What Is the Red Nail Theory? Meet Black Nail Theory’s Polar Opposite

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red nail theory: white woman's hand with red nails
Mariia Demchenko/Getty Images

OK, you’ve heard of Black Nail Theory—the idea that a noir manicure gives you a confidence boost—now, let us introduce you to Red Nail Theory. The trend is taking off on TikTok (where else?) with people sporting nails in all shades of red, from cherry to wine and brick. If you’re ready to leave your mob wife era behind and channel Taylor Swift instead, this look is for you. (Though we suspect that Carmela Soprano would totally dive for a fire truck red mani. And lipstick.) Here, a nail expert breaks down the red nail theory, and shares tips for finding and wearing the perfect hue for you.

Meet the Expert 

Michelle Nguyen is a nail expert and the founder and CEO of PLA, a beauty supply company specializing in lash, nail and aesthetic products. Nguyen has worked in the beauty industry since 2008, and PLA nail polish has been worn by celebrities such as Ice Spice, Jennifer Lopez, Blake Lively and Selena Gomez. 

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What Is the Red Nail Theory? 

The Red Nail Theory is the opposite of Black Nail Theory. Rather than making the wearer come off as confident and intimidating, the idea is that having red nails will make you more approachable and get asked on more dates. While this theory isn’t backed by science, we can at least chalk up a bit of it to color theory, which is a proven concept. Think about the color black: It’s linked to feelings of power and authority. So what does red stir up? 

“Red symbolizes love and passion, both of which are strong feelings that can invoke major responses,” Nguyen says. “There is also the concept of the ‘unexpected red,’ which involves adding something red to an otherwise neutral environment. A pop of red is quite eye-catching and can be a conversation starter—someone who wears red isn’t trying to just blend in with the crowd.”  

Though they give off completely different vibes, the two colors share a timeless quality. As an example, Nguyen points to the iconic red-soled Louboutin. “It conjures sophistication, elegance and just a hint of edge.” Not everyone can drop $1,200 on a pair of shoes, but anyone can try a rouge manicure.

How to Find the Right Red

To get started, Nguyen advises choosing a shade based on the undertone of your skin. 

“Those with warm undertones generally pair best with orange or coral reds, while cooler-toned individuals should opt for bluer reds,” she explains. “Then, you can think about how much you want your red nails to stand out. Daring individuals can go for deep cherry or wine reds, [while others might feel more comfortable] sticking to lighter, pinker shades.” 

May your perfect meet-cute be right around the corner.  

MW 10

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