'90s Manicures Were On Another Level—9 Nail Colours That Are Just As Cool Now As They Were Then (2024)

If you were to ask me what my favourite decade for beauty is, I would say the '90s without any hesitation. I might be biased as a '90s baby, but the decade really paved the way for some iconic '90s makeup looks, from frosted lipstick to blue eyeshadow. Celebrities in the '90s were not afraid to experiment—even if did mean many of us plucked their eyebrows a little too thin to keep up with the trends at the time. Then of course there is the epic '90s hairstyle moments, from supermodel hair to chunky highlights, and beauty product icons that skyrocketed in the decade, such as Clinique's Black Honey Lipstick.

One beauty aspect of the decade that is often overlooked is 90s nails, and particularly '90s nail colours, which has some seriously chic shades. In fact, many '90s nail colours actually don't look out of place today, with many proving to be both stylish and timeless. From Chanel's Vamp nail polish that dominated the decade to the barely there hues worn by the likes of Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell, I'm not surprised that these '90s nail colours are making a comeback right now—they're far from dated.

To find the best '90s nail colours, I dived deep into the picture archives to see what nail colours the chicest women wore in the decade, and I found the best nail polish colours to help you achieve the look.

'90s Nail Colours

1. Vamp Red

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(Image credit: Everett Collection)

Dark, black cherry nails were a staple 90s nail colour and Chanel's 'Vamp' nail polish was one of the most iconic shades of the decade, so much so that Time named it amongst the most iconic products in 1995. Throughout the '90s we saw models, singers and actresses such as Uma Thruman in Pulp Fiction adopt the dark red nail trend, which was so dark it almost looked black, and was usually worn on short, square nails. Nowadays, Chanel's iconic shade has been renamed Rouge Noir, and it's still as timeless today as it was then.

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CHANEL

Le Vernis Nail Colour in Rouge Noir

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Essie

Nail Polish in 49 Wicked

Essie's Wicked polish is a rumoured close match.

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Beauty Pie

Wondercolour™ Nail Polish in Black Cherry Bomb

Price shown is member price.Beauty Pie's nail polish formulas are unmatched for lasting power.

2. Sheer Pink

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(Image credit: Getty Images)

Nail looks typically fell into two camps during the '90s: neutral and bold. Thanks to '90s minimalism, the decade also saw the popularity of bare nails or sheer washes of pink that made the nails look neat, as seen here on Jennifer Aniston with a round shaped finish.

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OPI

Bubble Bath® Nail Polish

OPI Bubble Bath has cemented itself as an iconic nail colour—it's quite possibly the perfect sheer pink ever made.

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Mavala

Nail Colour in Natural

This polish is your nails but better in a bottle. The subtle pink tint gives nails a healthy flush of colour.

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Dior

Dior Vernis Nail Polish in Muguet

One or two coats of this shade perfects the nails and leaves a glossy shine.

3. Bright Red

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(Image credit: Getty Images)

Bright reds were also popular during the '90s amongst the world's chicest women, including Princess Diana. It's not often that a royal wears a bright red (it's rumoured that the late Queen disliked it, instead favouring soft pinks instead) and we saw the Princess wearing it more as she distanced herself from the monarchy. I'm here for this rebellious hue that is endlessly stylish.

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OPI

Big Apple Red® Nail Polish

Ask any beauty editor about their all-time favourite red nail polishes, and OPI Big Apple Red is guaranteed to come up. It's one of the brand' most iconic and loved reds.

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Essie

Nail Polish in 64 Fifth Avenue

Essie's Fifth Avenue polish looks amazing on nails and as a pedicure colour too.

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Nails Inc

Gel Effect Nail Polish in West End

This polish gives a plush look to the nails that resembles gel.

4. Milky Nails

'90s Manicures Were On Another Level—9 Nail Colours That Are Just As Cool Now As They Were Then (13)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Much like sheer pink nail polishes, sheer white tones were also popular amongst supermodels like Naomi Campbell who often wore creamy whites as her nail colour of choice in the '90s. Sheer white nail polishes are great for making your nails look bright and healthy, and it's an nail colour that goes with anything and everything—no wonder '90s fashion icons loved it.

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OPI

Funny Bunny® Nail Polish

Next to OPI's Bubble Bath, the brand's Funny Bunny is another popular nail polish shade loved by Hailey Bieber's manicurist today. It's a sheer white that can be layered for a milky look.

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Manucurist

Milky White Nail Polish

Manucurists formula always leave a really glossy finish.

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CHANEL

Le Vernis Longwear Nail Colour 173 Glaciale

I swear by this Chanel polish for a milky veil on my nails.

5. French Manicure

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(Image credit: Everett Collection)

The French manicure really had a moment in the '90s, which was often worn with squared shape, a wash of sheer pink and a bright white for the tips, as seen on Alicia Silverstone in Clueless here. The French manicure is having another renaissance in the 2020s in the form of colourful French tips.

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essie

Nail Polish in 13 Mademoiselle

This sheer pink makes a great base for any French manicure.

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ZARA

Nail Set

Every brush you could ever need for creating a crisp French manicure.

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nails inc.

Bright White Mani Marker Nail Pen

If you don't have the steady hands of your nail tech, then these nail art pens make creating a crisp line so much easier.

6. Brown Nails

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(Image credit: Getty Images)

From eyeshadow to lip liner, it seemed that brown dominated the'90s beauty colour palette, and nails were no exception. Here, Gwen Stefani wears a brown nail polish on short, square nails (the go-to nail shape of the decade) and it still looks just as chic today. If you want to go all out. look for shades with a metallic finish to embrace the '90s mood.

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Rimmel

Super Gel Nail Polish in 057 Cola Fizz

This nail polish screams '90s.

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Sephora Collection

Nail Polish in Cocoa Cuddle

Sephora Collection's nail polishes are really good and won't break the bank.

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H&M

Nail Polish in Brickwork

H&M have so many good brown-toned nail polishes.

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(Image credit: Getty Images)

Frosted finishes were major in the '90s, with every nail brand bringing out every shade in chromatic finishes. Metallic nail polishes walked so glazed nails could run today. Molten metal-inspired shades were a staple in the '90s, as seen on Foxy Brown here, so look for gold, silver and bronzy shades to tap into the look.

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Mavala

Cyber Chic Mini Colour Nail Varnish

I love the mini Mavala nail polishes, which come in so many fun colours are are great for travelling too.

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Zoya

Breathable Nail Polish in Tasha

I want to paint my nails with this bronzy brown immediately.

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Beauty Pie

Wondercolour™ Nail Polish in Gold Drops

If you want something more subtle, this sheer polish adds a sparkling lustre to bare nails for a glazed finish.

8. Bright And Bold

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(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you Google 90s nails, you'll no doubt be met with thousands of long and bold nails emblazoned with fun nail art. The '90s was a celebration of bright and bold manicures, which Olympian Florence Griffith Joy was often seen both on and off the field. Thankfully, tapping into nail art is easier than ever with press-ons, nail stickers and nail art brushes that allow you to get the look at home without needing to visit the salon.

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Paintlab

Wild Ones Press On Nails

I love these mix and match press-on nails.

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Ciaté

The Cheat Sheets Happy Go Lucky Nail Stickers

Nail stickers make a great cheat for experimenting with nail art.

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H&M

2-Pack Nail Art Brushes

From dots to swirls, these brushes will come in handy for all types of nail art.

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'90s Manicures Were On Another Level—9 Nail Colours That Are Just As Cool Now As They Were Then (2024)

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