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How To Fake a Summer Tan with Nail Polish

As much as we love nail art, we’re better at admiring designs than coming up with them ourselves. That’s why we’ve enlisted Anna Norman, the smarty pants behind Glitter, She Wrote, to be a regular contributor. Every so often, she’ll be sharing her latest lacquer inspiration—you won’t be satisfied with plain ol’ polish again.


My fair skin prefers to freckle instead of tan, and my foundation is almost always named ‘Ivory,’ but I still crave at least a bit of a summer glow. I don’t love self tanner, but I do love faking a tan with carefully selected nail polish. Nail polish to look tan, you ask? Yes, this pale girl promises it actually does work.

When looking for nail polish that will give you the appearance of bronzed skin, contrast is key. You don’t need to wear bright white polish (though I’m crazy about Deborah Lippmann’s Amazing Grace), but creamy white-heavy polish is what you’re aiming for. Icy blues, pale pinks, perky corals, and bright lavenders all fit the bill. When paired with your skin (no matter how dark or fair), your skin tone will instantly look warmer and deeper, like you’ve been in the sun all day…instead of inside painting your nails.

This summer, I’m loving the creamy pastels from JULEP, especially the shades Mimi, Liz, Teri, and Sally, which I’m wearing in the above photo. On short, rounded nails (or toenails), these bright pastels really pop against my complexion. The pale pistachio RGB Dew is also high on my list.

Pale nail polish can be just as tricky to apply as dark colors since your mistakes can be really obvious. Avoid lines and streaks by applying polish in thin coats, allowing each layer to dry before moving on. When you’re done painting your nails, dip a small eyeliner brush or pointed Q-tip in nail polish remover and sweep it along your cuticle line to remove any excess polish from your skin for a crisp, professional look. Finally, keep your cuticles and hands soft and moisturized with your favorite hand cream or oil

What’s your favorite polish to accentuate (or fake) sun-kissed skin?

Still all about a bright white polish? Look no further, we’ve rounded up some of the most flattering and opaque whites around.

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