I Tried “Lip Gloss” Nails — Here’s What To Ask For

Photo: Courtesy of Megan Decker.
I have to admit: When I first saw headlines about "lip gloss" nails, I rolled my eyes a little bit — but I also clicked, which tells you I was curious. I like lip gloss and fun nail art — but do I want lip gloss on my fingernails? Well, definitely not literally. That would be a sticky mess.
Quickly scrolling through the imagery I came to the conclusion that the "lip gloss" manicure is like a jelly manicure. The polish is thinned out, almost translucent, so that the color is more of a nail tint, where you can still see your natural nail underneath. Think: your natural nail but with a tint and gloss. It's exactly what I was looking for in a neutral manicure.

What are lip gloss nails?

This style is a little bit different from jelly nails: instead of a turquoise or blue or purple tone, the base polish color is a translucent pink or your true nude (kinda like a clear lip gloss). The fine point here is that you want the finish to be translucent. The first coat will be almost undetectable, and then the tint and glossiness builds as you layer.

How do I get lip gloss nails?

I recently visited Paintbox in NYC for a "lip gloss" manicure. The first step was gel removal (I had an opaque milky pink prior). Then we did some shaping; I went for a round tip. Apparently "squoval" — a hybrid of square and oval — is the trending nail shape right now. Just saying "round" felt close enough.
For the polish, we picked a translucent pink from The Gel Bottle. Aptly, the shade is called Gloss. We did three coats, with a 30 second curing between each. The first layer looked like my nails were bare, the second made them a little bit more airbrushed, then the third gave that extra flushed and shiny effect. 

How much does a lip gloss manicure cost?

Cost will depend on factors like where you live and what your salon charges. You can assume if you're asking for a single color gel manicure (albeit with a specific polish color), with no add ons like chrome or a French tip, that the price will be consistent with the cost of a regular gel manicure. With my removal and gel polish, the total comes to around $80.

Can I get lip gloss nails at home?

Totally! I got a gel manicure in a salon because it lasts longer than a traditional polish (about three weeks) and I don't have a professional system at home. But, you can totally recreate the general idea on your own. On social, we've seen a lot of lip-gloss style nails recently.
If you're looking to get more of that milky jellied effect — without any chrome at all — you could consider a semi-sheer polish with a hint of milkiness, like GelCare's Lavender Water, which has a subtle milky purple underdone and all of that sheer glossiness. Refinery29 recently reviewed The Manicurist, an at-home gel brand to consider — the shade Pale Rose would give the lip gloss look. For both of these polishes, you would need to spring for the at-home LED lamp because the gel has to cure, as is the case with most jelly polishes. Although, it's worth noting that at-home gel systems are a little controversial. You have to be careful to follow the directions so as to not hurt yourself or damage your nails.
If you want to use regular polish, I'd recommend three coats of Dior Nail Glow. Nailberry Pink Guava would give a slightly pinker jelly finish. If you're looking for something more affordable, Ella + Mila Pink Sand Beach offers that watercolor, glossy pink, while Essie Gossamer Garments gives a little more opacity but still a semi-sheer finish. Though not groundbreaking, lip gloss nails are really just a fun way to market an extra-glossy manicure.
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This story was originally published on December 15, 2022 and updated with relevant information.

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