Korean nail art has been blowing up our Instagram and Pinterest feeds—and it's impossible to look away. From the shattered-glass nail phenomenon that exploded in 2016 to the latest iterations (which we'll get to in a bit), South Korea has been serving up the most mesmerizing manicures we've ever seen. Last year we witnessed a captivating collection of nail aesthetics, from the aforementioned broken-glass technique to stone nails to bracelet nails to Aurora nails.
Just like any trend, what's hot in the world of nail art also comes and goes with the seasons, so we turned to the experts to ask what we can expect to see in the world of Korean nail art. We tapped Korean beauty experts Sarah Lee of Glow Recipe and Peach and Lily's Alicia Yoon, who told us which popular styles will have staying power going into the New Year and what new directions to expect. Both cited the influence of South Korea's premier nail artist Eunkyung Park, owner of Seoul's Unistella Salon and the mastermind behind many of these otherworldly creations. We rounded up Park's most mesmerizing creations to illustrate Lee's and Yoon's trend predictions. Get ready to obsess.
"There are a few super-renowned nail artists in Korea who set some of the trends. However, ultimately, customers end up picking the trends that they like," notes Yoon, speaking of the democratization of beauty that she loves. "I see some of the famed nail artists doing a lot with blinging out nails in the form of stone nails, with actual huge rhinestones all over the nails."
Now you can get blinged out without donning a single piece of jewelry (or 3D adhesive). Lee and Yoon both agree that diamond nails are currently the reigning trend. Created by Park, this is a more intense version of the viral shattered-glass nails, giving off a more holographic effect. The striking style is created "with chunks of a slightly different cellophane that reflect light like facets of a diamond," says Lee, resulting in a "delicate yet edgy" look.
Nail art is expanding into new spaces, surpassing even the nail itself. Lee predicts that moving forward, we'll be witnessing more and more decorative elements that go beyond the outline of the nail. This rendition, coined under the phrase "the futuristic nail", uses thin metal pieces to extend past the cuticle for a daring caged effect.
One trend from that Yoon says we'll be seeing more of is the use of negative space. More and more designs are leaving sections of the nail blank to create unexpected geometric designs that deserve a double take. Not only does negative space look great against otherwise bold graphics, but it's also "totally doable without a gel manicure," notes Yoon. No more ruined nails!
More and more emphasis on the cuticle has been a trend for a while, but we can expect to continue to see craftier renditions. "Giving cuticles tiny metallic tabs, also known as 'nail shadows,' embellish cuticles versus scream for attention with allover sparkle," observes Lee, continuing that cuticle nails are "best suited for short nails, and this minimalistic approach gives just the right amount of accent with almost zero drying time."
Yoon notes she's already seeing a lot of color blocking and negative space used to create fun graphics—the former demonstrated here with these half-and-half nails. "The fun part of these color-block nails is that each nail might have a different color block, so on all 10 fingers, there could be 20 different colors, with each nail being different," she says.
This focus on color and graphics, rather than the dramatic texture, is the direction Yoon sees trends heading in. "I think this year there won't be as much 3D material (stones, wires, thread) placed on nails," she says, referencing the gems that have captured our collective attention in years past. Instead, she thinks artfulness might be expressed in two-dimensional ways, playing with color and—as already mentioned—negative space.
This version of cuticle nails also makes use of negative space. As nail art progresses, we're always seeing more and more clever combinations of the hottest nail trends for synergistic results.
Last but not least, Yoon calls out tattoo nails as a street trend set to explode. With this approach, "some nails don't have any color but [instead have] tattoo stickers glued on with fun graphics and illustrations." People have even gone so far as to get their nails themselves tattooed, but we're going to leave it at stickers for now.