A fortnight ago, I broke my own rule and got a french manicure. The last time I wore pastel nails with white tips, Donald Trump was on wife one and Oasis was still just a shop. But fashion is a fickle creature, and well, colour me influenced.
The cult resurgence of the french manicure on Instagram, led, arguably, by nail guru Harriet Westmoreland (whose feed showcases her technically flawless but simple-looking manis on the likes of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Rochelle Humes), proved too seductive. Westmoreland’s signature nude nails are finished with Tipp-Ex-dense white, neon or rainbow-coloured tips, clipped shorter than in the french’s heyday, and seem entirely right for now.
The french’s reboot straddles two of fashion’s biggest trends of recent years: the 1990s (I have no reasonable explanation) and minimal, casual neutrals (that would be the pandemic). Granted, it’s somewhat illogical that a technically tricky beauty technique has surged in popularity at a time when salons and nail bars have been forcibly shut, but there are ways to cheat.
French tip guides are crescent-shaped paper stickers (£2.39 for 144) that are put on temporarily over your fully dried base colour, so you can paint on the tip with near-abandon before peeling off and adding topcoat. They work brilliantly and give a perfect shape.
Alternatively (and if you possess a steady hand), Kiko makes a White French Manicure Pen (£8.99), which dispenses opaque lacquer and allows more control than a flexible brush in a polish pot. Once you have the technique, you can use any pastel colour of your choice. My own preference is to team white tips with peach or beige nails, rather than the traditional tutu pink, but if you’re a purist, try Rimmel London’s French Manicure Supergel (£5.99), which I’ve tested on my toes and can confirm is as glossy as an in-salon gel job. The best peachy nude is the cult classic Dior Nails Base Coat Abricot £22), which offers a strengthening base and impeccably stylish colour. It’s pricey and frequently out of stock, but Maybelline has an extremely serviceable dupe in Forever Strong Gel 76 French Manicure Polish (£4.49).
If you love the look but shun the effort, I recommend Dior Nail Glow (£21) in the strongest terms. It’s a clear magenta topcoat that, in only three strokes, makes nail beds glow and white tips pop – zero skill required.