We all know the colors we choose to wear can affect us and the world around us. Colors often influence the respect we get at work, how people treat us, what they think of us, how our family treats us, and ultimately how we feel about ourselves.

I have been fascinated by the effects and meanings of color for years. Although I would never get into subjects like “healing with colors” or light therapy, I think that in the salon environment nail color can and should act as an effective communication tool. After all, besides the face, hands are the most expressive part of the human body.

In the years I’ve been doing nails, I’ve become comfortable with using nail polish as a tool for my clients to say what they want — and get what they want. I simply choose nail polish by effect, and not by trend. I educate my clients about how their choice of nail polish color either sends a message or receives a message.  I offer this technique as a fun, uplifting way to alter my clients’ moods and get them to smile (and watch them leave their nail appointment with anticipation about what their nail color will bring).

The subject of the “language of color” and how “nail polish talks” is so engaging to clients. For me, it’s turned into a subject that is outrageously entertaining and offers something different and exciting with often surprising outcomes for the clients. Needless to say, clients come back to get another “dose of polish” simply to see if it works.

Nail polish has a language. It really talks. Polish can excite, depress, stimulate, or sadden a client.


Depressed, sad, tired:
Opt for a red, magenta or even an orange to lift her ­spirit. (Stay away from brown polishes as they would only add to the original mood.)

Anxious, stressed, nervous:
Suggest a light blue, lavender, or pink. (Do not use
yellow or red as these polishes stimulate and energize.)

Weak, overworked, unable to think clearly:
Medium to deep purple is my best suggestion.

Green, purple, and orange are uplifting and help set the mood for “I don’t care anymore!”

Yellow and orange (you guessed that right).

Up for a power job:
Red! Choose a medium to deep shade of the color,
depending on the job and how hip and trendy the client’s new boss will be. (In no way should you pick a brown, pink, or mauve shade that could bring to light a “boots on the desk” attitude.)

Hoping for a second date:
In this case you always opt for a lighter orange-red ­polish. Men always like red. (Do not apply a true red since this sends the wrong message. You’ll have written “one-night stand” all over the client’s fingernails, unless this is what the client is really looking for.)

Wanting him to talk more:
This is the time to use a non-threatening brown or ­neutral shade.

Expecting more respect from her kids:
Try that deep purple polish.

These are just a few suggestions, and I hope you have fun trying them out. Remember, clients love to be inspired and to hear about new concepts. Next time they come in for their appointment, tell them your new approach and pick a color by effect, not by trend. Offering a cool story linked with a great service touches clients, make then laugh, ponder, and most of all want to come back and hear more.    


Elsbeth Schuetz is an internationally renowned celebrity manicurist and educator who now brings the world of color theory to the nail industry. Elsbeth’s work has graced the nails of celebrities such as Amy Adams, Pamela Anderson, Britney Spears, Demi Moore, Mena Suvari, Kirsten Dunst, Teri Hatcher, Hilary Swank, and more, as well as the pages of America’s fashion and beauty magazines. She is known for her innovative application techniques, her ­custom nail art, her keen eye for color, and her sense of what is next in nail looks. Elsbeth works with a Los Angeles-based agency and Nailtini products.

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