By February, I start getting excited for summer nails. I don’t mean to skip the pastels of spring, but all I want is those bright, juicy shades that come with summer. Now it’s finally time.
Summer is a time for poolside drinks, grilling on the deck, and lounging on the beach. Fun in the sun means you need nail colors that are bright enough to stand out.
The 2018 summer nail color trends are covering both ends of the spectrum from light to dark. Stunning cobalt blues with their sapphire hues and flashy pinks are in, but so are more neutral whites and greys as a less expected summer look that’s clean and playful.
If you’re looking for summer colors that will be evergreen, corals will always be perfect for summer and you can’t go wrong with neon shades. See my guides to Neon Nail Colors to get more ideas.
Now let’s get down to the best polishes of the summer.
1. Deep End by ILNP
I was luckily enough to get my hands on samples of ILNP’s Summer 2018 Collection and Deep End is my favorite of the bunch. It’s a perfect cobalt blue with a playful rose to gold flash when the light hits it just right.
I love this shade. I’m wearing it right now and admiring it in the light and the pictures do not do this complex shade justice. That said, this deep blue jelly shade won’t be for every.
Holographic flakies are suspended in the polish and catch the light, reflecting back all the colors of the rainbow. The best thing about flakies is that they look like glitter but are so much easier to remove than glitter.
The formula is more of a jelly than anything, meaning it’s partly translucent on purpose. As you build this up you can see the layers and dimensions of those flakies for a really neat effect like looking down into the deep end of a pool.
That does mean the first coat isn’t very impressive, but it’s opaque at the third coat and you’ll fall in love. Three coats of this doesn’t feel thick either which is nice.
I’ve always had great success with long wear when using ILNP and with a proper top and base coat you can get an easy five days out of this.
2. The Fuchsia is Bright by Essie
This creme by Essie is a beautiful flamingo pink. It’s fun, it’s flirty, and it’s tropical. The formula for The Fuchsia is Bright is basically perfect with buttery coverage and great self-leveling.
It’s opaque in two coats so you have more time to hit the boardwalk. The finish is a nice high gloss which we come to expect from a good Essie polish.
3. Kristen by Zoya
Coming in with a less traditional summer color, Kristen by Zoya is a creamy slate that strays into a light, dusty blue depending on the lighting. Kristen in a softer look that stands out by being so unexpected. It goes on a little streaky on the first coat but covers perfectly in two coats. Zoya’s formula is very easy to work with and has the benefit of being 10 free.
4. Age of Aquarius by Color Club
There isn’t a better time for a turquoise nail polish than in the summer. Turquoise says clear ocean shallows, bright summer skies, and the baking heat of the Southwest. One of the best and brightest is Age of Aquarius by Color Club.
It’s considered a neon so expect it to dry to a near matte, but a glossy top coat can take care of that if you’re looking for a brighter shine. Also not surprising for a neon, the formula can be a little tricky. It goes on a little streaky so you’ll want two to three coats for good, even coverage. Age of Aquarius is three free and cruelty-free.
5. No Days Off by ILNP
If you’re feeling the mermaid vibe, you’ve got to get No Days Off from ILNP’s Summer 2018 Collection. It has a bright teal base that is jam packed with teal metallic flakies.
The end result is a almost mermaid tail scale effect. To capture that dazzling sparkle of reflected water, No Days Off also has holographic micro-flakes to give that rainbow glow.
The formula is very easy to work with and you can probably get away with two coats. The metallic finish glows and doesn’t show brushstrokes which is a major achievement for metallics.
6. Carpe Diem by Cirque Colors
For a beautiful summer white, check out Carpe Diem by Cirque Colors. It’s a very opaque creme. It can almost get away with one coat but there do tend to be some streaks on the first layer that are gone by the second coat.
Carpe Diem is a warm white with the sheerest hint of gold when the light hits it just right, making it perfect for sunny days. Cirque Colors are four free, cruelty-free, and made in small batches in New York.
7. Nahla by Zoya
Nahla, a holographic gold topper with a hint of blue shimmer, is part of Zoya’s Sunshine Collection for summer of 2018. This polish is instantly brightening over all skin tones and can be work alone or over your favorite summer nails.
It’s full of small, medium, and large gold glitters that give it that gold-flake effect and the holographic shimmer pulls in blues and greens that pop. The formula is flawless and is 10 free.
Lisa over at Cosmetic Sanctuary has a fantastic in depth review of this Collection including stunning macro shots of the swatches of each polish and of Nahla swatched over the rest of the colors in the collection.
8. World is Your Oyster by Essie
From Essie’s 2018 Seaglass Shimmers Collection, World is Your Oyster is a summer lilac shade with an iridescent shimmer. Drawing inspiration from seaglass that has been smoothed by the waves, this collection has a cool frosted look to it that reminds me of the lipstick trends from the early 2000’s.
As a shimmer the formula is sheer at first but is opaque in only two coats. It almost has a metallic finish that has the potential to show brushstrokes but self levels so well that it doesn’t seem to be an issue. I like that this one has that bright summer look to it without being overly bold.
9. Low & Be Bold by KBShimmer
When it comes to brilliant blues, KBShimmer has it nailed down. Low & Be Bold has that stand out blue shade of deep ocean waters that works against all skin tones. It brings up nautical images for me especially against white.
The formula isn’t quite a creme but is nearly there. It’s got this hint of jelly but not enough to be a true crelly. Just enough to give the color this juicy, squishiness.
Despite having that jelly-tone, this one is opaque in two coats though it looks best with three. Like all KBShimmer lacquers, Low & Be Bold is three free, meaning it doesn’t have three of the more toxic ingredients normally found in polish.
10. Suzannemi by Adesse New York
There’s not much sexier than a true red nail polish and Suzannemi by Adesse New York is the reddest polish I own. While it’s photographing pinker than it appears in person, this polish is a fun candy apple red. Suzannemi is from Adesse New York’s Gel Effect line which means it has a plumper profile than regular polish and dries to a much higher gloss, more like a gel nail polish.
I was sent a sample of this polish to test out and I can tell you that sometimes I hesitate to put a top coat over it, afraid that it could dull the intense shine of this polish.
The formula is straight up perfect. This is one of the few polishes I own that I can apply with that ideal two to three swipes per nail. Another huge place is that applied over Seche Base, I had zero staining on my nails which is impressive for any red. Their Gel Effect line has great wear time and is both cruelty-free and 12 free.
11. Cajun Shrimp by OPI
This classic polish by OPI is a tropical strawberry daiquiri red. It has pink and orange undertones to take that classic red into a more beachy, backyard BBQ shade. As part of their Infinite Shine collection, Cajun Shrimp dries to a high gloss and is more chip resistant compared to the original formula. It’s a very opaque red and you won’t need more than two coats for full opacity.
12. NYFW by Cirque Colors
NYFW (New York Fashion Week) by Cirque Colors is a deep ultramarine blue that is right in line with what’s trending for summer nails. It’s a great choice if you want to get on board with the cobalt blue trend but want something a little darker than Low & Be Bold.
The formula is easy to work with and is opaque in two coats. Like all Cirque Colors polishes it’s cruelty-free, four free, and made in New York.
13. Turn it Up by Orly
If summer means parties to you, then you need to check out this matte glitter from Orly that looks just like confetti.
It’s a clear base with glitter hexes in many sizes in every color of the rainbow and speckled with white micro-glitter. I have this polish (bought with my own money) and I love it both as a topper over polish or worn all on its own.
The glitter load is very high and even if you don’t use the glitter sponge method, I only need two, maybe three, coats for Turn it Up to look fantastic worn alone. Matte glitter is always a unique, interesting change from the expected sparkle and it’s the definition of playful.
14. Adored by Maxus
It’s not always all about the highly pigmented polishes and sometimes you just want a clean neutral. Adored by Maxus is a creamy beige that shows up cooler on lighter skin tones and pinker against more melanated skin tones. Maxus sent me a sample of this to try out and I’ve been wearing it a lot the past couple of weeks and really like it under nail art.
This strengthening polish needs two to three coats–for me it’s two if I’m using my ridge filling base coat (Seche Base) which is lightly opaque and three coats if I’m applying it over a clear base coat. Adored is nine free, cruelty-free, and made in America.
15. Kill ‘Em With Kindness by China Glaze
Every summer nail color stash needs a bright yellow. It’s a perfect transition from late spring into early summer. Kill ‘Em With Kindness is a soft banana yellow, too light to be a lemon yellow. This polish has a thin formula that could benefit from a white base coat.
It’s streaky on the first two coats but has good coverage at three coats even without the white base coat. The China Glaze lacquers are three free.
16. Rydell Forever by OPI
OPI is taking inspiration from the iconic musical Grease for their 2018 Summer Collection. If you like the idea of a summer white nail but want to punch it up a bit, try Rydell Forever, a white textured polish that dries to a leather finish.
The texture is subtle on the white but enough to keep it interesting and unique. The formula is great and covers completely in two coats.
17. Paige by ILNP
Paige was the first polish I ever bought for myself from ILNP and it’s still in my regular rotation, especially in the summer. It’s a tropical pink with a linear holographic sparkle which creates that holo candle flame look as the rainbow is revealed. Paige also picks up a lot of gold in the sun.
It’s eye-catching and long-lasting. This lacquer is cruelty-free and opaque in two to three coats.
This one also has an incredible galaxy effect when used as a topper over black.
18. Irina by Adesse New York
I received a sample of Irina and it’s my go-to grey all year round–and now that greys are in for summer, I’m happy to break it out. It’s a lovely mourning dove grey straying into blue in dimmer lighting. As part of their Gel Effect line, it dries extremely glossy and with a plump profile.
I’ve also found this one to be very chip resistant and tend toward Irina when I know I’m not going to be able to do my nails for a while and need something that lasts.
19. After Glow by Orly
Orly’s Summer 2018 Neon Earth Collection has given us After Glow and I’m pretty excited about that. I love a good salmon or coral for summer and After Glow hits that sweet spot for me.
It’s bright, it’s creamy, and it looks like delicious sherbet. Even though it’s considered a neon After Glow has a nice formula and is opaque in two coats–not an easy task for these fluorescent colors.
20. Rue by Zoya
Lastly, this neutral by Zoya offers a light, dusty mauve perfect for a more subtle look that still brings in that summery rosebud color. It’s almost a seashell blush tone which I think is appropriate for beach parties and at the office. Like all Zoya polishes, Rue is 10 free and has a buttery, easy to work with formula.
Price: $9 (10 percent off MSRP)
21. Hexy Bikini by KBShimmer
Is intense glitter normally considered a summer shade? Not really, but I can’t think of a better time to wear glittering holographics than when you’re out in the bright summer sun. I break this one out anytime I really want to make a statement and draw attention to my nails.
Hexy Bikini is a clear base loaded with silver, teal, and pink holographic glitter which brightly flash their own colors as well as create that rainbow flash we love from holos. It makes your nails look they have been jewel-encrusted. Two to three coats of this is enough for me for good coverage.
It’s billed as a textured polish and I was a little intimidated by how much this one could snag on clothes, but it’s actually much flatter than I expected. It does have some texture but a good top coat can get you close to smooth.
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