What color nail polish was popular in the 80s?

Sing it with me: I’ve got love for you if you were born in the 80s…If you’re obsessed with the 80s right now, then you’re gonna love this post! We’re going to take a trip down memory lane and look at some of the most popular nail polish colors and brands from that decade. So, what color nail polish was popular in the 80s?

Let’s find out!

In a hurry?

Here’s the short answer to the question: what color nail polish was popular in the 80s?

Cherry red and hot pink were the 2 most popular nail polish colors in the 80s. Sheer colors, tan, copper, bronze, and berry shades were also popular. In the late 80’s Bright and neon colors like electric blue, acid yellow, bright purple, hot pink, and turquoise became very popular.

Now that you have a basic answer, let’s dig a little deeper into the 80s nail scene.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

80s nail polish colors

80s nail polish colors https://nailhow.com/1980s-popular-nail-polish/

The best way to find out about the colors that people actually wore in the 80s is to look at the ad campaigns from the top nail polish brands of the era.

When it comes to brands, the 80’s nail scene is all about Cutex, Revlon, Maybelline, Avon, and L’erin.

Pink and red nail polish

A leisurely scroll through the vintage nail polish ads shows that pretty much every ad campaign from the 1980s featured either red or pink nail polish heavily.

Now, red and pink might not be the first nail polish colors that come to mind when you think of the eighties.

That’s because nowadays, the internet is saturated with modern-inspired 80s nail art and colors.

Yes, they did release some neon colors and super bright nail polishes towards the end of the ’80s.

But, for the most part – it was shades of red and pink that dominated the fingertips of the 80s fashionistas.

80s Pinks

80s pink nail polish shades https://nailhow.com/1980s-popular-nail-polish/

First off, let’s talk about the most iconic nail polish color of the decade. Pink.

Pink nails were everywhere in the 80s. Metallic pinks, cream pinks, frosted pinks, you name it.

Cutex released a whole pink “ultra” collection in the 80s. Here are the shade names:

  • Pink cream
  • Violet cream
  • Rose cream
  • Pink neon frost
  • Video violet frost
  • Flashing fuschia frost

If you want to recreate an authentic 80’s look, you really can’t go wrong with pink!

Especially hot pink, which was huge in the 80s!

Want the look?

Here’s my favorite hot pink shade. It’s called La Paz-itively hot (click to check price on amazon) by OPI.

80s Red nail polish shades

80s red nail polish shades https://nailhow.com/1980s-popular-nail-polish/

Celebrities like Cher and Joan collins made red nails super desirable in the 80s.

Think glamour, red carpets, limos, and luxurious elegance.

Classic red nail polish is a great addition to any 80s-inspired look.

Try a bright cherry red like Sooki by Zoya for a fun, playful 80s look.

If you want a classic red, Hannah by Zoya is a shade that I love.

Or, if you want a sophisticated 80s evening look, you could go for a deep velvet red like Isla.

Tan nail polish in the 80s

Tan nails were also big in the 80s. Especially for the summer.

Here are some of the tan shades that Cutex released in the 80s.

The idea was to bring out a range of tan nail polish colors that went from pale to deep, so that you could “tan by degrees”:

  • Pink Almond
  • Soft Suede
  • Caravan Sands
  • Toffee
  • Toasted Almond

Get the look.

If you want to recreate the tan nail 80s obsession – I highly recommend Essie’s Wild Nude.

I also love Zoya’s Spencer.

Bronze, copper, and brown

Metallics like bronze and copper are also a great option to complete a glamourous 80s look.

Frosted nail polish colors were very on-trend back then, so try a glossy metallic copper shade like Essie’s Penny Talk or a bronze like OPI’s Falling for Milan.

80’s nail trends

Let’s talk about 80s nail trends.

First up, we have the long squoval nail shape.

Long squoval nails were all the rage in the 80s.

They were long, but not too long – and they had slightly rounded corners, which made them more comfortable to wear than sharp stiletto nails.

If you want to try out the long squoval shape, I recommend this video tutorial:

Nail blush

Next up, we have the nail blush trend.

This was basically a bunch of sheer colors that you could almost see-through.

They were very natural-looking and perfect for an everyday look.

In 1981, Cutex brought out a collection of “sheer nail glossers”.

You did just 1 coat and the look is almost transparent.

Cutex also did a sheer see through range with these colors:

  • rose
  • nude
  • mauve
  • beige
  • peach
  • lilac

If you want to try out this authentic 80s look at home, try painting on just one coat of nail polish in any of the above shades as evenly as you can.

Light, barely-there colors work best for this.

If you can see through to your nail underneath, that’s the look!

Glitter tips and stripes

Our next 80’s nail trend is Glitter stripes and tips.

To achieve this look, you could do a nude nail and then add a glitter stripe using striping tape or a nail art brush.

For glitter tips, use french manicure stickers as guides and paint on a glitter polish over just the tips of your nails.

Dots and stripes

People were experimenting with all sorts of nail art in the 80s.

Dots and stripes were a big one, so feel free to do some polka dots and stripes over your nails or on just one accent nail for an authentic 80s vibe.

One easy and very cheap way to create stripey nails is by using nail striping tape.

Dots are really easy to do, even for nail art noobs.

For dots, you can either buy a set of dotting tools (in which case you can do lots of different sizes) or use the rounded edge of a hair grip.

Holographic nails

holographic nails https://nailhow.com/1980s-popular-nail-polish/

Holographic nails were crazy popular in the 80s – they were futuristic and cool.

To get this look, you would first use some kind of holographic polish (they are still being made today!) and then top it with a layer of clear polish to make it super shiny.

If you want to try out holographic nails, look up Holo Taco – amazing nail polishes!

Press ons

Press on nails were another popular 80s nail trend.

They were quick and easy to apply, and you could get all sorts of different designs.

Press-on nails have come a long way since the 80s, so feel free to experiment with them to get your 80s fix.

Neon nails

Of course, we can’t talk about 80s nails without mentioning neon!

Neon nails were a huge craze towards the end of the decade.

Cyndi Lauper loved electric blue nails, and even madonna wore neon nails!

Now, you see lime green and acid yellow which are popular 80s colors.

You can totally rock any neon color for an 80s look.

But not all the brights and neons you can get now were widely available at the time.

Here are some awesome 80s inspired bright and neon nail polish options:

  • Bright green – neon or lime
  • Hot pink
  • Electric blue, turquoise, or neon blue
  • Acid yellow
  • Purple (bright)

Pro tip!

If you want to try out neons or brights, paint your nails in a bright or pure white polish like Alpine snow first.

Back in the 80s neon collections were sold with white because adding a white undercoat really makes them pop!

Discontinued Revlon nail polish colors

Revlon was the iconic 80s brand.

You can get great inspiration for nail colors from their 80s color collections.

Unfortunately, many of these colors are now discontinued.

Here is a few of the Vintage Revlon nail polish colors:

  • Misty lilac
  • Windsor rose
  • Infa.red 

Where to find discontinued nail polish

If you are lucky, you may be able to find discontinued polish colors in the clearance sections of stores.

You should also check on auction sites, FB, Etsy, and Instagram 

Final thoughts

Nail polish colors in the 80s were vibrant and varied.

In this what color nail polish was popular in the 80s article, we talked about some of the more popular nail trends from that decade.

We discussed how to achieve a few different looks, including sheer nails, glitter tips, holographic nails, and neon nails.

We also looked at discontinued Revlon nail polish colors to give you some good inspo.

I hope that you enjoyed my what color nail polish was popular in the 80s post.

Happy painting!

Other posts you might like:

What color nail polish was popular in the 70s

What color nail polish was popular in the 20’s

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  • Phoebe Meadows

    Phoebe Meadows is a self-proclaimed nail addict, always on the lookout for the latest trends and techniques. When she's not creating stunning nail designs, you can find her researching the latest nail care products or experimenting with new techniques.