guaranteed: the colour will never go out of style.”

You’re probably now well in the mood to book yourself in for a red manicure, which is why I’ve handpicked five winning ideas from social media below, alongside the best red nail polishes for a DIY job as recommended by the experts and myself. Brace yourself for some serious inspo ahead. 

The best red nail polishes according to experts

1. Pillar box red

As classic a colour on your nails as it is in best red lipstick form, pillar-box red is an absolute classic that I think looks good on most if not all skin tones. It's also a joy to have such a bright hue on your nails at this time of year, not to mention that painting block colours are far easier to master than DIY nail art. As Crowther puts it: "It's not a red nail polish round-up without the inclusion of Bio Sculpture's Pillar Box Red. It's vibrant, classic and suits every skin tone beautifully."

2. Wine red

In the same way that espresso nails suit this season, red wine goes hand in hand with winter and so too do these shades on our nails. “For autumn-winter, experiment with deeper decadent tones of Bordeaux, trending cherry cola or rouge noir which are perfect for darker days and nights,” Streets suggests. In even better news, these shades go with just about everything. 

3. Red French tips

“Nothing beats a block colour red nail for chic simplicity, but this shade also works well for some minimal and contemporary nail art looks,” says Streets. “My current favourites are a French manicure and a negative space half moon manicure—both look eye-catching and expensive in shades of red.” Opt for blood drips as an accent nail for a chic and on-trend take on Halloween nail art

4. Negative space half moons

Another favourite red nail polish look of Streets' is the half moon negative space manicure. To create this shape yourself, use an ultra fine brush to outline the half moon at the base of the nail before filling in the rest of your nail with your chosen shade of red. 

5. Metallic red

The predecessor to chrome nails, jewel-like metallic reds are a great option to have to hand for the party season, whether you opt for all-over colour or utilise one as part of a nail art design. "If you prefer a glistening red, Nailberry's To the Moon And Back is magical, particularly for the spooky season," Crowther recommends. "It combines everything we love about a classic red but with the glamour of a golden metallic glaze on top."

Lucy Abbersteen
Beauty Contributor

Lucy is a freelance beauty editor and contributor at Marie Claire, and has written for titles including Glamour, Refinery29, Popsugar, woman&home and more. She was previously Marie Claire’s junior beauty editor. During her career, she’s covered everything from backstage beauty at fashion week to interviews with famous faces like Drag Race royalty and Little Mix. As for her beauty ethos, she’s a big advocate for not having to spend a fortune on beauty products to get good results, and when she’s not got beauty on the brain you’ll find her reading or hanging out with dogs.