I'm a Beauty Editor, and I Can't Stop Wearing These 7 Colors on Short Nails

I'm not known for having long nails. Sure, I love how they look, but I can only live with them for a couple of days before they begin to bother me. Simple things like doing the dishes, putting on a compression sports bra, and grabbing change off the grocery store counter become difficult. That's why I inevitably reach for the nail clippers after only a few days. To me, the aesthetic just can't make up for impracticality.  

I resigned myself to my short-nail fate a long time ago, but it wasn't until recently that I started appreciating it. I noticed celebs like Selena Gomez, Sofia Richie, Olivia Rodrigo, and Kendall Jenner were sporting shorter nails and—get this—making them look cool. It made me realize that short nails can be just as much of a vibe as long nails, and I started buying the nail colors to prove it. Ahead, see the seven colors I can't stop wearing on my short nails. 

Olive Green

Olive green is a unique and impactful color, but it looks even more unique and impactful on short nails. At least, I think so. It's also a good go-between for people who want to experiment with color but don't want to commit to something too bold or vibrant. Oh, and did I mention it's pretty much the perfect fall manicure color? 

Sheer Nudes

Nude nail colors are a given for any manicure—regardless of length, shape, or style. However, make it a sheer nude, and it becomes particularly perfect for short nails. There's just something about it that screams "quiet luxury." Plus, it can lengthen the appearance of the fingers for long, elegant-looking hands. I don't know about you, but I could use that. 


Wine-colored reds and purples look so elegant on short nails. They do on long nails, too, but in my experience, they can unintentionally veer into Morticia Addams territory. There's nothing wrong with that (she's iconic!), but sometimes, I want something less intense for everyday life. 

Sage Green

There's something inherently calming about sage green. It reminds me of green tea and spa days, so I reach for it whenever I feel like I could use some peace and quiet. Honestly, it's probably one of the colors I wear the most. I don't know what that says about me, but it's true.

Bright Turquoise

This is my go-to summer nail color for short nails, and it has been for years. Trust me—if you paint your short nails with a shock of turquoise blue, you'll receive compliment after compliment after compliment. Personally, I like to layer a super-glossy topcoat over the color for an elevated, grown-up finish. 

I've always thought dark colors look best on short nails, and I'm not alone. Take it from Rita Remark, celebrity nail artist and Essie's global lead educator. "Deeper hues tend to look a little witchy and talon-like on long nails but super chic on shorter nails," she says. Jin Soon Choi, nail expert and founder of JinSoon, agrees: "I personally like dark colors on short nails for an editorial look."

Deep shades of blue are one of my favorite dark colors to wear. They're more unexpected than merlot or traditional black, yet they're classic and sophisticated. It's a winning combination.


Remember that Morticia Addams vibe I was talking about earlier? That applies to black nail polish too. While I love black nail polish and will defend it until my last breath, I prefer allocating it to shorter nails. In the words of Choi, it looks more editorial on short nails, especially if you elevate it with a lustrous topcoat to seal in the color and prevent chips.