The first nail-focused beauty blog

Debating Nail Polish in The New York Times? Yes, I Am

By on July 1, 2011
in News, Press

The New York Times “Room for Debate” is a regular series that features a diverse group of pundits offering their views on a certain topic. For the most part, the debates focus on political or social issues but today they’re delving into the wild world on nail polish colors and they asked me to share my two cents. It’s pretty uncommon ground for the section and I was proud to be a part of it.

Me and my fellow debaters tackled the subject of bold nail colors and why they have gained such mainstream stature. It’s quite an entertaining read though the comments make it ten times better. Seriously, I don’t want to spoil it for you but believe me, it’s worth a look. Why Did Wild Nail Polish Go Mainstream?


I included my take on the subject here but I encourage you to read the views of all the debaters AND the comments and I hope you’ll lend your thoughts on the topic. Enjoy!

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There Are 73 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Alison says:

    The article was great! But I am actually offended at some of those comments. I didn’t realize so many people think nail polish is completely tacky! Those people need to calm down and take stock of their lives. It’s only nail polish, get over it!

  2. Love the debate but what makes it an not only informative but also highly entertaining read are the comments. Yes, nail polish enthusiasts have found that nail polish makes cleaning up your nails an unnecessary act. Why clean what can be covered? Uhm no. :D
    Is it because nicely manicured nails cause nail envy?

  3. Mandy says:

    The negativity in the comments section was so over-the-top it was hilarious!


    • Sabrina says:

      Can I upvote your comment SOMEHOW??

    • Killion says:

      haha. I think we need to be friends. we can dismantle society together

    • KathiD says:

      Yay! I join you with my Serena Williams sparkly silver and glitter toenails!

    • paz says:

      Guess the corporate office will hate my pink glitter and blinged out nails!! Oh well.

      When I did work in corporate I still wore bright colours and contrary to the comments made in the Times, the guys loved it and work and I got tons of compliments on my non-pink coloured (but fashionably coordinated to my outfit) nails.

      Seriously, these people have nail envy!! And dirty!? What!? Most of nail polish lovers that I’ve met know more about cleaning and caring for your nails more than most people. Good grief!

    • lauren says:


  4. Yuliya says:

    Love the article! Congratulations =] it’s very well written!

  5. Abby says:

    Wow, I can’t believe some people feel so strongly about nail polish. Plus all the misinformation about the dangers of painting your nails (nail infections because our nails can’t breathe? Really?).

    I can’t help but laugh at the comments saying that the French manicure is the only tolerable nail treatment out there and everything else is trashy and/or tacky, especially since like 90% of ALU readers think FRENCHES are tacky!

    • Sarah says:

      Exactly! I almost burst out laughing at that comment! What could possibly be more outdated right now than the French manicure? Even frosts are making a comeback!

  6. Trachelle says:

    Wow!Just read some of the comments, one saying that if one of her friends ever wore green polish she would end the friendship. I don’t even know what to say to that (probably because I am wearing mermaid tears!). I guess I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t want to paint their nails every shade of the rainbow. I love color, at work I am restricted to red so my days off I go crazy!

    • Aimee P says:

      I will be your friend – Im wearing mermaid tears too :)

    • karen says:

      i’m pretty sure that was a man… in fact, a lot of those comments are from men. They’re such idiots!

      I just saw a post on some gossip website with a picture of Jessie J wearing “no make up” of course it was from a guy because he couldn’t tell she was wearing a full face, just not with black smoky eyes and red lipstick.

  7. Paillette says:

    I enjoyed it!
    Back in the 70′s when I was a kid, I had bright blue Revlon that I loved.

    The newspapers have comments on articles because they bring readers to the adverts. I think it’s total bull. In honestly the first comment could be anyone, just throwing crap down to cause controversy, loaded with idiotic information!

  8. Olga says:

    Great article and just like everyone else I can’t believe all the hate comments… Even the fact that someone would drop their friend if they wore an ‘unacceptable’ nail color… that’s ridiculous. So many awful things happening around us and they are just focusing on what color nails someone has… no wonder.

  9. Kikishua says:

    I was particularly amused by the lady who took the time to make the same comment to every contributor (tailored with an additional few words). And gobsmacked by the comments expressing such extreme distaste. NOW I understand why so many nail polish blogs talk about some colours being “office appropriate”.

  10. Angie says:

    Excellent article, but like some of the other people who have commented, I am a bit shocked at the harsh comments that have resulted from an otherwise light heart-ed and fun read.
    I understand that not everyone appreciates color the way many of us do, however, such cold bashing is unnecessary. I don’t bash on others for obscenely priced shoes or handbags. I don’t gasp when they tell me how much they spent on the sports car they didn’t need, that will only depreciate in value.
    Life is to short to rip people over the little things- they have their hobbies, I have mine.

  11. Lyndsay says:

    wow… just wow. I didn’t realize we had so many folks who were utterly disgusted by ::gasp:: NAIL COLOR!

    someone went to far as to say that it is one of the major issues of our time? REALLY? women/men wearing mints, lilac, orange, etc. is one of the MAJOR issues of our time? I think their head is very high in the clouds…because when it boils down to it… other issues: death, disease, war, etc. are far higher in ranking for MAJOR issues than what polish color someone is flaunting

  12. Tiger says:

    Wow, some of the people who commented on the article seem to be the most stuck-up, boring and conservative (in a bad way) people EVER. I’m so happy I’m me right now, mostly because I’m in the middle of painting my nails with BeYu 381, a beautiful turquoise/blue/purple multichrome packed with silver glitter. :)

  13. kelliegonzo says:

    i couldn’t believe my eyes when i read the harsh criticism of the article. it was really shocking to hear such judgmental words about such a lighthearted outlet of expression. i don’t begrudge anyone their opinion, but egads, they went cray cray!

  14. I enjoyed the article and found myself amused by the comments that followed too.
    I know you can’t include every reason why nail polish has become the hit it has become but, for me at least, you missed the point by miles.
    The articles pov is more superficial and materialistic and that is ok, it’s a valid pov shared by many.
    For me, the passion for polish has always been about creating, art, and the relaxation I experience in the process. I’m doing something JUST for me and allowing myself the time to do it and create some kind of wearable art.
    Of course, I’ve been wearing Black, Blue and Green polish since the early 1970′s (and getting the rude comments and annoyed looks as well. LOL)

    • Lynne says:

      How can someone offering their perspective “miss the point by miles?” It’s her opinion and, therefore, neither right, nor wrong.

  15. Nicole says:

    I don’t even much like nail polish, although I read nail blogs because I admire the artistry and, well… I’m a color fiend in any form, I’ll admire it any way I can get it, you know?

    But I am really bothered by the comments, and here is the thing that bothers me most: not only are we told that things like green aren’t “appropriate” for professional women, we’re told things like “imagine if it were her hair!” as if that justifies it.

    So what if it was her hair? Where did we fall into this mindset that you have to look a certain way to do a certain job? Really? If you are CLEAN–if you bathe and you wash your hair and don’t smell bad or have fleas–I do not care what you look like. Indeed I don’t even think clothes ought to be mandatory but since we’re not exactly in a place yet where nudity isn’t distracting (just because we aren’t used to it!), I see why they’re necessary :)

    I honestly would, if I supervised the conservative office I work in now, hire anyone who came in the door with piercings, or tattoos, or matte black nail polish, or neon orange hair, or ratty jeans with holes torn up at the bottom where they’ve been walked on, or yoga pants–so long as they could do their job and weren’t dirty.

    It bothers the heck out of me that this is still a problem. Baby steps, I guess. Today, green nail polish–tomorrow, the world!

  16. Pamela Heinbaugh says:

    Your article was great Michele, but WOW, the nasty comments from there make me want to hide my hands..LOL. I am 59 yrs. old & I love ALL colors & will wear what I darned well want too & if no one likes it…I could care less! They can go back to their little uptight shell & pout. I really had no idea there were so many polish haters out there??

  17. Kate says:

    Michelle, I loved the article and think you are right on point with the “lipstick index” factor – - for me it is one of the main reasons I love to buy bottles – a cheap way to make myself feel pampered!

    And these negative comments from the NYT readers are over-the-top ridiculous!! REALLY?? Get your heads out of your @$$e$, you sticks-in-the-mud! Geez oh man. Haters gonna hate, you keep doing your thing that your readers love so much :) Happy fourth! I’m planning to use your instructions on how to do a red and blue swirl for a holiday themed mani.

  18. Mary says:

    You’re right, the article was good the comments were wacky. Can’t believe someone would dump a friend for wearing friend indeed. Hey live and let live, don’t like the color, shape or length of my nails don’t look!

  19. TygerKitty says:

    Wow, I enjoyed the articles but the comments – goodness gracious! Although I generally take comments with a grain of salt, some of them are just absurd! I should have just stuck to reading only your article here on ALU where people aren’t insinuating that we are tacky for polishing our nails!

    This comment particularly grossed me out…
    North Carolina
    July 1st, 2011 12:47 pm
    I’ve always wondered why nail polish gravitated to red in the first place? Was it to hide the blood that gets caked at the edge of the nails at that time of the month? A bit of Lady MacBeth? A bit of a clear or nude color makes nails shine and presents a smooth finish, but why red?

    • All Lacquered Up says:

      OMG, that comment was the one I read to my boyfriend. I was grossed out too and, you know how it is, when you hear, eat or smell something gross, you want others to experience it too, ha!

    • Emmy says:

      What kind of person would even THINK something like that? GROSS!

  20. Andrea says:

    Good article. Congratulations!

  21. Nele says:

    Wow. I am really surprised by all of the harsh, rude comments! How could anyone be so uptight about something as light-hearted as nail polish? Djeez! Those people seriously need to lighten up! Nail polish is just a fun way to add some color to an otherwise boring, plain outfit or day. And for us nail polish addicts, it’s a great hobby, too. It’s that simple! I don’t understand how people could find that tacky… Again. Wow.

    Very good article, by the way :)

  22. Sabrina says:

    Hey Michelle, love the article. The comments did make me laugh my head off however. I guess things in the US are a bit different. Over in the UK as you probably have seen, nail art is HUGE. I guess more because I’m a Londoner and it’s pretty prevalent here. But bold nail colours are very popular too, and I totally agree with what you said, it’s a cheap way to cash in on the latest trend.

    If my friends disowned me for wearing green nail polish, I’d have no friends left.

  23. Killion says:

    congrats on making to the BIG leagues! Go you Michele!

  24. Cat says:

    This was a great read (the whole thing)– and definitely count me in as being extremely surprised at how many people thought wearing colorful nail polish was tacky. I just don’t understand. And how is my blue nail polish dismantling society? Oh right, it’s not. I do understand that sometimes bright, loud colors aren’t appropriate, but I don’t think it’s tacky to wear them.

    I guess I will continue to disrupt society by buying (and wearing) colorful nail polish. Haters gonna hate!

  25. Deb says:

    I enjoyed that article! Nail polish is exactly that for me, an affordable indulgence.

    And wow, I agree with everyone here – I had no idea people felt so strongly about nail polish! Some of those comments were so negative. I never think people with bright nail polish on are trashy! I can’t even imagine my very conservative great aunt calling people trashy for their blue or green nails.

  26. Katy says:

    I know news article commenters are the lowest on the Internet, even worse than Youtube commenters, but your article really attracted the stupidest people on the planet.

    “Also, doesn’t the acetone seep into the bloodstream and cause health problems? It amazes me that people use the stuff. Cheap thrills?”

    Acetone seeps into the bloodstream?! A silent killer! Someone get this person on channel 9 local news! We need to alert the populace.

  27. Emily says:

    I read this today excellent article btw but I was banging my head on my desk (careful not to chip my Bubbly Bombshell mani of course!) after reading the comments. My favorites were the people claiming that colored nail polish was just the next step for youngsters who pierce themselves and get tattoos. hahaha That would be the logical next step, of course, after permanently marking one’s body and shoving needles through various body parts-now THATS sound logic. I didn’t know that that many people didn’t like it. I work in an environment that allows me to pain my nails how ever I like. I wear all different shades and even do the occasional nail art design and more often then not I get compliments-not from younger folks, but from older people old enough to be my grandparents. I wore a robins egg blue to an event that was made up of about 100 people over the age of 70 and I got so so many compliments and smiles from it. I love it! And no I don’t spend hours a week painting and filing my nails every other day so that i don’t have to clean my nails/hands. Personally my world looks much better in color!

  28. Aesthetic LA says:

    I am a Los Angeles native who religiously reads The New York Times every Sunday. I love that newspaper sooooo much.

    Essentially, I echo all the other commenters above me regarding the scathing reaction to your article. I think people just grabbed the photo of green nails and ran with it. Personally, I actually READ the article and enjoyed the points you made regarding the economy and nail polish being an affordable luxury.

  29. Julie says:

    What a great manuscript! The comments by the readers made me wonder if those folks are living in the 21st century. Who knew nailpolish could drive such passion! Thanks for a good laugh!

  30. KathiD says:

    Loved seeing your article in the NY Times, and the comments are SO interesting! Who knew that people could get so violently angry about nail polish?

    I’m just glad that I don’t have any friends like the one who would dump any of her elderly “friends” for wearing crazy colors. I’m 61 and I currently have the Serena Williams silver sparkle on my toes and Deborah Lippman “Don’t Tell Mama” green-black on my fingers.

    I must say, finding your blog has cost me lots of money and time, as I hunt down yet another wonderful color that you review. So, THANKS (I guess!).

  31. Maria says:

    Michelle! Loved the article! Way to represent the polish addicts! I definitely enjoyed your article the most out of the 7.

    It is a shame that so many people hate on anything but ‘sheers.’ I agree with the poster who commented that, when it comes down to it, red is just as outrageous (or not) as green or blue.

  32. Keke says:

    The comments are unbelievable! I’m trying to grasp at straws to figure out where all the hate is coming from: do some of the ppl think that bright nail polish means like four inch long acrylics painted green? And if that’s how someone wants to wear her nails, why should I give a damn. Whatevs, I’ll continue to focus on the real issues of the world while those sad people freak out about my blue/purple/every awesome color ever nails.

  33. Kayleigh says:

    I started wearing nail polish because it kept me from biting my nails. I kept wearing it because it’s the only product that women aren’t pressured to wear in a certain way or even at all(some of the people who commented obviously disagree, but I think they’re in the minority, which may be why they’re so nasty-they feel defensive of their ridiculous worldview). As far as society is concerned, women must wear makeup to look good, and it must be worn a certain way. Nail polish is different. It’s not the first thing people see. So they can be more personal. It’s easy to make your nails be the shape that YOU want. You wouldn’t wear blue blush or throw glitter all over your face every day, but on your nails, it’s okay.

    Sorry for the long comment, but… I just think that in a world where women are already expected to conform to certain cosmetic standards(to an unhealthy level), calling women who wear bold nail polish colors trashy and slutty is unreasonable at the least.

  34. Lauren says:

    Beautifully manicured nails are totally classy, no matter what colour they are. I feel sorry for women who have yet to learn how amazing you can make your hands look just with a lick of paint. Boring people have my pity.

  35. JDV says:

    I’m not surprised the the pearl clutchers at the NY Times would chime in with their opinions.

    Part of my duties at work includes fingerprinting people for their background checks for employment. I get everyone from top executives to brick layers so you can imagine I’ve nails in all shapes and sizes and in various conditions. I have to admit the common trend among executive type women is clear, french, or shades of red. However, these women also have complimented me on my own nail colors. Especially the darker ones like dark plums and blues.

    I think the corporate world is still has a ways to go as they cling to their self-imposed “dress codes.” But then again I’m only 40 and I remember when wearing open toed shoes with no nylons was a HUGE no-no in the office. Big jewelry? No way! Piercings? Don’t even think about it. Sleeveless blouses? You hussie, this is the office! Some things we’ve relaxed over time and some things are due for a change. I think bright nail polish is here to stay.

    • JDV says:

      Wow, forgive my typing errors. (hangs head in shame)

    • Paz says:

      I guess I’m fortunate enough to live in a city that loves fashion. I’ve worked in corporate for many years and the guys loved my dark pluns, pale blues, and silver nail polishes. And I worked front desk but people never complained about it. Guess other states/provinces are much more boring and conservative!

  36. Tashita says:

    Nice written!!!! congrats

  37. Meeka says:

    I have the same feelings as all your other commenters, great article crazy comments. I was shocked at how many people labelled it “tacky” to wear colored polish. The vast majority of us who polish on a regular basis take much better care of our hands than those who don’t in my opinion. I always have (fairly) neat application, I don’t have mismatched lengths or crazy breaks on half my fingers, I don’t have half chipped off polish, my manicures are tidy. How is this tacky?? Absolutely crazy.

  38. Candy says:

    I think this article was read by the wrong demographic: Old ladies with dated opinions about what’s acceptable in society and what’s not. They act holier than thou because ‘they just dont wear the stuff, and never will!’ This is closed mindedness, implying that they will never see Michelle’s point of view, and they have wasted their time.

    I am wearing black (yeas, black ladies….GASP!!!) nail polish with large glitter on top (Midnight in NY and Party of Five Glitters to be exact) and I get nothing but compliments. I work in an office and everyone loves it. I wear crackles to work as well, but I know when to tone it down and when to amp it up. It’s fun! And Michelle’s point is solid: It’s affordable and a mood elevator and completely harmless.

    One lady even went so far as to say she would never be friends with anyone who wore crazy polish. SERIOUSLY? Talk about judgemental! I loved your article, but was disappointed at the negative reactions to it.

  39. Heather says:

    Congrats on the article! But, wow, I couldn’t stop chuckling at the closed mindedness of some of these people. I mean, really?

  40. Ronnie says:

    It’s interesting. I own my own law firm (hence I’m a lawyer), and I’m in court fairly regularly, three to four times a month. I’m currently wearing Nubar Indigo Flame, which I wore to court yesterday. I’m responsible for bringing in business, meeting new clients, talking to opposing counsel, judges, mediators, etc., and I will wear whatever damn color I please. The only restrictions in my office is that nails must be the same length, I cannot abide different length nails.

    I am more prone to wearing traditional colors (which includes purple and dark blue, to be honest) for an actual trial, or maybe RBL Grunge or OPI YDKJ, but everything else is game the rest of the time.

    Of course, the same commenters to your article would also be the first to tell me that my afro is inappropriate at court as well. I wish they would say that to my face :D.

    • Paz says:

      Your Nfu nails and afro would still look gorgeous and while you get those haters in a headlock!!

  41. Andrea says:

    I love your comments in this article! I am a huge fan of the New York Times and to see them covering nail polish is great.

    The comments from the pearl-clutching types are really offensive though. They all are so classist, like the NYT readers think they are perfect examples of good taste and only “trailer park people” or “Target employees” wear nail polish. Excuse me, but when did it become a smear to say someone works at Target?

    … as I am finishing up a manicure with China Glaze First Mate, with one accent nail in Sally Hansen Celeb City, for my wedding. If that’s tacky, then sign me up for being tacky.

  42. KittenPoker says:

    Great article! I was also rather taken aback by the “OMG polish is so tacky! That’s so inappropriate for the workplace!” Oh, give me a freakin’ break! My coworker, M, loves to check out my latest mani and fell in love with Zoya’s Happi (she’s pushing 60). That duochrome sent her over the moon. I even bought her a bottle! Her dress last week matched Zoya’s Rica so well that next time they have a promo I’m picking up a bottle for her.

    Yes, we have to dress business-casual for work; linen skirts, cute tops, and open-toed sandals are my uniform. My tattoo doesn’t show, I wear minimal jewelry by choice…but if I want to rock glittering blue toes and jelly purple fingers, heck yeah!

    Signed, another member of the “OMG they’re so tacky!” crowd.

  43. Chris says:

    Congratulations on writing an aricle for the NY Times Michelle!

    For the past two years I have lived in London and what I really love about this city in terms of fashion is that nearly everything is acceptable. You may wear a turquoise skirt, a red top, purple leggings and gold-coloured boots (true story) and no one will look down on you for it. Why, no one will even notice you, because they don’t bloody care and they don’t have TIME for that stuff!

    I can understand why a reavealing piece of clothing (a low-cut cleavage for example) can be inappropriate for work, but a crazy nail or hair colour is not offensive to anyone in my opinion, and I certainly don’t see why a woman with bare nails who stinks of body odour is more work appropriate than a woman with black nail polish.

    And I never move far away from reds and pinks and nudes because those are the colours I feel comfortable in.

    • CupK8 says:

      It’s one of the things I loved about London when I visited. I felt very much like I could be myself and not be judged for it.

  44. PinkCheetah says:

    Great job, Michelle! As usual, your argument is succinct, intelligent and, well, right on!

    As for all the ninnies and their silly comments, my reaction is identical to all my fellow ALU readers. Aside from recognizing their strangely displaced anger, I think we can safely assume most of these comments are from people who will always argue that anything having to do with beauty, fashion and style is frivolous and irrelevant. And caring about these things makes one vapid and misguided.

    The scene in “The Devil Wears Prada” in which Meryl Streep’s character so eloquently sets the record straight as to why fashion *is* important speaks to this debate as well. An industry that is so obviously influential in our society, keeps so many people gainfully employed, and brings so many of us so much happiness will never be irrelevant. But, as we know, there will always be people–a lot of people–who just don’t get it.

  45. Lynne says:

    I thought the NYT was for the liberals. Who are these right-wing nuts? Uh, I think Sarah Palin wears nail polish! Oh, maybe that’s the problem…

    FWIW, I thought you were right on the money. When the economy tanked in 2008 (and my 401k with it), I swore off shoes for six months and started buying nail polish instead. Two hundred bottles later, I now realize that could have had a pair or two of Christian Louboutins. Think about it.

  46. nemene says:

    Maybe it’s just me, but some of those comments seemed to hint at racism and classism. One was putting down Target cashiers and classifying blue nail polish wearers as “non-u” (meaning not upper class).
    Some people are just too uptight and use anything as an excuse to judge others.

  47. Mica says:

    I liked your article and the comments are hillarious! Some of them are so offensive you can’t help but to laugh. I find it very funny that most agree the only “acceptable” colors are sheer, pinks and reds. I wear almost every color to work, with the exception of reds! I don’t know why, but to me true reds seem unacceptable to work. I also try to keep some of the crazier colors (such as neons and over-the-top glitter) for Fridays/weekends. Overall I gravitate towards dark colors with dark brown and black being my favorite. Nobody has ever said anything to me about my nail polish and I work in a fairly conservative male-dominated industry. On days when dealing with clients, I do make sure to go with a very neutral color such as OP Sand In My Suit.

  48. Cheri says:

    I am almost 40 and I wear bright, sparkly, nail polish colors – some according to my outfit and some according to my mood.

    I also love the dark green colors, hot pink colors, and metallic colors.

    Be unique, individual, and yourself folks. Don’t follow the trends, do what you feel like doing!

    Oh and I’ve even word reddish orange nail polish too. And I also wear metallic eyeshadow colors too to the office, as well as bright shimmery eyeshadow colors too. Do I care what people think? Absolutely not!

  49. Topaz says:

    I was also astonished at the nasty, judgmental tones of so many comments in the NYT, and made me glad I canceled my subscription recently after a zillion years. Left unsaid in the comments is how much fun and informative Michelle’s blog here is and why she has so many devoted followers of all ages and backgrounds. Its a tribute to her talent that she was asked to contribute and was listed at the top of the story. ALU opened me up to new brands and colors that I never would have tried or known about, especially blues and purples, which is what I’m wearing all summer. Plus cuticle care and awareness. Thank you, Michelle.

  50. Arrianne says:

    If wearing crazy colors on my nails makes me a trashy slut (Wth?) then I guess I am one.

    This makes me think of in the last winter olympics, one of the women on the Swedish curling team was wearing an awesome blue creme on her nails, you know, for Sweden, and one of the announcers was like “Blue nail polish huh…wow” Yes it’s so disgusting I can’t even look at it! Why are people so weirded out by colored nails? It’s just a color for Pete’s sake!

  51. Mary says:

    It’s been my experience that the women who criticize the length or color of my nails couldn’t grow a decent nail to save their lives. I think all of the naysayers are just jealous! At 58 I realize I no longer care what others think of me and I can wear any color I damn well please.