Velvet Nails Is the Next Nail Illusion Trend You Have to Try

All it takes is the magic of magnetics.

Remember when flaunting a pop of color or a French tip on your freshly manicured nails was a way to break the ice? Well, a lot has changed in recent years. In addition to the popularization of wild designs and bold shades, even polish textures (or at least the way they appear) have evolved. Case in point: the velvet manicure. 


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The shimmery aesthetic isn’t your average glittery accent; it’s a whole other beast. To get the lowdown on the look, and to learn how to achieve it from home, we reached out to Morgan Taylor Lacquer’s Morgan Haile and Sally Hansen partner Hannah Lee. Keep reading for their pro tips.

What are velvet nails?

First thing’s first: The velvet mani isn’t actually velvet. It’s all an illusion, and the surface of the nail is actually flat and one-dimensional.  “Velvet nails are the effect of a specific type of polish formula that gives a dimensional shimmery velvet appearance,” Haile explains. “It’s achieved by using a unique polish and magnet to control the movement of the ‘velvet’ sparkles.”

“It looks like it has a fuzzy finish when actually it's a trick with the light and how it bounces off of the magnetic polish,” Lee adds.

How to get velvet nails

Unlike some of the more complicated manicures or techniques, achieving the velvet mani is pretty straightforward. 

“It's super-easy to do this yourself,” says Lee. “You can use magnetic gel polish or regular lacquer that has the magnetic effect. Go in with a base coat, then apply the first coat of magnetic polish. Use the magnetic wand (this has a magnet attached to it) and hold in place to the four sides of your nail for a few seconds, while the polish is still wet. Let dry, and repeat again with another layer. Typically, two to three layers will be all you need. Then finish with a top coat, making sure to hold the magnet to the four corners of your nail to set the velvet effect properly.”

To maximize your velvet manicure’s staying power, “remember to hold the magnet to each side of your nail during each layer so you can set the magnetic effect,” says Lee. “Also, make sure to do one nail at a time since you need to use the magnet while the polish is still wet.”

If you’ve mastered the art of gel at home, Haile says it’s most ideal with this trend for “the best and longest-lasting results.” And if you do make it to the nail salon, definitely opt for gel when giving this a go.

How long do velvet nails take?

Because of the magnetic magic, Lee says this can take slightly longer than your traditional manicure. “You have to set the velvet effect with the magnet for each layer,” she says. But generally, it shouldn’t take much longer—especially at home using regular, non-gel polish.

Best Velvet Nail Polishes

The good news about this trend is there are many ways to achieve it! “There's an abundance of amazing brands that feature the special magnetic effect,” Lee says. “The best bet would be to specifically search for magnetic effect polishes in your choice of gel or regular lacquer. You usually don't find these in your local stores like Walmart or Target, but they can be easily bought online.”

Alternatively, if you’re looking for just a smooth velvet texture finish with some sparkle that's accessible locally, there are options for that, too. “They don’t include the magnetic aspect, but they can still get the job done,” Lee explains.

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INLP, Poison

velvet-nails-INLP, Poison

There’s no velvet more iconic than red—and this vivid-yet-dark hue screams the season. Perfect for holiday parties and beyond, the alluring shade is sure to embrace your daring side. Magnetic wand sold separately, and two coats are recommended to complete the look.

To buy: $13;

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Sally Hansen Insta Dri Luxe Finish, The Queens Velvet

velvet-nails-Sally Hansen Insta Dri Luxe Finish, The Queens Velvet

If you’re seeking out the trend on a budget (or minimal effort), look no further. For less than $5, you can achieve a rich burgundy appearance that closely resembles the velvet manicure. In addition to nailing the look for less, the polish promises to dry in 60 seconds and it only requires one coat. You don’t get the exact magnetic effect, but it still provides the velvety finish.

To buy: $4;

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Zoya, Iris Matte Velvet

velvet-nails-Zoya, Iris Matte Velvet

If you want to skip the shine but keep the velvet, this is one of your best at-home bets. Not only is the deep purple a perfect pick for the season, it’s the easiest way to wear the trend.

To buy: $12;

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Mooncat, Velvet Rose

velvet-nails-Mooncat, Velvet Rose

This magnetic lacquer is filled with gold micro-holographic, velveteen glitter that appears in a silver-pink pigment. A beautiful year-’round neutral, this shade will give you plenty of wear. And added bonus, the polish includes a magnetic wand, which you can use to manipulate where the glitter goes.

To buy: $16;

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Cirque Colors, Paradox

velvet-nails-Cirque Colors, Paradox

In this vibrant formula, magnetic multichrome pigment shifts between striking shades of blue, fuchsia, and boysenberry red. The included magnetic wand allows for the multicolored particles to activate and move around as you please.

To buy: $15;

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can you do velvet nails with a dip?

    Velvet nails are usually done with a special magnetized polish, but it can also be done with a dip - a powder substance that the nail is dipped into and then sealed with a top coat.

  • How do you ask for velvet nails at the salon?

    The best way to ask for velvet nails at a salon is to show your manicurist a few pictures of the look you want. You will then ask if they have the proper supplies to complete a velvet nail look. Besides the standard manicure equipment, your manicurist will need to have magnetized nail polish or a specialized powder to create the look of velvet nails.

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