With pumpkin-spiced latte and cosy jumper season upon us, many of us are looking to switch up our usual beauty looks—and these royal autumn nail trends are providing the mani inspiration we need. There's no denying the effect a royal endorsement can have—whether that's the facial oil Kate Middleton swears by or Meghan Markle's go-to fragrances—and their nail colour of choice is no different.
A deep dive into the royal beauty archives has got us very excited about this season's nail trends, from the classic French manicure (Princess Diana was always so ahead of times) to milky nails. Then there's Kate Middleton's red manicure; a beauty move that deviated from the usual royal nail rules in the best possible way.
We consulted nail experts on which nail shades and effects are going to be the most popular for autumn 2023, as well as the best way to wear these royally-approved nail trends.
1. Gothic nails
Meghan Markle embodied autumnal glamour perfectly during a surprise appearance at the British Fashion Awards in London, back in December 2018. The Duchess teamed a custom Givenchy gown with glossy black nails—a signature look for autumn 2023.
"Black nails are back," Emma Percival, expert manicurist and owner of No.29 Nail Lounge told us. "The key is a really shiny top coat to give that super glossy look. If black is too dark for you, navy and burgundy are also gorgeous options for autumn."
Meghan's look is more sophisticated than spooky, but if you're keen to join the seasonal festivities, black makes the perfect base for a dramatic on-trend ombre effect for some Halloween-themed nail art. "Gothic nails are all about embracing dark, moody, and sometimes edgy aesthetics," explains Holly Wolff, a nail technician at Neville Hair & Beauty. "Embrace the trend with spooky nail art like cobwebs, bats, or even subtle skull motifs."
For glossy black nails, Chanel's Le Vernis 161 is our top choice. The signature wide brush allows for easy and precise application, plus the formula is enriched with camellia eco-ceramides meaning it's more hydrating for the nails.
2. Pearlescent topcoat
Pearlescent nails were huge this summer and their popularity shows no signs of waning yet. For an autumnal twist though, take a leaf out of Princess Diana’s beauty book and layer on top of a French mani or over a simple nude.
Always doing things her own way when it came to beauty and style, we’re not surprised that Princess Diana was spotted wearing the pearlescent trend that's been all over TikTok this year. "Pearlescent nails really took the nail industry by storm," Emma told us. "It's still one of the most requested looks at the salon and I can't see it going anywhere. Try layering over a light brown or nude shade to update the look for autumn."
Niko Busch, Head of Global Product at Alûstre echoes this sentiment, with pearlescent top coat 026R one of their bestsellers. Niko explains, "The glazed look is a strong trend. We're seeing an evolution of the trend now, offered by the 026R top coat." The beauty of a top coat like this is that it's built for layering, so you can add the effect to your favourite polishes. "Wear the top coat alone to create elevated dimension on neutral nails or with any nail polish colour you choose for a multi-faceted effect," Niko advises.
This pearlescent top coat is actually infused with pearls. It's a game-changing polish from Copenhagen-based brand Alûstre, which provides endless possibilities for your nails. Wear alone, over a nude or team with other autumn shades for a unique way to wear the trend.
3. Classic red
A classic nail colour that has enduring appeal, whether it’s flirty scarlet, a bold fire engine red or a deep ruby. There’s even a whole TikTok theory dedicated to red nails and their effect on men. *Eye roll*. Classic and timeless, the allure of red nails transcends each season, but we’re particularly partial to high gloss finishes and berry shades as the cold nights start to draw in.
It's a big departure from the norm to see the Princess of Wales wearing anything but a neutral, nude or light-pink shade. But for the traditional Easter Sunday service this year we saw Kate with some not-so-traditional styling, pairing her bold blue Catherine Walker ensemble with a clashing pillarbox red manicure.
Naturally, Princess Catherine isn't the only royal to wear this classic colour. The former Princess of Wales, Diana, was also known to have loved this look. For a '90s charity gala in London, the late royal was pictured wearing an exquisite embroidered dress designed by Jacques Azagury, teamed with opulent jewellery and bold red nails. While Catherine wears her nails short and neat with the bright polish, Princess Di's were a longer oval shape-old-school glamour at its finest.
When it comes to beauty looks, we're all for honouring a classic, but if you do want to try an update on a traditional red manicure, there are plenty of trends to try for autumn 2023. "French tips have been so popular the last few years and clients have been loving a red tip lately," Emma explains. While Holly advises, "Variations on traditional red nails for this season include matte finishes, which provide a velvety and modern twist."
For a classic red shade, Dior nails the brief with Red Smile; a vibrant shade with a subtle orange undertone for a lighter interpretation. It's the perfect everyday shade for bright autumn nails with the brand's signature glossy finish.
4. Dark grey
Grey nails have amassed a whopping 1.3 million views (and counting) on TikTok and they're here to stay for autumn. Sophie Wessex was spotted wearing the trend earlier this year, teaming her casual black crew-neck sweater with a chic dark grey polish.
"Dark greys are very flattering and a real nail trend for autumn/winter," explains Angel, Senior Nail Technician and Academy Educator at Paint Nails. "We're also expecting grey to be a popular accent colour on nail art in the upcoming months." Holly suggests if you want to go a step further with your mani, "consider pairing them with warm accents like copper or gold nail embellishments or earthy-toned nail art. Alternatively, you can create a striking contrast by mixing dark grey with vibrant, autumnal colours like burnt orange or deep plum for a trendy, eclectic look."
This super-glossy polish has brightening diamond powder and bamboo extract in the formula that help to strengthen the nails. Add a mirror-like finish with a high-shine top coat for a chic look like Sophie's.
5. Milky shades
The naked, milky look is all about showcasing nails that are in great condition and letting the natural nail shine. Perfect for the royals (it's a royal rule to keep nails looking this way), this grown-up and elegant mani works for every occasion, even the smartest of events. "The barely-there manicure has really taken off this year. A clean natural nail goes with everything and is both simple and elegant; it really gives your hands a clean, fresh, healthy glow," Emma explains.
It's a nail look that's been favoured throughout royal beauty history, everyone from Diana to the Queen. Kate opted for it on her wedding day and we're always spotting Meghan with well-kept natural nails. We're particularly enamoured with Meghan's palest pink mani that she teamed with delicate jewellery for an elegant finish.
Meghan wore a beautiful white tailored Valentino suit for the Invictus Games Friends and Family reception in The Hague back in 2022. Paired with a natural manicure, her whole look was quiet luxury; before quiet luxury was even a thing.
To recreate the look, Holly advises, "Opt for nude or neutral shades that closely match your skin tone and keep your nails well-groomed with a clean square or round shape. A glossy top coat can provide a polished finish, and remember to moisturise your hands and oil your cuticles to keep them looking their best in the colder autumn weather."
This sheer pastel pink with an iridescent shimmer is perfect for a light-touch manicure. Do one coat if you're after a natural look or build up the colour and layer with a shimmer top coat for a more polished take on the barely-there manicure.
6. Striking off-white
Forever providing us with mani inspiration, Meghan's bright nude nails are another autumn trend that will elevate your everyday style. "Nudes are incredibly popular all year round, but especially so during autumn," Angel explains.
Meghan wears an off-white shade; a striking contrast to her bold red lip that results in a chic and polished look. If you want to add a little interest, lightly-coloured nails are a great base for coloured and monochrome tips or simple nail art. "Subtle nail art, like delicate metallic accents or minimalist geometric designs, can also add a contemporary touch," says Holly.
This understated off-white is the way to go if you want to try a subtle take on white nails. Vinylux's USP is that it lasts for seven days with a gel-like formula that is more chip-resistant than most polishes.
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