I Tried A “Muted French” Manicure & It Gives Effortlessness

Photo: Courtesy of Megan Decker.
My recent nail fixation has been the "no manicure manicure." Not bare, but natural. See, without any polish at all, my naked nails look...not great. They're thin, filmy, translucent, dull, and speckled with tiny white flecks from times I've banged my nail and it left a mark.
Social media trends have been promoting bare, natural nails as of late, giving them viral-sounding names like "quiet luxury" nails or "clean girl" nails — both of which are definitely problematic, denoting class status or cleanliness to a person's nails. Questionable names aside, I still find myself influenced into seeking what they're selling: effortlessness.
Now, the way I see it, the quest for effortlessness in beauty is a part of this patriarchal system we live in. It takes effort. If I want my nails to look totally bare, why not just leave them alone? That would save both time and money. Instead, I book a monthly appointment to get them shaped and glossed with a shade of nail polish that will be sheer enough to pass as natural. It's a beauty standard for sure, but I can unpack that — along with my desire for "natural" lashes (which I tint) and "natural" bronze (not from the sun but a Tan-Luxe self-tanner) — in therapy for years to come.
Back to the nails in question. I went in for my most recent manicure — I visited Glosslab in NYC — on a quest for a variation on a "quiet luxury"-esque nail people are calling the "muted French" manicure. You may have also heard it called the "modern French,” which is essentially the same thing: a toned-down, more subtle version of a French manicure. This Pinterest image served as inspiration.
So how do you take the French manicure and make it muted? It’s in the polish selection. I picked a base colour in a sheer pink that looked like my skin but slightly pinker. The exact polish is CND Backyard Nuptials. Reviewers describe the shade as a “translucent look with the perfect amount of coverage,” and “perfect if you want a clean look.” 
Because it’s a French manicure, there’s an alternate shade striped across the tip of the nail. This is important: It shouldn’t be bright white. Instead, I grabbed a sheer, almond milk-tinged white shade called All Frothed Up, also by CND. “You know this isn’t white?” my artist commented before painting on the tip. However, the combo of sheer pink with an off-white created exactly the muted French look. The difference between the tones is almost undetectable. But you know when your nail grows past your finger, the tip looks lighter because there’s no skin underneath? That’s the role of the off-white polish. So what the design really achieves, IMO, is the illusion that my nails are not painted at all.
A close-up of the u0022muted Frenchu0022 manicure
If you want to be in the know on trending terminology, call this a “muted” French manicure. Really, it's a gel manicure made to look like it's not. To me, it definitely feels like a quiet luxury given that these nails cost $55.
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