Psychedelic Swirls Are Everywhere—Here's How to Try the Nail Trend At Home

Embrace your inner maximalist.

Jessica Tong-Ahn

Jessica Tong-Ahn

Summer optimism has us adding bright colors back into our beauty routine. We’re reaching for all the bold lipsticks, liners, and eyeshadows we may have ignored in the past year—not to mention choosing the boldest hues at our mani/pedi appointments.

If you’re the kind of person that spends way too long staring at the wall of polish at the salon, we spotted a nail art trend that will let you mix and match (almost) all of your favorite shades. Psychedelic swirls are the latest style to take over the world of nail art and the perfect way to embrace maximalism this season. Read on for more on the trend and pro tips from nail artist and Smith & Cult Nail Ambassador Jessica Tong-Ahn.

The Trend

These colorful swirls are the latest '70s-inspired style to pop up on our radar. What else would you pair with your Farrah Fawcett-inspired hairdo? Just like fluffy, feathered hair, this retro trend is taking over social media. Characterized by abstract swirls of different colors and sizes reminiscent of the era (and its signature lava lamps), psychedelic swirls are easy to make your own and even simpler to try at home. There's no one way to do it—you can combine any colors and freehand design any shape. Read on for a few of our favorite takes on the trend.

Thinner swirls on a neutral base are perfect for minimalists and even work on short nails. It also makes a great style for an accent nail. Keep your mani minimal with pink-toned clear polish and add drama with psychedelic swirls on just one nail.

Nail artist Chaun Legend—whose clients include Zendaya, Khloe Kardashian, Due Lipa, Kylie Jenner, and more—has his own take on the signature swirl. Using a monochromatic palette he focused the swirls near the edges of the nail for this statement-making mani on Ourfa Zinali. The brown shade is giving us iced caramel latte vibes.

swirly nails


This swirling pattern plays off pastels, giving this particular @chaunlegend style a more whimsical feel. Placing the swirls further up on the nail makes this a cool French manicure look.

Swirly manicure


Proof you can mix and match any colors and finishes—we love the pop of orange and gold on this nail shape. Courtesy of @finesseyourclaws, these versatile swirls fit any shape, style, and length.

Get The Look

We tapped Jessica Tong-Ahn to share her thoughts on the trend—and her tips to recreate a psychedelic mani ourselves. "Around Christmas time I started to see a lot of flowing freehand type nail designs. And it made me want to try something colorful and fun," she explains. For this nail look, she drew inspiration from real life. "It was from my kids blowing bubbles! When the light hits the soap there are these really cool colorful swirls all over the surface."

Smith & Cult, Nail Polish
Smith & Cult Nail Polish in Ceremony of Secrets $18.00

Tong-Ahn wanted bold and fun hues and used a mix of bright and metallic shades like Smith & Cult's Nail Polish ($18) in Ceremony of Secrets and China Glaze Nail Laquer ($6) in Tropic Like It's Hot.

To keep your cuticles clean, Jessica uses an angled eyebrow brush dipped in acetone to clean up any excess polish.

  • To get started you'll want to grab a few of your favorite colors and a neutral shade.
  • With your nails prepped and ready for polish, paint a neutral base to make the colors really pop.
  • Next comes the nail art: "I like to use a skinny striper brush that has 1” long bristles," Tong-Ahn explains. "The long and loose helps to really freehand the swirls nicely."
  • Using your brush add an "S" shaped waved with the first color of your choice.
  • Follow up with additional swirls in one or two more colors.
  • Finish with a topcoat.
Orly, Brush
ORLY Striper Brush $10.00

There you have it, a bright and bold summer nail look. And if you switch up your polish, this trend can translate to any season—we have a few ideas for our next manicure in mind already.

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