How to choose the right nail color and avoid “Old Lady” hands

by guest writer

How to choose the right nail color and avoid

One of my favourite places in the world is a nail salon! Yes, it sounds odd. But I absolutely love the array of nail polish bottles that greet you neatly lined up in a rainbow myriad. It truly takes you back to the days of opening a box of 64 crayons…

How to choose the right nail color and avoid "Old Lady" hands |

If you are over 40 you will have noticed the change in the variety of nail polish colours. Now nail fashion in itself is its own industry created by women of all ages being drawn to wearing the latest fashionable manicure.

Every woman should indulge in this inexpensive treat and enjoy the selection process especially since there are now glittery, shimmery, metallic even jewel-encrusted versions of your favourite colour polish.

Nail trends are constantly changing and you don’t paint your nails just to match an outfit; they have become the fashion accessory of the ensemble. Wearers no longer have to stick within the boundaries of seasons; nail polish now is worn to enhance the tone of your skin as well as your beauty and nothing more.

How to Avoid Old Lady hands |

What colors to use and trends to follow over 40

Long vs ShortWhen it comes to caring and having fun with your nails, age sets no boundaries.

However, there are some important things to remember.

  • Pay attention to nailcare. You may like to consult this previous article on how to care for your nails.
  • Also consider carefully the color you choose. Think of it this way, choosing a nail colour is like choosing a lipstick.
  • I recommend keeping your nails short and in a squarish oval shape – “squoval” – in order to keep your hands looking youthful.
  • I have to mention this, even though I have been known to do this, but wearing false acrylic nails with an old-fashion manicure really can make you look more outdated and older than you think or feel. It is classic but it is almost like having an old 1950’s VW in a society that only drives Audi’s.

Here are my top tips to following the latest nail trends

Youthful Shade

Right Type of Red

The right type of red is a youthful shade you can pick. Pay attention to the following:

  • Bright orange-red nails draw attention to your manicure rather than to your hands.
  • Burgundy, plum and even browns are versatile for day-night combinations.
  • Go for shades that are more orange based, rather than blue based. I can hear you saying – but how do I tell which is blue based and which is orange based? Put the two bottles together – you will see it immediately.

Beware of the Blues


Purples: Cool Vs Warm Toned

As you get older, your skin is more likely to be showing your bluish veins. I suggest avoiding pale or cool tones such as blues and greens or blue-based reds and plums. These will emphasize any veins that are visible.

Reliable Neutrals

A nude polish has anti-aging power and every woman should have a go-to nude polish. Nudes, baby pinks and light whites will make stubby fingers elongated. My best advice for picking your staple colour is to pair it with your foundation colour.

If you have light skin, choose shades of white, champagne, nude or sand. If you have darker toned skin, choose shades of cocoa, cappuccino, taupe or coffee. Chocolate and shades of grayish-brown are youthful and trendy, but be wary of dark browns as they can be very harsh and unforgiving.

Beware of the Dark


Deep Navy Vs Jet Black

As we age, brown spots appear on our fingers due to exposure to the sun’s UV rays, so it’s no wonder your hands are extra susceptible. Fall and winter season trends bring deep and dark browns, blacks and purples.

They look fabulous on short nails but they can emphasize brown undertones and your spots. Try a cranberry or burnt creamy plums, deep ambers or blood reds.

If you still have youthful looking hands I personally love Navy, or moody blues and greens. They are bold and will illuminate your skin in a beautiful way without the harshness of black.



There’s a pink for every outfit and occasion. If your hands are not your favourite feature, pick bright pinks. They will draw attention to your nail rather than your finger. For longer or slimmer fingers, I recommend light and soft shades of pink (especially baby pink).

Shimmer Shades


Deep Green: Matt Vs Metallic

Like lipstick or eyeshadow shopping, it pays to avoid chunky glitter nail polish. However, that doesn’t mean you miss out on all the fun.

Try a touch of metallic or shimmer. I absolutely love the way metallic shades catch the light – it adds desire and intrigue. If you are anything like me, where your work outfit consists of dark colours or a monotone palette, a little metallic nail polish will add a feminine touch to your structured look.

Colour To Avoid

Yellow nail polish can make your hands look swallow and sickly and bring out the dryness and detail of your hands. If you still have youthful hands, you can wear bright yellow; otherwise I suggest you stick to glamorous gold.

What are your thoughts on painting your nails and nail color? Do you like to go bright, neutral or prefer unpolished nails?

 Special Note: Many Thanks to my wonderful hand model, Leonila Bernardino, 46.


Kelly is 40+Style’s makeup and beauty expert writer. She is a professional makeup artist currently residing in Singapore. For more information or bookings contact her through her website.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Alison

Great advice. Despite the fact that my nails always suffer when I wear nail varnish, I am opting to wear it more and more in my 40s, and have found that my taste has changed. I used to think red was a bit cheap-looking; now (inspired by older women I saw on French TV), I love a bold red as it looks chic and can also give your mood a lift. I’ve also lately fallen in love with taupe nails. As someone who is very fair-skinned, I don’t suit very pale neutrals or, as blue tones which – as you point out – highlight the old veins!


2 Bobbi

Wonderful tips! Didn’t think about drawing attention to the manicure instead of the hands (veins and brown spots) Thanks again.


3 PS

As someone with brown skin, I wish I could wear orange-toned red, but those end up having the same effect on the look of my hands that yellow shades do. I’m basically forced to end up wearing blue-toned red, or darker reds that tend towards burgundy.


4 Greetje

Well… there is nothing youthful about my hands anymore. Tough. I will look after them as well as I can and that just has to be it. Luckily I am growing older.


5 Mary

I don’t spend a lot of time on my nails but when I do I usually get a french manicure- is this a tell tell sign of old lady hands or are they still in style?


6 Chela Hughes

Love the polish tips for over 50. I am, soon to be 58 Hispanic women. My color tone is olive color n of course,, my hands are def not my favorite part of my body.. I have been gettin French manicures for a few years, Everyone compliments me on how pretty my nails look. Is French manicure ok to wear into our ageing Years??


7 Sylvia

yes absolutely!


8 Stacey

I personally find the French Manicure timelessly elegant, simple, and clean!!


9 Ann

Love that you mentioned the squoval shape as it looks modern compared to long nails. It took me a while to come around to dark colors, but this winter I’ve been wearing grey/taupe and feel current. I have zero affiliation with Sophi nail polish other than to say I tried it skeptically, but found I love it. No odor/doesn’t stain nails and it just won an award at the ECRM trade show as the Most Innovative Product in 2016. As long as you follow the directions to a T (it needs to be dried with a hair dryer between coats), it wears just as well as traditional polish.


10 Leslie Clingan

What a great post! Pinning it for future reference. And calling for a mani appointment.


11 Jeannie E.

I hope I’m not guilty of old lady hands. I wear gel nails. I wear them pretty short and squared . Old lady maybe but at 54 I wear them either bare or any # of flattering colors from beige to metallic (even black)! They are the easiest way to make a fashion statement. I’m proud to be fifty but the bod’s not 20 any more. I love the young fashions, but no mater how cute,hello Kitty I’m not. I say have fun where you can I rock my nails my way amid maybe a hello kitty night shirt.
Lov 2 All!,


12 Pauline Head

Thank you for your advice. I’m trying to shave off a couple of birthdays without plastic surgery.


13 Eileen

Thank you for all these great tips! Although i must disagree with the old vw / audi comment, old vw’s are sooo much cooler than audi’s 🙂


14 RAS

I am 63 and my nails apparently are the envy of all my friends. Last time i had them done was 3 years ago and i am booked by daugter in law to get manicure for her birthday. Can i wear deep red


15 Sylvia

Sure. Go for it!


16 Sue

Hi I am 63 just had gel nails in a deep red and I had a finger on each hand in a silver glitter I love it


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