How it should be: business etiquette for nails

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When it comes to personal grooming at work, nails are a chapter of their own. For some, it’s an aspect that is often forgotten, while others spend a lot of money every month to keep them looking as beautiful as possible.

But what is the proper way? What are the business etiquette rules for nails? I asked etiquette expert Anne-Marie van Leggelo.

How it should be: business etiquette for nails

Let’s start with the ladies. What colors of nail polish are best to choose when going to work?

“If you want to make sure your nails fit in with the business environment, it’s best to choose clear polish or a nude color. Think of a shade close to your skin tone, beige or soft pink. But the classic red color can also be fine. Nice alternatives are soft red, rose red, or chic burgundy. Try to keep the rest of your outfit as calm as possible.

Nowadays, colors like taupe and gray are also worn more frequently. Combined with a calm, representative outfit, this can work very well in a business setting.”


Which colors should we avoid?

“I recommend avoiding very bright colors or neon shades. Think bright green, blue, yellow, or orange. But as always, it depends on your environment. In a creative setting like an advertising agency, I can imagine this might be perfectly acceptable.

If you’re going to a business gala, you can choose a striking color that matches your dress, for example. But think carefully beforehand about what kind of gala it is and whether you might meet clients or business relations.

In recent years, the etiquette regarding nail polish has been changing. Clear polish or a nude color was always a requirement at the Royal House. But times change. The late Princess Diana was often seen with red nail polish, and Meghan Markle wore black nail polish. In our own country, Queen Máxima often wears red.

Royals have a role model function but also keep up with the times and look at fashion. This shows that they can also change the guidelines.”


Are decorations like nail art taken less seriously?

“Yes, generally, I also advise against nail art. You should see your nails as an accessory. Just like with necklaces or bracelets, it can quickly become distracting if you wear too much. People will focus more on your nails than on your message, and that’s a shame.

If you still like to add an extra detail, keep it subtle. One small stone on a nail won’t be very distracting. But always consider the environment you will be in when making this choice. The more traditional the environment, the less such decorations are appreciated.”


When it comes to the length of nails, what is considered a representative length?

“First, look at your job. Not every profession is suitable for long nails. The length also depends a lot on how your hands look. Some ladies can look very elegant with long nails, while for others, it stands out too much. I generally advise against very long nails.

If you want to be sure they aren’t too long, choose a length of no more than half a centimeter. Measure this from your nail bed, which is the tip of your finger. It’s also important that they are neatly filed. So no hooks or breaks. For a feminine look, I recommend filing them round, not too angular.”


And what about the men, what is the nail etiquette for them in the workplace?

“Just like with the ladies, a well-groomed appearance is the most important. So make sure they are clean, free of fungi or other infections. And cut them short, but neatly. Not crooked or uneven.

It’s also not a bad idea to occasionally get a manicure. If you don’t feel like it, buy a bottle of nail oil to care for them yourself. This will make your nails stronger and look neater.”


Do you have any tips for well-groomed nails at work?

“I know it can be very difficult to keep polished nails neat. I always use gel polish, which I started applying myself since the corona period. With a good base and top coat, it stays good for at least a week.

When I have to give a presentation, I always bring the nail polish with an extra bottle of Quick Dry. If a piece of my nail polish chips, I touch it up with a little nail polish. A drop of Quick Dry ensures you can immediately continue with your work. Also, don’t forget to bring a small file in case one of your nails breaks or chips.

Treat it just like an extra pair of pantyhose or a lipstick in your handbag. It ensures that you can always look presentable, wherever you are.”

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