What is the viral red nail theory and does it actually work?

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Updated Feb 9, 2024 at 02:34 PM

Reading time: 3 minutes

If you find your romantic life needing a little boost, look no further than the trending red nail theory, which has recently been taking TikTok by storm. Coined by creator Robyn Delmonte, aka @GirlBossTown on the video-sharing app, this theory suggests that sporting red nail polish might just enhance your love life. With its viral spread on TikTok, the #rednailtheory has garnered over 365 million views, leaving many users convinced of its effectiveness. But does the red nail theory actually work? Let’s delve into it with the help of some expert insights.

What is the red nail theory?

Delmonte observed its impact and introduced it on TikTok by confidently stating while showcasing her vibrant cherry-red manicure: “I know guys are attracted to red nails, and I’ll tell you why.” She suggests a positive association rooted in 90s beauty norms, arguing that men are attracted to red nails because it reminds them of their mothers’ fashion choices during their upbringing.


Reply to @meganandliz @tinx @serenakerrigan care to comment on this

♬ original sound - GirlBossTown

Supporting this idea, Leatrice Eiseman, the executive director at the Pantone Color Institute and founder of the Eiseman Center for Color Information tells InStyle that colour associations often form in childhood, making it reasonable to believe that men might be drawn to red nail polish as a reminiscent nod to the colours their mothers wore during a significant time of strong connection and dependence.

Since Delmonte’s first video about the theory, the phenomenon has gained momentum, with TikTokers enthusiastically showcasing their fiery nail shades while engaging in discussions about the trend and sharing their observed results.


red nail theory 💅🏻

♬ original sound - Gals on the Go Podcast

Does the red nail theory work? TikTok users share their experiences

The theory gained momentum as TikTok users embraced the trend, sharing their own experiences and dating successes. Users like @MelisseVMartineau reported an increase in date invitations and compliments after embracing the red nail trend.


it’s not a joke anymore #rednailpolish #rednailtheory #rednailtheoryisreal

♬ original sound - melisse martineau

Trenna Seney, a celebrity nail artist known as @lovetrenna on TikTok, noted a surge in clients requesting red nails, many of whom returned with stories of increased attention and improved social interactions. Even celebrities like Drew Barrymore jumped on the red-nails trend, with the actress covering it on her talk show, further adding to its already booming popularity.


#Rednailtheory My Tiktok made it on the show @Drew Barrymore painted her nails red too! Hey tiktokers @Fatou @Brittany Ann / Toronto @melisse martineau ❤️❤️💅🏽💅🏽💅🏽💅🏽❤️ again @OPI

♬ original sound - Love trenna

Red nail polish theory: What do red nails mean?

While the red nail theory may sound anecdotal, psychologists, colour experts, and scientific studies support its potential efficacy. The colour red, historically associated with passion and romance, has a powerful effect on human psychology. In fact, a 2008 study published in ScienceDaily found that men perceive women wearing red as more attractive and sexually desirable, influencing their behaviour during interactions.

Furthermore, psychologists emphasise that the theory’s effectiveness may not solely stem from childhood associations with mothers. Individuals’ personal experiences play a significant role in colour perceptions. The boldness and vibrancy of red, historically linked to passion and vitality, make it an attention-grabbing hue that evokes strong emotions.

Speaking to InStyle, Dr. Anna Yusim, award-winning psychiatrist and executive coach explains: “Red is often associated with love, romance, and passion in many cultures.” She further notes that red, being the colour of blood, invokes notions of vitality and energy, all of which can subconsciously influence how individuals perceive someone wearing red nail polish.

Dr Yusim concludes, “While it’s not necessarily scientifically proven that red nails are attractive, it often makes you appear more confident and alluring.”


It works ladies!!!!! #rednailstheory #storytime #StemDrop001 #blackgirlluxury

♬ original sound - Anne-Sophie Petit-Frere

Beyond attracting attention, choosing red nails might also contribute to a self-fulfilling prophecy. Speaking to TODAY, environmental design psychologist Sally Augustin suggests that the choice of red nails signals a desire to stand out and be noticed, influencing how people around you behave. In other words, confidence and self-care, often associated with red nails, contribute to a more attractive and empowered aura.


Replying to @Unknown_123 red nail theory explained 💅🏻 @GirlBossTown #rednailtheory #rednails

♬ original sound - Navya Passi

Meanwhile, Amy Wax, colour consultant and creator of the Color911 app suggests that red is a physical stimulant: “I think it’s something that is invigorating. It’s exciting for us. It speeds up our heartbeat. It captures our attention and it grabs it.”

Taylor Swift red nails

The fascination with red nails is not limited to TikTok trends, it has deep roots in popular culture. Celebrities, including Taylor Swift, have been long-time supporters of the red nail theory. In fact, many netizens noticed how Swift showcased red nail polish during her appearance at the Kansas City Chiefs Christmas Day game where she cheered on her boyfriend, football tight end Travis Kelce.


Pink + snake 🐍 ring. We know she loves to use her nails as Easter eggs 🥚 #swifttok #swiftie #taylorswift #redtaylorsversion

♬ I LOVE THE FALL - Taylor Swift

Instant Confidence Booster💋 #rednails #nailtrends #beautyhacks #toronto #summernails #confidence #selflove

♬ Flowers - Miley Cyrus

To summarise, while the red nail theory initially gained traction for its romantic implications, its impact extends way beyond the realm of dating. The choice of red nails is a form of self-expression, allowing individuals to convey confidence, power, and a bold sense of style. Whether for a special occasion or daily wear, red nails have definitely become synonymous with empowerment.

So, whether you’re sceptical of the red nail polish theory or desperate to try it, the trend has undeniably sparked conversations and become a social media sensation. However, before you rush to get your nails painted red, it’s important also to remember what truly matters. As highlighted by Dr. Yusim: “Individual preferences of what is attractive versus not vary widely, and it’s important to remember that personal qualities and interactions play a significant role in attracting others, rather than solely relying on the colour of nail polish.”

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