I love white clothes. My wardrobe is so packed with white button downs, dresses, and linen skirts that I'm starting to worry I won't have enough non-white options to wear on a friend's upcoming bachelorette trip. My nails, however, are a different story. Most white nail polishes make me think of glow-in-the-dark paint — not exactly in line with the 'clean' aesthetic my mostly white wardrobe evokes.
As with the difference between a red lipstick with blue undertones or a red lipstick with orange undertones, we're talking about nuances here. If the polish is a pink-toned or milky white or grey, like a chic gallery wall painted in Farrow & Ball Strong White, it looks nice on my fair, sometimes blue-tinged hands. It's all about the undertone, which is why I was excited to try one of the budding nail trends of the moment: vanilla chrome.
An evolution of the glazed doughnut trend, vanilla chrome is all about the specific off-white tone. Instead of a bright white chrome powder over the white polish, it's a white powder over a cream polish. The cream tone is important because it adds a warm yellow undertone to the white, which makes it softer, in my opinion. (The vanilla in the name comes from the cream colour, not the 'vanilla girl' aesthetic trend.)
My main design inspiration came from this photo posted by nail artist Alexandra Teleki on Instagram, and I wasn't the only fan: hundreds of followers flooded the comments asking how to get the design, so Alexandra dropped a corresponding 'vanilla chrome' tutorial that soon blew up with 114,000 likes. Since then, 'vanilla chrome nails' have become a major search trend, with people looking to Google for more information.
I took the design to Yoshimi Muranishi, a nail artist at Vanity Projects in New York. Working on my natural nail, we went with a shape similar to Alexandra's but a bit shorter and more round. Vanity Projects uses Japanese gel that lasts for three to four weeks, so I wanted to make sure that my nails could grow out without breaking or getting too long or pointy.
To create the right polish colour, Yoshimi actually mixed a custom shade, combining a few drops of yellow polish with white on an aluminium foil palette to create a vanilla tone. (This made me feel like Hailey Bieber; her nail artist Zola Ganzorigt recently told me that she'll mix custom colours for her.) But if you're looking for a perfect vanilla polish in a bottle, use The Gel Bottle in Love Letter, which is the eggshell ivory tone that Alexandra used. For regular, non-gel polish, you could use OPI One Chic Chick, Essie On The Brighter Side, or Gucci Cecilia Ivory.
After the base polish, Yoshimi used a small sponge to rub chrome powder over my nails. The reflective finish made all the difference: up to that point, I was worried that the vanilla would read too yellow and might wash me out.
While I was a little skeptical at first, the vanilla chrome manicure is definitely a design I'm saving for future reference. The warm cream tone is a good neutral — white without being stark. The name is a relatively new way to describe the look, but there's plenty of design inspiration to be found. This is a good reference by @FemmeBlk on TikTok: the colour is more of a pearlescent white, but the white is sheer so it feels toned down. Searching for milky white chrome nails, like this design on content creator @TashiaJaem, is also a good example of a take on the trend.
According to Yoshimi, chrome powders are still a popular salon request. If anything, this shows me that dusting a chrome powder over a colour that I'm iffy on makes me like it better almost instantly. That said, if I were to try this at home without a gel polish or chrome powder, I'd use one of the aforementioned eggshell polishes and add an opalescent top coat.
At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.