Black Nail Polish is Back

When I was a bit younger, black polish was reserved for two kinds of people: goth chicks and disaffected dudes in uninspired rock bands.  That was it.  Shortly after, however, black polish, and its surrogate dark-dark purple, became standard on the nails of women and girls from all walks of life.  

Then, just as quickly as it appeared, black polish fell out of favor.  We all held onto our bottles of Lincoln Park After Dark, but most of switched to lighter and brighter shades.  But if the Oscar’s were any indication, women are going back to black polish in a big way.

I don’t wear black polish very often, but when I do, I like to do something a little bit special: an all black French manicure.  That’s right, I said French manicure.

image c/o chloe’s nails

For this manicure you need four types of polish: base coat, black polish, top coat and matte top coat.  For the base coat, I like OPI Chip Skip ($9).  It really helps my manicure adhere and last.  

Now, let’s talk about polish. For this manicure, you need black.  Not bluish-black.  Not purplish-black.  You need true, unadulterated black.  The only polish that I have ever found that gives you the rich, blackest black is OPI Black Onyx ($5).  Not Black Satin…Black Onyx.

For your regular top coat, I like Orly Glosser Supershine ($6).  And, lastly, for your matte topcoat, I use Essie Matte About You ($7).  Now, for the how-to.

Step 1: Clean you nails, trim your cuticles and apply base coat.  Allow a moment for it to dry.

Step 2: Apply two coats of black polish, allowing each one some time to dry.  If you don’t give it a moment, you’ll end up with bubbles in the paint, and no one wants that.

Step 3: Apply regular topcoat.  Walk away.  You need to let this set for a good half an hour for best results, unless you have a UV nail lamp.  This is a process, unless you have professional help, don’t rush it.  Consider it a labor of love.

Step 4: When dry, apply tape guides to start painting the French manicure.  With a traditional French, you leave room to paint the white tips.  With this manicure, you actually want to use the guides to cover the portion of the nail that you do not want to paint.  

Step 5: Once you’ve protected the top of the nail with tape, apply a coat of the matte topcoat.  Allow to dry completely before removing the tape.  And I mean completely.

Now that we’ve talked about how to do a stylish black French manicure, let’s talk about whether this is appropriate for work.  For myself, I would wear this during recess.  I would not wear it during session days because I think for most men and a lot of older folks in our corporate/political culture, black nails are just too weird.  They don’t see them as fashionable because their only reference point is emo/goth kids with studded neck collars and too much eyeliner.  

So if you do choose to wear it to work, especially on the Hill, keep in mind that you may be judged for wearing black polish.  You may also be told that you can’t wear black polish to work again.  So just be aware that many people will consider it inappropriate.


    leave a comment

  1. amy b.s. says:

    i love this. the next time i do my nails, this is what i'm doing.

    February 29, 2012/Reply
  2. EBT says:

    I think this is fierce. And my office is business casual (erring more toward casual). One time our COO complimented my (kind of big) nose stud, so I feel like black nails wouldn't be a problem. Thanks, Belle!

    February 29, 2012/Reply
  3. Ronda says:

    I've always thought French manicures were corny but the black is HAUTE! OMG, and on the toes too, SCANDALOUS@! I'm going to try this for sure.

    February 29, 2012/Reply
  4. SmallFry says:

    Wow this is awesome! I'm definitely going to have to try this!

    February 29, 2012/Reply
  5. EK says:

    What are your thoughts on trying the gloss/matte technique with another color, like a dark purple, in order to make it a little more office-appropriate? I'm willing to sacrifice a little fashion-forwardness in order to try this before the Easter recess.

    February 29, 2012/Reply
  6. e says:

    Can you say a bit more about how you use the tape? I always worry that tape will rip up the nail polish you've already applied – is that not a problem? This looks fantastic and I want to try!

    February 29, 2012/Reply
  7. Belle says:

    EK: This could work with any color. I've been thinking about trying it with a deep, bright pink.

    e: The tape needs to be pressed down to ensure that there are no bubbles. So make it snug, and leave lots of tail for easy tear off. And it's just like painting a wall, if you wait till it's good and dry, you'll get a clean line.

    February 29, 2012/Reply
  8. SM says:

    Very striking. This is the nail equivalent to a black leather pencil skirt.

    February 29, 2012/Reply
  9. Ms. B says:

    I can't believe I'm gonna say this, but I actually really like this look!

    February 29, 2012/Reply
  10. RS says:

    Love it!

    March 1, 2012/Reply
  11. Mary says:

    oooo I saw that on Pinterest and have been wanting to give it a try! Thank you for the how-to!

    March 1, 2012/Reply
  12. Amanda says:

    Love this! I can't wait to try it! Thanks for the diy tips!

    March 1, 2012/Reply
  13. SLL says:

    My reaction to the photo: “Ooooooooh my gosh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” I can't wait to try this look!

    March 2, 2012/Reply
  14. anon says:

    You should be aware that intentional or not (assuming not), you're using this image without any sort of visible credit to its owner:

    March 2, 2012/Reply
  15. Belle says:

    Anon: Thanks for sending that. I had some trouble finding the source of the original image because I pulled it from Pinterest.

    March 2, 2012/Reply
  16. Annabelle says:

    Just discovered your blog and reading backwards. I really like your writing style and the outfits you put together. I'm a bit of a polish junkie and have collected quite a number of polishes, although nothing compare to some of the ladies on MakeupAlley.
    I want to let you know that there are quick drying too coats available, which polishes are dry to touch in 3-5 minutes, and completely dry in about 30. Some of the big brands are:
    Seche Vite
    And my favorite, Sally Hansen Insta-Dri (it's the red bottle one that's packaged in a box)

    March 21, 2012/Reply