If you’re stuck in a romantic rut, you may want to try painting your nails red.
At least that is what some TikTok users are attempting in an effort to enhance their love lives.
The “red nail theory,” a term coined by TikTok creator Robyn Delmonte, aka @GirlBossTown, has become a viral sensation. The idea is simple: If you wear red nail polish, you're more likely to receive attention from potential suitors.
In her video, Delmonte said that every time she has red nails, a guy comments on the color. She was confused at first — until it hit her.
“In the ’90s when we were growing up, women had red nails a lot, especially like our moms,” she said in the video. “And I weirdly think guys are attracted to red nails because it reminds them of their moms when they were growing up taking care of them.”
As a result, the hashtag, #rednailtheory, has amassed over 164 million views on TikTok with the majority of users claiming there's truth to the theory.
Take TikTok user @melissevmartineau, for example. In a TikTok video, she said she has been asked out on five or six because of her red nails.
"I have never been asked out on so many dates or complimented as much as I have been in the past two or three weeks with these nails," she said.
Since the trend has gone viral, Trenna Seney, a celebrity nail artist who goes by @lovetrenna on TikTok, has seen an increase in clients requesting red nails — and she says they often return with success stories.
“I have clients that have come back after two or three weeks and tell me ‘Oh my god, I got so much attention’ or ‘People would come up to me and just start talking to me,’ or ‘I was at the bar and this guy started talking to me,’” she tells TODAY.com. “So I was just like, it’s real.”
So, will red nails actually lead to love? TODAY.com went straight to the experts to see how Delmonte's theory holds up.
Meet the experts
- Adam Pazda, assistant professor of psychology at the University of South Carolina.
- Carla Marie Manly, clinical psychologist and author of "Date Smart: Transform Your Relationships and Love Fearlessly."
- Amy Wax, color consultant and creator of the Color911 app.
- Sally Augustin, environmental design psychologist.
Is the 'red nail theory' real?
Yes, according to psychologists, color experts and, well, science.
Red nails can be a magnet to attract male attention, but not necessarily for the reason the theory espouses.
When it comes to men associating red nails with female figures from their past, it is really dependent on previous individual experiences, Adam Pazda, assistant professor of psychology at the University of South Carolina, tells TODAY.com.
“Certainly you could see red nails or any color in any context and if you had experience with that it could remind you of that,” he says. “But I don’t know if that’s something that a lot of people share.”
The idea that red nails conjure up memories of their mother also sounds reasonable to Carla Marie Manly, clinical psychologist and author of "Date Smart: Transform Your Relationships and Love Fearlessly."
“If a male has a matriarchal figure where there was a great deal of power, and the woman did tend to wear red, it can absolutely be associated with a mother’s energy or a grandmother’s energy,” she tells TODAY.com.
But she also points out that many people associate mothers with pure colors like shades of white, pinks or blues, not red.
Experts do, however, universally agree that red has a powerful effect on men. A 2008 study of 27 men with a median age of 20 found that men consider women wearing red more attractive and sexually desirable. The same study found men are more willing to ask women out on a date and pay more during that date when they wear red.
This likely stems from our deep roots in associating red with romance, sexuality and passion.
“I think it’s something that is invigorating. It’s exciting to us. It speeds up our heartbeat. It captures our attention and it grabs it.
“When we go back historically and look at the significance of the color red, go way back in time you see that red was often seen as a color of passion, of course it’s the color of blood, so it evokes that sense of ‘I will give anything for you. I will do anything to prove myself whether it is to a country or to a woman,'" Manly says.
Significance aside, it's still a hue with a hook, according to Amy Wax, color consultant and creator of the Color911 app.
“I see it as a physical stimulant," she tells TODAY.com. "I think it’s something that is invigorating. It’s exciting to us. It speeds up our heartbeat. It captures our attention and it grabs it."
And this phenomenon is not just limited to male attention. Wax clarifies that red is an attractor for all people, no matter how they identify.
"I think it has more to do with if you’re looking at a crowded social environment or a bar or whatever and there’s one guy who’s wearing this really beautiful, deep, rich, elegant red sweater, it’s going to grab your attention a little bit," she says. "You’re going to say ‘that’s a person that’s confident, that’s a person that knows himself, knows his emotions, has a sense of power to him.’”
Is the allure of red nails a self-fulfilling prophecy?
Turns out scoring dates may not be the only reason to get a fiery manicure.
“People choose to make their fingernails red when they are trying to make this certain impression,” Sally Augustin, environmental design psychologist, tells TODAY.com. “And then they start to act in a different way and it becomes like a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
Choosing red is a bold statement — in more ways than one. “You’re in a space where you’re looking to be noticed, to stand out a little bit in the crowd, so you’re not the same as everybody else," Wax says.
Generally speaking, Manly adds that women also tend to feel more confident when they take the time to invest in their self-care and appearance.
“I think if you’re wearing red and you feel confident and powerful in red, you will definitely emanate a more attractive and maybe even provocative energy,” Manly says.
But if you're not the type to normally get your nails done or typically opt for a more subtle shade, Manly encourages you to be your genuine self.
“As long as you feel at ease in your skin and you’re projecting the message that you really want to give and it makes you feel good about who you are, then sky's the limit."