Style

Do or Don’t: Matte Nails

Matte Nail Polish

I’m an eat-the-same-thing-for-lunch-every-day kind of person, and this extends all the way to my fingertips. My nails are always, always red — orangey-red in the warmer months and deeper red in the winter.

This week, to change things up, I decided to pair it with a matte top coat. I like matte lipstick, so why not let my nails get in on the look? It made the color appear deeper and smoother — like when you see a favorite actor in a different role and are like, ‘I didn’t know you could do that!’

As my nails dried, I regarded them with curiosity. Whose hands were these? Then a woman at the salon said it looked like ‘red leather,’ and I was totally sold.

Have you ever tried matte nail polish? Are there any colors you’re into right now?

P.S. More nail posts, including a polish that looks good on everyone.

(Photo by Christine Han for Cup of Jo.)

  1. Eva says...

    Love matte nails! Specifically fingernails. Matte fingernails make me feel chic; matte toenails make me sad? Worth noting: when you go matte, your nail color will look darker. Also I find it’s always startling at first when you try with a new color—I always think “OH NO” for a split second, then when they’re all done I look away and look back and feel delighted. If only that sentiment extended to more moments contemplating a mistake haha.

    Another shoutout for Essie’s Matte About You!

  2. JT says...

    NUDE polish – with matte top coat. It is amazing

  3. Bethany says...

    Did I miss the name/link to the matte top coat? I usually go super glossy, but I’ve been curious about the matte look. Do you do them at home? I hate getting a professional manicure (but love a pedicure) and prefer to do them at home so I can sit and watch TV or read a book in my underwear while they dry.

  4. Kristian O says...

    I don’t wear nail polish much. I get careless and there’s paint on my nails or they get chipped or a stray pen mark etc. etc. etc.

    But these are fun to read and pretend that I could be the type of woman who not only manages to keep her nails for more than a day but has a set color.

  5. M says...

    LOVE the olive green wide-wale corduroy jacket! Details, please?

  6. I wear matte topcoat over the deep darks, like charcoal and navy. It feels understated and classy. My lights and brights I want to wear slick and shiny!

  7. Mel says...

    I love matte nail polish! I recently got a matte navy blue manicure and I was in love. Essie has a top coat called Matte About You that turns regular polish into matte (and pretty impressively too!) If you’re into doing your own nails.

    • Mel says...

      Oh…like the one featured in the article! That’ll teach me to more closely read the links before commenting. Oops. But I can at least second that it’s a very good top coat. haha

  8. Raven says...

    I tried matte black (dip powder with matte gel topcoat) for the first time a few weeks ago and loved the look. Unfortunately, the polish was chipping terribly within a few days. I went back to the salon and was advised that matte polish just doesn’t wear well for some people. The salon claimed it depends on your skin, the amount of oils you use on your body/hands, etc. They offered to buff them and apply a regular top coat instead (or matte again if I preferred) for no charge, which was great customer service in my opinion. There were several people around and some stated they also couldn’t wear matte polish due to chipping, while a few others stated they had no issues. While I enjoyed the look, I’ll be sticking to a regular topcoat for a longer wear (plus the matte topcoat is more expensive at my salon, so it saves money too!).

  9. Emily says...

    I recently got a manicure for a wedding and asked for a matte top coat over an army green shade and I could not stop staring at my nails. I was obsessed. I loved it! But I will say, I missed being able to “buff” them up a bit as I do with a shiny top coat to bring back the magic, but it was worth it for how unique they looked.

    A polish I’ve been super into recently is Base Coat.
    https://www.basecoatnailsalon.com/shop/nail-polish/nail-polish-red

    They have beautiful, non-toxic shades that are all just perfect.

  10. Cait says...

    Half of what I like about polished nails is the shine – I think it’s so pretty and finished looking. Having a glossy topcoat is a massive difference from obviously painted at home (which there’s nothing wrong with, and I’ve only gotten a manicure twice in my life!!) and looking professional, to me. I see the appeal of a nice matte too, but it’s less exciting to me.

    • margoulette says...

      Could not agree more!

  11. Carly says...

    I love this! As a person who is always growing out two or three broken nails, I’m (earnestly, impolitely) interested in other women’s nail care. My local barista has been wearing deep red polish with a matte top coat on almond-shaped nails; she looks brilliant.
    I just discovered special effects nail polish, and I’m very excited to gift my friend with perpetually cold feet a temperature reactive nail polish this year. (I’ve been eyeing Rosebud at Live Love Polish, but it’s hard to choose.)

    • Jenny says...

      Earnestly! Impolitely! Loved that!

    • Jaimie says...

      as a former barista, I’m deeply impressed that she can maintain such a fab manicure! My hands were always a MESS

  12. Claire says...

    I have no opinion on this, other than to say that anybody who can regularly get a manicure and still manage to get their dishes done without ruining it in a day has my respect.
    (also is anybody else having trouble getting their comments to post? all of the sudden mine are not showing up in the comment thread. And they weren’t vile or anything. )

    • Carly says...

      Hear, hear!

    • Cynthia says...

      The dip polish (pre -school teacher here) has been the only thing that lasts for me. I can get a good month out of it and my nails have been much more healthy.

    • Sarah says...

      Try wearing rubber gloves for doing the dishes!

  13. Katie says...

    Am I the only one who can’t really tell how they’re different from regular nails from this picture?

    • Jessica says...

      You’re not the only one. In this picture you can’t tell if they’re matte or shiny!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      next time we’ll do one hand shiny and the other hand matte!

  14. NH observer says...

    I have nothing to say about matte nails, but I do have a linguistic question: when did “change up” become a preferred alternative to “change”? Also mystified by “super” as a synonym for “extremely” or “very.”

  15. Riley says...

    Did my comment about the Do or Don’t format get deleted by moderation? That’s disappointing. I feel like I stated it in a kind and thoughtful way, and I’ve never felt Cup of Jo to be big on censoring criticism.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      nope, it’s up! it just takes a minute for us to moderate comments, since we’re working on posts throughout the day. thank you!

    • Riley says...

      Okay thanks! Just went through in a weird order and I thought it got deleted. My mistake.

  16. CELESTE says...

    So much Essie love, I’m writing down recs! I’ve been doing Essie After School Boy Blazer and Bordeaux this fall.

  17. I loooove matte nails but they just don’t hold up for me as much as the shiny top coat. I’m loving an army green I got just this last week!

    • Mathilda says...

      Maybe we could soon talk about how red nailpolish stays on the nails? Whenever I dare to use it, it is on everything I touch. That’s so annoying and I’d love to hear how you do it!!!

  18. Riley says...

    Just here to say that I’ve never been a fan of the “Do or Don’t” format. Apart from feeling a little bit like the cover of a teen mag, there’s something about it that brings out lots of criticism in the comments that just feels a little icky to me. Not a big deal when it’s about finger nail polish, but less fun when it’s about weddings or parenting.

  19. Erin says...

    Been wearing Essie’s “She’s Pampered” for-EVER. It’s a fantastic red with blue undertones that works so well with my pale skin. Last week, I branched out and tried OPI’s “Girls Gone Plaid,” which is almost black with purple undertones, on my toes. The color is completely out of my wheelhouse, but I have to admit I feel edgier just wearing it under my socks and socks. I get a little thrill in the shower when I look down at those vixen-like toes. Who knew!

  20. Cynthia says...

    I haven’t tried matte polish on my hands or toes. My hands do a lot of things, so the only thing I use on them is Zoya’s Naked Manicure in Pink Perfector. It’s like the Dior Glow, only less expensive. I don’t like matte lipstick, either, because it is too drying for me. However, if matte is what you prefer, that’s great. I don’t criticize other people’s choices.

  21. They look odd to me…but to each their own. I always finish my at home manicure with a top coat from Sache (no smudges ever!). Currently wearing a deep navy blue color.

    • Robyn says...

      Joanna!

      After that post I bought Midnight Cami and have now gone through three bottles, I love it so much. But they don’t seem to sell it any more – heartbreak! Any recommendations for a similar shade? I don’t really feel like it’s fall yet as I’ve not got my navy nails :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i’ll look around! i loved that shade, too. for a perfect red, i also love limited addiction.

  22. Samantha says...

    Is everyone doing this with regular polish or gel? I always get gel manicures because they last so much longer, and i just saw that OPI has a gel matte top coat out! will def try it at my next appointment!

  23. I don’t like anything but shine on my oldish hands! But I love matte on my daughters and other young women.

  24. jeannie says...

    I am not sure I have ever seen matte nail polish, but if you like it, it must be good. :)

  25. Megan M says...

    I’m rocking a matte charcoal color right now. It makes me feel an extra level of both sophisticated and badass.

    • alexis says...

      oo brand name please? That sounds like my nail polish dream <3

  26. Kale says...

    They are sooo chic but the texture just gave me the heebie jeebies. Every time I ran my hands through my hair with my matte nails I just died a bit inside because of the way the hair and nails felt together 😂

    • Alisha says...

      This! It feels like raking my nails over chalk and sets my teeth on edge. But it does look cool. I’m not one to sacrifice comfort for fashion though.

  27. Ang says...

    Matte top coat is hella rad. Saved my nails after I ended up with an iridescent navy that looked disgusting on me. Elevated!

  28. Elle says...

    YES to matte nails! Been doing this for a few years. They’ve made wild colors looks more grown up, but not stuffy. Ballerina pink for example. And the matte helps tone down dark colors like Merlot red or evergreen. Highly recommend.

  29. Leah says...

    Navy blue looks so beautiful with matte topcoat.

  30. Heather says...

    I love Essie Geranium for the summer, too! In the winter, Essie Wicked is my go-to. It’s almost black but the slight reddish tint makes it more flattering.

    On a side note, curious what your eat-it-every-day lunch is, Caroline? I also have the same lunch on most weekdays, but it’s just Trader Joe’s Vegan Tikka Masala. Luckily, I work from home, so no one teases me about it.

  31. JF says...

    Off topic, but since you mentioned it: What do you eat for lunch every day, Caroline, that you don’t get sick of?
    (I think your nails look great.)
    xo

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      haha caroline is out today but she often eats either a big salad or a picnic-y plate with cheese, crackers and vegetables. :)

  32. Anna says...

    Yes!! I have matte pink press on nails on right now & I love them!! They feel very chic. I wasn’t sure about press on nails, but I’m totally sold!

  33. KK says...

    I’m the exact same in regards to only red, a Essie red, on my nails year-round For me, it’s, Essie Geranium in spring/summer, and then either Barry Naughty or Forever Yummy in the fall/winter. As the season change, it’s my nails that lead the way for me….then my clothes.

    I’ll have to give the matte a shot. I love the idea of adding a matte/leather version to my red rotation.

  34. Anna says...

    Never tried it and would be open to trying it at least once. Either way, it looks amaze on you :)

  35. Laura says...

    I like the look but don’t find them practical. I feel like they chip easier because they don’t have that slick layer.

    p.s. my apologies if you’ve said it already, but I’m so curious what it is that you eat every day for lunch!

  36. Steph says...

    Best Fall nail colors: Essie’s Wicked, OPI Lincoln Park After Dark and recently OPI Less Is Norse

    Summer colors: OPI My Chihuahua Bites, Essie’s Flashed and the ultimate neutral OPI Funny Bunny

    Never tried the matte but I’m intrigued!

  37. Caitlin says...

    I haven’t worn nail polish on my fingers or toes for more than a decade. I think painting my nails at this point would make my hands look like a stranger’s. I work in the garden a lot and I like seeing whether my nails need a good cleaning! Plus it saves me a lot of time and money (that I can then spend on fancy-ish skincare). Sometimes I think if aliens were to land on Earth, what would they think of humans and their x? X being painting nails in this conversation…

    • Alissa says...

      Same brain. I think this all the time about aliens and/or humans of the future. We poke holes in our ears to hang things from!

    • Turtle says...

      I’m with you, Caitlin. I’ve buffed my nails (using the same buffer!) for over 30 years. Buffing leaves my nails pink, glossy, healthy, able to “breathe”, and there’s no waste, and nothing toxic involved. Keeping it simple.

  38. I just got a matte topcoat for the first time at a manicure two weeks ago! I got black polish, and I feel like it makes it look a little less intense, and I like having something a bit different. I wouldn’t do it often, but it was fun for now. Plus it kinda feels like suede.

  39. Sarah says...

    I like the look, but I’ve never had it done at a salon. Will have to ask for that next time! I just apply the top coat myself at home occasionally.

    I’d also like to see someone review/try out some of those press-on things. I just bought a kit, I think the brand is ImPress, but haven’t tried them yet.

    • Anna says...

      I have Impress press on nails on right now & I love them!

    • Agnes says...

      Omgosh remember Lee presson nails??

    • Erin says...

      The Kiss Impress nails are actually really impressive. They stay on until you decide to take them off, look very realistic and come in both matte and gloss finishes that both look great. I get compliments when I have them on, especially in the matte finish, which just looks so different to most people. They can be trimmed with a regular nail clippers but don’t start out very long at all. My main advice: be careful how you remove them. I yanked them off on an airplane once and realized I was actually separating my nail from my nail bed. I did a lot of damage to my nails, and it took about 6mo to fully grow out. So their advice to be gentle and use acetone if they seem stuck is probably worth following.

  40. Kristin says...

    I LOVE the look of matte nails but for some reason, when I see them, my mind immediately thinks of nails on a chalkboard and then I get the heebee jeebees (shudder).

    • Allison says...

      Ah! Same!

    • Katie says...

      Yes! Same here!

    • Suzanne says...

      Same!!! I hate matte nails on me or anyone else. I also hate matte lips. Gloss forever!!!! 😁😁😁

    • Mullica Zudsiri says...

      Wow yes. I never think they look as good in real life as they do in pictures.

  41. Jenny says...

    Definitely a Do! I’ve been using Sally Hansen’s matte gel top coat and get compliments all the time <3

  42. Stacey says...

    I love the look of matte polishes but I find that all the formulas chip HORRIBLY! Huge, flaky pieces, a quarter of your nail, and within the first few days of application! I tragically ruined one manicure by opening a soda can.

    Does anyone else have this problem? Is it fixed now with new formulas?

    The last time I tried matte polishes was 2 years ago.

    • Meg says...

      Same experience here! I tried a few different matte polishes a couple of years ago and though I loved the way they looked, they definitely all chipped really quickly. I’m also curious to know whether there are better formulas now.

    • Tara says...

      I do a gel manicure with a matte topcoat. Or, when I was too broke for the matte topcoat, I would just paint my nails with regular polish, apply the glossy topcoat, then buff it once it was dry.

  43. Tara says...

    I LOVE matte black nails. It looks like rubber… probably an acquired preference.

  44. Sara says...

    Love shiny and matte nails, but my toenails have to be matte. Glittery toes freak me out.
    My staple on hands is T Leclerc’s pinkifying polish, same effect as Dior glow but dirt cheap!

  45. TINA says...

    Nope, nope, nope.

  46. rose says...

    LOVE, so that’s a DO!

  47. Connie says...

    I accidentally bought a matte nail polish and I am not a fan. I realized that so much of what I like about nail polish is that slick, glossy look of finished nails.
    So, I donated it to my eight-year-old’s endless Kaboodle of nailpolishes. But she covers it with a clear glitter coat. Meh.
    I’m way into a clean, warm melon color. I wear it on fingers and toes almost year-round.

    • Ramona says...

      I agree with wearing a neutral, year-round shade. I wear OPI’s Crawfishin’ for a Compliment. May I ask what’s your go-to shade, Connie?

    • Robyn says...

      Ooh, Connie, could you share the warm melon color? I didn’t realise that was exactly what I wanted on my nails until I read that!

    • Olivia says...

      Is it a proper Kaboodle?! Oh my preadolescent heart!

    • Connie says...

      First, YES it IS a proper Kaboodle! It was actually a hand-me-down from an older teen we are fond of, and it just makes me squeal every time we open it together: it’s fuschia glitter (of course it is.)

      My go to has been Essie’s Rocky Rose, but I just saw Butter London’s 2019 ‘Pantone color of the year’ Patent Shine, and it is just EVERYTHING. Might have to grab that one too.

    • Robyn says...

      Thanks!

      And you are so right, that Butter one is perfect too!