Red Nail Polishes

It might come as a shock to some people that the first nail polish to ever hit the mass market wasn't a bright shade of cherry-red — it was pink. It wasn't until the early 30s, when deep red lacquers popped up on the fingers of European socialites, that Revlon responded to the trend with a collection of crimson polishes. By the 40s, when leading ladies could show off their manicures in technicolor, red nail polish had cemented itself as an iconic part of American culture.

But it's been a long time since Rita Hayworth showed off her fiery fingernails in 1941's Blood and Sand. These days, you can walk into a salon and spot hundreds of reds — varying in undertone and finish — proving that picking just one is far harder than it was nearly eight decades ago.

So, how do you know which red is the right red? Ahead, nail pros share the ten polishes that work for everyone.

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The pro: Betina R. Goldstein, editorial nail artist


The polish: Essie Berry Naughty

Call us cliché, but we love nothing more than a wine-red mani when the temperatures drop. Goldstein says this burgundy-red is flattering 365 days of the year — and especially in the spring.

Essie Nail Polish, $, available at Target

The polish: Oribe Bloodstone

When you're in the salon and faced with a wall of reds, Goldstein says to keep your eyes peeled for this one in particular. "It's a cool-girl color, but still edgy and luxurious," Goldstein says. "The deep, blood-red tones and high-gloss finish make it unlike any other burgundy."

Oribe High Shine Nail Polish, $, available at Nordstrom

The polish: Chanel Rouge Essentiel

"This is my go-to red," says Goldstein. "It’s classic, chic, and elegant, but balanced enough to wear all year long." The only catch? You'll need to go to the U.K. to get it. We recommend Rouge Puissant, featured in the next few slides, as an alternative.

Chanel Le Vernis Longwear Nail Colour, $, available at Chanel

The pro: Gina Edwards, celebrity manicurist

The polish: Essie Fifth Avenue

Edwards is a fan of vibrant, electric reds — especially this classic from Essie. She says the shade dresses up any outfit and brightens all skin tones.

Editor's Note: Fifth Avenue is no longer available, but Essie's Russian Roulette is almost an exact dupe.

Essie Nail Polish, $, available at Essie

The polish: NCLA Rush Hour

We don't know who was first inspired by blood when creating a nail color, but we're oddly thankful they were. Thanks to the blue undertone, this polish is the quintessential blood-red. According to Edwards, it's just as intense on your nails as it is in the bottle.

NCLA Nail Polish Rush Hour, $, available at The Detox Market

The polish: Base Coat Scorpio

The quickest way to update a tired red mani is to top it off with a coat of a similar hue filled with flecks of gold glitter. Oh, and you better believe this eye-catching color is a party favorite, because it's currently sold out.

Base Coat Nail Polish in Scorpio, $, available at Base Coat

The polish: OPI Black to Reality

What's mysterious, dark, and perfect for date night? According to Tuttle, it's this heady red.

OPI Disney's The Nutcracker Infinite Shine Collection, $, available at Ulta Beauty

Jin Soon Jasper Nail Polish, $, available at Jin Soon

The pro: Sarah Gibson Tuttle, founder of Olive & June

The polish: Jin Soon in Jasper

Glitter nail polish is practically a requirement in December, and this metallic burgundy fits the bill. Tuttle's advice? Never say no to a wash of micro-shimmer.

Jin Soon Jasper Nail Polish, $, available at Jin Soon

The polish: Essie Rock the Runway

Tuttle's true red pick is festive, bold, and available in a formula that will last you from Christmas to New Year's, and then some.

Essie Nail Polish, $, available at Essie

The polish: Chanel Rouge Puissant

Leave it to Chanel to put a chic spin on a timeless classic. Tuttle describes this favorite as a little deeper than your traditional red, but still sexy and elegant.

Chanel LE VERNIS Longwear Nail Colour, $, available at Nordstrom

The polish: Olive & June in CV

When Gibson couldn't find the exact true red she was looking for, she made her own. "A perfect cherry red is always a classic. It looks good on all nail shapes and lengths," she says. 

Olive & June Olive & June Nail Polish in CV, $, available at Olive & June

Click HERE to read more from Refinery29

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