You might think Instagram sparked the golden age of manicures. But looking back, it turns out the early aughts walked so the 2010s could run. The new millennium started out with some late-’90s mall relics like frosted polish and French manicures but became more adventurous as time went on when Chanel’s gone-but-never-forgotten Black Satin polish hit the scene. And things just got more over-the-top from there.
But like so many other nostalgic fashion and beauty trends, we suddenly want to wear them all over again. In fact, the biggest nail trends of 2021 are remarkably similar to those that took over 2001. To prove it, we’re taking a walk down manicure memory lane with Brittney Boyce, celebrity nail artist and founder of Nails of LA, and including ways to re-create the looks right this second. Best of all, the polishes and products of this decade are much healthier for our nails and a little more, well, polished overall.
The French manicure was the go-to for celebs like Jennifer Lopez but then faded into obscurity. “For a long time, white tips were almost forbidden and seen as dated and tacky,” says Boyce. “But with almond or round shaped nails, it looks really updated and classic. It’s back to the original intent of the look, which is to accentuate the look of a natural nail for film, runways, and photos by elongating the look of your hands.”
Press-ons have also enjoyed a renaissance of sorts due to both the pandemic and our love for instant gratification. This reusable set gives you a professional-looking French mani in minutes and can be reshaped, repainted, and removed at your whim.
This Y2K-era trend, seen here on Mya, gives us all the feels. “Frosted nail polish is very easy to do when you’re busy and don’t have time for extensive nail art. I love the jewel tones,” says Boyce, adding that the trend “looks better on short, natural nails.”
Paint this pearlescent blue on for instant Lizzie McGuire vibes.
In the early aughts, long acrylics were a celebrity favorite, with everyone from Missy Elliott to Pink wearing the look. And although natural, short nails had their moment in the 2010s, longer nails have had a resurgence in the last five years or so. “I’ve never been a big fan of acrylic, as it’s harsh on the nail, but I am a big fan of gel extensions, which is the modern way of achieving length without damaging your nail,” says Boyce. “I think good nail extensions look super sick!"
The punk staple went mainstream after Chanel Black Satin became the It nail color, and everyone from Jessica Simpson to Lauren Conrad wore the shade.
“When you’re choosing a black nail polish, make sure it’s super-deep black and shiny,” advises Boyce. Not into the shorter look from the 2000s? “Black nails look great on longer lengths,” she says.
Before the time of gel manicures and long-wear formulas, chipped polish was almost expected. To keep your black polish (or any polish, really) looking shiny and new as long as possible, add a topcoat like this gel-effect one every one to two days.
Kimora Lee Simmons’s flip phone may be totally 2000s, but her nail color will never be out of style. “I did a hot pink recently for Megan Fox for the iHeartRadio Awards, and it was really fun,” says Boyce.
This bold, creamy pink has a slight shimmer that will catch the sunlight.
If you spent algebra painting Wite-Out onto your nails, you found your next mani shade. “White nail polish looks really great in the summer,” says the nail pro. “I also like using the white base as a canvas for nail art.”
This polish is opaque, shiny, and long-lasting—basically, everything Wite-Out isn’t.
The nail-art bubble may have burst in the last decade, but it’s been around forever. Fergie showed off this entry-level take back in 2005. “I always love minimalistic graphic nail art. It’s like modern art meets nails,” says Boyce. “In 2021, I think a graphic nail looks great with color-blocking.”
These nail wraps make nail art easy, breezy and are made with real polish.
Gwen Stefani’s vintage-inspired phase brought lots of red lipstick and nails. “I think classic red will never go out of style,” says Boyce.
Look for a deeper, creamier shade rather than a cherry red for a look like Stefani’s.
“Most reds do stain your nails, so make sure you use a really good base coat like Orly’s Bonder to help prevent it from staining,” says the pro.
From cell phones to sunglasses, “bedazzling everything was really big in the 2000s,” Boyce reminds us. The wearer of this crystal-embedded manicure? None other than Serena Williams, who is a certified nail technician(!).
“We’re seeing embellished nails now, but it’s not so much about rhinestones—more like gold cuffs for an accent or even actual diamonds or crystals,” explains Boyce. “Mazz Hanna started the crystal healing manicure, which is subtler.”
“The reverse French with clear tips started coming into the scene in the early 2000s, and it’s one of my most requested looks nowadays,” says Boyce of looks like Christina Aguilera’s. “But now we amp up the clear tips more by using a thin metallic shade to show the separation.”
These nail stickers feature a metallic reverse French manicure, as well as other fun colors and patterns.