French tips or the French manicure is inarguably one of the most classic nail arts of all time. It’s characterised by having clean white tips on pink or nude-looking nails, creating a your-nails-but-better appearance. It’s chic, simple, yet elegant and classy, making it perfect for both day-to-day activities and formal occasions.
Where did the French manicure originate?
If you answered France, well, that’s not exactly the case. In fact, this nail art actually started in Hollywood in the 1970s courtesy of ORLY’s founder, Jeff Pink.
At the time, Pink was working as a beauty supplier in the Los Angeles neighbourhood. Directors often complained about the constant changes needed for the actresses’ nail polish to match the costumes per scene and asked Pink to come up with a solution.
From there, he ended up creating the combination now known as the French tips. The directors embraced it immediately after noticing how much time is cut down from costume changes without worrying about changing nail colours. However, white nail polish was hard to come by, so Pink used it as an opportunity to do business with filmmakers which earned him his capital in creating a nail kit. He took this nail kit and used it on models in Paris. When he came back to America, that’s when the name ‘French manicure’ was said to be officially born.
When Cher and Barbara Streisand started sporting the nail art, that’s when it skyrocketed in popularity, with Pink’s nail kit “selling like pancakes”. Fast forward to today, French tips are still as popular and well-loved among nail artists and clients alike.
Still, despite its simplicity, getting the French manicure nowadays can get pretty pricey when you get it done at a nail salon. Curious if you can DIY instead? Scroll down for our detailed guide on how to do French tips at home.
How to do French tips at home
1. Clean your nails
The basic principle behind the French manicure is clean-looking nails. And just because you’ll ‘stage’ the clean look using the polish, doesn’t mean you have to skip out on basic nail grooming. Wash your hands and remove old nail polish residue, if any.
2. Shape your nails accordingly and give them a nice buff
French tips work on any nail shape, but if you’re a beginner, square nails or rounded square (squoval) nails are the easiest to work with. Both provide an easy straight line to follow for your white tips.
Once you get your desired shape, buff the surface of your nails gently using a high-grit buffer. This evens out the nail’s surface and helps the polish cling onto the nail better.
3. Do the ‘hydrate and dehydrate’ method
Apply hand cream or cuticle oil on your nails to smoothen out the surface you just buffed. After letting it soak for at least three to five minutes, use a cotton pad with a small amount of alcohol and wipe it over each nail. This will dehydrate the nail plate, prepping your nails for the polish, and remove any slick residue from the hand cream/cuticle oil.
4. Apply your base coat and your pink/nude polish
One secret to making your polish stay longer and avoiding staining on your nails is to use a base coat. People often use transparent nail polish or a top coat to also act as a base coat, but there are actually dedicated base coats on the market that are specially formulated to act as the foundation of your mani. Once your base coat is set, that’s when you can apply the actual base colour you’d like to use for your nails.
You can have all sorts of colour combinations for the French mani, but we’re keeping this one classic. Paint your nails like you usually do with a pink or nude polish that’s close to your actual nail plate colour. Using a transparent polish on top of your base coat also works, but a coloured polish is advised to get a nice even coat.
5. Add your ‘French tips’
There are multiple ways to achieve the French tip. The first one is to freehand the line using a fine brush. The technique is to follow the actual line of your own nail’s tip to create the most natural finish. However, this method requires a steady hand and a keen sense of precision.
If you’re not confident with your freehand skills, use nail strips. Nail strips are used in nail art all the time and are trusty tools when creating a French tip. Simply use the nail strip as a guide to keeping the base of your tip straight. Once you’re done painting the tip, remove the nail strip while the polish is still wet. This is important so that the polish won’t peel off once you remove the strip. Do this step for all your fingers.
P.S. Thinking of using scotch tape because you don’t have a nail strip? You might want to use a not-so-sticky masking tape instead. This is because scotch tape’s tackiness can peel off your polish and the glossy surface of the tape will also cause the excess polish you painted on to slip off.
6. Top your mani with a top coat
Similar to the base coat, the top coat is an important part to seal your manicured nails and make the polish last longer. This will also keep your mani glossy and help blend the base coat and the white tip evenly.
Looking for an easier way to have a great mani minus the effort? Try press-on nails.
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