Insta-worthy nails are right at your fingertips.

By Jaclyn Smock
December 30, 2020

Getting a manicure is one of the ultimate self-care activities, like taking a bath or practicing some aromatherapy, but that’s not to say it doesn't require some hard decisions. Aside from which color you choose (obviously important), your nail shape will significantly impact the final look of your mani. Knowing the various nail shapes isn't the only challenge, either—you also have to figure out which one is right for you. While some shapes can make your fingers look longer, others can make them look wider or more natural. 

Credit: Julia Bohan

So how's a girl to choose? According to experts, the best shape for you depends on the shape and length of your fingers. Typically, your nail shape should follow the natural shape of your cuticle line and accentuate your natural finger shape. To eliminate confusion at your next nail appointment (whether that’s with just yourself or a professional manicurist), we spoke with nail artists and manicure experts and asked them to share some nail shape knowledge.


The oval shape is similar to almond but the tip is filed to mimic an egg-like appearance. It's an elongating shape so it works well for small hands with "shorter fingers because it tends to make the nail look longer since it's filed in on the sides, which adds length and subtle drama," explains Mary Lennon, president and co-founder of Cote.


Round nails mirror the contour of the nail with a circular edge at the tip. If your fingers are short, round nails should be your go-to shape. "It softens and slims the look of wide nail beds and helps shorter fingers look elongated," says Amy Lin founder of sundays, a nail care brand inspired by wellness. Take your file and follow the natural shape of your nail, making sure the sides are straight and the top edge is rounded. 


Square nails are straighter on the sides with a blunt top edge, which is achieved by filing in a straight line. With square nails, you run the risk of your hands looking shorter and stubby because it gives "the illusion of a wider nail bed," says Chelsea King, licensed nail artist and VaultBeauty member. “But if you have narrow nail beds and long fingers, square nails look very chic because of their sharp edges.” 


"A squoval shape is the easiest shape to maintain. For most people, it's the way their nails naturally grow, so the upkeep is just about evening out the shape," says King. "To get this shape, trim nails to the length you want in a square shape, and then use a nail file to round the corners." This shape is flattering on every finger type because it's the most natural; however, it does look the best on nails that are not longer than the fingertip.


"An almond-shaped nail is slim on the sides and wide on the base, coming to a rounded peak. This shape will lengthen and make short fingers look slim," says Deborah Lippmann, celebrity manicurist & brand founder. File the sides and make sure the tip is narrow, so the free edge mimics a peak shape. 


Stiletto nails are dramatic, long, and filed to a pointed tip, which is the toughest to maintain since it’s the most susceptible to breakage, says Lennon. This shape looks best on long nails but to maintain this shape, you'll need gels or acrylics to reinforce the nails. To create this look, file the sides into a tapered point on the free edge.


Mimicking the shape of a coffin or a ballerina pointe shoe, this shape is tapered on the sides. Coffin and ballerina nails "are narrower than your typical square shape with a squared-off tip," Lippman says. This shape works well for people who have naturally strong, long nails and slim fingers. To create this shape, square off the free edge.


The lipstick shape is one of the most popular shapes among Instagram influencers due to its Insta-worthy ability to make the fingers look longer. This shape can be worn on long or short nails and is achieved by filing "your nails at an asymmetrical angle and creating a diagonal slant that looks like a lipstick bullet. The shape was originally made popular by artist Park Eunkyung of Unistella Nails," says Lin.