Why Do Some People Paint One Nail A Different Color? (We Have the Answer!)

Why do some people paint one nail a different color

If you’re thinking of getting your nails done, you might be wondering how to look particularly on trend – and if so, that might get you thinking about why some people paint one nail a different color.

There are a lot of reasons behind painting a single nail a different color. Often, it’s simply to stop the colors from looking monotonous and to draw the eye with complementing or contrasting shades. Sometimes, though, it has a deeper meaning, like raising awareness for domestic violence, or as a symbol of sexuality.

In this article, we’re going to explore the different meanings behind painting one nail in a different color, and how you can understand these. This will help you to send the right messages with your nail art.

Why Do Some People Paint One Nail A Different Color?

There are multiple reasons for painting one nail a different color. The simplest and commonest explanation is that people just like how this looks. It stops the nails from appearing monotonous and is a more creative, interesting approach to nail art. It lets you play with more colors and have fun expressing yourself in new ways.

However, this isn’t the only reason to paint the nails in this way; there are a few other explanations. In the queer community, it can be a specific signal, and it’s often subtle enough that it’s safe for people who want to express things about their sexuality without telling the whole world.

Like the handkerchief code for gay men that evolved in the 1970s and 1980s, it tells people who understand the code key information about you, without telling the whole world and potentially outing yourself to strangers. Some people use their nails to demonstrate things about themselves that they want to say to a select few people, but not to the whole world.

There’s another explanation too, which is related to a campaign to raise awareness about violence against children. Many celebrities have been part of this campaign in the past, and it is still ongoing.

That means there are a lot of explanations for an unmatched nail color – so let’s go into more detail.

What Does It Mean When A Woman Paints Her Ring Fingernail A Different Color?

This is sometimes known as femme-flagging, and it indicates that the wearer is integrated with the queer community. It is a subtle enough signal to go unnoticed by many people who are not in the community and don’t understand the code, but clear enough for the right people to pick up on it.

Femme-flagging with nail color was particularly popular around 2012, but it is still used today. However, because unmatched nails have become a popular fashion state regardless of the meaning, there is a risk of it being a more muddled message than it used to be.

The popularity of “accent nails” massively increased around this time, and so the femme-flagging has lost some of its meaning. It is still used in the queer community sometimes, but the message has been diluted – which is unfortunate for those who used it.

What Does One Fingernail Painted Different Mean?

As mentioned above, painting a single fingernail in a different hue could mean anything from the person liking different colors to the person wanting to symbolize their sexuality. It is often an expression of individuality, and it’s also an opportunity to have fun.

Often, the unmatched nail will be paired with a more complex design or certain decorations. This is more cost-effective than doing all the nails in that way, and makes them stand out more, so it has become quite popular. It stops manicures from being ridiculously expensive, but still lets you get cute designs on your hands.

What Does It Mean When You Paint Your Ring Fingernail Black?

This again has a variety of different meanings. It is sometimes used as femme-flagging, indicating that although the woman passes as heterosexual and feminine, there is more to them than this. Sometimes, black polish is also linked to BDSM, sending subtle signals among the community who understand this.

More commonly, black polish on the ring fingernail is related to a campaign to raise awareness about sexual abuse and violence toward children. This is known as the Polished Man campaign, and it was founded by a man known as Elliot Costello, who met an abused girl in Cambodia. The campaign has raised over $70,000.

It has been popular among celebrities, including Shawn Mendes, who was seen sporting a single black nail. Sometimes, the polish for this campaign is blue instead of black. Chris Hemsworth and Tyler Blackburn have also been seen with polished nails.

Alternatively, a single black nail may be intended to remind the wearer not to text while driving. They will see the nail when they pick up their phone, and be reminded to put it down.

What Fingernail Should Be A Different Color?

Different individuals choose different nails, but the ring fingernail is commonly the one that is unmatched. This may be intended to draw attention to a ring on that finger, or the lack of one – possibly indicating that someone is single.

However, other fingernails can also be unmatched, and each has different advantages. The pinky finger is seen as elegant and feminine, while the middle finger will give your hands a nice symmetry. It is often considered the most professional position to add an accent to.

The index and thumb are rarely unmatched, but both can be interesting choices. The thumb will give you a bigger canvas, while the index will draw attention to your hands if you are pointing or gesturing a lot. These are also more unusual and therefore perhaps more appealing options to try.


There are multiple reasons for painting one nail a different color from the rest. These include signaling among the queer community, raising awareness of violence against children, or simply for the fun of it. Certain nail colors may carry particular meanings, and any finger can be painted in a different color, depending on the individual’s preference.

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