In reality, a "mannequin hand" manicure has nothing to do with creepy mannequin hands. It's simply a manicure in which you paint your nails to closely match your skin tone, giving your fingers a longer (and theoretically slimmer) appearance; according to beauty blogs, this look became extremely popular in 2010, but the look seems pretty timeless. As a periodic nervous nail-biter, I was instantly intrigued by this concept and set out to find great skin tone-based shades. Obviously everyone's skin tone is different, and will change throughout the year with sun exposure. The great thing about the mannequin hand manicure is that it always looks natural and polished, it is office appropriate and you can add fancy topcoats (glitter, sparkle, shimmer) to dress it up for more formal occasions. If you are wearing a bright outfit or a bold pattern, mannequin hands are easy and neutral, and a skin-toned manicure hides wear better than a bolder color. Total win all around.
I'm a pretty fair blond who tans easily in the summer, so keep that in mind as you review my list of favorite "mannequin hand" colors -- if you are lighter or darker, you will find different colors will work better for you. All of my choices are easy to find in stores or online, and they come in at a variety of price points. I do tend to buy higher-end nail polishes because I think the formulas are better and they are easier to apply (i.e., there's less streaking). For a great mannequin hand manicure, I think it's less important to find a perfect skin tone match, and more important to find a neutral that is flattering without washing you out.
Foundation: butter LONDON
The most natural mannequin hand manicure can be had with one or two coats of Nail Foundation ($18) by butter LONDON. I know, I know -- EIGHTEEN DOLLARS? That's what I thought, which is why I resisted for so long. I bought mine as part of a set at the butter LONDON salon at Seattle-Tacoma airport, where I always kill time when I fly in and out of Alaska. It's a big bottle, and it's definitely my favorite base coat to date. When used alone, it gives the nails a clean, matte finish and it never, ever, ever stains the nails; Nail Foundation is worth every single penny.