Going Gray


I’m all about going unconventional with your nail polish—when there's so much to choose from, why stick to something so expected? But because there are times when rainbow bright or glittering nails aren’t entirely dress-code appropriate, you sometimes have to find ways to funk up your fingers while still maintaining a subtle and sophisticated profile. Perhaps inspired by the impending fewer hours of sunlight, my hopeful wishes for a not-quite-winter snow, or the recent bevy of articles regarding unbelievable hottie Jamie Dornan and his 50 Shades of smoldering looks, my latest tryst with post-modern manicures is all about the grayscale.

Warning: This manicure is not as easy as it looks—it demands patience. Be prepared for some less-than-ideal thickness levels and a bit of a mess, but we’re all in this together, right?

1. Prep and prime is always number one. Make your canvas as clean and even as possible with your filebuffer, and moisturizer/oil.

2. Base coat: I’ve recently been addicted to Jin Soon’s Power Coat because it strengthens my naturally weak nails and prevents unattractive, I-don’t-care-that-it’s-dishabille-trendy, chipping and peeling.

3. Start by applying two thin coats of black on one pinky for an opaque finish. Essie is my golden goddess when it comes to nail polish and I've always found that Licorice is one of the best, long lasting blacks out there.

4. Now this is where things get messy. Start mixing. Have a tray—an old CD case (who needs those anymore?), a disposable plate, a few pieces of paper, etc.—to mix your polishes (one black, one white). In order to keep your new vernis fresh, several smaller mixes work better than one giant glop of drying paint. Put a few drops of black onto the dish with two or three spots of Essie's Blanc and begin swirling. I’ve found, in order to keep my mixing colors pure, it’s best to use the brush from an old polish that’s too thick to use anymore, or just one that you don’t like. Once your two shades are combined, go ahead and paint your ring finger!

5. Repeat the previous step eight more times, increasing the white-to-black ratio incrementally with each finger.

Tip: Because you will be the opening and closing your polish bottles several times, the paint can get thick pretty quickly. Make sure you put the top back on between each mix, and shake the bottles before you begin mixing a new gray. If your application brush gets dense and messy, try carefully swiping a nail polish removing cotton cloth over the brush after a few fingers to refresh it.

6. Clean up the mistakes! (And there are bound to be mistakes.) Even the most professional hand makes an errant mark here and there. My favorite tool is an orange stick wrapped with a bit of cotton on its end, which I dip into nail polish remover and then, with the utmost precision, swipe away any unwanted streaks.

7. Top coat! Seal the deal with your topcoat of choice. If you’ve found one that works for you, go for it (I’d love to hear your suggestions!), but I’ve always been a fan of Jin Soon’s Top Gloss for its high shine finish.

8. Take photos, upload, share, and show us your best work!

—Elizabeth Brockway

Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • http://www.702parkproject.com/ Sarah @ 702 Park Project

    I love grey nails! OPI's "Berlin There Done That" is my absolute favorite...I wear it all fall and winter! :)

  • Laire

    Nails Inc Porchester Square -am I right or am i RIGHT!

  • allyouneedisblush

    LOVE it! Great photos, too!

  • Natasha

    this looks awesome, love it! x


  • Calin

    kind of obsessed with this whole thing.

  • Annie

    Love the rings. Where from?

    • ITGElizabeth

      Hi Annie,

      So glad you like them! Two on my left are vintage and the other is from Cartier. On my right hand, I'm wearing three Catbird rings--a great shop in BK if you're ever in the area!


      • Annie

        Hi Elizabeth,

        They are all very beautifully and also very beautifully put together. I own a few rings from the catbird store. That place is very special. Some times Reformation stocks some nice designs as well. Thank you for the info! Where did you get the vintage rings from, if I may ask?

  • llama

    i'm so thrilled by this! several different colors from the dollar bin at rite aide mixed on an old cd case is often my nail polish of choice.

  • Marleen

    I'm always in doubt about grey nails. Just like I am with blue. I used to have Essie's Chinchilly, but I always preferred a red nail polish over it... So it's still sitting here on my shelve.


  • Kira

    Dior Gel Coat is my fave. My nails are extremely prone to chipping and this help the polish last around 6 days, chip-free!

  • Natalie

    Rimmel Grey Matter FTW - great colour, great formula, great brush.

  • Sulee

    I love Nars Galathee, BB Couture Smoke, Dior Gris Trianon (pinkish! gray), Rescue Beauty Lounge Stormy, Deborah Lippmann Stormy Weather, Lancome Gris Angora, Colors by Llarowe Beat It, and so many more! This photo is from Vampy Varnish.

  • Lydia

    Yes! I love this. There's something so beautiful about grey nail polish; I usually wear bright colours but feel so 'grown up' when I use grey. Also, Sally Hansen top coats are by far my favourite, cheap but they all work so well.


Ultra Violet Nail File
Tweezerman Nail Buffer
Lubriderm Daily Moisture
Lubriderm Daily Moisture Lotion
Essie Apricot Cuticle Oil
Jin Soon
Jin Soon Power Coat (Strengthening Base)
Jin Soon
Jin Soon Top Coat