Ooh la la! How to flaunt a flawless French manicure

An iconic nail look, the French manicure is highly wearable and always chic. Here is how to achieve it, plus a few fun twists to try.

Favoured by red-carpet celebrities including Kylie Jenner, Jennifer Lopez and Victoria Beckham, the French manicure is an iconic and enduring nail look for a reason.

Perhaps it’s so well loved by women of all ages for its chic simplicity.

But you don’t have to stick with the classic version – there are a few modern twists to try.

Here’s what you’ll want to know about this popular nail technique.

What exactly is a French manicure?

Contrary to what many people may assume, the French manicure didn’t originate in France.

It was created in America in 1975 by Jeff Pink, the now CEO of ORLY International who, at the time, worked as a beauty supplier in Hollywood.

He came up with the look to help actresses with seamless wardrobe changes without the need for new nail colours.

Specialist nail artist Angelica Oritz Toro says that unlike regular manicures, which involve a variety of styles and colours, the French manicure is characterised by a clear or light pink base with white tips.

“While both techniques include cuticle care, nail filing and polishing, the French manicure focuses on achieving a natural and elegant look,” Angelica says.

Can you get a French manicure with gel, shellac or acrylic nails?

Yes, you can get a French manicure with gel, shellac or acrylic nails – many people choose to do this to extend its longevity.

But, as Ardell make-up artist Maria Yousif points out, these French mani techniques not only take a lot longer to get done, they also cost more.

“I would always suggest finding the most time- and cost-efficient manicure for you and your needs,” Maria says, adding that gel and shellac manicures are not a must for everyone.

“We are seeing a trend for cheaper options for the same effect,” she says.

Fun ways to wear a French manicure

Extra flair

After a French manicure with added pizzazz? Then combine it with nail art.

Angelica says the best way to do this is to add nail art on the clear portion of the nail, before finishing with a transparent top coat to seal and protect both the French mani and the nail art.

Different strokes

Angelica says there are several variations of the traditional French manicure, including the “reverse French”, where the nail tip is painted a different colour, and the “French with dots”, which incorporates dots along the nail edge.

Then there’s the “French with geometric design”, which adds geometric shapes to the nail edge.

“These variations allow for creative customisation of the classic French manicure style,” Angelica says.


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Short and sweet

Maria says a French manicure works well on short nails too.

“Just ensure you go super thin with the white tip,” she says.

If you prefer longer nails, Maria says the look can be achieved with nail extensions, either done professionally or at home.

Can a chipped French manicure be fixed?

It happens to all of us: that first devastating chip on one fingernail that ruins the whole look.

But Angelica says there are ways to fix this without ruining your mani.

To fix a chipped French manicure professionally, start by gently filing the affected areas to smooth any rough edges,” she says.

“Then, apply a clear base coat to protect the nail before rebuilding the white line of the French manicure with white polish, making sure to follow the original shape; finish with a clear top coat to seal and add shine.”

How to achieve a flawless French manicure at home

Angelica says achieving a pro-quality French manicure at home is all about attention to detail and mastering the technique.

1. Choose your polish

“Start with a high-quality, clear nail polish base to protect the nails, and then choose a white polish with good coverage for the nail tips,” Angelica says.

2. Be precise

To get the best results, Angelica recommends using guides for French nails or adhesive tape designed to create clean lines, and a thin and precise brush for accurate application of the white polish.

3. Seal it

“After applying the white polish, seal it with a layer of clear polish for shine and durability,” Angelica says.

4. Rub in oil

To finish your French manicure, Angelica recommends applying cuticle oil and moisturiser to maintain nail and cuticle health.

Product picks for a top French manicure at home

“To achieve a professionally done French manicure, I recommend using specialised products,” Angelica says.

Top picks include the following products:

More on manicures and nail trends:

Written by Caroline Zielinski.