French Ombr Nails Are a Romantic Twist on the Classic Manicure — See Photos
Beauty School

French Ombré Nails Are a Romantic Twist on the Classic Manicure

And they're easy to recreate at home.

The French manicure is as classic as the red lip, but it doesn’t get nearly as much credit. The design — characterized by white tips and a pink-nude base — reigned supreme in the '90s and early aughts, but fell out of popularity in the 2010s as newer nail art trends pushed their way to the forefront. But the look is back with a creative vengeance, epitomized by the French ombré nail design. The twist is the "gradual fade" of the pink-nude base to the white tips, says Rita Remark, editorial manicurist and Essie's global lead educator. "The ombré effect diffuses the contrast and adds a touch of subtlety."

The French ombré manicure and its different iterations have more than six million views on TikTok. It's in good company, given that '90s-style trends are back as well, says Los Angeles-based nail artist Thuy Nguyen. The pro says that once baby tees, platform sandals, and slip dresses came back, it was only a matter of time that the French manicure — and its modernized versions — did, too. 

Meet The experts:
  • Elle Gerstein is a New York-based nail artist whose clients include Blake Lively and Storm Reid.
  • Brittney Boyce is a Los Angeles-based nail artist and cofounder of Nails of LA.
  • Thuy Nguyen is a Los Angeles-based nail artist whose clients include Jenna Ortega and Mindy Kaling.
  • Rita Remark is a New York City-based editorial manicurist and Essie global lead educator.
  • Mabelyn Martin is a New York City-based manicurist and creative director of Paintbox.

In this story:

What are French ombré nails?

French ombré nails are a contemporary take on the traditional French manicure, says Nguyen. And the design is just as recognizable: The white tips seamlessly blend into the blush pink or neutral base creating a gradient effect instead of being separated by a distinct smile line, she adds. To some, that line may look "jarring," says New York-based nail artist Elle Gerstein, whereas the French ombré is visually softer.

You may also know French ombré as the French fade or baby boomer nails. (The latter is what many professional manicurists call the design, says Gerstein, because it originated in the ‘40s, about the time when many baby boomers were born.) Similar to the traditional French mani, ombré suits all shapes and sizes from short, squoval nails to long, acrylics. "It is just about finding the right ratio of white to blush," says Nguyen. 

Why is the look so popular?

There are countless reasons why French ombré nails are highly coveted. Brittney Boyce, a Los Angeles-based nail artist and cofounder of the press-on nail brand Nails of LA, deems them timeless and perfect for every occasion, especially if you stick with neutral-color polish for the base and white for the tips. She adds that the design will go well with everything in your wardrobe.

Mabelyn Martin, a New York City-based manicurist and creative director of Paintbox agrees: "This design tends to be requested pretty often, regardless of the season," she says. "Clients that come in for our graphic, more colorful designs gravitate toward a French ombré when they want a clean slate type of mani, but still some nail art."

Nguyen adds that the French ombré is popular with brides who want wedding nails that are equal parts simple yet chic. "Brides are always doing different French manicure renditions for their special day and this ombré look shows up more often than not," she says. 

How to do French ombré nails at home

We totally understand if you prefer visiting the nail salon to doing your nails at home, but it is possible to achieve this look from your own couch. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Pink-nude nail polish for your base
  • Crisp, white polish for your tips. (While white and pink-nude are typically used for this look, feel free to swap out the white for colors you’re vibing.)
  • Makeup wedge
  • Base coat 
  • Topcoat 
  • Nail polish clean-up brush 
  • Nail polish remover

Ahead, Remark’s tips for getting flawless French ombré nails at home. 

STEP 1: Lay down your base coat. Paint your nails with one coat of your favorite nail-smoothing base. 

STEP 2: Layer one coat of your pink-nude base color. Let your nails completely dry.

STEP 3: Prepare the sponge with polish. Paint your pink-nude nail polish at the base of the sponge and the white shade above it to prep for the ombré effect.

STEP 4: Create your French ombré tips. Working quickly, lightly tap the sponge onto each nail, keeping the white side of the sponge closest to the tip. 

STEP 5: Repeat steps two through four. The second layer is needed for full opacity.

STEP 6: Lock in the design with a topcoat. To seamlessly meld the two shades together, finish with a glossy topcoat. Remark recommends the Essie Gel Setter Top Coat because it's excellent for smoothing the texture left from the sponge. (We also love Sally Hansen Good. Kind. Pure. Top Coat for this effect.)

STEP 7: Clean up your manicure. Finish the look by cleaning up your cuticles (or any areas with rogue polish) using a nail polish clean-up brush. Dip the bristles into nail polish remover to carefully touch up any areas that need fixing.  

French ombré nail art ideas

1. Glamorous French ombré 


These nails feature a distinct French tip that softly diffuses into a nude base and gemstone embellishments for extra personality. The beauty of rhinestones is that you can get creative with the customization process, so your nails practically double as an art canvas.

2. Floral French ombré 


The three-dimensional floral accent and delicate silver trim add luxuriousness to the already eye-catching look. 

3. Glittering French ombré 


The glitter at the base of each nail makes this manicure undeniably festive and ideal for those who think the minimalist French ombré could use a little extra flair.

4. Undone gold-foil French ombré 

These gold foil accents are subtle, but will prompt "oohs" and "aahs." Nail artist Kirsten Lindsay dreamt up this look for a client's wedding — though the undone design is versatile enough for any occasion. 

5. Square French ombré 

These square-shaped nails feature an extra-glossy take on the gradient design. Nail artist Sarra aptly calls this manicure "classy" for its simple yet elegant look and high-shine finish.

6. Extra-long French ombré 


These long coffin nails prove that French ombré doesn't have to be understated. The length and colorless gemstones level up its opulence. 

7. Lip gloss French ombré 


This lip gloss manicure is perfect for anyone easing into the French ombré trend with its natural, almond shape and barely there gradient created with glossy, baby-pink polish. 

8. Ballerina French ombré 

This chic set of ballerina-shaped nails will elongate your hands. And the French ombré design isn't so overstated that it takes away from the gorgeousness of your jewelry.

9. Nearly natural French ombré 


Picking a base color that is a near-perfect match to your skin tone will yield a French ombré that looks like you grew it yourself. (We wish it were that simple.) 

10. Lilac ombré 

These gel nails feature a mix of lilac and pastel pink instead of the standard white and neutral combo. Remember, there are countless ways to add your spin to the two-tone look.

11. Hybrid French manicure


This manicure marries multiple trends: the traditional French manicure, French ombré nails, and three-dimensional nail art. The result is a look that's highly Instagrammable.

12. Ombré pearl-fection

Pearls make everything look fancier and the French ombré manicure is no exception. Get the look using 3D nail gems like the Ulta Beauty Nail Gems You're Pearlfection.

13. Butterfly French ombré 


This playful manicure features tiny, holographic butterfly stickers that are perfect for embracing the start of spring. 

14. Short and chic French ombré 


Consider this proof that the French ombré is just as beautiful on short nails as it is on long ones. The faded tip doesn't have to sit close to the edge of your nails. It can be close to the cuticles for a more dramatic ombré. 

15. A touch of sparkle


Want a simple upgrade to your French ombré manicure? Sweep on a layer of glitter to a nail or two on each hand. Here, the manicurist opted for gold sparkles, although silver would look equally fabulous. 

16. Glazed French ombré


"There are endless amounts of things you can do to make the French ombré look unique," says Nguyen. Take this elegant wedding manicure, for example. She says the secret to creating the look is chrome powder, which will give your nails that highly coveted shine.

Additional reporting by Emerald Elitou.

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