To put it as nicely as possible, we're definitely not mourning the end of 2020. While we're preparing ourselves for anything come 2021, we're very much looking forward to a fresh year and what, in many ways, feels like a fresh slate. One 2020-centric theme we're excited to keep around, however, is the rise and domination of the at-home manicure. We're pretty sure we'll still largely be left to our own painting devices in the New Year, but we're keen to know what will rise and what will fall in the trend department. (Not that "trends" are everything, mind you, but we love to know—before everyone else does—what's going to be big and what's going to be, um, not.)
Twenty-twenty was all about updated French manicures, sparkling manis decked with chunky accents (think pearls, crystals, etc.), ombré color gradations, "Watermelon Sugar" coral (we see you, Harry Styles), and lots more. To be honest, we're still into all of the above and plan to keep on keeping on if that's what we're feeling, but we also reached out to some of the coolest nail artists in the business to get their takes on 2021 and learn what they're over and excited about for the coming year. Keep scrolling! The best up-and-coming nail trends for 2021 are just below.
What's Losing Steam: 3D Nail Art
What's Gaining Momentum: Minimalist Nail Art
Despite how striking and beautiful crystals, beads, and pearls are atop our nails, it's not a low-maintenance nail vibe, and a decked-out, 3D manicure definitely doesn't have a quick and easy removal process.
"Bedazzled nails or 3D nail art will lose steam in 2021 because it is very hard to clean and remove," iterates celebrity nail artist Mo Qin. "It's definitely not sustainable in the long-term!" Instead, Qin says she's loving a more minimalist approach to nail art. You definitely don't have to sacrifice glimmer or whimsy (see above!), but it's a more manageable take on the eye-catching mani trend.
"I love minimalist nail art. It’s clean, classy, and chic," continues Qin. "It’s also a great way to play around with shapes and lines in a subtle way. I enjoy adding simple accents like triangles or dots. To really make this trend shine, make sure you have a uniform nail length and shape."
What's Losing Steam: Thick Acrylics
What's Gaining Momentum: Chic Press-Ons
In 2021, try swapping out thick acrylics—which Qin says can make your fingers look wider than they really are—for chic, strategically sized press-on nails. Not only do they give you a professional-looking finish in about two minutes, but they also will naturally elongate your fingers. (I've personally been loving Tella Nails because the sizing is so inclusive and spot-on. I'm wearing the set called Jasmine in the photo above, and they lasted a full two weeks with the glue that's included.)
"I really enjoy the options from Kiss, especially," shares Qin. "Press-on nails are easy to use at home for the people who can’t make it to the salon, and I love that you can get them with designs or solid colors. Personally, I go with solid colors so I can play with unique nail art on top of it!"
What's Losing Steam: Five-Finger Ombré
What's Gaining Momentum: A Few Finger "Pops"
Your nails, your prerogative, but according to Qin, selecting just two (or three) nails to go rogue from the rest of your mani will be the 2021 version of the full-hand gradient ombré trend that took 2020 by storm. Feel free to go all-out and try a design (see above!) on any fingers of your choosing, or go more minimalist by simply opting for a different hue of nail polish.
"Doing a design or a different color on just some of the fingers adds a nice accent to the manicure, and it’s always fun to have a pop!" Qin explains. Keep it modern by choosing any finger(s) to pop other than your ring finger, which Qin says will be less expected and traditional.
What's Losing Steam: Long, Coffin-Shaped Nails
What's Gaining Momentum: Short, Squared-Off Nails
Of course, the shape of your nails is highly personal, and most people feel pretty particular about how long, short, round, square, or sharpened they want their tips to be. That said, there was a notable trend toward coffin-shaped nails this past year, an intense shape that editorial nail artist Alicia Torello sees fading out as time wears on.
Instead, she said we'll likely see fewer long shapes in 2021 and a natural gravitation toward shorter, squared-off styles. (Hint: They require way less maintenance!)
What's Losing Steam: Metallic Nails
What's Gaining Momentum: Velvet Nails
"I think we will continue to see metallics to a certain extent, but there's a fresh, new take called 'velvet nails,' and it's stunning," says Torello. "I think we'll be seeing it a ton in the New Year."
There are a few different methods you can try to get the look at home. Some nail artists use flocking powder—a powder you dip your nails into to create a velvety, metallic effect (it's quite literally fake snow you'll paint on top of), while others use magnetic nail polish also known as "cat-eye" polish.
What's Losing Steam: French Manicures
What's Gaining Momentum: Negative-Space Manicures
Or perhaps, it's really going to be about the combination of both? We will always love French manicures, and we were big fans of the recent resurgence over the past year or so, but according to Torello, negative-space manicures just might surpass the French fixation of 2020 this coming year. And she even supplied some pointers for how to achieve the vibe at home.
"I’m excited to see a lot more negative space again. It's an especially great way to make your manicure last longer than other nail-art looks, and it can really buy you more time between salon visits or even at-home nail jobs," Torello tells us.
"If you don't have a steady hand, there are quite a few cheats for creating the negative-space look at home. You can always use striping tape and skinny brushes to create your straight lines. (Even in a pinch, you can use scotch tape and the brush from the bottle to make straight lines. Just be sure to press the tape down firmly so the polish doesn’t leak under your tape!) If you'd like to try an ombré fade over your natural nail, I like to use glitter because of it’s staying power. I make sure there’s not a lot of polish on the brush, and then, I gently stroke the polish onto the nail to create a fade that’s denser toward the tip of the nail. This negative-space look always buys me extra time between changing manis."