The world of nail trends is constantly changing. In fact, we'd go as far as to say that it's the most experimental and unpredictable beauty category—more so than skincare, makeup, or hair. Maybe it's because we have so much inspiration right at our fingertips (pun intended) with TikTok and Instagram. Or maybe it's because manicures are so temporary, which means we can mix things up on a biweekly basis. Either way, the shapes, colors, and designs we see are constantly evolving. To put it simply, manicures are getting cooler and cooler as time goes on.
There's no better proof of that than when we see international nail trends. Depending on whether you're looking to L.A., London, Seoul, or Tokyo, there is a wide range of aesthetics to channel and choose from. Ahead, see the 12 international nail trends to have on your radar, according to expert nail artists. They're so good you'll have to see them to believe them.
Christine Doan is a licensed cosmetologist and nail artist based in L.A. She says she could sum up the L.A. nail aesthetic in one word: adventurous. "There are so many personalities here, and because of that, no one is afraid of being too much or too little," she says. "Less is more or more is more does not apply here, because it is all trial and error. A lot of the time, my shy clients will be more willing to try new designs and colors and see what will stick with them long term. If nothing does, it's a simple removal and we try something else."
Lately, one of the biggest trends has been maximalist two-toned velvet nails. "Oftentimes, two colors are overlapped and allowing for four different tones to show on a single mani," she says.
While getting two-tone nails is easiest in a professional salon setting, it's pretty easy to achieve a simple velvet nail look at home. You just need a few products and a steady hand.
Because we're living in the age of social media, L.A. nail trends are being influenced, and in some cases driven by, other geographies. Doan says Korean blush nails have been trending as of late, and they're the perfect choice for those of us who prefer minimalist nail designs.
While this look is usually achieved via an airbrush gun, Doan says you can get it at home by using blush. Yes, like the blush you wear on your cheeks. Simply apply an actual blush over a nude nail polish with an eye shadow brush. Cover with another coat of the nude shade or a topcoat to seal it in. Easy.
For all-out maximalists, Doan says pierced nails are "all the rage." This look involves adding charms or "piercings" onto the top of the nail. "Because nails are something that you do more often than most beauty services, you can be more free and fun with this," Doan says.
Charlotte Knight is a nail tech and the founder of Ciaté London. She says the glaze finish is trending in the UK. "The glaze finish has really stuck around in London with lingering, opulent shimmers in champagne and nude tones," she says. "These shades are seen as natural. However, the high shine and pearlescent shimmers remind people that they have a mani to be jealous of."
If it's not nude and pink shimmer, it's deep, dark red. "A moodier version of a classic, deep red has been in the rotation of most in the city this autumn and winter," Knight says. "This shade, often called an oxblood red, sits between brown and burgundy, and it’s been famed in London for how well it suits all skin tones—not dark, not too bright, it appeases so many."
Leave it to London girls to take a classic look and make it modern. Knight says micro French manicures are everywhere. "The micro mani’s reign continues in London with teeny accent nails and sized-down French tips," she says. "This teeny trend feels like a direct response to the more ‘out there’ nail art, which we’ve been seeing recently and really does fit in with the ‘clean girl’ macro trends that have been following us as they are so tidy and chic."
The only difference between a micro French manicure and a traditional one is the size and shape of the tip. "If you have short nails or are attempting to grow them out, a micro tip does a great job at elongating your nails and allows you to have an accent without squashing the appearance of your nail in the way a thicker tip would do," she says. "If you’re new to experimenting on your nails, a micro French tip is a perfect way to try adding a taste of colour and texture without really committing. It’s also something every salon should be able to do, as it’s simplistic and is possible to do at home too!"
San Sung Kim agrees. She's another Nailing Hollywood artist who's well-versed in Korean and Japanese trends. In South Korea, she says there's still an emphasis on short and clean nails. "Although many celebrities and influencers may sport a long sculpted nail with flashy designs, many Koreans still favor a shorter length for its practicality," she says. "Korean nail artists love to focus on building a clean strong foundation so that they can ensure that the nail design will last for several weeks or until the next nail appointment. This design features a soft ombré with milky pastel colors with a hint of glitter and shine."
As far as embellishments, it's all about the sparkle in South Korea. "A little bit of bling on the nails has always been trendy in Korea," Kim explains. "Whether it’s an accent nail fully packed with shiny rhinestones or a small crystal matched with a simple French mani, Korean nail artists love adding a shiny element to their designs."
"Although Koreans love sporting shorter nails, that doesn’t mean they shy away from fun and bold designs," Kim says. Enter the undeniably bold and bright mix-and-match manicures. "Many nail artists love using 3D elements as well as soft syrup gels to create fun looks that clients can use to express their personalities," Kim says. Consider it a way to express your personality and creativity via your manicure.
We can't talk about South Korean nail trends without talking about K-pop nails. "Not only do K-pop artists start trends in fashion and makeup, but they also shape the trends in nail art in Korea," Kim says. "Many fans and non-fans alike will copy the nail designs of famous K-pop artists."
There's one design that's been particularly popular—the bunny. "The new K-pop sensation NewJeans featured a bunny on their first debut album, which has quickly become their main mascot," Kim says. "The bunny has shown up in all sorts of merchandise and is now on the nails of fans who want to support their favorite group. The rabbit itself is becoming a popular trend in Korea, as 2023 is the year of the rabbit. This nail has all the trendy elements on it, as it features the rounded square shape, syrup ombré/tonal colors, and the cute NewJeans bunny."
Right now, Kim says 3D abstract nails are trending in Japan. "Japanese nail artists always create the most fun and creative 3D abstract nails for their clients," she says. "The color combinations and abstract designs are always a delightful surprise as well as the embossed details that add a touch of flair to every mani."
Another trend is hyperrealistic art and handmade gems, which Kim says are all over Instagram. "Whether it is an exact replication of famous paintings or quirky sea creatures, the designs are always immaculate," she says. "The handmade gemstone trend has also been a fan favorite. The gilded elements and 3D jewels are all created from scratch."