Ways To Put An Updated Twist On The Classic French Manicure

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While there may be women who will always remain true to the traditional French manicure, nowadays — likely depending on which generation you’re from — many of those who stay up-to-date with the hottest trends tend to think of the classic French as somewhat outdated and a bit unimaginative. But in reality, who can really blame them? With constant access to what celebrities are rocking, the vast influence from the behemoths of style inspiration known as Instagram and TikTok, and the ability to figure out who the best nail tech in town is with the click of a button, we are all feeling more creative with our nails than ever before.

In fact, nails have become more of an art form than a simple fashion trend, so naturally, new and more inventive spins have been placed upon the original French design. “I like to think of a [French manicure] as a blazer,” nail artist Betina R. Goldstein tells Allure. “It will never go out of style, it goes with everything, but there’s also a lot of ways to make it feel more young, fresh, and updated. And how you pair it (like a blazer) depending on color choices, shape, width, pattern can make it really feel new and different.”

In other words, whether your thing is natural and short or dramatic and long, there’s a modern French nail style for you, and we made sure to uncover the best options in both the former and the latter.

Chrome

From the moment audiences first caught a glimpse of “Euphoria” character Maddy’s futuristic, chrome-laden talons, our eyes lit up as thoughts of edgy glamour and fierce finishing touches to our outfits came out to play. “Euphoria” nail artist Natalie Minerva even told Glamour how much of a huge impression small on-screen details like a character’s nails can leave on today’s generation, and, of course, she was right. The metallic tip trend spread like wildfire as a slew of celebrities like Dua Lipa soon followed suit.

Earthy neutrals

If you’re someone who isn’t quite ready to give up the natural, muted look that a traditional French manicure gives off, consider opting for another neutral tip shade like brown or beige. The look still screams sophistication, but really adds that modern and chic update that a lot of us are craving right now.

Animal print

Animal print is a trend that isn’t going anywhere in 2023. From Dior all the way to Express, leopard print can be found making its way to the foregrounds of fashion this winter. So, what happens when animal print meets the French manicure? Two old-school classics are coming together to create a fun, playful new look.

Black and white abstract

Abstract nails can be so entertaining to create because the patterns are essentially limitless. While bold and funky colors are what’s in right now, we love that this simple black and white look winks at an almost zebra-like pattern — a print predicted by fashion forecaster Brunette From Wall Street to be a 2023 mega-trend.

Heart accents

One really great, simple way to upgrade a French manicure is to add designs and shapes. Whether it’s something like these cute pink hearts or a bolder option like neon stars that speak to your soul, small accents of color and fun can really amplify your entire nail look. In fact, following along with the holidays and seasons can be an easy way to think of new designs to paint on, i.e., pumpkins, Christmas berries, spring flowers, etc.

Alluring red

There are hardly any other nail trends in history as iconic as the classic French and the simple-but-sexy red manicure, and the proof was in the pudding when Cate Blanchett‘s seductive character Lillith Ritter combined the two in the 2021 thriller/drama “Nightmare Alley.” If you’re looking for a nail idea that’s powerfully feminine, this could be the one for you.

Ombré accents

Ever since ombré nails became popular a few years back, they haven’t left the trendy category. At first, it seemed almost impossible to find nail artists who knew how to do the style, but as the look became more famous, nearly any salon you stepped into became up to date with the trend.

Elegant embellishments

Whether you have a big event coming up like a wedding or you’re like us and just prefer to live each day in the glam life, embellished nails are always a head-turner. Be it gilded with regal golds, shimmering in sparkling silvers, or shining with iridescent pearls, nails with royal and luxurious designs can emit timeless elegance and class.

Speckles and pearls

A matte top coat can bring any nail design to a whole new level of interest, so, of course, when a French manicure is matted out, it’s an entirely unique look. What we love about this particular black French set is that while the tips take center stage, the speckles and pearl accents add just enough contrast to make the design both minimal and artistic.

Barbiecore colors

Those of us who loved all things girly and princess-themed as a kid likely dreamed of nothing more than pretty pink and purple nails. Now that we’re older and Barbiecore is having its moment, we can finally let our inner child have all their dreams come true with classically feminine-colored nails like the ones in this gorgeous set.

Iridescent fantasy

Pearlcore — the trend of adding iridescent or “pearl-like” touches basically everywhere possible — took the home decor world by storm in 2022, and, naturally, it worked its way into clothes and nails, too. Piggybacking off of the chrome nail look, an iridescent splash is a perfect way to elevate any French nail design.

Cat-eye nails

Cat-eye nails are kind of like a combination between sparkle and metallic; often created with magnetic nail polish, the cat-eye nail look gives off the effect of the shimmering eye of a feline, depending on which way the light hits them. Both mystical and captivating, a French tip version of the style is the perfect way to tone down an overall cat-eye nail but intensify a regular French manicure.

Matte nude

This look follows the same basic design as your typical French manicure, but the monochromatic effect of the nude shades in contrast with the matte finish offers us an individualistic style — one we’ve never seen before. This look is perfect for anyone who may need to keep things muted for work, enjoys neutral colors, or just wants a basic French with some slight changes.

Square with glitter lining

In recent years, one of the best ways to pull off a traditional French manicure was to combine it with a more modern shape, and according to celebrity nail artist Jin Soon Choi, “the trending shape is likely to be more square or squoval” for nails in 2023 (via The Zoe Report). Not only do these glitter-lined French nails embody the squared-off look, but they also add a flirty and sparkly twist to the basic French.

Christmas-inspired nails

Though this set may not be relevant all year round, it can be the perfect option around the holidays for anyone wanting a French manicure with a festive vibe. While simple enough for most nail artists to recreate, you could even do this design at home on natural nails with some gel polish, thin detailing brushes, and dotting tools.

Tortoiseshell tips

Even decades after Jackie Kennedy dominated the ’60s fashion world with her oversized, tortoiseshell sunglasses, Ray-Ban continued to keep her image timeless with sunnies named in her honor. Since the ’60s, however, tortoiseshell has come and gone in terms of fashion, but in the last few years, it’s made a strong comeback. Simply put, you can’t go wrong with a fresh set of tortoiseshell tips.

Color change up

While changing the color of the tip on a French manicure can be seen anywhere and everywhere right now, why not have some fun and experiment with changing the base color? This shade of pastel blue gives off a super en vogue Y2K vibe, but really, your color options are infinite — not to mention how much pizazz the jewel accents provide.

Subtle sparkle

Blame it on the newfound freedom of the world starting to open up more after a global pandemic, but 2022 runways were studded with blinding sequins, sparkles, and shine — trends that won’t be going away anytime soon. Easily swap out your French manicure’s white tip with any color of sparkles you’d like for a dazzling and sexy touch of bling.

Dopamine colors

Maybe you’re feeling sad about the weather or the current conditions of the world. No matter what, the dopamine nail trend is here to bring a splash of joy into your life. If you’re someone who likes to use just a pop of color in your nail designs instead of going all-out with vivid hues, opt to meet somewhere in the middle of neutral and vibrant with a dopamine-colored French tip.

Intergalactic

One interesting way to completely transform a French tip is to wrap the design around the entire outer outline of the nail, which leaves you with an overall extended shape. This specific look combines chrome, ombré, and a French manicure all in one. What we love about this unique design is its edgy, futuristic spin on both French nails and aura nails.

Butterflies

Whether it’s winter and you’re in need of some gentle reminders of springtime, or the weather is warm and you’re in full swing of the season, butterfly designs for tips are the perfect sunny-weather nail accent to bring a smile to your face. The best part is that the patterns and colors on the wings can be totally customized, so you’re really able to mold this look to your liking.

Safari-inspired

Who says animal print needs to remain loyal to only one of nature’s creatures? When you opt for an animal theme like safari or even reptiles, you’re welcoming a variety of different trends all in one look. This individual nail design took the regular French manicure and chose to apply only one-half of the tip, making this set even more unique and eye-catching.

Gilded gold

Gilded glamour — an ode to New York’s progressive Gilded Age of the late 1800s — snatched a major spotlight in 2022’s biggest fashion and nail trends after it was the theme of last year’s Met Gala. “The Gilded Age era ushered in an international influence on fashion via the melting pot that became the United States,” stylist Adriana González Ramirez explained to InStyle. “This led to more extravagant dressing and birthed beautiful trends that can still be seen today.”

Groovy greens

Psychedelic ’70s swirls and patterns took the fashion world by storm in 2021, and this trend made no exceptions in the nail category. Groovy abstract squiggles and shapes have been seen on many sets of hands since then — so much so that nail artists everywhere have admitted to tirelessly doing several of these designs in a single day. Sorry, dear nail artists, this trend doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.

Evil eyes

The evil eye is certainly more than just a trend or pretty design on our nails, in fact, it’s a cultural symbol of great importance. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that most of society has caught on to the power this symbol can bring. “I started using eyes as a symbol in my jewelry designs a few years ago to represent a striving for inner-vision, self-awareness, and focus on spiritual growth,” jewelry designer Sophie Theakston tells Vogue. In a similar fashion, evil eyes on the nails can represent all of those same elements.

Halloween-inspired nails

If you’re anything like us, the moment that first leaf hits the ground in Fall is the moment you start scanning for spooky season nail ideas. Or perhaps, spooky season is a lifestyle for you and you have no problem rocking cute ghost nails any time of the year. Either way, this adorable ghost-themed French manicure is a flawless way to scare off any fears of having a mundane French set.

Matte with iridescent flakes

Gold, silver, multi-colored, or iridescent flakes truly are the crème de la crème on any French manicure because they are bold enough to enhance the look, but subtle enough to keep things natural. What’s more, by adding a matte top coat over them, the shine is subdued for an exceptionally muted but still luxurious appearance.

Bubble nails

Bubble nails are indeed as cool as they sound because, yes, they are created using actual bubbles. As a matter of fact, as complicated as this look may appear, you can easily design your own bubble tips at home with some gel polish and soap. After you’ve applied and cured your base coat, main color, and a layer of top coat, add on another layer of uncured top coat, place a mound of bubbles over top, and cure. Wipe away any excess bubbles to reveal a playful new take on your French tips.

Simple reverse French

What’s the easiest way to switch something up? To do the complete opposite, of course. In the case of the French manicure, a really interesting and cool way to achieve an “opposite effect” is by simply outlining the portion closest to the cuticle instead of the tip. While this design can be done in any color of your choosing, we love the trendy gold chrome choice of this simple reverse French.

Rainbow reverse French

There are limitless options of ways you can play around with a reverse French manicure, but this design mixes elements of the iridescent trend with elements of the vivid colors that fashion can’t seem to get enough of right now. What makes this style even more fun is the ’70s vibe that we love to see.

The double French

Alongside 2021’s infamous swirl nail trend was the double French design that flooded our Instagram feeds. Luckily, this look is easy enough to create: instead of filling in the middle of the tip, leave it empty in order for it to appear as if there are two, or “double,” French lines.

Trendy cow nails

Western looks are having their moment in fashion right now, so naturally, cow print is very en vogue for 2023. Sometimes mistaken for dalmatian print, cow print’s basic black and white theme makes it rather sophisticated and timeless, and by applying it to just the tip of the nail, you’re sure to not be going overboard.

Pride-ready

If you’re already on the hunt for your 2023 Pride Month nail inspo, you may need to look no further than pride-themed French tips. Essentially, this look can be done on any length or nail shape, so don’t worry if you don’t have (or desire) long and pointy claws to pull it off.

Monochrome swirls

In case art class wasn’t your thing and you’ve completely tried to remove all memories of artistic terms, we’ll fill you in: monochromatic colors are varying shades created from one single color. The look was a bit out of the spotlight in 2022 as trends like color-blocking came to the forefront, but with solid shades of blue being a major 2023 fashion forecast, we can conclude that monochrome designs will win their place in fashion once again.

Sci-fi vibes

Walking into any old nail salon and finding an artist with the talents of famous nail technician Yuri Osuka is no easy feat, but if you do happen to know an artist who is highly skilled at hand-painted designs, you may be able to achieve a similar look. This spaceship-like abstract creation has all the bright colors we’re in need of for the winter months, and we’re so here for it.

Celestial visions

From checking our daily horoscopes to using moon cycles to keep track of our lives, many of us utilize astrology to help guide us through the best and the worst moments we may encounter. Why not pay your love for the zodiac a tribute through your nails? After all, nails, much like fashion, are all about expressing who we are.

Moon phase magic

The moon has been a symbol of feminine energy for thousands of years, so harnessing that spirit onto our nails can feel very empowering. Arguably, what’s most impressive about this particular take on the classic French manicure is that this design was created on a client’s natural nails, as noted by nail artist Cat Creates Nails. Talk about an inspiration for us to ditch acrylics!

For the art lover

Let art meet art with a set of nails inspired by your favorite artist — Frida Kahlo, in this case. The vivacious tips are reminiscent of the glorious color and culture Kahlo represented in her work, so paying homage to that through nail art is something really special. We can rest assured that Kahlo herself would likely be very proud of this set.

Delicate daisies

Another really fun take on the reverse French manicure is to combine it with a classic French and do both. This set that features springtime-inspired daisies and their colors is a soft, feminine way to add a pop of color to your next French design. In fact, you could even play around with other flowers and their color schemes as well.

For the cat-lover

Okay, black cats may be a spooky season staple, but for those of us who love cats, these black feline-tipped French nails are just plain adorable. And who’s to blame us? Be it watching silly videos of a cat playing the piano or sharing our ninth fur-baby Snapchat of the day, these tender-hearted mammals always seem to have a way to make us smile.

Mermaid sparkles

What’s in store for the vacation fashion trends of 2023? Move over, Barbiecore; it’s time for mermaidcore to make its way back into the forefront. According to Bloomingdale fashion director Arielle Siboni, mermaidcore can be thought of as big, bold, and basically “the opposite of coastal grandma,” a trend that was big last year (via Harper’s Bazaar). To recreate these nautical French tips, first paint the tip black. Then, add a layer of blue holographic sequin glitter such as the dark blue shade in the SoJourner Chunky Holographic Glitter Set on Amazon.

Van Gogh half-moons

“The half-moon nail-art trend represents yet another interesting variation of the French manicure — it’s an exaggerated tip and is akin to negative-space nail art through the absence of polish at the bottom of the nail,” explains nail artist Jin Soon Choi (via PopSugar). Recreating these stunning Van Gogh-inspired iris nails may take a bit of practice, but after experimenting with a nail painting gel — like the Saviland Gel Paint Kit on Amazon — to create the 3D effect of the flowers, you too can be painting like the pros in no time.