5 French Manicure Hacks for a Perfect Result Every Time

Celebrity manicurists give us their best tips (pun intended). 

peach and gold french manicure
Photo: Getty Images

After a multi-decade hiatus, it's safe to say that the French manicure has officially made a comeback. In its classic form, this iconic mani consists of a glossy, sheer pink or nude base with opaque white tips—but there are so many iterations today. Some are infused with a rainbow of color, others take on a monochromatic scheme, and others emphasize tips via interesting shapes or textures.

"The French manicure technique was originated by the legendary Max Factor in Hollywood in the early 1930s and quickly became a favorite trend in Hollywood," explains Deborah Lippmann, celebrity manicurist and founder of the eponymous brand. "It was an understated and classic look that complemented costumes without upstaging the look."

She says that the "chic" factor didn't really take off until it hit the Paris runways, and then eventually became a "go-to" look for wildly popular celebrities of the time (think Cher and Barbra Streisand).

Whether you're aiming for that classic elegance or you're keen on zhuzhing your French mani up, getting that perfect delineation at the tip is key to a perfectly polished look. We asked nail pros to share their best tips, tricks, and techniques for pulling it off at home.

1. Use a Stamping Tool

A stamping tool is your best friend, especially if you don't fancy yourself a nail painting expert. These are essentially squishy stampers that you gently push your nail into for a quick and easy tip. BlueZOO's Nail Art Stamper ($6; amazon.com) and the JimiLace Jelly Nail Head Silicone Art Stamper ($4; etsy.com) are two examples.

"Simply paint a couple of coats of nail polish in the color you want for your French tips on the nail stamper, then gently push the tip of your fingernail into the stamp at an angle," instructs manicurist Darlene Sritipan, OPI's North America education and capability manager. She says to make sure you rock the tool back and forth a little to coat the full nail, then to gently remove your fingernail from the tool. You'll be left with a perfect French tip!

2. Try Manicure Stickers

Stickers are another cheat for an easy, flawless French manicure. After painting your base coat and allowing it to fully dry, place a rounded manicure sticker below the tip and make sure the edges are secure.

Next, go in with your preferred tip color and paint. The sticker allows you to paint "outside of the lines." Wait for the tip color to dry, then gently peel back the sticker to reveal a crisp line.

Try: Orly Half Moon Guides ($5; amazon.com).

3. Opt for a Rolling Technique

If you don't have time to buy a stamping tool or stickers, then go old school with a simple rolling technique. "Turn the brush sideways and, starting at the nail line, keep the brush still while you roll your finger to the other side," says Lippmann. You can also put some polish on a makeup sponge and use the same technique. This keeps everything more steady and uniform, minimizing the risk of wayward lines.

4. Take Advantage of Clean Up Brush

Whatever French manicure trick you prefer, doing a little post-painting cleanup is a must. Sritipan swears by a clean up brush, such as Olive & June Nail Grooming Clean Up Brush ($8; target.com) or Maniology's Angled Precision Brush #105 ($9; maniolgy.com).

"A clean up brush is a nail artist's best friend. It's like a magic eraser and helps to remove any excess or unwanted nail polish," says Sritipan. "For example, if your line was too thick, you can remove a bit of nail polish to thin the line. Or if you accidentally got nail polish on your skin, you can use the clean up brush to remove it."

To use, simply dip the brush into your nail polish remover, wipe off the access, then clean up the edges.

5. Be Patient and Take Your Time

The perfect execution of a French manicure requires an action plan and patience. Lippmann says to start with a nice base coat to extend the life of your mani. Then, before applying your tips, take a look at your nails and determine where you'll apply the color.

"You want to apply the polish to the actual white part of your nail and follow the line across," notes Lippmann.

Once the color's applied, give it some time to dry. Lippmann says that a very common mistake is to apply the sheer top coat before the tip has dried.

"When you do that, you end up dragging the white into the clean pink application and even onto the next nail because it's on the brush," she explains.

Though the French manicure is known for its pale pink and white color scheme, the style lends itself to so many other variations. Try bold combinations of bright colors, play with texture, or opt for an inverted shape.

"I have always seen nail color as a way of self-expression, and I really enjoy how people are experimenting beyond the boundaries of white and sheer shades," says Lippmann. "What's fun about the French manicure is that there are no rules, and you can really have fun with it."

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