Nail polish gets its gray on for winter

The dark grey metallic “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” Lippmann Collection, $15.
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Gray can be a sumptuous swath of fog when it takes the form of a cashmere shawl. But gray as a nail color? There the associations tend toward “Uh-oh -- those chilly hands are losing circulation.”

This season, though, gray nails are one of beauty’s biggest, and perhaps unlikeliest, trends.

“Gray is a change from the black blacks and dark blues of the last few seasons,” says celebrity manicurist Deborah Lippmann, who created a metallic, dark-gray polish with singer Joan Jett called “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” ($15 at Jett will look as rock ‘n’ roll as ever sporting the shimmery shade, but gray is also appealing to more conservative style setters such as Gwyneth Paltrow, who recently wore gray polish to the premiere of her latest movie.

Gray nail polish: An article in Sunday’s Image section reported that Joan Jett collaborated with Deborah Lippmann on the nail color “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.” Lippmann’s collaborator was Pat Benatar. —

“It’s classic and versatile,” says OPI artistic director Suzi Weiss-Fischmann, who created fall’s most ubiquitous gray polish, “You Don’t Know Jacques” ($5.45 at It’s a gray with a hint of taupey brown, which she says warms up the cool color, allowing it to complement various skin tones.

Lippmann points out that no shade of gray will work with every skin tone and warns that a flat gray without warm undertones will be too cold -- and may make you look, er, like a corpse. The key to finding the right shade, she says, is to try a few coats on your nail at the store before buying, so that the bottle you bring home doesn’t make your skin look ashen. Deeper hues -- a steely gunmetal or a gray with a hint of metallic -- are a good entry point to wearing the shade, she says. OPI makes a great shade called “My Private Jet,” which is as glamorous as it sounds. It’s a metallic gunmetal with a smattering of silvery sparkles that pick up light as your fingers move. Just make sure your nails are short and chic -- any gray looks slightly scary otherwise.

Michelle Saunders, the manicurist at Spa in the Sunset Marquis Hotel in West Hollywood, says she’s seen more people trying nontraditional nail colors. “The trend in nail color is reflecting fashion,” she says. “Gray nail polish is innovative, just like Chanel’s Vamp” -- a deep and dramatic shade of dark burgundy that’s now a classic -- “was in the early ‘90s.” The economy might be sparking more experimentation too. “Doing your nails is a fun way to spice up your day without breaking the bank or feeling guilty,” Lippmann says.

Gray happens to look great with the color of the moment -- purple -- and several brands are carrying the unconventional nail color in their fall lines. Yves Saint Laurent’s “Tuxedo Gray” ($19 at is deep and smoky with a bit of shimmer and tons of sex appeal. MAC’s “Nightfall” ($11 at MAC, Beverly Center) is a frosty gunmetal. But there was no gray polish at our local drugstores, perhaps an indication that the shade may be too fashion-forward for the masses.

Still wondering if the moody hue’s for you? Saunders has this advice: “If you can wear it as fashion, you can wear it as a nail color.”

Magsaysay is a Times staff writer.