The Fool-Proof Way to Do Your Own French Tips, the Nostalgic Trend Making a Comeback

A good top coat is key.

If you hear the words "French manicure," and still picture your high school prom, then you may be surprised to hear that French tips are very much back. Though there are some differences in the modern iterations of this nail style, the gist of the trend remains the same. Once you're willing to look past how it feels to have this old trend reappear, you may even learn to love it again.

Still, asking for nail art and doing your own can be intimidating, especially when you consider how many styles of nails (acrylics, gel extensions, powder, dip, gel, shellac, etc.) exist. To get you started, we spoke to two nail experts who can explain everything there is to know about the art of the French manicure.

Is there a difference between French tips and a French manicure?

When someone says they want French tips as opposed to a French manicure, Dasha Minina, a nail technician and founder of Maxus Nails and BeauticianList, says it likely means they want artificial nail tips which are already painted with a white tip,

A French manicure, however, is when the tips of the nail are painted a different color than the rest of the natural nail. Traditionally, a French manicure would mean a white tip with a nude or pink base color.

What does a French manicure look like today?

In the past, French manicures often appeared on thick, square-shaped nails or acrylic tips. However, anything goes for modern takes on the trend.

"Any design that incorporates a different color that's painted on the free edge of the nail is a type of a French manicure," Minina explains. "Many different designs, color patterns, and textures can be incorporated to make a unique version of the French manicure. Recently, nail shapes started playing a role, too."

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What's the best way to do a French manicure?

In essence, the step-by-step instructions for achieving a French manicure are pretty simple. Once your nails are prepped and shaped, apply a base color of polish. Then you paint the tip of the nail. According to Minina, the key to creating a crisp, clean smile line (the contrasting color at the top of the nail) is to use proper design brushes during the process.

Another game-changing hack is to use a very good top coat. "Maxus Nails FINITO top coat is a fast-drying formula that's ideal for nail designs [as it] doesn't drag polish during application," Minina shares. Goodbye, smudged smile lines.

If the idea of professional nail brushes or drawing a perfectly straight line of color on the tip of your nail intimidates you, there are simpler options. "The easiest and most perfect form of French tip at home would be to try Color Street Nail Polish Strips. They're pre-made, pre-dried, super easy to apply, and they will give you the perfect smudge-free French manicure every time," says celebrity manicurist Kimmie Kyees.

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