The 30 Biggest Nail Trends to Date

forest green nails

Nicky Sims/BFC / Contributor / Getty Images

Some women love long, carefully shaped talons. Others prefer short rounded nails. Manicure preferences are subjective, and trends are constantly changing. We say wear whatever you like, with confidence.

But with so many options, it's nice to have some inspiration. So we rounded up a slew of manicures that are sure to spark ideas for your own looks, from bright pops of color to intricate designs. Whether you like something more subtle (we're looking at you, nude nail devotees) or you crave a mani with more personality (trust, us, there's plenty of that here), you'll find something to suit you in our round-up.

Meet the Expert

• Elle is a celebrity manicurist whose clients include Jennifer Lopez, Blake Lively, Kelly Ripa, Katie Holmes and others.

• Hannah Lee is a brand ambassador for Sally Hansen and a professional manicurist.

Keep reading for a rundown of 30 popular manicure and pedicure trends that are super hot right now, and how you can wear them along with tips from celebrity manicurists.

Acrylic Nail Manicures

There are many acrylic nails that can not only add length to your digits — they can also add a heavy dose of drama. Keep your look fresh and easier-to-maintain by shortening the length of faux nails slightly and by rounding the edges. Extra length not your thing? Shorter nails are trendy, too. "I think we will continue to see a mix of shorter and longer nails throughout 2021," says nail expert Hannah Lee .

Complementary Manicures

There are some people who insist your manicure and pedicure should be matched, but that's a dated rule. These days, you can totally change up your mani from your pedi — just pull inspiration from the many nail trends out there. There's no reason they should match, although a color scheme that relates is always a nice way to tie things together.

Iridescent Manicures

These shades have tiny specks of glitters and flecks, and can change colors depending on the lighting you’re in. These types of shades you can wear on their own (two to three coats), or layer (a single coat) over any nail polish to switch up any shade. It’s so simple to do but looks like you did something extra.

 

Wine-Inspired Manicures

Deep reds for winter are nothing new, but this year, we're seeing a move to dark bordeaux reds or deep purples, and even reds with a hint of shimmer. For these deep shades, a good tip is to always use a base coat to protect the nail, as these types of polishes are more likely to stain nails. Try Sally Hansen Color Therapy in Wine Therapy ($8).

 

Multi-Colored Manicures

Really anything goes when it comes to color. If you’re using a bright polish color but it isn’t “popping” as much as it does in the bottle, apply a coat of an opaque white polish underneath. It’ll give a clean base to make the neon pigments appear brighter.

 

'90s-Style Manicures

A in the world of fashion, '90s vibes are trending in the world of nail art these days. Checkered patterns are a favorite and so versatile for even just an accent nail. If you’re trying a checkered or plaid design and need some assistance with straight lines, use striping tape over a dry base color. You can map out where you want a line to go and it’ll be perfectly crisp. Another tip with nail art: always use a great top coat so you don’t smear your design. We like Seche Dry Fast Top Coat ($10).

 

Textual Manicures

To some, nail art may be just a fashion choice, but it is also an amazing way to show creativity, self expression, and make a statement. Manicurists have been seeing lots of text-influenced design, which include everything from a loved one’s name to Jennifer Lopez’s “Mamacita” nails at the AMA’s. If you don’t have a steady hand, nail stickers are an easier option. Try the So Nailicious Gothic Letters set ($4).

 

Geometric Manicures

Geometric nail art has been trending for a few years now, and it’s easy to see why. It's simple yet bold, and incredibly easy to DIY. Try freehanding an abstract diagonal French tip with the brush straight out of the bottle with a chic color pairing. Paintbox's Power Couple sets ($40) make it easy to pick on-trend color combos.

 

Mix and Match Manicures

Can’t decide on a color? This is the nail look for you. Each nail is a different color, from a rainbow pattern to a monochromatic gradient. It even looks great with nude shades. This set from Nails Inc makes it easy! The Nails.Inc. Keep It Tonal collection ($22) makes selecting a range of colors a no-brainer.

French Manicures

French manis and pedis are one of those looks that are fairly timeless, but change slightly. While heavy contrasts used to be popular, modern French manicures tend to be more subtle. Instead of long nails, rounded and short nails look more modern. "As for nail shape, I am seeing lots of shorter oval, almond and square shapes instead of very long nails but it really is just personal preference," Lee says.

Consider swapping out the traditional light colors of a classic French mani for bright shades or sparkling tips.

Marble Manicures

Though it might appear intricate, this look is surprisingly easy to achieve. Using black nail polish and a white nail polish, gently paint a couple of thin lines randomly on the nail. Quickly use a clear polish to paint on top of the white lines before the white polish dries, and you get a marble print. We like China Glaze Liquid Leather, $5, for its high color pigment, which requires just one coat.

Quartz Stone Manicures

To achieve this look, try the marble nails technique but use a sheer color as your base; sheer pink as a base color will give you a rose quartz look, and sheer green will give you more of a jade look. Blue is great, too. "A soft periwinkle shade offers such a pretty and unique mix of blue and purple," Lee says. "I'm obsessed with Crystal Blue ($7) from Sally Hansen's Good. Kind. Pure. collection."

 

Gradient Manicures

Add further interest by applying a different pastel hue to every finger. For cohesiveness, try to keep them all in the same finish (i.e. matte or glossy), and apply them going from the lightest to the darkest hue.

Tonal Manicures

Here's a surprisingly fun look and easy to achieve: Try two different colors, but ensure they're in the same color family (i.e. one hand pale blue and the other hand electric blue). This can be done with any color you wish.

Minimal Manicures

A crystal here, a stripe there... Sometimes less is more, and still makes a big impact. For this look, keep things as minimal as possible, utilizing a small but striking design element such as a single stripe or a single nail adhesive on each nail.

Animal Print Manicures

Leopard print is so classy, it can be suited for everyone. Cow print is a really cool look as well if you don't want to go the standard route. Using different colors can change your whole mood.

Sparkly Manicures

Metallic nails are great, but adding a little extra oomph via artfully applied stickers takes your manicure ina decidedly different direction.

Metallic Manicures

"Metallics have been popular for a while and I see that trend continuing since everyone loves to add some sparkle into their life," says Lee. You can coat your entire nail in the polish or just add it to the tips, as seen here. Lee recommends a metallic shade with bronze undertones, such as Orly's Golden Girl ($10).

Smiley Face Manicures

Expect smiley-face nails to be huge in 2021. Use a nail pen and a nude polish to replicate the look easily.

Abstract Art Manicures

Make like Matisse and add a host of abstract and geometric figures and shapes to your nails. The easiest way to achieve the look is with a tool like the Orly Striper Brush ($10) which allows for more detailed designs.

Pearl Manicures

A total showstopper, pearl-encrusted nails are ideal for a formal event (a wedding, perhaps?) but look equally as chic with a t-shirt and jeans. For a similar look, try a range of sizes of adhesives, like these Yimaa Pearl Stickers ($9).

Squiggly Manicures

Similar to the abstract look, a squiggly nail doesn't even require a steady hand. Just use your nail pen or narrow brush to create squiggles. Try combining colors for further interest.

Sheer and Shaped Manicures

Sheer nails allow the shape to be the star of the show. And while there are a multitude of options, from square to oval, it's best to let personal preference dictate the shape of your nails. "I always say that nail shape and length reflect your personal style so this is really about who you are – I don’t think length and shape should be dictated by a trend," says celebrity manicurist Elle.

Negative Space Manicures

Negative space manis involve incorporating your own natural nail into your nail art. Dress up nude nails with skinny stripes or swooshes of polish to achieve the look.

Two-Tone Manicures

Think of this look as the French manicure's cousin, but instead of keeping a portion of the nail nude, you'll use two contrasting colors. For a really bold look, try two shades at the opposite ends of the spectrum, like black and white, or black and red, seen here.

Tie-Dye Manicures

Take a page out of the 1960s and try your hand at tie-dye. You could attempt the look yourself with a toothpick and polish or just adhere a product such as Shrine X ASOS Sugar Crush False Nails ($17).

Pastel Manicures

Pastels are having a moment. "The trends we are seeing for spring are bright, florally, delicate pastels that give us uplifting vibes," says Elle, who recommends Dr.'s Remedy Nail Care Enriched Nail Police in Peaceful Pink Coral ($17). 

Checkerboard Manicures

The easiest way to checkerboard-style nails is to first apply a base coat (pick whatever color you like), and then paint small squares over each nail in a contrasting color. The effect is uber-trendy and, depending on what colors you select, goes with anything.

Dotted Manicures

A decidedly simple way to add an artful twist to nude nails, dots just require a smattering of adhesives or the use of a nail pen. Keep the rest of the nail nude to really show off the dots.

Classic Red Manicures

No matter how classic, a hyper-saturated red manicure still manages to look on-trend. We recommend Essie Adrenaline Brush ($9) for a similar look.

Related Stories