What Is The Modern French Manicure?

With every storefront donning low-waist denim and Y2K fits reminiscent of the golden Britney Spears era, other 2000s trends have made a comeback, too. We're seeing glossier lips, cutesy decor and electric colors — Gen Z has romanticized the year 2000 the way it deserves to be. So, as if on cue, beauty trends like the French manicure are also taking a prime seat at the table.

Traditionally, a "French manicure is a manicure that has a sheer pink or beige tone with a white polish tip on each nail," Vivian Cardenas, of Vanity Projects nail salon, explained to Elle. According to Google Trends searches, the manicure was particularly popular from 2013-2016, and then went on a decline until it peaked a few months ago. But this time, the French tips look a little different — they're not as white and the style has a few iterations. 

Here's how to wear the newest version of an old classic.

You can get creative with your French manicure

Influencers cannot be underestimated; Bella Hadid, Megan Fox, and Megan Thee Stallion all wore their takes on the French manicure this year and clearly, we've been influenced. Hadid added a white swirl to hers, Fox replaced the classic white tips with rainbow colors, and Megan Thee Stallion bedazzled her tips and followers with a colorful remake. Kylie Jenner has also been ahead of the curve, donning soft colored ombre tips back in 2019. 

The 2021 version of French manicure can be anything you want it to be — but adding colors and playing around with the shape of the tips seems to be the easiest way to participate. According to nail salon founder Nadine Abramcyk, "People are now making [the French manicure] their own. A classic red tip with a neutral, almost sheer, base is a style we've seen often this year, paired with a more almond-shaped nail," she told The New York Times.

You could also experiment with negative space; some manicurists are creating outlines for tips or lining them with dots. Calling it the "American manicure," manicurist Tom Bachik told Allure, "People can personalize this look with their favorite colors — whether all the tips are one color or every fingertip a different color." 

There are no rules — experimentation is the new French (and American) manicure.

Try out the modern French manicure with patterns and prints

One of the easiest — and most fun — ways to dip your toes, er, fingers in the modern French manicure is by trying out printed designs. No matter your aesthetic, there's a pattern to fit. But those who love a late 1990s throwback have especially lucked out with this trend. Rainbow tie-dye patterns, which peaked circa 1998, are given a second life splashed onto the tips of fingernails, which, as Allure points out, is perfect for Pride month. Other Y2K favorites like yin yangs, dotted florals, and smiley face patterns also feel super fresh.

Another way to try the updated French manicure look is by opting for on-trend swirl and wave prints. There are endless possibilities, but one option is to turn the usual crescent-shaped tips into a curvy wave. Then, add another swirl to the center of the nail. Alternatively, you can splash the tips with a burst of psychedelic waves, à la Kylie Jenner.

Smiley faces and colorful swirls may be perfect if you're looking for a serotonin boost on your fingertips. But for those preferring a slightly more serious print, try minimalist lines and stripes instead. Adding bold stripes to the tips of your nails, keeping the rest one solid color, is a new take on the classic French manicure. You can also turn your nails into a Mondrian-esque masterpiece with a simple line pattern.

Don't be afraid to mix and match

When it comes to the updated French manicure, you don't need to stop at trying out different patterns. With the new "American" French manicure, the old rules are thrown out in favor of mix-and-match styles. As nail expert Dasha Minina told InStyle, "Many different designs, color patterns, and textures can be incorporated to make a unique version of the French manicure."

While French manicures were once an understated nail design with only white tips and a neutral color below, they've now been revamped to be eclectic and completely non-uniform. In other words, don't limit yourself to having the same design on each nail. Alternate tip colors and kick neutrals to the curb. Nail artist Naomi Yasuda's glittery nails for singer Lily Allen are a great example.

One micro-trend is to create a geometric or V-shaped design on the tip of the nails, using mixed and contrasting colors to achieve a modern aesthetic. These tips can then be spruced up with dots, flowers, and other motifs. But don't think you have to apply French tips to every nail to pull off the modern French manicure. Paint some tips, while filling in the entirety of the other nails for an unexpected finish. The key here is to tie the nails together with similar colors, such as all bright, warm tones, or unifying them with a similar pattern.