A Nail Polish With a Boring Name Just Isn’t the Same


OPI Man Repeller nail polish“OPI Man Repeller nail polish is just one example of the nail polish brand’s fantastic naming practice. Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for ELLE Magazine

Names matter. Anyone who has purchased nail polish knows there’s way more to choosing the perfect peach than just a quick glance at a few different shades. It’s impossible to pick that little bottle without turning it over to read the name.

"Size Doesn’t Matter," "Turquoise and Caicos" and "Ballet Pink," have general connotations, add individual life experiences (who can forget being the sugarplum fairy who danced her way into the orchestra pit?) into the mix and the right name can mean something different to everyone.

Cosmetic company executives say that not only do names impact nail polish sales, but they also can determine the overall success of a color, proving that nail polish naming is not something they take lightly.

So where do nail polishes get their names? Can you major in nail polish naming (asking for a friend, of course)? Are there boardroom brawls over "Mean Green" or "Grinch Green"? Have names like "Dryer Lint," "Fish Tank Fungus" and "Dental Floss" ever made the short list?

Essie is one of the best known and bestselling brands of nail polish on the market. Essie Weingarten founded the brand in 1981 and used to have the final say on every shade moniker. The brand is owned by L’Oréal now, so Weingarten serves as the global brand consultant.

But she always believed names should be witty, fun and memorable like "Jamaican Me Crazy" and "Trophy Wife." Her inspiration included destinations, fashion trends and pop culture. The most famous of all Essie colors is, "Ballet Slippers." It’s reportedly the only color Queen Elizabeth wears or approves of, and it’s the color both Princess Eugenie and Meghan Markle wore as brides.

The brand OPI is practically synonymous with nail polish. Oddly, though, the popular polish company started as a dental supplier (OPI stands for Odontorium Products, Inc., and didn’t start carrying nail care products until 1981 and nail polish in 1989). Current Executive Vice President and Creative Director Suzi Weiss-Fischman decided to make things interesting by using fun names instead of boring ones like mauve #6, red #3 and pink #12.

Weiss-Fischman told The Times of Israel the OPI color names are a huge part of the brand’s DNA, and that names are always based on a geographic locations, food and some fun unmentionables.

The results are some of the funniest and cleverest nail polish names out there. How can you not love a polish with the name "I Cannoli Wear OPI," and "Teal the Cows Come Home"? The first shade Weiss-Fischmann named is her favorite, as well as a reviewer and fan favorite. "I’m Really Not a Waitress" is an award-winning red that will exist for eternity in The Allure Beauty Hall of Fame.

Perhaps the best thing about a great nail polish color with a quirky name is when others admire and inquire about the shade. If you have the right color on you will be able to say, "None of Your Risky Business," "Leaf Me Alone" or "Stop It, I’m Blushing."

So the next time you choose a nail polish, remember to focus on names and don’t just judge a polish by its color.

Now That’s Awesome

Deborah Lippmann lets her passion for music guide the naming of all Deborah Lippmann colors after song titles. The songs are chosen by a small group of people who spend an evening with a little wine and a lot of iTunes perusing. The festive gatherings have yielded such unforgettable names as "Welcome to the Jungle" and "Single Ladies."

Originally Published: Apr 20, 2020

Nail Polish Names FAQ

How many shades of OPI nail polish are there?

OPI boasts 240 polish shades of nail polish in total.

What’s another name for nail polish?

Nail polish is also known as nail varnish, nail enamel, and nail lacquer.

What nail polish do royals love?

Essie’s “Ballet Slippers” is reportedly the only color Queen Elizabeth wears or approves of, and it’s the color both Princess Eugenie and Meghan Markle wore on their wedding days.

What is the nail polish color of the year?

Though we’re sure that many colors will be trendy in 2021, OPI has two polishes that coincide with the Pantone Colors of the Year: Ultimate Gray and Illuminating.

What does the name Essie mean?

Essie Weingarten founded the nail polish brand “Essie” in 1981. She had final say on every shade moniker until she sold the company to L’Oréal, where she now serves as a global brand consultant.

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