When it comes to nails, it doesn't get any more classic than a French manicure. The pairing of a crisp white tip and a slick of nude polish is so timeless and undeniably chic, its popularity shows no signs of dwindling. On TikTok, for example, #frenchmanicure currently boasts 267.9 million views and counting. Unsurprisingly, a manicure this iconic has provided plenty of inspiration for other nail art trends, from the elegant skinny white tips of the micro French manicure to the glossy American manicure. But it looks as if there’s a new French-inspired nail trend about to take off.
Amidst the legions of pared-back, minimalist “clean girl” nails that have been all over our social feeds lately, there's been one understated style in particular that has really started to dominate. It's called the "French fade" — and yes, it might just be even chicer than a standard French manicure.
What is the "French fade" manicure?
With the same white tips and nude base as its predecessor, the French fade’s distinguishing factor is the blend between the two colors. There is no clear line to differentiate the white tip from the nude base; rather, the colors fade into each other (much like an ombré effect) for a barely-there finish that is delightfully ethereal. Sometimes called “baby boomer nails” as a tongue-in-cheek reference to the style’s popularity in the 1940s, or the “ombré French,” session manicurist Ami Streets describes the look as “a soft, sheer nude, or pink base color that smoothly transitions into a paler shade like cream or white at the tip.”
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While TikTok seems smitten with the classic pink-and-white French fade for now, Streets believes that this is a nail art trend that lends itself well to experimenting with other color combinations, too. “Pastel shades are perfect for spring and summer, and bolder or darker colors are great options for colder months,” Streets says. “Simply select your light to dark shades in complementary colorways.”
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What is the difference between a "French fade" and a French manicure?
The key point of difference between the French fade and a classic French manicure lies in that seamless blend between the two colors. “The classic French manicure consists of a clean, distinguished line between the pink base and the white tip, whereas the French fade offers a more subtle, blended appearance of the pink into the white tip,” explains Yana Gushchina, founder of nail and beauty salon Browfique. Streets also notes the importance of nailing the “gradient effect” when creating a French fade.
How do you achieve the French fade manicure?
There’s plenty of French fade inspiration on TikTok and Instagram if you want to take a point of reference to your next nail appointment. This manicure works really well with both gel polish (including Builder in a Bottle (BIAB) and regular nail polish, but if you prefer a DIY approach, the good thing about this simple look is that you can recreate it at home quite easily.
Streets recommends starting with a clear base coat and then applying your base color of choice. “Sheer, peachy nudes or soft pinks work best,” she says. Layer up the color until you’ve reached the level of opacity that you’re seeking, and then it’s time for the tips. “Go for a soft cream or white polish for the French tip and apply it to the top third of your nail,” Streets explains.
Of course, the most important thing about this manicure is the faded effect, and that requires blending. “A makeup sponge works well to blur any lines and create your fade,” says Streets. She suggests using a blotting motion to blur the colors together, or even adding a mid-toned shade between your white tips and base color “to help make the transition from one shade to another look even more effortless.”
Tools can help, too. “Ombré nail art brushes are also available, which make it easy and efficient to accomplish the French fade look,” says Streets. “Use gentle pressure with your brush strokes to mix and create a gradient effect between your nail colors. The soft, wispy bristles really help to blend the shades together.”
How long does the French fade manicure last?
If you’re after a low-maintenance manicure option that looks good as it grows out, then the French fade is ideal. In fact, Streets recommends French manicures in general for any client seeking longevity from their manicure. “The base color is usually a sheer pink, close to the natural nail color, which means that any growth is much more subtle and almost imperceptible to the eye,” she explains. To really extend the life of your French fade, Streets recommends opting for gel polish for a more durable finish. “Depending on the individual and the growth of their natural nails, this manicure can last between two to three weeks,” she says.