There's seemingly no limit to the number of nail trends to choose from at any given moment. This spring alone, we spied vanilla chrome nails (a custom shade of cream-yellow polish with a silver foil overlay), obsessed over the mermaid manicure (a light teal base with a metallic wash), and were swayed by hyperreal nails (acrylic extensions tinted to look just like a natural nail). If TikTok is anything to go by, though, nothing beats the French manicure.
With 277 million views and counting, the hashtag #Frenchmanicure serves up countless creative takes on the wearable classic. There's the trending "faded French," where the crisp white tips blend into a nude base for an ombré effect, not to mention the "micro French manicure," which features a painted tip so delicate it's barely there. But if you ask manicurists, one particular spin on the iconic nail look is on the tip of everyone's tongue at the moment.
Enter: the "modern French" manicure.
What is the "modern French" manicure?
Editorial manicurist Ami Streets explains that the "modern French" manicure is a contemporary take on the '90s and early '00s classic we all know and love, but with a few simple updates. The base, rather than being an opaque baby pink or peach shade, is translucent and barely there. "The 'modern French' manicure enlists a sheer shade that will enhance your natural nails while camouflaging any imperfections," says Ami. "As a result, nails simply look perfectly groomed."
The shape is key, too. "The 'modern French' manicure substitutes the classic square shape for a softer, more subtle, rounded or almond nail shape, and the French tip is delicate and slim as opposed to wide and more defined," explains Ami. "This looks a little more understated and sophisticated, especially if painted in more muted shades of cream rather than the typical bright white tip. It gives the illusion of being your nails — but better." Take inspiration from digital creator Sarah on Instagram.
What is the difference between a "modern French" and a French manicure?
Aside from the more rounded, elongated shape, the key point of difference is in the shades used. For the base, manicurists are ditching solid colours for translucent pink, nude, or even clear to enhance the natural nail depending on personal preference. The ivory tip imitates the tip of a natural nail, which is never stark white, so the final result is a lot more believable. On TikTok, some manicurists are even using the "modern French" manicure and the "vanilla French" manicure interchangeably. (The word "vanilla" refers to the soft cream colour of the tip of the nail.)
How do you achieve a "modern French" manicure?
For best results, especially if you're choosing gel, Builder in a Bottle (BIAB), or acrylic extensions, visit a qualified manicurist. "Ask your nail technician for a rounded or almond shape," says Ami. Your chosen nail professional will help you decide which will look best depending on the length of your nails. Ami suggests a rounded or square-oval shape for short nails (look to this shape by Nicole McMillan on Instagram) and an almond shape for longer nails.
Ami says to try and choose a base shade that's suitable for your skin tone, but if in doubt, simply opt for a clear polish. She adds that the finishing touch is a slim French tip in an off-white shade.
If you'd rather give the French tip a go yourself, there are plenty of tutorials on TikTok. Some manicure enthusiasts are pressing each nail into the soft pad of their finger coated in polish to achieve the slim tip, while others are investing in a silicone stamper, which is essentially a gel cushion (a lot less messy than the former).
How long does the "modern French" manicure last?
A manicure like this should typically last for around two to three weeks, which is good news for the low-maintenance among us. The sheer base coloUr typical of the "modern French" manicure means that as nails get longer, any evidence of growth around the cuticle area isn't particularly noticeable. Opting for gel polish or BIAB will boost the longevity of a manicure like this, but if you prefer regular polish, consider investing in a gel-effect top coat to prevent chipping and lend a glossy, professional-looking finish.