I Tried The “Half Moon” Manicure & It’s A Chic Way To Wear Red Nail Polish

The half moon is not a new nail design, but actually a vintage technique that seems to be tracking a bit of a comeback lately. According to recent search trends, the half-moon manicure recently spiked as a design to try in the summer.
The half moon manicure is more than a fleeting trend but a reliable hit. It combines what we love about classic red nail polish and combines it with negative-space nail art that feels more interesting and unexpected than a French manicure with a red tip. Plus, according to nail artists, it's a lot easier to DIY. I was eager to try the red half-moon manicure myself so I took a Pinterest photo inspiration to my salon.

What is a half-moon manicure?

Here's a little anatomy factoid for you: when you look at your bare nail, at the nail bed, down by cuticle, there's a teeny crescent-shaped whiteish area, and it's called the lunula. This means 'little moon' in Latin. The 'half-moon' manicure simply accents the lunula. The entire nail gets painted, but the lunula crescent is left bare, creating a very-subtle negative space.
According to beauty expert Cat Quinn, the design harkens back to the Golden Age of Hollywood, specifically the 1950s. Quinn predicted that the half-moon manicure would see a resurgence this year, in large part due to the many films set in the '50s. Quinn cites Don't Worry, Darling, where Wilde's character wears a red half-moon manicure. The same design is also signature to Dita Von Teese, the burlesque icon who makes cameos in both Don't Worry, Darling and Taylor Swift's 'Bejeweled' music video. Through recent years, the half moon has experienced other trend spikes. A Pinterest deep-dive brought to light a photo of Rihanna wearing red half-moon nail art back in 2013, for example.
@catquinn Olivia Wilde’s half moon red manicure in Don’t Worry Darling is a status symbol in Victory. #dontworrydarling #oliviawilde #dontworrydarlingedit #dontworrydarlingmovie ♬ Oogum Boogum Song - Brenton Wood

How do you get a half-moon manicure?

The half-moon manicure is simple enough to attempt at home (see an old R29 tutorial, here). However, I went to NYC's Glosslab salon for a gel removal and a fresh coat of polish with the half-moon art. Two birds, one stone.
The nail artist shaped and filed my nails (which had grown out a bit, thanks to my gels) into a rounded shape. For the color, she used a red polish: CND Vinylux in Hollywood #119. She used a small striping brush, dipped it in the red polish, and traced the arch of my lunula. Then she used the larger polish brush to fill in the space above the line. Again, just the small lunula crescent was left bare. After all ten nails were painted, she applied a top coat, and I sat under the dryer for ten minutes.

How much does a half-moon manicure cost?

Cost will depend on a few factors, like where you live, what your salon charges for a manicure and whether you opt for gel or regular polish. For my half-moon manicure, the salon charged me for a regular manicure with a "basic" nail art design; it comes out to the same price as a French manicure. The total: $49 before the gel removal or gratuity.

Can I get a half-moon manicure at home?

@nailbetch Just a little half moon abstract mani for y’all ❤️✨ pick 2 colors and get 2 werk! #nailinspo #diymanicure #naturalnails ♬ Leave Em Alone - Quality Control & Layton Greene & Lil Baby
You can definitely try this one at home. Nail artist Jess Brush who runs the viral TikTok account Nail Betch suggests a variation on a half-moon design that requires less precision. You can use the polish brush from your favorite red nail polish — I don't know about you, but I don't have a tiny striping brush lying around — and then "swoop" the brush down to the white of your cuticle. The result is more abstract than the half-moon manicure that follows the exact curve of your lunula, but it's easier. For the exact shade of red, Brush gravitates more toward an orange undertone as opposed to a true red because as she says, it's hotter.
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