Ask Belle: Manis and Pedis

Oct 21, 2011


What are your thoughts on manicure and pedicure colors matching? I suppose this would have been a better question for the summer, but I’ve heard opinions that nails and toes should only match when you’re doing classic colors such as reds or pinks. Maybe an Ask Belle?


First off, I believe that toes should be painted 365 days a year.  Winter, spring, summer and freakin’ fall.  Pedicures are not a summer luxury, pretty, well-manicured toes are a way of life.

Secondly, I don’t think they have to match.  In fact, I like it better when they don’t match.  But they should always coordinate. 

If I were to promote a rule for this, it would be the following:

No Costumey Combinations.  I don’t want to see emerald green on the toes and bright purple on the fingers.  I also don’t want to see bright yellow on the fingers and electric blue or hot pink on the toes.  This is childish, and it looks silly.

Keep It in the Family When Possible.  By noon tomorrow, I will be wearing latte on my fingers and deep chocolate on my toes.  In the summer, I like hot pink (or ruby red) on the toes and pale pink or medium pink on the fingers.  I think coordinating in the same color family is the best cohesive look.

Mixing Light and Dark.  Even if you decide to break outside the color family, I think a combination of dark and light looks best.  NARS Tokaido Express on the toes (gold-flecked eggplant) and greige on the fingers.  And even though you can wear light polish on the toes, I think it looks better on the fingers if the toes are dark.  Personal preference.

Shimmer and Solids.  The only time I do the same shade on finders and toes is when I plan to wear shimmer on my fingernails.  So I might wear the same color on both, but then layer a bit of sparkle over my fingernails.

I don’t think there is definitive right way or wrong way to wear polish, but it irritates me to no end when I see women wearing contrasting colors on fingers and toes.  I mean, what 30-year-old woman needs to wear sky blue polish on her toes and orange polish on her fingers? 

If you’re still in school and they’re your school colors, fine.  But if you’re over the age 25, there’s a more mature way to wear polish. 

These are some guidelines that I think look good.  Share your thoughts in the comments.

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  1. Anna Louisa says:

    Amen. I can't stand to ever have my toes bare…even if I'm feeling a little lazy (which is probably 75% of the time 🙂 they'll be ruby red. It's my go-to!

  2. K says:

    Good post! Regarding your idea about toes being done all the time – while in theory, i love the idea, it's unfortunatly not something i can afford – so, another ? for Belle – on a limited budget, how would you allocate your “nail” money – do you think it's more important to have your nails or toes done? And, for the record, I agree with you on mismatching totally…thanks!

  3. Katherine says:

    I completely agree with all of this. I would add that chips are totally unacceptable. Either fix it if feasible or remove it immediately. I keep individual remover pads in my desk just in case. I've also seen the “rule” that if Chanel makes a color, it is de facto acceptable and professional. No. Would you wear Mimosa in a conservative office? I don't think so.

  4. RMS says:

    Responding to K about allocating “nail” money – It is pretty affordable to do your own manis and pedis. I have invested in quality brands, Butter London and OPI, purchased the base coat, color, and top coat, and do my own nails. It looks great and I don't feel bad if I get a chip in a few days because I can just fix it myself.

  5. A says:

    Can you please add that you should probably avoid yellow polish on toes, as about 99% of them makes you look like you have a gross fungus. There should never be a doubt it's nail color, not a fungus. I saw that on the other day on the metro and I spent a good 2 stops debating on if it was polish (and it was)

  6. Anne says:

    A follow-up question: I feel naked without painted toes, but sometimes I give my nails a rest … especially after a summer of wearing reds and bright pinks. I put a base coat on prior to painting but still, after months of paint (and maybe the remover, too?), my nails look … abused? Discolored (not quite)? I keep my toes trimmed, feet pumiced, and nice looking during the rest weeks– but do you have a recommendation for a base coat that doesn't just keep color from seeping through, it keeps your nails healthy and protects from the remover?

  7. Belle says:

    K- I do all my own pedicures. All of them. I buy a pedi, maybe once per year.

    Anne-I do a rapid heal on mine twice a year. I rub Vitamin E on my toes every night. Ahava mineral foot cream and then wear a sock to bed. Clears things up in about four days.

  8. Belle says:

    Also Anne- I double up on basecoat. OPI chip skip, orly bonder basecoat.

  9. Dr. Jean Grey says:

    Has anyone tried the Shellac pedicures? Tempting…

  10. Dakota says:

    Co-sign on the 365 rule. Another good rule of thumb is to remove asap when it starts to chip. Clean, bare nails look 100x better than chipped ones!

  11. missy says:

    To make a manicure last longer, I use a clear nail-strengthening polish once per day starting about 24 hours post-manicure. I usually get manicures on Friday or Saturdays and without the daily polish, it'll maybe make it to Monday before chipping, if I'm lucky and if I've decided not to do anything with my hands over the weekend (like clean my apartment). If I wear the polish, I can usually go a full week before they noticeably chip.

    If your feet get banged up (what. I'm a modern dancer, I need my callouses, and polish gets ripped off pretty quickly on the marley flooring) then self pedicures definitely make the most sense. Otherwise, 2-3 weeks minimum between professional pedicures is usually fine.

  12. ~M says:

    Dermatologist told me the discoloration was due to lack of oxygen getting to the nails. For years my mom wore nail polish every day. Then she decided she didn't want to have to always wear nail polish. Unfortunately, by this point, her nails were a bit discolored and all she could do was try to get them to grow out faster. This is exactly the reason I rarely do my toes. I don't ever want yellow toenails.

  13. K says:

    wow – that's awesome that it sounds like everyone pretty much does thier own manicures! It sounds like quality products is kind of the trick for that – i've “painted” my nails on my own, but it never looks as nice as it does when a pro does it. Does anyone have any recommendation on cuticle maintence? I have a little cuticle trimmer, that i use if i get a hangnail-type deal, but does anyone really go all out at home and cut thier own, push them back, whatever?

  14. Claire says:

    I agree completely!!! I don't like when my mani and pedi are the same color. I think the best way to go is to make them different but “keep it in the family” as you said. Currently my toes are a darkish mauve (OPI Chicago Champagne Toasts) and my fingernails are a very light shimmery mauve (Essie Buy Me a Cameo). I am obsessed with this pairing and haven't strayed from it all season! They go so nicely without being too matchy-matchy.

    Also – I agree that toenails should always be painted. Even if mine turn yellow from too much paint (which they have not even though I NEVER have unpainted toes), I don't care because I think unpolished toenails look icky no matter what. Fingernails on the other hand – I think it was actually Belle who said a month or so ago that fingernails don't always have to be polished but they should always be manicured. Fingernails can still look nice with just a clear coat as long as they're manicured. Thanks, Belle!

  15. Anne says:

    Thanks for the advice, Belle!

  16. Belle says:

    K-Here's what you need: nail clippers, a pumice stone or PedEgg, foot lotion, an orange stick, good base coat, OPI/NARS/Butter polish, and a good top coat. It will save you a fortune.

  17. Ridiculous, sorry. I've not painted my toenails or fingernails in years. It's frivolous & unnecessary. I keep my nails groomed, trimmed, & filed, but there's just no reason for polish if you don't like it. It makes me feel like my hands & feet are suffocating. Keep your shiz looking good, & it just doesn't matter what color they are. Also, it's cold in New Hampshire nine out of twelve months a year – absolutely ZERO reason to keep my toes painted EVER.

  18. KellyK says:

    Sweetheart-Wasn't it you who told another commenter on the tights post that people who get worked up about Belle's “rules” hasn't been reading here very long? Judging from the all caps in your comment, you might need to re-evaluate that.

  19. Whitney says:

    Co-sign on all of your advice, Belle. I do all of my own pedicures every 2 weeks, give or take, and my toes are painted 24/7/365. I type a lot on the keyboard and I cannot deal with chipped polish (ugh, skanky), so my fingernails are always bare, clean, and buffed. I also can't stand when my nails are different lengths, so if one breaks, they all get cut (this is strictly a personal preference, though). My go-to polish is OPI “Dutch Tulips”, but I'm digging the mocha trend right now. I have saved so much money by buying a $7 bottle of polish and sporting DIY pedis, and I have yet to see any professional pedis that look better than what I can do at home!

  20. @KellyK Yes, that was me. I hardly think I was getting “worked up” by disagreeing. I just happen to think this is a particularly stupid “rule.” But thanks for your rudeness.

  21. VA says:

    Anne – sometimes dark polish can leave a yellowish tint to your nails when it's removed. The best trick I've found it to buff each nail with a paste of lemon juice and baking soda after you take the polish off. I've also heard that buffing with a little whitening toothpaste will help get rid of the yellow.

    Dr. Jean Gray – LOVE Shellac! I had my fingernails done for the first time this summer and the polish lasted a full month, including 10 days on vacation when I was hauling around a heavy suitcase, in the pool/ocean, and then all the laundry before and after. The only drawbacks, in my opinion, are the cost (too expensive for me to justify doing all the time), and the fact that I had to go back to the salon to get the polish removed.

    To me, “manicured” means that my nails (fingers and toes) are filed, smooth, and clean – not necessarily painted.

  22. KellyK says:

    Sweetheart-I was no more rude than you were and have been in the past. I guess some people can sling it, but they can't take it.

  23. Alex says:

    Hmm, not sure about polish. It often just looks tacky whereas nice, clean, even, non-discoloured nails look professional. Most people have ugly toes, I'm always baffled as to why they would draw attention to them.

  24. Jill says:

    I work in a restaurant, so am on my feet for 9-11 hours a day, so regular pedicures (and the pumicing and massaging) are worth it, in addition to the improved appearance of my feet — to me. The technicians at my regular salon have advised that you should give your nails (toenails) a rest and not go from pedi to pedi or mani to mani for the health of your nails.

  25. kate says:

    I agree- no polish for me. However, I do love a good buff manicure!

  26. Christine says:

    I totally agree to not having it match but having it in the same family! Great post!


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