Tried And Tested: How To Nail A DIY French Tip Manicure

Photo by Jacqueline Kilikita.
Thanks to TikTok's obsession with all things '90s and Y2K, beauty trends like chunky highlights, the half-up, half-down ponytail, and bold lip liner are everywhere — but the most popular nostalgic look to make a comeback might be the classic French tip manicure.
To say nail art is dominating 2022 would be an understatement. But as they say, style is cyclical, and bold white French tips are back as manicurists and nail art obsessives flock to the app to create their own retro nail looks. If you're not a skilled hand with nail polish, perfecting the very precise, flawless white tip can be difficult. But when there's a will, there's a way. Here's how to get that perfect French tip manicure at home (without breaking the bank).

How Do You Do French Tips At Home?

As usual, TikTok has the answer to all our DIY French tip needs. TikToker Maria Zarkova has the perfect, speedy French tip manicure hack, involving applying a slick of white polish to the end of your finger and pressing your nail into it. The soft pad subsequently covers the end of the nail and creates a white tip in moments, without requiring fiddly nail brushes or a very steady hand.

1. Clean Your Nails

The essence of a French tip manicure lies in it's clean and polished look. Your nails need to reflect that. Before you reach for any colour, make sure your nails are clean, tidy, and free of dirt. Wash your hands and remove any old nail polish.

2. Shape, Buff, And Base Coat

Whip out the nail file and get shaping. If you're after a classic look, we love an almond of square nail shape. Once you're happy with your shape, get to work with a nail buffer. This will help your nail look stay fresh longer. Finally, apply your favourite clear nail base coat. I prepped my nails with Nails INC. NailKale Superfood Base Coat to prevent nail staining and provide a smoother canvas for my nail polish.

3. Apply Nail Polish

Here's where you'll apply the base colour of your French manicure. The classic French manicure is based on a nude nail look, so I reached for Peacci Nail Polish in Bonjour and applied two coats to build up the sheer pink colour. I waited an hour for the polish to dry completely before moving on.

4. Time For Tips

Now for the fun part — your tips! For this TikTok hack, I painted my French tips using Nails INC. Plant Power Nail Polish in Free Time Is Me Time. I applied a thick swath of polish to my index finger, then very slowly and gently pressed my thumbnail against it. I repeated the step for each nail, using a different finger as my "sponge" each time. If you want to go for a more classic method, take your brush and make a smile shape across the top of your nail. If you've got an unsteady hand (guilty!), try using tape to guide you.

5. Top It Off

Don't forget to protect your fresh art with a clear top coat. After cleaning up your nails with a cotton bud, seal your French manicure with a thin layer of topcoat.

Does This French Tip Manicure Hack Actually Work?

Success! Kind of? It did work to create some sort of French tip, but it wasn't as precise as I'd hoped and I had to go over it with the nail polish brush, which was finicky. The worst part? The mess. As you can see in the pictures, it's incredibly difficult to do both hands without getting polish all over the bottle — some even ended up on my clothes and I became quite flustered. Another thing about this technique is that you have to wait for all the French tips to dry before cleaning up with nail polish remover and a cotton bud, otherwise you're likely to mess them up, so I had to sit there covered in sticky polish for a while.
TikTokers point out that a small makeup sponge, such as an old BeautyBlender, might be a better idea than using your fingers as it supposedly creates less mess. While it does lend a better, more precise French tip as seen in Maria's impressive second video, you might still end up getting thick polish on the underside of your nail (and maybe even inside, depending on the length), which takes a long time to clean up.

French Manicure Tips And Tricks From The Pros

If you're struggling with nailing your French manicure, Carla Opoku, founder of nail-polish brand Cienna Rose, offers a solution: using a fine liner brush and a polish like Cienna Rose Enriched Nail Lacquer in Blank Canvas to create the tip. "I don't dip it into the white polish, as it'll just grab too much colour," Opoku explains. "I tip some of the white shade onto a mixing palette or tin foil. You then have more control over how much colour you pick up on the brush. Dip the brush into the white and, starting from the points of nail growth, make a smile shape toward the free edge from the left side and right side, meeting in the middle." Opoku's top tip when free-handing like this is to keep the brush still — try not to take it off the nail — and roll your finger to get the smile-shape, curved line. "For any mistakes, just use a toothpick dipped in remover," Opoku says. "It's all about practice; there are just some things you can't always take shortcuts on."
If you have very unsteady hands, you might want to stock up on nail art guides or stencils. The moon-shaped stickers adhere to the nail (be sure to let your base polish dry completely first) and leave a crescent-shaped space free for the white polish. Any excess polish will end up on the paper sticker (which you simply throw away) rather than on your fingertips, which makes the process a lot less messy.
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