If we have to choose the most classic nail art of all time, it would be the French manicure. It may have been considered “outdated” for a time, but it always comes back. While beauty enthusiasts are always looking for new nail designs, colors, and textures, simple and elegant nail art is an eternally classic look that is perfect for any occasion. French manicure looks great to wear, from a lunch meeting to a semi-formal dinner, to everyday wear, as well as one of the favorite looks for brides.
Created around the 1920s, a French manicure usually has white tips on a light pink or transparent nail polish. But today, you can color the tips with any color (as well as the rest of the nails) and still call it a French manicure.
As the delicate tip may seem challenging to get right, we usually rely on a nail salon if we want to get one. But why not give it a try to do it at home? Once you know how to do it, you will feel more confident going creative and mixing up colors and finishes.
What to Do Before Applying French Nails
Before any nail polish application – whether you’re using regular nail polish or gel nail polish, here are some things to do to prepare yourself and your nails before the actual polish application.
1. Prep the things you need.
If you’re applying gel nail polish, you can’t take breaks. You can’t touch anything because it may contaminate the gel or nail before the last coating, which will cause your nails not to turn out great. And when it’s contaminated with, say, dirt, or eyelash, or a little smudge because it bumped into something – it won’t be as chip-free as you would expect. So, it’s best to have everything that you may need within arms’ reach, so you don’t have to look for stuff and risk ruining the layers of your manicure. Also, remember this even if you’re using regular nail polish to make it flawless and last longer.
Here’s what you will need for a classic French manicure:
- Nail polish – You can get a French kit or whatever other colors you fancy. If you want a gel manicure, you must get polish that specifically states, “gel polish. You will need a base coat and a top coat for any kind of gel manicure you do as well.
- UV or LED nail lamp (for gel manicure) – you need this to cure every layer you apply. This is what makes gel manicures tougher than regular nail polish.
- Nail files – you need this for buffing and shaping your nails
- Orange stick – a wooden or metal orange stick would be fine
- Lint-free nail wipes – regular cotton can do, but lint-free cotton pads are a better choice because they don’t leave any fibers on your nails.
- Rubbing alcohol, cleanser, or nail prep dehydrator – you can use regular rubbing alcohol or cleanser to clean your nail surface and dehydrate its oils so the polish sticks better. But investing in a nail prep dehydrator is a better idea, especially if you want to do this again at home.
- Nail tape, painter’s tape, or nail sticker guides – this is optional, but if it’s your first time doing a French manicure on your own, it would be a big help to make sure your tips are neat.
2. Prep your nails.
To start, prepare your nails. A classic French manicure must look clean, so it’s not just about the crisp white painted line but also a well-prepared nail. Wash your hands and remove your old nail polish with an acetone-free polish remove. If you need help removing the nail polish on the edges of the nails, use an orange stick with the end covered in cotton and dipped in nail polish remover. Then, use an orange stick to push back your cuticles as much as possible.
3. Shape your nails.
File your nails to your desired shape. French manicure can suit every type of nail plate, shape, and length, but the oval shape is a classic choice. Middle almond or short square shapes also look great. Long, square nails are on-trend, but they can be too impractical. Whatever shape you choose, keep it consistent for the rest of your nails. Also, you have to be aware that they don’t have broken edges, so your line will be symmetrical. After shaping, cleanse each nail with a cotton pad.
4. Dehydrate your nails.
Dehydrate your nails by wiping them with alcohol-soaked cotton or lint-free nail wipes. You can also wipe it with a prep/dehydrator solution. This will help the polish stick and last longer.
French Manicure Using Regular Nail Polish
It’s easy to do a French manicure at home using regular nail polish. Follow these steps, and you will have chic-looking nails in no time.
1. Apply the base.
Start with one thin layer of a base coat to make sure the polish adheres properly, preventing it from chipping too early. It also prevents your natural nails from getting yellowish or stained. It’s also the secret why professional manicures last longer than home manicures. Let dry.
2. Apply the polish for the rest of your nails.
If you want your nails to be colored, paint two thin coats of the color that you prefer. Classic choices for French manicures include nude, light pink, or cream. Let it air dry.
3. Paint the tips.
Now, proceed to paint your tips. A straight or curved white tip is up to you, but let the polish curve with your natural nail if you want your nails to look longer. Use a fine brush and start from the points of growth. Make a line like a smile towards the free edge from the left side and the right side. Get them together and create a “smile” line on the free edge. To do it with just one layer, opt for an opaque, polar white color nail polish.
Alternatively, you can use a nail tape or French manicure sticker guide to help you make clean edges so you can paint away!
4. Layer with a sheer pink shade.
If you want your classic French manicure to appear a lot natural, a sheer pink shade can help hide any yellowing or imperfections. This is an optional step, and it works best if you leave your nails as it is or use a classic light pink or nude at the base of your nails. Clean up any stray polish with a Q-tip soaked in acetone-free nail polish remover.
5. Finish with a thin layer of topcoat.
Finally, to seal and set your manicure, finish with a thin layer of a shiny topcoat. As much as possible, let it dry completely before doing anything, like grabbing your phone or opening the fridge for a snack.
French Manicure Using Gel Nail Polish
Some people prefer gel nails because it’s chip-free and stays intact longer than regular nail polish. While there’s something wonderfully indulgent about getting gel nails done at a salon, but it can get pretty expensive very quickly, especially if you don’t like bare nails. You can always do gel nails at home by investing in a portable UV or LED nail lamp and a kit where you can do it all by yourself.
1. Apply a thin base coat.
After prepping your nails, apply a very thin base coat to ensure that you go right to the cuticles and nail edges. Wipe excess polish off the brush – you don’t want any gooping around the nail because it can cause the polish to peel.
2. Cure the base coat.
Place your hands under the nail lamp and cure it for two minutes, or according to the lamp instructions. Do not touch the polish or get any hair or dust on it as it is sticky to touch until the topcoat has cured.
3. Apply the light pink nail polish and cure.
Now, it’s time to apply your nail polish to the whole nails. Use a nude or light pink shade if you prefer the classic look. Choose a base color that isn’t pink, nude, or cream if you want to stray from the classic French mani. Cure it under the lamp.
4. Paint the tips and cure.
Here’s the most important step: the tips! Wipe all the excess polish off the brush and carefully paint white crescent tips into your nails. You can draw an outline where the whites of your nails stop and color the rest of the tips steadily. But if you’re using a French manicure kit, you can use the nail sticker guides to make sure the paint goes on neatly. Alternatively, you can create your own nail guides by cutting out of painter’s tape or using nail tape. After you’re done, cure under the nail lamp.
5. Add a thin layer of sheer pink polish.
This step is optional – some French manicure its comes with a very sheer pink polish to put over the top. Apply a thin coat, cure, then repeat.
6. Apply the topcoat and cure.
Finally, apply the topcoat and seal the edges. Cure under the lamp, then wipe the nails with nail wipes to reveal a smooth layer.
7. Wipe the tacky layer.
Sometimes, even after the nail polish is completely dry, you may still find a slightly tacky texture. To make it smooth and shiny, clean each nail with a lint-free pad soaked in alcohol.