'90s Manicures Are Far From Dated—9 Nail Colours That Are Just As Cool Now As They Were Then


If you were to ask me what my favourite decade for beauty is, I would say the ’90s without any hesitation. I might be biased as a ’90s baby, but the decade really paved the way for some iconic ’90s makeup looks, from frosted lipstick to blue eyeshadow. Celebrities in the ’90s were not afraid to experiment—even if did mean many of us plucked their eyebrows a little too thin to keep up with the trends at the time. Then of course there is the epic ’90s hairstyle moments, from supermodel hair to chunky highlights, and beauty product icons that skyrocketed in the decade, such as Clinique’s Black Honey Lipstick.

One beauty aspect of the decade that is often overlooked is 90s nails, and particularly ’90s nail colours, which has some seriously chic shades. In fact, many ’90s nail colours actually don’t look out of place today, with many proving to be both stylish and timeless. From Chanel’s Vamp nail polish that dominated the decade to the barely there hues worn by the likes of Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell, I’m not surprised that these ’90s nail colours are making a comeback right now—they’re far from dated.

To find the best ’90s nail colours, I dived deep into the picture archives to see what nail colours the chicest women wore in the decade, and I found the best nail polish colours to help you achieve the look.

’90s Nail Colours

1. Vamp Red

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(Image credit: Everett Collection)

Dark, black cherry nails were a staple 90s nail colour and Chanel’s ‘Vamp’ nail polish was one of the most iconic shades of the decade, so much so that Time named it amongst the most iconic products in 1995. Throughout the ’90s we saw models, singers and actresses such as Uma Thruman in Pulp Fiction adopt the dark red nail trend, which was so dark it almost looked black, and was usually worn on short, square nails. Nowadays, Chanel’s iconic shade has been renamed Rouge Noir, and it’s still as timeless today as it was then.

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2. Sheer Pink

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(Image credit: Getty Images)

Nail looks typically fell into two camps during the ’90s: neutral and bold. Thanks to ’90s minimalism, the decade also saw the popularity of bare nails or sheer washes of pink that made the nails look neat, as seen here on Jennifer Aniston with a round shaped finish.

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3. Bright Red

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(Image credit: Getty Images)

Bright reds were also popular during the ’90s amongst the world’s chicest women, including Princess Diana. It’s not often that a royal wears a bright red (it’s rumoured that the late Queen disliked it, instead favouring soft pinks instead) and we saw the Princess wearing it more as she distanced herself from the monarchy. I’m here for this rebellious hue that is endlessly stylish.

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4. Milky Nails

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(Image credit: Getty Images)

Much like sheer pink nail polishes, sheer white tones were also popular amongst supermodels like Naomi Campbell who often wore creamy whites as her nail colour of choice in the ’90s. Sheer white nail polishes are great for making your nails look bright and healthy, and it’s an nail colour that goes with anything and everything—no wonder ’90s fashion icons loved it.

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5. French Manicure

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(Image credit: Everett Collection)

The French manicure really had a moment in the ’90s, which was often worn with squared shape, a wash of sheer pink and a bright white for the tips, as seen on Alicia Silverstone in Clueless here. The French manicure is having another renaissance in the 2020s in the form of colourful French tips.

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6. Brown Nails

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(Image credit: Getty Images)

From eyeshadow to lip liner, it seemed that brown dominated the’90s beauty colour palette, and nails were no exception. Here, Gwen Stefani wears a brown nail polish on short, square nails (the go-to nail shape of the decade) and it still looks just as chic today. If you want to go all out. look for shades with a metallic finish to embrace the ’90s mood.