I Recreated Instagram's Coolest Nail Trends At Home – These Are The Results

Nails have become the go-to canvas for a whole host of trends. If there’s a colour, pattern or texture of note, you better believe you’re going to see it recreated on the fingertips of Instagram nail artists everywhere. From the out-there (furry nails, cow print nails and pressed flower nails) to the delightfully simple, Insta’s nail creations are truly an art form.
Hashtags for #NailArt are currently at 52 million on Instagram and I've lost count of how many times I've found myself in an hourlong scroll hole. After all, if you didn’t share your new nail art online, did your salon visit even happen? While I’m awestruck by the aforementioned creations, no matter the occasion, I usually opt for a red polish. I own so many shades of red, I could pen my own E. L. James-inspired novel on the subject. So instead of double-tapping everyone else's cool nails, I decided to ditch my failsafe shade and try the biggest trends myself. Here are the results.
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Gem nails

The method
1. I used Nails Inc's Superfood NailKale Base Coat, £15, to protect my nails from the glue.
3. Next, I pooled a dot of nail glue (Nailene Ultra Precise Nail Glue, £2.80) onto a tray, dipped a toothpick into the glue and dotted a small amount onto my nail.
4. I picked up each gem, which I bought on eBay, with a pair of tweezers and held them in place for a few seconds, pressing down with another fingertip, until the glue set. I'd suggest scattering the gems randomly across each nail, mixing colours and sizes.
5. To finish, I applied Nails Inc's 45 second Top Coat with Kensington Caviar, £15, to seal everything on.
The verdict
I'd give this 4/10 for difficulty. I went for a multicoloured pastel base to up the ante but if I were to do this again, I'd opt for much smaller gems. I found them slightly fiddly to place at times, but overall this look was pretty easy to create. The gems did start to ping off after a day out and about, so this mani isn’t ideal for longevity. But it did get me some lovely compliments throughout the day.
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Leaf nails

The method
1. After a slick of base coat, I applied two coats of nude polish: Nails Inc's Colville Mews Gel Effect Nail Polish, £15.
2. On some scrap card, I pooled a few drops of Essie's Licorice Dark Black Nail Polish, £7.99, and dipped a fine nail brush into the colour. Then, I drew a line from the top right corner of the nail to the bottom left. Practise with the brush first by drawing leaves onto paper, if you’re unsure.
3. From the 'stem' I looped the brush to create two or three sketchy leaf-like shapes on one side.
4. I continued onto each nail (a corrector pen such as 3INA’S The Nail Polish Corrector Pen, £8.95, is a lifesaver for mistakes) and finished with top coat to seal the design.
The verdict
I'd rate this 6/10 for difficulty. I was totally smitten with founder of Rock n Rose Girls, Emily Jane Lathan’s leaf print nails when I spotted them on Instagram. They were created by Amy Rickaby, who crafted the design using a nude gel polish by The Gel Bottle. Opting for a minimal, 'sketchy' leaf (I envisaged eucalyptus when drawing mine) allowed for a more abstract feel, which means the design didn't have to be perfect to have a big impact. Another top tip Amy gave me was to use a nail art pen, instead of a striping brush, as they flow easily and make drawing a doddle. This was a quick and simple mani to DIY, but you may need a friend to help you with your non-writing hand – my left-hand leaves definitely ended up neater than my right. When the style did start to chip (after about 4-5 days), the design meant it couldn’t really be patched up. That said, I loved the look and will be trying it again – practice makes perfect, after all.
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Plaid nails

The method
1. I applied Essie's Nail Care Here to Stay Nail Polish, £8.99, as a base coat and two coats of Barry M's Gelly Hi Shine in Matcha, £3.99, allowing each to dry thoroughly.
2. On a piece of scrap card, I pooled a few drops of Nails Inc's Duke Street NailKale Nail Polish, £15, and dipped my nail brush into the nude. I made a straight line vertically down the outer third of each of my nails and repeated the step on the opposite side of my nail, to create two vertical lines downward, approximately the same distance apart.
3. Once this dried, I added two straight lines vertically across, approximately the same distance apart to create the grid pattern, and repeated this step on each nail.
4. I cleaned up any mistakes with a corrector pen and once I was happy with the pattern, sealed with Autograph's Flash Gel Top Coat Step 2, £7.50.
The verdict
I'd rate this 6/10 for difficulty. Ensuring I got a straight line with my nail brush did require a little concentration and precision. I found a quick stroke of the brush created a neater line than taking it slow. I did totally mess up on one finger but I just started it again. Much like the leaf mani, my checks started to chip around the day 5 mark, but luckily only on one finger, so a quick DIY job meant it was resurrected to see out the rest of the week.
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Tortoiseshell nails

The method
1. First, I applied my base coat and allowed it to dry. The key to creating a tortoiseshell pattern is building up layers of colour with a clear polish in between to get that glassy blur. I started with a 'background' of yellow polish, Topshop's Gloss Nail Polish in Ducky, £7.
2. Next, I mixed two dots of orange polish to one part dark brown. This creates the perfect burnt orange shade. I dipped my brush in and added splodges at random points over each nail, making sure some of the yellow could still be seen.
3. To create that 'glass' effect, I layered clear polish over the pattern. Don’t be too precious – really allow the clear polish to blur the colours together. You may think it looks terrible at this point, but trust me, suddenly it all starts to come together.
4. With a sparing amount on the nail polish brush, I created some tiny dabs of the darker brown colour overlapping the burnt orange. I worked downwards from the top left of the nail, down to the right hand corner to create that famous tortoiseshell pattern and ensured I could still see some yellow peeping through. I repeated step 3.
5. Finally, to give a look of depth to the pattern, I placed small black brush strokes randomly over the entire pattern and applied top coat to finish.
The verdict
Tortoiseshell print is everywhere right now and frankly I'm obsessed. A friend actually couldn’t believe I’d done this myself and swore it must have been an in-salon job, the highest compliment to a DIY-er. Creating this at home did require some patience; mostly I had to force myself to allow the multiple layers to dry thoroughly rather than rushing in with my next coat. I was surprised that this outlasted any other mani, despite the many layers of polish, which I thought might mean it would chip easily. Result.
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Star nails

The method
2. To add contrasting coloured stars on each nail, I poured out a dot of polish and dipped in a tiny brush to draw with. Aim to position stars across the nails at random and draw them as neatly as you can. I found making them slightly larger was easiest.
3. Once you’re happy with your designs, finish with a top coat. If you think you'd find drawing freehand too difficult, I'd suggest glueing on some tiny star gems, instead.
The verdict
I'd rate this 8/10 for difficulty. Trying this for myself made me even more impressed with Instagram manicurist Laura Wade's skills. There’s no way I could fit two super neat stars on each nail. That said, I loved the slightly abstract result, helped by the trendy mix of red and pink polish. Again, drawing with your dominant hand will make for neater stars, so either practise with that nail brush or rope a friend in to style your non-writing hand. A good quality top coat ensured this lasted just over a week. "The key to making a manicure last is allowing plenty of time between coats," Laura told me. "It requires patience but it means each layer dries thoroughly so there’s less likelihood of smudging or chipping. You can clean up any wobbles with a small brush or stick dipped in acetone or nail polish remover. For the stars, super fine nail art brushes are available for a few pounds on eBay. For the less artistic, I would recommend buying nail art stickers or a professional stamping set. Again, eBay is a great source for these."
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