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Your Stylist: Pretty purple nails to suit your skin tone

August 16, 2010 |  8:00 am

Resident Image stylist and market editor Melissa Magsaysay soothes your sartorial woes in the weekly Your Stylist blog column

In this installment of “Your Stylist” I pose my own sartorial -- or, in this case, beauty -- dilemma and share with you the advice I received from a local expert.

I am seeing various shades of purple nail polish in a lot of fall beauty collections. Although I love the idea of wearing purple-colored nail lacquer (especially with all my gray fall clothes), I am fearful of looking too teeny-bopper or like I just stirred a vat of grape Kool-Aid with my bare hands. I like the look of the lighter lavender shades but also find them a little pasty on me. I have a medium/tan skin tone. What purple is best for me? I know nail polish can come right off in case the shade isn’t right, but I can’t stand having a color I don’t like, especially when I’ve just dropped money on a manicure.  

What Debbie Leavitt, celebrity manicurist and owner of the nail-polish line Sheswai, which is free of formaldehyde, P_Living in the Moment toluene and DBP, advises that for my skin color, and for darker or olive skin tones in general, a pastel purple or muted grayish-purple looks the prettiest and most balanced. For the perfect mix of lavender and gray, try SpaRitual’s shade Living in the Moment or Essie’s Merino.

If you have a fair complexion, Leavitt recommends leaving the pastel shades alone.  “Pastel purples can look pasty on really pale skin because they tend to have blue undertones and can make the skin look borderline corpse-like,” she says.

Leavitt recommends that those with fair skin wear deep jewel-tone purples. “Someone with fair skin should wear a brighter, pop-y purple,” she says.  “Against light skin, these purples look so romantic.” Nars’ Purple Rain and Nicole by OPI’s the Grape Debate are rich shades that pop out from fair skin and make nails look like pretty little jewels.

Opicnd Purple polish also comes in iridescent, almost holographic versions this fall. Chanel’s hot color this season is called Paradoxal, and the shimmery violet-gray-blue tone is sure to be a hit with anyone who wants to be wearing the most daring form of this trend. But for shimmery shades, Leavitt advises making sure the top of the nail is properly buffed until very smooth, otherwise the iridescent quality of the polish will only enhance ridges and imperfections.

And for anyone who wants the most sophisticated and subtle version of purple, there are a few brownish-purple shades, such as Creative Nail Design's Raisin in the Sun and Essie’s Velvet Voyeur, that have that vamp feel but are a little less edgy.

Leavitt loves purple polish on a rounded oval-shaped nail, rather than the flat and ubiquitous “squoval” (square with rounded edges). “I’ve recently been getting into an oval shape,” she says. “It really elongates the nail. Even if your nails aren’t that long, you can still taper it into an oval toward the top for a nice, ladylike nail.”

Not quite the kind of oval nails as those of Lady Gaga on the cover of this month’s Vanity Fair but definitely an update to the standard squoval.

Get more of manicurist Debbie Leavitt’s “Hot Tips” for nails here.

Send your style queries to

-- Melissa Magsaysay

Photos: At top, from : Chanel Paradoxal and Nars Purple Rain. Middle, from left: Sheswai nail lacquer and SpaRitual's Living in the Moment. Bottom, from left: Nicole by OPI the Grape Debate and CND Raisin in the Sun.