I Love Boring Manicures, and I'm Not Alone

Call it the trickle-down "clean look" effect.

I Love Boring Manicures — and I'm Not Alone
Photo: Getty Images/InStyle

Before the pandemic, all the manicure inspiration photos in my saved Instagram folder were filled with fun nail art designs. And I loved playing with color combinations, shapes, and even different textures. Back then, more was more, and while I never went too overboard, my tips always had a dash of pizzazz.

Then all that changed in 2020.

Almost instantly it was like every nail salon shut down and my social anxiety went up. Even when salons opened, you'd never catch me there. The idea of being in an enclosed space with a group of strangers — regardless of whether or not they had masks on — sent shivers down my spine.

As such, I started painting my nails at home. During lockdown, all I wanted was for things to feel light and simple, including my beauty routine. I've never had a steady hand, so nail art was out of the question. And since I'd inevitably bite my nails when the world got peak scary, I decided to go with nude polishes so that chips wouldn't be as noticeable and my short nails wouldn't quite look like tiny M&Ms. With time, I started to appreciate a simpler look.

The point of this is to illustrate how carefree pre-pandemic life was tied to creative nail art, but now that a few years have passed by, I've developed a deep love for the exact opposite. For me, it's all about the plain, simple, boring manicure.

What Do I Consider to Be "Boring Nails?"

Don't get me wrong, boring doesn't equal uncared for. For me it's in the ordinary — there's nothing new and exciting going on at my tips. While squiggly nail art used to bring me joy, now I strictly stick to nude nails, and if I branch out, I'm doing milky nails or — at most — the Hailey Bieber nails.

There's peace in this simplicity. While grow-out used to make me cringe, now I barely notice it at all. One layer of sheer pink polish combined with a layer of sheer white polish gives my nails an elevated, more dressed-up look without completely hiding my natural nails. I've also been on a journey to increase my nail health by consistently applying cuticle oil and nail-strengthening serums — I love seeing the whites of my nails as they grow.

Who Even Likes Boring Nails?

Initially, I thought that my attraction to boring nails was related to growing older — a sort of natural progression of my expiring youth, if you may. However, TikTok validated my preference when a series of videos popped up on my "For You" page with a trending audio clip about said boring nails.

The audio goes: "A fact about me is that I like boring nails. I am a boring nail girl. I am not funky, I am not fun. I certainly do not want to branch out. I'm a Funny Bunny, Bubble Bath, put it in neutral, kind of gal. It's who I am."

Preach.

Why Do People Like Boring Nails?

Look, I'm not saying that loud and proud nail art is going anywhere — it certainly is not — but I am noticing a shift toward minimalistic nail designs. Call it the trickle-down "clean aesthetic" effect, if you may. While a full beat may trend online, out in the real world I'm observing more and more people lean toward this minimalistic beauty ideal.

Take, for example, the rise of the no-foundation movement. People are ditching their full-coverage formulas and opting for tinted moisturizers or spot-treating areas with concealer. Then we have the viral and IRL gym lips trend, which involves lightly lining your lips with a liner a shade darker than your natural lips and topping it off with clear polish. Of course, we'd be remiss not to mention how people are slicking their hair back to the gods with a Gen Z-approved middle part. Even in fashion, neutral color palettes and silky fabrics are all the rage.

VIDEO: The Best Neutral Nail Colors That Work for Every Skin Tone

Boring, minimalistic nails fit the trend like a glove. And while there's certainly an appeal to being on-trend, my gravitation toward them is a lot simpler than that. The bottom line is that my peace of mind is paramount to my mental well-being, and cleanliness and simplicity are key to that.

Why Are Boring Nails Appealing?

Chipping my nail polish used to distract me so much, it was one of the only things I could think about until I went to the salon for a fresh coat. Watching my nail growth contrast the bold nail polish shade and funky designs used to make my skin crawl. I used to stress over sticking to my weekly salon appointments to make sure my nails consistently looked polished and well-kept. Now, all those worries have been tossed to the side.

I love the consistency of simple, boring nails. They still look polished and well-kept, and while I admire nail art designs, I now admire them from afar. My entire nail polish collection has been reduced to sheer pinks, whites, and luminescent top coats that give a hint of shine or subtle sparkle.

How Do You Create Boring Nails?

If you're interested in trying it out yourself, these are my go-to products. For pinks, I love Zoya's Bela ZP315, essie's Sugar Daddy, and Olive & June's CCT. For milky and white polishes, I use Pleasing's Perfect Pearl or Olive & June's BEB. If you want a subtly pearly top coat, I couldn't recommend Pleasing's Pearly Tops more. Obviously, feel free to switch it up and play with as many or as few layers as you like. You can do boring nails and still make them you.

Of course, you'll need a strong base to give your manicure a chance to last as long as possible, so I recommend Olive & June's Ridge Filler (if you deal with uneven nail surfaces) and ORLY's Bonder. For upkeep, JINsoon's Honeysuckle + Primrose Cuticle Oil is it.

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