I Tried The Vintage ‘Half Moon’ Manicure & It’s So Chic

The release of Taylor Swift's 'Midnights' album sparked a few different nail-art trends. The first and most obvious is Swift's navy nails embellished with silver stars — a very on-the-nose interpretation of midnight. The second, though, was a little more low-key: her red half-moon manicure as seen in the 'Bejeweled' music video.
The half-moon is not a new nail design, but actually a vintage technique that seems to be tracking a bit of a comeback. According to recent search trends, the half-moon manicure has seen steady increase through fall with a spike in October, which may be partially to Swift's credit. As a fan of both red nail polish and minimalist nail art, I was eager to try the red half-moon manicure myself.

What is a half-moon manicure?

Here's a little anatomy factoid for you: when you look at your bare nail, at the nail bed, down by cuticle, there's a teeny crescent-shaped whiteish area, and it's called the lunula. This means 'little moon' in Latin. The 'half-moon' manicure simply accents the lunula. The entire nail gets painted, but the lunula crescent is left bare, creating a very-subtle negative space.
According to beauty expert Cat Quinn, the design harkens back to the Golden Age of Hollywood, specifically the 1950s. Quinn predicted that the half-moon manicure would see a resurgence this year, in large part due to the many films set in the '50s. Quinn cites Don't Worry, Darling, where Olivia Wilde's character wears a red half-moon manicure. The same design is also signature to Dita Von Teese, the burlesque icon who makes cameos in both Don't Worry, Darling and Swift's 'Bejeweled' music video. Through recent years, the half moon has experienced other trend spikes. A Pinterest deep-dive brought to light a photo of Rihanna wearing red half-moon nail art back in 2013, for example.
@catquinn Olivia Wilde’s half moon red manicure in Don’t Worry Darling is a status symbol in Victory. #dontworrydarling #oliviawilde #dontworrydarlingedit #dontworrydarlingmovie ♬ Oogum Boogum Song - Brenton Wood

How do you get a half-moon manicure?

The half-moon manicure is simple enough to attempt at home (see an old R29 tutorial, here). However, I had to get my 'glass' manicure removed, so I went to NYC's Glosslab salon for a gel removal and a fresh coat of polish with the half-moon art. Two birds, one stone.
The nail artist shaped and filed my nails (which had grown out a bit, thanks to the gels) into a rounded shape. For the color, she used a red polish: CND Vinylux in Hollywood #119. She used a small stripping brush, dipped it in the red polish, and traced the arch of my lunula. Then she used the larger polish brush to fill in the space above the line. Again, just the small lunula crescent was left bare. After all ten nails were painted, she applied a top coat, and I sat under the dryer for ten minutes.

How much does a half-moon manicure cost?

Cost will depend on a few factors, like where you live, what your salon charges for a manicure and whether you opt for gel or regular polish. For my half-moon manicure, the salon charged me for a regular manicure with a 'basic' nail art design; it comes out to the same price as a French manicure. The total: $49 (approximately £42.6) before the gel removal or gratuity.

Can I get a half-moon manicure at home?

My Glosslab manicurist made this look easy and possibly easier than a French. Once you have the dividing line, it's just filling in the colour, so there's not as much precision painting. I could probably attempt a half-moon manicure at home; I just need one of those tiny striping brushes. I would use it to trace around the lunula line, then the rest of the nail I would paint as usual. Of course, another easy at-home option would be a press-on manicure. Etsy has a handful of red half-moon designs. You could also switch the colour way, with white or gold or pink or navy. Although, as you may know, the internet is very into red nails right now.
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