I Got A ‘Glass’ Manicure — The Next Wave Of Chrome

When I read a subject line in my inbox that read, 'glass nails are trending,' I was a little confused. I've heard of seaglass nail art: when you use a greenish-turquoise polish, thin it out, and add a matte top coat, making the nails look like pieces of seaglass washed up on the beach. But with glass? I was not sure how to envision it. The concept involves making your nails look like a piece of glass, or stained glass, that has been fractured, creating teeny-tiny cracks. I suppose 'shattered glass' nails might be more accurate.
The technique is thought to have originated in Korea. Nail artist Park Eunkyung who recently posted a very avant-garde glass manicure on Instagram and inspired others to consider different variations on the look. According to Pinterest data analytics, the search for 'glass manicure' is up 170%. To better understand why, I did some Pinterest browsing, before quickly deciding I wanted to try a glass manicure myself.

What is a glass manicure?

The nail art involves applying shards of foil to the nails, giving an illusion of shattered glass. Foils don't work with regular polish, so a glass manicure should involve gel. Most commonly, you'll see a glass manicure with a clear or neutral base color and then chrome foils over top. Chrome, or, what Zoey, a nail artist at New York's Vanity Projects salon, calls "aurora" foils for their reflective quality like the Northern Lights, shining different colors when the light hits.

How do you get a glass manicure?

The process is similar to a traditional gel manicure. It starts with shaping and filing the nail, removing any polish left over from your last manicure. (Mine was a red from Dazzle Dry.) For shape, we cut some length and went for a short, rounded tip, which gave my nails a similar shape to my Pinterest inspiration photo (above). Then we did a bare-pink neutral gel base. Vanity Projects uses Japanese gel, which comes in a pot as opposed to a bottle, and is applied to the nails with a small artist brush. Then, the base gel cures.
The 'glass' effect comes from the foils. Vanity Projects carries Clou Professional Nail Film, which the artists at the salon cut up into teeny-tiny triangles for nail art. Zoey used a clear gel to create a tacky base for the foils to adhere to, and then she used a tweezer to apply the foil flecks to the nail. It's like a mosaic. Then, another round of curing, and a top coat to seal the foil into the gel.

How much does a glass manicure cost?

The pricing of a glass manicure will differ depending on your nail salon or artist. It will likely be priced as a gel manicure plus art. At Vanity Projects, any manicure that uses foils is considered 'Middle Tier' art and is priced at $100, before tip. Also of note: Wherever you go, this manicure will take longer than your average gel appointment, due to the individual application of the foil pieces on each nail. My appointment ran just north of an hour — and Zoey is fast.
A close-up of my 'glass' gel manicure from Vanity Projects.

Can I get a glass manicure at home?

If you want a glass or shattered glass nail look without a salon appointment, you can try a press-on option. Dashing Diva makes a Shattered Glass nail strip that you could apply at home (they're a bit more shimmery, so the effect is more or a disco-ball glass). I prefer the colorless base with the encapsulated foils because the art is actually pretty neutral. My nails look shiny and reflective, but not overtly chrome or glittered. That said, I've had the manicure for a few days and have already received many compliments, mostly friends bringing my hand closer to get a better look under the light.

More from Nails

R29 Original Series