As we head towards the colder months of autumn and winter, we see colour palettes cool down and become more muted than the bright pops of spring and summer.
The cooler seasons bring a comforting time of tradition, with annual holidays such as Halloween, Christmas and New Year, and tones tend to reflect the shades of autumn leaves and the thematic colours of these holidays, but this year there are some notable twists to keep you on your toes.
“Chromes and torties will be strong nail art trends for autumn/winter 2023 as well as the matte/shiny combo and skinny dark French manicures,” says Julie-Anne Larivière, Salon System nail expert and owner of Sketched by J-A Nails.
Classy and classic, the tortoiseshell mani has become an autumn mainstay trend that comes back year after year with tasteful tweaks and technique improvement.
This trend involves layering blooming dots of deepening shades of black and brown between sheer yellow or orange layers. Many techs use blooming gel, but we have seen base coat used to create the design’s spreading or bleeding effect, which makes it true to its inspiration. Seeing as this trend can present a challenge to time-poor nail techs, many brands have added now tortie designs to their nail foil collections.
“Layering is a big part of why I love autumn and the depth created by adding multiple layers to achieve a tortoiseshell manicure really ties in with that,” comments Nathan Taylor, owner of Buff Bar Bristol.
We’ve seen tortoiseshell nails elevated with a skinny French tip of black or chocolate brown, chrome gold swirls, and 3D accents that add a glamorous and grungy edge to this trend.
“The contrasting combo of neon against a tortoiseshell is really shining through at the moment so I hope to see this continue,” says Jools Diogo, AKA @paintedbyjools, resident manicurist at Liberty London, describing the perfect design to segue your clients’s nails from summer to autumn.
Skinny dark French
“I think autumn nail trends for this year will be very chic and minimalistic – neutral colours, with very simple, elegant nail art,” says Karen Louise, Salon System nail expert.
As Larivière says, the skinny French trend will carry on from SS23 but instead of bright rainbow colours and pops of pastel, we will be seeing jet-black micro French and flashes of other dark autumn colours for a cool twist.
“I think nail techs are looking for ways to jazz up the skinny French,” says home-based nail tech Ipek Rifat, aka @pexnails. “Combining a deep smile line with a skinny curved tip gives a super sleek look.”
The on-trend base for this look will be a milky pink ballet slipper base colour or builder gel, adding a naughty and nice juxtaposition to this look.
“Matte nails always become more popular in the autumn and winter months,” says Taylor. “I love a solid base colour with a matte finish, followed by a skinny, high-gloss tip.”
Hot shades for AW23
The classic “clean girl” mani has started to evolve to include bold, block colours instead of simply pale pinks and nudes. For autumn/winter 2023 the trend, which favours nail health and a prescriptive approach, will still include the sleek, glossy finish and perfectly manicured hands and cuticles but in the season’s hottest shades.
“Soft browns, deep reds, earthy greens and black will be the go-to palettes this season, with glazed layering and delicate embellishments,” says Louise. “We will also see nails in shades like mocha, taupe, spiced pumpkin and maroon with high gloss, glazed doughnut still being the finish for nails this season.”
Diogo agrees, adding, “We have seen this through summer with chromes going over bright French or pastel shades, so I see this going into autumn over the darker, more moody shades.”
Nails in rich shades of chocolate to complement all skin tones will be big this season. “For me, it has to be no. 111 -Hot Chocolate by Bio Sculpture, or Evo Courtney is a classic,” Diogo adds. All signs point to Hailey Bieber’s chocolate-glazed doughnut mani returning for another season.
We are also seeing a lot of bottle greens reminiscent of Bottega Veneta’s iconic shade, and khakis and greens so deep they are almost black.
Chrome texture is here to stay, says Taylor. We have started to see both 3D nail art and metal chrome finishes make it to the mainstream in the past few years but for AW23 we will start to see less polished finishes creep in – think gunmetal silver with a matte top coat.
“Naturally, nail art has nearly always been about perfection but I feel like there’s some kind of resurgence going on, with trashy punky elements coming in,” Taylor adds. “Looks are going to be a bit more gritty and distorted, with nail techs and artists becoming more expressive.”
This summer’s release of the Barbie movie with Margot Robbie led to a resurgence of the pink plastic pop culture of the Y2K era, whose icons were the likes of Paris Hilton decked out in bright pink Von Dutch and a classic white-tipped French mani. As we move into AW23, replacing “Barbiecore” will be a more emo/punk Avril Lavigne/No Doubt aesthetic.
It’s going to be unrefined and unfinished and not super serious. Think the defining nail look of rock stars and punk princesses of the ’90s and ’00s – chipped black polish but perhaps with a chromed-up version of the look.
Layering will also be present in this trend with lumpy and bumpy texture to chrome finishes, both on short natural nails on all genders as well as sharper, fiercer talons. To achieve easy 3D looks, Taylor swears by Kokoist’s Boba Gel, which you can mould into practically anything you can imagine.
For clients not into 3D, a simple silver and slightly transparent chrome will be a classic look for this winter, says Louise.
The velvet/cat eye trends of SS23 will also have a darker twist for AW23, seeing grungy yet ethereal looks taking off. With the release of the live-action rendition of The Little Mermaid, water effects and deep sea mermaid-inspired styles were big this summer, with pearl chrome finishes and iridescent glitters. Moving into colder months, this trend will take a more celestial twist with deep shades topped with contrasting chromes.
OPI’s Big Zodiac Energy collection is ideal for achieving this trend with elemental hues channelling earth, air, fire, and water tones. Expect a lot of star sign-inspired requests from clients as we head into winter and the party season.
Coming back for another season, aura/mood-ring nails will be big for autumn/winter, says Rifat, but in the colours of the season such as a dusty teal paired with a chocolate brown.
“For a Y2K version of this look, use an airbrush and incorporate 3D chrome for your ‘extra’ clients,” she says. For a more otherworldly look, play with cat-eye gel and ombre glitters in earthy colours.
The anti-trend trend
Harking back to the punk attitudes of the grunge subcultures of the ’90s, true individuality in nail art is starting to become more widely appreciated by the masses, with nail techs working with their clients to create individual works of art. This is not about following trends but rather true expression and empowerment and this is something being catapulted by LGBTQ+ communities. “Ultimately, I don’t follow the trends,” says Taylor. “I’m more about making my own.”