When it comes to manicures, we take nail inspiration from all over the world. There's the Japanese manicure, which enhances the look of natural nails with buffing techniques and nail treatments. Then there's the Russian manicure, controversial for its intricate cuticle work, not to mention the Italian manicure, which is popular on TikTok for elongating short nails.
But it's safe to say that nothing is more classic and widely adored than the French manicure. Renowned for its iconic white tip (whether you prefer oval, almond or square) and pink base, the hashtag #frenchmanicure has an enormous 232.7 million TikTok views. Now, it seems to have been reworked by the good old US of A, which has brought us its very own American manicure.
@diaryofdom__ Replying to @julaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaas personally, i am not a fan of the American Manicue just because of how easy it is to mess it up! I stick to pinks. #miltok #blackmiltok #miltokcommunity #ar670dash1 #americanmanicure #frenchmanicure ♬ original sound - Dom 🌻
What is an American manicure?
Much like its French counterpart, the American manicure is racking up millions of TikTok views. Though it's not exactly brand-new, it's in keeping with the minimal aesthetic reigning supreme right now, from no-makeup makeup to low-maintenance layers. The American manicure takes the classic look of the French with its white tip, and pares it back even more. Think: a peachy, nude base that mimics the colour of your natural nail. The distinguishing factor is the tip. Instead of a harsh white line, the tip is blended naturally into the nude base of the nail.
Lisa Kon is an LA-based manicurist whose clients include Hailey Bieber and Kylie Jenner. "The American manicure is essentially a more natural version of the French manicure," Kon tells me. "Unlike the French manicure, which is thicker and consists of more blunt tips, the American manicure has a softer, more seamless transition from a natural nude to a subtle, lighter tip." Kon loves the American manicure and credits its popularity in her salon to the versatility of the look. It offers a well-groomed finish, suitable for any occasion, says Kon.
The versatility of the American manicure is what appealed to me. Unlike other manicures, it doesn’t rely on gel polish and can be created using the permeable nail polish I'm able to use as a Muslim. I have overlooked nail trends in the past as most nail polish including gel, acrylic and BIAB (builder in a bottle) nails are not suitable for ablution (an essential step ahead of performing the daily prayers).
In recent years, the rise of water-permeable nail polishes by brands such as Nailberry, Orly and Inglot has made many trends more accessible to the Muslim community. For me, this has usually meant a quick coat speedily applied in the car on the way to whatever event has forced me to pop on a pair of sandals rather than trainers. So I was excited to book in at Townhouse nail salon, knowing I’d be in safe hands.
What's the difference between the American and the French manicure?
Although the basics of the nail are the same for the French and the American manicure, the colours used differ. A French manicure usually keeps the base clear or pink with a bright and stark white tip. An American manicure uses a glossy nude for the base — like your nails but better. What's more, the tip is created with a more translucent off-white, which is closer to the natural nail look. The tip of a French manicure is its key feature so is usually thicker and far more prominent, while an American manicure tip blurs into the base with a less definitive line. "One of the main benefits of opting for the American manicure is the imperceptible regrowth," says Kon. With the subtlety of the colours, the growth of the natural nail blends easily into the manicure, allowing it to go further and last longer.
How do you achieve the American manicure?
The American manicure can be achieved with either gels or regular nail polish that can be removed easily with acetone. Best of all, it can be done at the salon or with a steady hand at home. Celebrity nail artist Jolene Brodeur, whose clientele includes Aubrey Plaza, Adele and Kendall Jenner, told me how the American manicure is created.
"Many manicurists will be able to achieve this look freehand by applying the base nude, then painting on the French tip in a thin shape to match the natural white tip of the nail. After this, they might add additional layers of nude base coat, building up until there is less of a clear line [to the tip]." A trick, says Brodeur, is to use a small brush with a tiny amount of polish remover or acetone on the bristles and gently glide this along the line of the tip, so that it fades into the bed of the nail. "For a thicker tip that transitions into the nail, use a makeup sponge and gently tap on the free edge of the nail with the off-white colour." Here's a similar handy hack you can practise at home.
How long does the American manicure last?
For someone like me who rarely wears nail polish, the American manicure was perfect. At Townhouse, I asked the manicurist for a very subtle French, with a blended tip into a nude base. She prepped my nails with Nailberry Strengthen & Breathe, £18.50, and then used Nailberry Oxygenated Nail Lacquer in Elegance, £16, for the base and Nailberry Oxygenated Nail Lacquer in Almond, £16, for the tip. This was painted freehand with a minuscule brush. If you want your manicure to last as long as possible, don't forget a slick of top coat.
I can say with full certainty that I prefer this new American take on the classic French manicure. The French feels a little outdated and less suited to everyday, while the American manicure feels chicer, cleaner and fresher. More 'I love your nails' than 'I love your manicure'. It also works well on all nail lengths. I opted for short, square tips but it’s possible to wear rounded or almond-shaped tips, too. After four days of wear, my nails still look perfect with the tips intact and a natural, wearable base.
How much does the American manicure cost?
At Townhouse, a signature manicure with all the trimmings starts at £40. Prices will vary depending on the salon and the type of nail polish you opt for, whether regular polish, gel nails or BIAB.
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