If you've been scrolling through Instagram lately (and, come on, we know you have), then you've likely noticed that there's a new nail trend on the block. Nope, we're not talking about delicate floral designs (though, we love those) or fruit bowl nails (but, like, so cute); instead, it's all about ombré nails.
What started out as pink ombré nails—which are essentially French tips with a blurred line between the pink base and white tip—quickly erupted into fades of all colors on the 'gram and in real life. Now, transitions from nude to green, purple to pink, white to navy, and everything in-between exists. Best of all, they're super simple to DIY. In fact, so many people have tried their hand at the nail art idea that #ombrenails has over 5.9 million posts on Instagram. In other words, there's tons of ombré inspiration to go around.
To help you bring your own ombré manicure to life, we chatted with Lauren Dunne, the cofounder of D.C.-based waterless nail studio Varnish Lane. Below, she breaks it down into seven easy-to-replicate steps.
Meet the Expert
Lauren Dunne is the cofounder and CEO of Varnish Lane, a luxury nail salon in Washington, D.C. that specializes in hygienic, natural nail care.
How to DIY Ombré Nails
- Nail polish remover
- Three shades of the same color family (light to dark)
- Clean up brush
- Wedge makeup sponge
Cut Your Custom Sponge
"Cut the wedge makeup sponge to make the flat edge more narrow (based on the size of your nail)," instructs Dunne. "The goal is to have the wedge only be as wide as your nail. This will minimize the amount of polish that will get on the skin around your nails."
Apply a Layer of Basecoat
"Apply a basecoat to your nails," Dunne says. "Make sure the coat is fully dried before proceeding to the next step."
Even if a nail polish claims to have a basecoat built in, it never hurts to go the extra step with a classic base if your goal is to create a mani that lasts for days (if not weeks) on end.
Pick Out Your Ombré Colors
"Brush the three colors in straight lines on the wedge makeup sponge," Dunne says. "Start with the lightest color at the base of the wedge. The colors can slightly overlap as you brush them onto the makeup sponge—this will help create the seamless fade]."
If you're using dip powder, this step will differ, and require you to dip the nail into the powder. Start by dipping the tip of the nail into the lightest color, then patting to remove any excess. For the remaining colors, use a small, fluffy brush to apply the other strips of color, then move on to the topcoat or seal stage.
Blot Your Ombré to Life
"Gently blot the sponge onto your nail to transfer the polish," Dunne says. "Make sure all three colors get onto the nail." Once you've finished your first nail, repeat steps three and four on the rest of your nails (or the accent nails that you want to be ombré).
You may need to blot the sponge several times to transfer the polish evenly onto the nail. Keep going until you're happy with the result.
According to Dunne, it's important to apply a top coat to your nails immediately after sponging since it will not only help prevent chips but help enhance the fade, as well. So, while you might be hesitant to brush another layer of polish over your picture-perfect DIY nail look, we promise it won't mess it up. "The topcoat can help to blur the polishes together," Dunne explains.
Touch Up Around Each Nail
"Use a clean-up brush and nail polish remover to remove any polish that got onto the skin around your nails," Dunne says. For best results, look for a smaller, tapered brush (like Olive & June's Clean Up Brush, $8) that will easily (and neatly) touch up under the edge of each nail, as well as surrounding each nail bed as a whole. And, when it comes to the touch-up itself, move slow and controlled around each nail so that you don't accidentally remove polish that's meant to stay on the edges or tips.
Cater to Your Cuticles
"Apply cuticle oil around the nails to re-moisturize your skin," Dunne says. This is especially important since acetone can seriously dry out the delicate skin surrounding your nails. Our favorite nail product to get the job done is Olive & June's Cuticle Serum. The fast-absorbing formula hydrates and softens skin without making fingers feel greasy in the process.