Mermaid-inspired fashion has been a thriving subculture for decades — just ask devotees of NYC’s Mermaid Parade. But thanks to TikTok and the tidal wave success of Disney’s live-action “Little Mermaid” remake, “mermaidcore” has made a splash in the world of mainstream fashion and beauty like never before.
Mermaidcore is a playful aesthetic that draws inspiration from the hues of the water, beachy ephemera like shells and nets, and the shimmery iridescence of fish scales. Mermaidcore outfits are ethereal and flowy with shades of lilac, green, blue, and light pink, as well as mixed textures. Floaty fabrics such as tulle or chiffon create a wave-like effect, while crocheted tops and pants are reminiscent of netting. Mermaid hair is usually long and textured with beachy waves. Mermaidcore makeup is as glittery as the open sea, and of course, no fabulous underwater sea creature could forget about their nail polish.
For a true mermaidcore mani, a little bit of shimmer is key. Bubbles, fish scales, and seashells all have a natural iridescence that changes color in the light. The effect isn’t just pretty — something about it feels a little bit magical. Our favorite mermaidcore nail polishes replicate this effect with glitter and shine.
A DIY mermaidcore manicure is the perfect finishing touch to any sea-themed outfit. We found eight drugstore nail polishes, shoppable at convenience stores such as Walgreens and CVS, that make achieving this style at home easy and affordable. Try these colors individually or mix-and-match — with the entire ocean to inspire you, there’s plenty of room to make this aesthetic your own.
The Best Drugstore Nail Polishes for Shimmery Mermaid Nails
OPI “Kyoto Pearl”
The shiny luster of pearls has its own name: pearlescence. This effect is caused by a reflection of white light waves, and it’s what gives ocean pearls their unique radiance. OPI’s Kyoto Pearl nail polish mimics the glow of pearls with a delicate shimmery finish. On the nail, it appears almost white with cool undertones and a subtle, rainbow-like sheen.
Essie “Imported Bubbly”
Imported Bubbly combines a pearly shimmer with a warm base and soft pink undertones like the inside of a seashell. With two coats, Imported Bubbly creates opaque coverage with a shiny, glowing finish that stops just short of metallic.
This chunky glitter nail polish brings full-on rainbow fish fun. Essie Congrats combines a clear base with round flecks of blue, pink, and silver. The glitter varies from large to quite fine, giving this polish a sandy beach texture and a colorful scale-like effect.
Essie “Geek Chic”
For Y2K nostalgia meets mermaidcore glam, try Geek Chic from Essie. This polish is a true metallic. Its chrome base is highly reflective, casting shades of pink, blue, and green on each nail. Two coats will give you opaque coverage and a rainbow sheen like the back of a CD.
Essie “Set in Stones”
Large round and octagonal flecks of silver glitter make this nail polish certified disco-mermaid chic. The single color palette and clear base look like sparkles of light on the surface of the sea. Use it on its own and let your natural nails shine through, or apply over your favorite color to add a glittery scale effect to any manicure.
OPI “Glowing Places”
Glowing Places is a slightly sheer glitter polish with a warm glow. Two coats yield semi-opaque coverage with just a hint of nail showing through. Small, evenly distributed specks of glitter create a uniform color that falls somewhere between silver and gold — think of a sandy beach at sunset.
Olive & June “Pink Goldfish”
Pink Goldfish is the perfect shade for the subtle sea queen. This sheer glowing pink coats your natural nail with a reflective glow and the softest hint of rosy color. In some settings, it appears almost clear, but it shines from pink to bright violet when it catches the light.
Olive & June “Yes Please”
Channel the soft colors of the sea with this blue-green nail polish from Olive & June. Yes Please is the perfect ocean-inspired hue — the color of warm, gentle waters where mermaids might play peacefully. Top with a glittery coat for added glam.
We may not have proof that mermaids are real — yet — but who knows? The sea is deep and mysterious, and anything is possible. You can still channel their beauty with a few sparkles while we wait for the good news. Whether you’re decked out in beach gear or looking for a subtle way to add some oceanic charm to your look, there are no shortage of ways to give your nails a little mermaid-inspired shine. No matter the season, you’re always just two coats away from your mermaidcore mani dreams.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Walgreens