The fresh way to update your manicure

The first thing you need to know about the French manicure is that it’s not actually French. (It was born in 1970s Hollywood.) The second? It’s on-trend again. The traditional style—neutral nail beds with a bright white tip—falls in and out of fashion, but it’s always a polarizing look. For every French-tip ride-or-die, there is another woman who would never. Those in the latter group may want to reconsider, as modern shapes and eccentric color pairings are giving this manicure a contemporary refresh.

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"It makes the look feel updated and creative."

Nail guru Betina Goldstein, whose work is pictured here, is witnessing this firsthand. Goldstein uses a thin brush to trace a slim line along the base of the cuticle, giving the nail two thin French ‘tips’ on opposite ends. “It makes the look feel updated and creative, but still keeps a sleek and clean edge,” she says. Meanwhile, for her half-tip version, celebrity nail pro Hang Nguyen adds accents such as gems and detailed art. “It’s a great way for nail artists today to dream up different twists on a classic,” she says.

Statement tips are another update to the look. Buzzed-about manicurist Mazz Hanna likes to make use of negative space in her contemporary versions. She most recently created an asymmetrical black French tip with a shimmery gold nail for Julia Roberts to sport at this year’s Critics’ Choice Awards red carpet. Designers at New York Fashion Week are also feeling the updated French. At Prabal Gurung, manicurist Miss Pop created an oversized red tip using Zoya polish in Vanessa atop a neutral nail bed in Naked Manicure Buff Perfector. For Tibi, Jin Soon Choi dreamed up matte brown half-tips with glitter-dusted nail beds.

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If you’re on the tipping point and considering a French with old-school length, Hanna suggests skipping acrylic and using either gel extensions or the Aprés Nails extension system. This avoids the nail damage associated with acrylic, but allows for beautiful length, a hallmark of the look. Prefer shorter nails? Worry not—the updated trend looks sporty and chic on natural lengths. So whether you embrace a classic two-tone manicure or prefer a tip with artistic edge, consider giving the French another look. —Priscila Martinez

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