If you scroll through Instagram and TikTok or think back to the cultural phenomenon that was Hailey Bieber's "glazed donut" manicure, you'll notice something. Long, almond-shaped nails have been trending for months. Sure, this nail length and shape are super flattering and provide ample room for eye-catching color and detailed designs, but there are other options out there—namely shorter, more square-shaped nails.
If celebrities like Selena Gomez, Olivia Rodrigo, and Sofia Richie are any indication, short nails are *it* for fall. All of these celebs and more have recently debuted short and sleek manicures, and it's caught our attention. Could it be time to reach for the nail clippers?
According to Rita Remark, celebrity nail artist and Essie's global lead educator, the answer to that question is yes. "I've definitely noticed a return to shorter, sportier lengths," she says. "It feels like a minimalist refresh from the dramatic tapered lengths we saw this summer. Whenever a trend has reigned supreme for enough time, there's always an opposite reaction. I think shorter nails are more popular for that reason. We're ready for something new." Keep scrolling to see celeb inspo and learn what colors look best on short nails.
Jin Soon Choi is a nail expert and founder of JinSoon, the vegan and cruelty-free nail brand we beauty editors love. She says short nails are trending, in part, due to Gen Z. "Short nails are practical, low-maintenance, and fit into everyone's daily lifestyle, especially Gen Zs, who are into a natural and healthy lifestyle," she says. "Many fashion designers are favoring shorter nails on the runway and in their editorials. Most high-fashion houses that I have worked on campaigns for are into short, natural nails. I still remember the hot-red or dark-red short, natural nails in Chanel Beauty campaigns, which were very chic and modern. I am so glad that this trend is back."
Fashion might also have something to do with it. With so many dramatic and oversize silhouettes trending at the moment, manicures must complement them, not compete. "With fall's trending fashion shapes (balloon sleeves, etc.) a long nail could look like a misfit with all that oversize detailing," says Elle Gerstein, celebrity nail artist.
Whatever the reason may be, short nails are surely making a comeback thanks to celebs like Richie Grainge. She's been a fan of short nails for as long as we've followed her on Instagram and TikTok. This look pairs well with her quiet-luxury vibe, which is based on classic yet understated essentials.
The key to achieving a Richie Grainge vibe is perfecting the shape of the nail. In fact, Remark says shape is everything when it comes to short nails. "Short nails are inarguably the easiest length to wear and maintain," Remark says. "Just make sure you get the shape right. If you have shorter nail beds, a round tip may make your nails look like circles, and a square tip may make your fingers look stubby. Opt for something in the middle, like squoval (a square-oval hybrid). If you have naturally longer nail beds and you'd like to give the appearance of shorter, try a sharp square tip."
When it comes to color, nail experts say dark shades of red, blue, brown, and black à la Rodrigo work well. "These deeper hues tend to look a little witchy and talon-like on long nails but super chic on shorter nails," Remark says. "Not to mention, a flawlessly polished dark polish on short nails just screams 'I got a manicure.'"
Choi agrees: "I personally like dark colors on short nails for an editorial look."
Anyone who has followed Kim Kardashian for as long as we have knows she's been vocal about her love of short nails. In the past, she's made it clear that they're more practical and require less upkeep, and we couldn't agree more. Here, she wears a soft shade of petal pink.
There's another member of the Kardashian-Jenner family who's in on the short-nail trend—Kendall Jenner. Here, she takes a selfie sporting short, square, and shiny nails. Look closely, and you'll see they each have a micro-French tip. According to Choi, Jenner and her nail artist chose the right kind of nail art for her short manicure. "For nail art on short nails, I would go for very simple designs. Micro-French manicures, a baby crystal or pearl on each nail, and thin vertical lines are all good options," she says. Ugh, so chic.
How to Prep Nails for a Short Manicure
All nail experts agree that prep is the secret to getting the perfect short manicure. Here's what to do: Choi says to remove old polish with a non-acetone remover before filing the nails into a squoval shape. "I like the squoval shape because it's both chic and practical," she adds. Then, smooth the surface of each nail with a buffer. Choi says this will help the polish adhere better.
Next, soften the cuticles with cuticle oil and trim them. "When the cuticle line is clean, it will help nail polish apply better and look more finished," Choi says.
Next, remove any oil residue by swiping a non-acetone nail polish remover across the surface of each nail once more. "This is the first step for keeping nail polish lasting longer," she says.
Then it's time to apply a base coat, which will protect your natural nails from staining. Once that's dry, move on to the main event: nail polish. "Make sure not to touch the cuticle line and touch up the tips of nails for a long-lasting [result]," Choi says.
Once the nail polish is dry, "seal the polish with a glossy topcoat like JinSoon Top Gloss for a modern and classic finish or a matte topcoat like JinSoon Matte Maker for a cool and edgy look," Choi says. "Don't forget to touch up the tips of your nails."
Thea Green, founder of Nails Inc., says there's another component to this trend. "People are leaning into their natural-nail era to focus on nail health and strength," she says. That's why she recommends incorporating nail-strengthening products into your routine. This will keep your natural nails strong and shiny.
Shop Expert-Recommended Short-Nail Shades
"I'm really looking forward to rich autumnal nude and natural shades in line with the 'latte nails' trend that comes from latte makeup," Green says. "Blue-gray was also seen all over the A/W 23 catwalks, and Nails Inc. Plant Power shade Fresh Air, Don't Care is a perfect match for this!"
Don't sleep on a rich shade of brown. There's literally no other color that's better for fall. This one has a quick-drying formula to prevent smudges.