You may have heard the buzz (or seen it on friends’ or colleagues’ nails); Nail polish is the new lipstick. No, I don’t mean you should start painting your lips with polish. Please don’t. I mean it’s a reasonably affordable splurge that’s taking the place of lipstick as an easy beauty pick-me-up. For less than $20 a bottle (often way less), I can add a fun pop of color that lasts for about three days.

Crazy colors like blue, bright purple, green, or even neon yellow are no longer relegated to rebellious teenagers or special occasions like Halloween. And once you start collecting bottles, it quickly becomes addictive (just ask my husband, who grumbles every time my polish collection expands… "You really need six different shades of purple??” He asks. Yes, yes I do.)

So what are some other good shade options to fit current nail trends (without getting too crazy)? For the answer, I turned to Cooking Light’s resident nail polish expert—I am simply the Luke Skywalker to her Yoda—Assistant Editor Phoebe Wu.

Red: Try a slightly browned red, not candy apple, like Zoya’s Diana or OPI’s Got the Blues for Red.

Neutral: Sheer, ballet slipper pinks are fine, but a newer twist on neutrals are more in the taupe family. Phoebe likes Essie’s Chinchilly. I also like China Glaze Romantique.

Pop of color: If I had to pick one “fun” direction to go in, bright blue is great for summer. My favorite is Essie’s Turquoise and Caicos or Butter London’s Blagger.

What else do you need?

  1. A good base coat: These help you obtain a smoother surface, so polish goes on streak-free. They also prevent polishes from discoloring your nails and give your nail a smooth surface, making color application easier. Phoebe likes Essie Fill the Gap ridge filler. My favorite: Orly’s Primetime Chip Preventing Primer.
  2. An even better top coat: Unless you have time to really sit still after painting, a fast-drying top coat is your friend. We both agree on Seche Vite, though Phoebe throws a nod toward INM’s Out the Door Topcoat.
  3. A good polish remover. “I think it's worth it to get one of those twist off (the kind where you stick your nail in a sponge and twist) nail polish removers like the Sephora Instant Nail Polish Remover,” Phoebe says. “I recommend this for beginners because if you just mess up one or two nails (and the rest are fine), this is an easy way to do that nail over without messing up your other nails.”
  4. Q-tips Precision Tips: Dual, cotton-y pointy ends are ideal for cleaning up post-polish. I dip one end into polish remover and use it to carefully wipe around my nail beds to banish stray polish strokes.

What’s your favorite shade?