Whether typing, talking, or doing chores, we use our hands almost constantly, so they deserve to be looked after.

They’re also frequently on show. Whether having coffee with a friend, playing the piano, handing over cash for a purchase or tapping away on a laptop, our hands are visible to both us and others – so it makes sense to have them looking their best.

A fresh manicure in a lovely shade can really lift the spirits, as well as make a person look polished and pulled together. At the same time, we know that, as we mature, the hands, just like the face, can begin to change in appearance. So, naturally, we might wonder – does this impact the nail colours we should choose?

Let’s face it, the choice can be tricky enough, even without considering maturity. Walk into any nail salon and you can expect to be confronted with a true rainbow of shades. And then there’s the styles and artistry that nail technicians can bring to a manicure, such as ombre (check this out on Instagram here) or floral art.

So, to help you decide what to go for next, read on for nine tips for choosing the best nail colour.

1. Consider the season

Just as we tend to favour certain colours for clothing in spring and summer, and others in autumn and winter, we can bear the season in mind when it comes to choosing a nail colour.

For example, warmer weather tends to lend itself to lighter, brighter colours and simple neutrals – like this Rose Poudre colour from Maybelline. When there’s a chill in the air, however, we might turn to richer, deeper colours, such as shade, ‘I’m not really a waitress’, from O.P.I.

And let’s not forget the festive season, where you may wish to accessorise your Christmas cheer with some sparkle on your nails!

Nail colours that correspond to the season are also more likely to blend well with your seasonal clothing choices, meaning that your overall look will be more seamless and stylish.

2. Choose colours that compliment your skin tone

As with makeup, not every nail colour will flatter every complexion. Whether you’re fair, light, medium, or dark-skinned will determine the shades that suit you best. As a very general guide, you might say that pale skin will be most suited to pastel or light colours and that fair skin will be complimented by subtle, medium-toned shades.

Meanwhile, people with medium or dark skin might prefer bolder, deeper, or more vibrant colours to stand out against their complexion.

There are no hard and fast rules though. For example, neutrals look elegant on anyone. The same can be said for red, which is a timeless staple, suited to most people. The trick is in finding the shade of red that best flatters you – and this can be said of most colours. Check out this range of reds from Essie.

Trying out different colours and seeing which ones work for you can be fun. If you’re in a salon, why not remain open to suggestions? Sometimes a nail technician will see potential in a shade that you may not have thought of, so it’s worth giving their advice a try.

3. Evolve your nail colour

As we mentioned above, our hands change as we mature, just as our faces do, and some things that once suited us may not be as flattering any more.

“For instance, the skin on the hands becomes thinner over the years, and this can make veins more visible,” says London-based nail artist Ken Yuen. “Because of this, I’d suggest avoiding blue-based reds, as these may highlight the veins further. I’d encourage clients to opt instead for a warmer, orange- or yellow-based red.”

Pigmentation can also begin to alter the appearance of mature hands and dark nail colours may emphasise these further.

“Many clients steer towards darker colours in the colder months, and this is still absolutely an option when pigmentation is a concern,” says Ken. “The trick is to choose a deep, creamy shade of cherry or ruby, for instance, rather than burgundy, which has brown undertones.”

This doesn’t rule out jet black, however. “If you can’t resist a more Gothic look, it’s generally better to keep your nails short and understated,” advises Ken.

4. Play with colour and design

If bright nail colours no longer feel appropriate for you, why not single just one nail out for some attention, by painting it in a colour that complements the rest of your manicure?

For example, “you may choose to wear a pale shade of pink, but then make a statement with a bold pink on each of your ring fingers,” explains nail technician Rosie Adams. “This will make your manicure pop and give it a playful edge.”

“The same can be done with nail art,” she adds. “You may feel that a design on each nail is too much, but simply accenting one or two nails on each hand allows you to tap into the trend without overdoing it.”

For a stunning example of a mature woman, quite literally, nailing this look, check out Isabella Rossellini’s manicure at a 2024 party…

Some people also like to add extra colour by replacing classic French white tips with another shade – like the pastel orange below.

5. Remember that red is ageless

As Rossellini shows us, it’s also true that, while some shades may fall by the wayside as you mature, red isn’t one of them! This nail colour is utterly timeless and suits people of all ages.

The trick, as mentioned above, is to find the red that works best with your skin tone, whether that’s a lighter, orange-based red, or a red with undertones of blue. It can be difficult to tell the difference, but putting two bottles next to one another helps to make the contrast more apparent.

Another benefit of red nails, according to Ken, is that “they draw the attention to your nails, rather than your hands, which can be reassuring for mature women who are self-conscious about the signs of ageing.” Again, he recommends keeping nails relatively short to avoid a Cruella de Vil look!

6. Shift into neutral

Regardless of age, you simply can’t go wrong with neutral shades, such as White Silk from Chanel. Not only do they look elegant, but they can also make fingers look longer and more graceful.

There are many shades in the neutral spectrum to choose from (check out these nude shades from Essie) – so you’re bound to find one that suits you. Neutrals can be nude, pinkish, or beige, or they may encompass warmer shades such as cinnamon or taupe. A classic French manicure is another example.

Nude nails can also be a tasteful counterpoint when you are expressing yourself through a colourful outfit and bold accessories, as Helen Mirren shows us.

And, according to Ken, there’s another benefit to wearing neutral nail colours as a mature woman. “Because nails can become more brittle with age, breakages and splits are more easily disguised when coated with a neutral shade,” he says. “These colours are also relatively low-maintenance, as the growing out process is not as visible as it would be with a bright or dark colour.”

You can read more on how to look after your changing nails in our article; 7 important vitamins and minerals for hair, skin, and nails.

7. Find your signature shade

As mentioned above, there are so many options when it comes to nail colour these days that making a choice can be difficult – so if you find something you like, there’s no reason why you can’t stick with it. After all, did you know that the ever-stylish late Queen Elizabeth II wore the same nail colour for 30 years?

It’s said that she wrote a letter to the founder of Essie requesting a bottle of pale pink ‘Ballet Slippers’ back in 1989 and wore nothing else for the rest of her life. It’s easy to see why – the sheer, pinky-nude shade is elegant and refined and can be applied to create a simple sheen, or over several coats for a deeper blush.

Perhaps your signature shade is something different, but either way, you don’t need to experiment with different colours if you don’t want to.

8. Go for glitter

A hint of glitter or a metallic shade can be an effective way to elevate your look beyond the every day – and because nail products have evolved so much in recent years, you can do this in a beautifully subtle way.

Perhaps you remember glitter nail polish of the past, which often looked thick and crusty when applied? Glitters and metallics – such as this 60-second glitter from Rimmel – are often almost sheer and can be used to add the merest hint of sheen to your nails.

“Applying several coats of glitter polish to a bare nail creates a fabulous look for a special occasion,” says Rosie, “but I also think it looks fantastic to apply a layer of glitter in the same or similar shade as your base polish – pink on pink, perhaps, or black on black.”

“This method brings just a touch of sparkle and illumination to your nails, which is incredibly flattering,” she adds. “Like you’ve walked through a cloud of fairy dust!”

She notes, too, that if there are concerns about the ‘harshness’ of a black nail colour, a coat of black glitter can help to soften the look.

9. Find your feet

Although our focus here has been on nail colours for the hands, feet can also benefit from a coat of polish, especially in the summer months when toes might be on show.

Like your hands, your feet work hard, so it’s a good idea to look after them with regular care. Nail polish can add the finishing touch and help to make feet look well-groomed – and, as Paulina Porizkova shows us, there’s absolutely no need to make sure that the colours are matching.

“I think you can afford to be a little more creative and adventurous with toenail polish,” says Ken. “Colours that you may not want to wear on your hands because your nails are so frequently close to your face, can more easily be experimented with when you’re painting your toes.”

Rosie also points out that many people are self-conscious about their feet, and suggests how to use nail colour to help.

“A vivid colour is more likely to put your feet in focus, which some people won’t want,” she says, “but you can still look groomed if you opt instead for a subtle shade: this will simply make feet look well-cared for, without drawing attention to them.”

Final thoughts …

Having your nails painted in a colour that you love can do wonders for your mood and self-esteem, as well as making you look stylish and ‘complete,’ in any outfit.

Additionally, one of the best things about nail colour is that you can change it as frequently as you wish. Updating your look with a new hair colour can be costly and time-consuming to undo if you decide you don’t like it, while nail polish can be removed with the swipe of a cotton pad and reapplied in a different colour.

This also means that you can have fun playing around with different colours to find the ones you love. While we’ve outlined some ideas that mature women may like to consider, the most important thing of all is to always wear a colour that makes you happy.

For more inspiration, check out the fashion and beauty section of our website.

What’s your favourite nail colour and why? Have you found any of these tips particularly helpful? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.