60s Nail Polish: What Colors Were Popular?

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Since as early as 3000 BC, people have painted their nails with various forms of polish to show off their status. And the 1960s were no exception.

But back in the 60s, women mainly had their nails painted to match the color of their lipsticks, which tended to be frosted pinks and corals, as well as the usual classic shades of red.

Long before the neons of the 80s and the bling of the 90s, in this article, I’ll take a close look at 60s Nail Polish. What Colors Were Popular in the Swingin’ 60s? I’m going to take a look at the nail trends grandma wore.


60s Nail Polish: What Colors Were Popular?

Following on from the almond-shaped red lacquered nails of the Hollywood starlets in the 1950s, with their cinched waists and full skirts, which were even worn by the average housewife, the 60s was where things really started changing.

When you see images of the 1960s, they’re probably full of hippies and flower power. And then there’s the first British wave of pop culture and music that hit our shores (think of The Beatles, The Who, The Rolling Stones, and models like Twiggy), thanks in part to London fashion designer Mary Quant.

When you see images of the 1960s, they’re probably full of hippies and flower power. And then there’s the first British wave of pop culture and music that hit our shores (think of The Beatles, The Who, and The Rolling Stones).

In what is known as the Swinging 60s, London’s King’s Road was one of the places to be seen, and all the cool kids flocked there on a Saturday to show off their style. This included Quant’s most famous design — the mini skirt, which was very controversial at the time.

Her store on the King’s Road was adorned with clothing, hosiery, footwear, and accessories, and the young girls that couldn’t afford these opted for the monochrome daisy logo of her cosmetic line, which included black, white, silver, and primary colored nail polish.

And then stateside there was Edie Sedgwick, the pixie-cut-haired and doe-eyed muse of Andy Warhol. Her unique style, and the primary colored pop art that he produced in The Factory, helped to spawn a lot of the rebellion associated with this decade.

This soon led to the hippy culture and the range of psychedelic colors they wore to the Woodstock Festival, which was meant to be a beacon of love and peace that sprung from activism against the Vietnam war.

The 1960s ended up being the decade where anything just about anything goes, including nail polish colors. 

From Marilyn Monroe, who was still wearing the classic red fingernails of the 50s Hollywood starlets, to the space-inspired silver nails worn by Quant’s fashion models, there was definitely something for everyone that was willing to take a risk.

The 1960s ended up being the decade where anything just about anything goes, including nail polish colors. 


Little Flower Power

The 60s were also when little girls got their first taste of wearing nail polish, because of the Tinkerbell brand (yes, that Tinkerbell). The Tinkerbell kiddie cosmetic brand was designed as a ‘pretend’ range that would keep little girls from using their mother’s dressing table potions. 

The brand had a range of bubble baths and spray mists. But its Tinkerbell nail polish was marketed to help girls stop biting their nails.

It ended up being a popular treat among little girls though because its peel-off ability made it fun to use.


Salon Style

However, during the 60s, most women would visit their local beauty salon each week for a wash and set. At the time, it was very unusual to have a handheld hair dryer at home. Plus Farrah Fawcett’s famous flicks didn’t happen until a decade later when home hair dryers became more popular.

And when they were under a hood with a headful of curlers, these ladies would be offered the opportunity to have a manicure done, while they waited for their hair to dry. 

When they were under a hood with a headful of curlers, these ladies would be offered the opportunity to have a manicure done, while they waited for their hair to dry.

It was the style of these mothers and housewives to only wear nail polish that matched their lipstick color. So that meant frosted baby pinks, muted tans and corals, and shades of classic reds were what was generally on offer.


60s Inspired Nail Polish To Wear Now

If this look back to the 60s is giving you good vibrations, then you can definitely get in on the action today, and give yourself a groovy-inspired manicure at home. 

I Dream of 60s Nails

Sally Hansen's Hard as Nails in Cold as Ice  is a frosted baby pink that harks back to 60s nail polish with a slight opalescent peachy tint that will bring on I Dream of Jeannie vibes.

This nail polish starts quite sheer, so you can add more coats to create the effect that you desire. Plus, it’s free from harsh chemicals like DBP, toluene, and formaldehyde, and contains green tea extract and pro-vitamin B to add strength and shine.

Sally Hansen Hard as Nails Color, Cold as Ice, 0.45 Fluid Ounce
  • Strength and shine
  • Pro-vitamin B5 and green tea
  • Dbp, toluene, and formaldehyde free
  • Country of origin is United States

Monochrome, Baby

Giving a nod to Mary Quant’s monochrome logo, Zoya Nail Polish in Snow White  will give your nails a creamy white shine that is as fresh as newly fallen snow.

It is also great to tip your nails for the perfect French manicure, while Zoya’s entire range is a 10-free formula that is also safe to use for pregnant women, and is even vegan-friendly.

ZOYA Nail Polish, Snow White, 0.5 fl. oz.
  • Does not contain Doetoluene or dibutyl...
  • Chip-resistant
  • Long-wearing
  • Formaldehyde free

Silver, another Mary Quant-inspired nail polish color, will also give your nails a 60s-style space-age twist, considering it was at the end of the decade when the moon landing happened. 

Nailtopia’s Bio-Sourced Chip Free Nail Lacquer in Dynasty  will make you feel like you’re dancing among the stars, with its 10-free striking silver formula that is also vegan, superfood infused and manufactured in an environmentally friendly way.

Nailtopia Bio-Sourced, Chip Free Nail Lacquer - All Natural, Strengthening Biotin and Superfood-Infused Polish - Chip Resistant Formula - Quick-Dry, Long Lasting Wear - Dynasty - 0.41 Oz
  • FOR LONGER, STRONGER NAILS: Bless your...
  • A SUPERFOOD BLEND IN EVERY COAT:...
  • THE PERFECT, CHIP FREE MANI: Paint on a...
  • HONESTLY CLEAN AND GREEN: Treat your...
  • THE NAILTOPIAN EFFECT: Finally, a...

Classic 60s Iconography

Iconic brand Cutex, (which is still around to this day), was a color trailblazer in the 50s and 60s, with its various pearl nail polish collections. Taking a nod from the brand’s Flaming Pearl collection is this Sally Hansen Xtreme Wear Nail Color in Iris Illusion .

This long-lasting nail polish is waterproof, chip-resistant, and fade-resistant, and comes in more than 30 vibrant colors, many of which have a 60s-style vibe to match whatever mood you’re in.

Sale
Sally Hansen Xtreme Wear, Iris Illusion, 0.4 Fl Oz, Pack of 1
  • Hard as nails xtreme wear
  • Xtreme color and shine
  • Latest on-trend shades
  • Number of items: 1

Like Marilyn

And of course, you can always play it safe just like Marilyn Monroe did with a classic and glossy red like Essie Expressie Quick-Dry Vegan Nail Polish in Seize The Minute , which is a blue-tinged red that works with most skin tones.

The 8-free formula of this classic red nail polish dries in under a minute. So is great if you need a quick application before going out for the night.

Plus, its thick texture is long-lasting, so you’ll be able to enjoy your fast-drying manicure for longer.

Essie expressie, Quick-Dry Nail Polish, 8-Free Vegan, Blue Toned Red, Seize The Minute, 0.33 fl oz
  • Expressie Quick Dry Nail Polish: Seize...
  • One-Step Nail Color: Apply 2 coats of...
  • The Latest Innovation from essie Nail...
  • Iconic and Trendsetting Colors: from the...
  • America's Nail Expert: essie is a leader...

Psychedelic Trip

I hope that you’ve enjoyed our trip down the colorful memory lane in this article, 60s Nail Polish: What Colors Were Popular? 

And even if the actual nail colors at the time left a lot to be desired when compared to today’s standard, the youth culture and psychedelic color palette of the 60s did pave the way for the nail polish extravaganza that we all enjoy today.

Oh, and you can thank your grandma for that!

Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).