A close-up shot capturing a person's hands elegantly adorned with deep burgundy nail polish, symbolizing the perfect transition into the autumn season.

When To Start Wearing Fall Nail Colors

With the weather getting cooler and the leaves starting to change, it’s time to say goodbye to summer brights and hello to rich, warm fall nail polish colors. But when exactly is the right time to start wearing those autumnal nail lacquers?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Mid-August to early September is the ideal time to begin transitioning your nail color palette to deeper, darker fall shades.

In this article, we’ll discuss in detail the factors that determine when you should start wearing fall nail polish colors. We’ll provide tips on how to know when it’s time to make the switch, recommend some beautiful fall nail lacquers to try, and give ideas for fun fall manicures.

Consider the Weather and Seasonal Changes

Look at the forecast and temperatures

As the summer heat starts to fade, begin glancing at weather reports and noticing drops in temperatures. Fall officially begins when the autumnal equinox occurs, marking when day and night are approximately equal in length.

But you’ll know fall is on its way when you see high temperatures in the 70s instead of 80s and 90s. Lower humidity and cooler overnight lows also signal autumn’s arrival.

Once you feel that undeniable chill in the air and see dropping thermometers, it’s a sign that vibrant fall nail lacquers are appropriate. So pay attention to your local forecasts and changing weather patterns to know when painting your tips in autumn tones.

Watch for falling leaves and changes in foliage

Keep an eye out for transforming trees in your neighborhood, parks, and surrounding landscape. Note when green summer leaves start turning into warm shades of red, orange, and yellow or falling to the ground. The more Hoffman and Thompson trees you spot, the better indication autumn is emerging.

Foliage changes mark nature’s clock ticking towards fall. They signify dwindling daylight, cooling air, and the year’s decay. They’re your seasonal cue to adorn fingertips with colors mirroring the changing scenery outside your window.

So take in those shades of amber, ruby, and gold as confirmation it’s time to transition summer brights for autumnal nails.

Note changes in sunlight and daylight hours

The autumnal equinox also brings noticeable differences in daylight. Mark when the sun sets earlier each evening and darkness descends quicker. By mid-September, you’ll observe significantly fewer hours of sunlight compared to summer’s 14+ hours.

Light, temperature, and leaf transformations are intrinsically connected. So take all three together as indicators fall is imminent and rich fall polish tints will soon suit the backdrop outdoors. Once you’re wearing jackets reaching for pumpkin lattes, break out the polish palette of cinnamon, carnation, and cloves gleaming on your tips.

aligned Transition Your Color Palette

Start with softer muted tones first

As summer fades into fall, it’s time to transition your nail polish colors to warmer, earthier shades. When starting the shift to fall nails, go for softer, more muted tones first. Light dusty pinks, silvery taupes, and pale greiges are great options for early fall.

These bridge the gap between summer brights and fall vamp. Spiced camel, ballet slipper pink, and mushroom taupe are versatile neutrals to begin with. Adding an iridescent shimmer, like OPI’s Kyoto Pearl, gives these muted nails a fun highlight.

Sheer washes of color are another way to dip your toes in the fall palette. Essie’s Sand Tropez is a warm, sandy beige that lets a hint of natural nail show through. For a sheer pink, try OPI’s Tickle My France-y.

Fall runways often featured nude and blush pink nails, lending inspiration for the transition. These soft, understated colors pair with everything in your early fall wardrobe.

Gradually shift to deeper jewel tones

As fall gets underway, begin mixing in deeper shades of ruby, emerald, and sapphire. Rich jewel tones complement fall fashion and seasonal activities like leaf peeping. Build up opacity as autumn progresses.

Sheer application allows jewel tones to be worn casually, while multiple coats amp up the glamour. Reds trend every fall with shades from bright cherry to deep wine. Essie’s Bordeaux is a rich red blend while their Forever Yummy is a creamy tomato red.

For those obsessed with pumpkin spice everything, try OPI’s Suzi Loves Cowboy. Dark greens are also huge for fall and excellent for Halloween. Go bold with Essie’s Wicked or dusty with Sagebrush Canyon.

Metallics remain popular for fall too. Rose gold, copper, and bronze mirrors fall foliage colors. Smith & Cult’s Tainted Love is a burnished copper red. Formula X has a stunning Meteor Shower collection with shimmering copper, gold, and silver metallics.

For sparkling blues, Zoya’s Pixiedust line offers textured metallic finishes. Alternate metallic and creme colors for an eye-catching fall mani.

Save the darkest vampy shades for later fall

Deepest plums, blood reds, and inky blacks are the vampy showstoppers of fall. Save these daring shades for later in the season or for a special occasion. Dark moody colors pair perfectly with Halloween or that black tie event. Break them out once the weather turns brisk and autumn is in full swing.

An inky black like OPI’s Lincoln Park After Dark makes nails pop against fall neutrals. Vampy berry tones like Essie’s Berry Naughty, Wine Not, and Limited Addiction are ideal for Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve parties.

To ease into the darkest colors, start by layering them over opaque pale polishes. A deep plum over a grey base softens the intensity while still showing the richness. Use a matte or velvet finish for an ultra-chic look. For extra flair, add gold, silver, or copper shimmer as a topper.

Celebrity manicurist Mindy Le Brock recommends layering metallics over dark colors. As she told Byrdie, “Don’t shy away from vamp shades – they allow you to play with shimmers and glitters.” Take your fall mani to striking new depths with these creative tips.

Try Classic Fall Nail Color Shades

When the leaves start changing colors, it’s time to switch up your nail polish as well. Fall is the perfect season to experiment with rich, warm hues that add a touch of coziness as the weather cools down. Here are some of the top classic fall nail color shades to try:

Warm reds: Cranberry, burgundy, oxblood

Rich red tones are a go-to for fall. Shades like cranberry, burgundy and oxblood complement fall fashion and accessories beautifully. These colors look great on all skin tones. For a festive touch, add a glitter topcoat over your red polish.

Earthy neutrals: Khaki, taupe, mushroom

Earthy neutrals are always a classic choice for fall. Shades like khaki, taupe and mushroom give off a subtle, relaxing vibe. They’re versatile enough to pair with any fall outfit. To jazz them up, add gold, copper or burgundy accents for dimension.

Forest greens: Hunter, olive, emerald

Lush forest greens evoke the changing leaves of autumn. Shades like hunter green, olive and emerald green complement fall fashion trends. These darker greens pair perfectly with plums, burgundies and navy blue. For whimsical nails, add gold leaf or woodland creature decals.

Plums and berries: Eggplant, boysenberry, mulberry

Deep plums and berry tones are quintessential fall. Regal shades like eggplant, boysenberry and mulberry look elegant and sophisticated. Pair these richer shades with gold jewelry or accessories for a luxe vibe. Adding a sheer, sparkly topcoat amps up the glam factor.

Spices and woods: Cinnamon, nutmeg, cedar

Warm spice and wood shades evoke cozy fall feelings. Polishes tinted in cinnamon, nutmeg and cedar tones exude warmth and comfort. These natural, earthy hues pair well with cream knits and flannel. For fun, add maple leaf or acorn nail art with gold accent nails.

Get Inspired with Fun Fall Manicure Ideas

Accents like leaves, acorns, or pinecones

What better way to get in the spirit of fall than with manicures featuring accents inspired by the season? Consider using press-on embellishments like tiny metallic leaves, acorns, or pinecones on one or two nails. These natural accents add an organic, earthy feel.

For a bolder look, paint your whole nail a deep forest green, burgundy, or mustard yellow before adhering the 3D accents. This grounds the manicure in rich fall hues.

Ombre fading from light to dark

Ombre nails are always stylish, but they feel especially perfect for fall. Try fading from a warm nude or tan at the base into a rich brown, deep red, or muted purple toward the tip. The gradual shift embodies the transformation of leaves from green into jewel tones.

For extra flair, add a glitter topcoat over your ombre to mimic morning dew sparkling on foliage. An ombre manicure manages to be subtle and dramatic at the same time.

Matte velvet textures

As temperatures drop, cozy fabrics like velvet become popular for fall fashion. Translating the soft, matte finish of velvet into a manicure is an on-trend textural choice. Paint a deep plum, forest green, navy blue, or marsala tone in a velvet or matte polish formula.

You could even apply a velvety matte topcoat over more conventional nail polish colors. This tactile finish helps nails feel comforting and lush.

Glitter or shimmer overlays

For some sophisticated shimmer, a glitter polish or glitter topcoat can elevate your fall manicure. Neutral cremes with a touch of sparkle evoke the glint of morning sunshine on fallen leaves. Or go bold with a dark base color like eggplant, chocolate, or olive green layered with copper, gold, or multicolored glitter flecks.

The sparkle makes the manicure feel celebratory, perfect for seasonal parties and events.

Fall floral prints and patterns

Tapping into floral inspiration is a cute way to get your nails autumn-ready. Look for designs featuring chrysanthemums, marigolds, sunflowers, or darker blooms like roses and dahlias. These motifs can be rendered in graphic prints or painterly watercolor styles for unique depth.

Floral patterns tend to feel romantic and feminine. For an edgier effect, apply floral designs over a black nail polish base. The dark background makes the pastel bouquet really stand out.


The turning of the seasons is the perfect time to transform your nail color palette. Keep an eye out for falling temperatures, changing leaves, and shorter days. Slowly start phasing out your bright summer shades and experiment with rich fall hues.

With so many beautiful autumn-inspired colors to try, you’re sure to find new favorite lacquers to carry you through the season.

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