Modernize Your French-Tip Nails

BY: Kate Raftery |Jun 29, 2016

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Don’t get us wrong, french-tip nails are classic. They can be done by most any nail salon, are found in most any catalog, and please even the most conservative employer. (And believe us, finding nail-design ideas that suit different workplaces is hard work!) But the world of nail art is changing—a glance at the manicures of runway models often shows nary a pink-and-white in sight.

Kim Nguyen, a manicurist at Chicago’s CiCi Nails, confirmed this change in trend. “Not a lot of people ask for [a french manicure] because they feel like it’s kind of old-school,” she said. “It’s what your grandma gets, what your mom gets.”

But for a lot of french nail design lovers, Instagram-level nail art might be too avant-garde. So how can you get a modern manicure without abandoning your favorite look? Kim has some simple advice: “Mix it up, do more of a twist to french.” Below, we experimented with three takes on the traditional style:

1. Reverse french manicure

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Manicure by CiCi Nails

Instead of highlighting the tips, turn your attention to the moons of your nails—those whitish crescents near the cuticle. We played with two shades of purple, though you can use different colors. Many manicurists are choosing to keep parts of the nail bare or painted nude in order show off the contrast between natural color and artificial pigment.

Trending reverse-manicure designs:

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Manicure image courtesy of Polished Manicure image courtesy of Deep in the Heart Of Manicure image courtesy of Wizaz Online
1930s–inspired looks feature moons that are bare or lightly polished. The rest of the nail is varnished with scarlet. Totally reverse french manicures line the curve of the cuticle with polish. You can either keep the rest of the nail bare or nude, or paint it with a contrasting color. Angular-moon manicures don’t follow the curve of the moons and instead paint in triangles that start at the cuticles.

2. Decorate the tips

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Manicure by CiCi Nails

While this manicure looks like snowflakes have alighted on the tips where the french-nail designs would normally go, you don’t have to use the season as your inspiration. Nail technicians have an arsenal of decorative elements at their disposal—in this case, it was two glitter polishes layered on top of each other, but manicurists can also play with appliqués or painterly flourishes created with art brushes.

Trending nail decorations:

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Manicure image courtesy of CiCi Nails Manicure image courtesy of Polished Inka Manicure image courtesy of Two Leaf Clover
Ombre nails are one of the most requested effects at Kim’s salon. And if you choose to have the tips fade to a nude or light-pink polish near the cuticle, you’re maintaining one of the best benefits of the traditional french manicure: “When it grows out, it still looks good.” Blinged-out french manicures use rhinestones to create a shiny demarcation between the tips and the rest of the nails. Gold leaf can be applied in bits for a fading, ombre-like style or in a sheet for a more obvious take on french-tip nails. Either way, it adds a textured effect that gold polish alone cannot achieve.

3. Switch up the color

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Manicure by Asia Nails Salon

This take is simple: same shape, different colors. The above combo of navy and gold echoes a nautical style, and the flash of metallic is right on trend. Of course, this look can be replicated with countless color combinations.

Trending nail colors:

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Manicure image courtesy of Polish Art Addiction Manicure image courtesy of Fulya (@beautyaddictedd) Manicure image courtesy of Fulya (@beautyaddictedd)

One polish, two textures. If you want to use a single color—we recommend a bright yellow to cover two trends at once—use texture to define the tip from the rest of the nail. Just apply a shiny topcoat to the nail plate and a matte topcoat to the tips, or vice versa.

Pantone-inspired manicures take their cues from the Color of the Year. In 2016’s case, both rose quartz and serenity won out. Rose gold and pink look good together and pair well with your rose-gold iPhone and jewelry.

There are plenty of spins on these ideas, so hit up Pinterest for inspiration. “Pictures are always good,” Kim said.

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Main photos by Andrew Nawrocki, Groupon

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