Dumplings, do you ever watch classic films and marvel at the women’s elegant manicures? I certainly do. I’m talking about a pretty specific manicure: those slightly long—but still practical—oval/almond-shaped nails that look chic whether or not they’re even polished. And for years, I’d assumed that I was incapable of sporting those types of nails for reasons beyond my control:
For one, my nail beds are short, meaning that there’s not much nail between my cuticle and the tip of my finger, so my nails, when short, as they often have been, can look stubby and square. That’s not to say that they can’t look put-together—it’s just a very different look.
Second, even when my nails are at their healthiest and I’ve been adhering to a “detoxed nail routine,” they tend to break and tear before growing out to a length that would make the nail bed appear more elongated.
But don’t worry, there is a happy ending to this story—and for you, too, if you’re in the same boat with your nails. More good news, it doesn’t involve shelling out for gel or dip or acrylic!
Now, if you’re not a nail enthusiast, you may be wondering…she really thinks about this stuff? Why yes, yes I do. As Laverne Cox would say, nails are something that you do for you, something you can enjoy every time you look down at your hands, and she couldn’t be more right!
(Also, if you’re curious, here’s a great guide to all the nail shapes!)
But back to my challenged nails.
About a month ago, I realized a crucial error I was making in my nail prep. Because my nails tended to be short, I had been sticking to square/squoval nail shapes when I did my filing. I had always assumed that going more oval would be hard because of my nail length, but in the spirit of experiment, I started with a more rounded shape, and as my nails grew, I continued to shape them into a more elongated oval shape. And here’s the crazy part—they haven’t broken and my polish has resisted chipping for significantly longer (like 3-4 extra days!).
I realized that my boxier nails tended to snag and chip at the corners. But without corners, neither of those issues are occurring! Could it really be that simple? Why haven’t I been doing this my entire life? Is it because I came of age during the super square French mani phase? Perhaps!?!
I still have short nail beds, and my nails certainly aren’t the strongest around (they love to peel), but the added length and the more oval shape have given my nail beds an elongated look and by eliminating corners, my nails are no longer as vulnerable to tearing. And I haven’t even been avoiding doing dishes! Anything is possible, guys.
Okay, so that’s the biggest part of rocking an Old Hollywood-worthy manicure. You’ll also want to give your cuticles a little love. Generally speaking, removing your cuticles can be risky. Cuticles protect the nail beds from infection, and accidentally nicking them while removing them can make them vulnerable to infection. There is also a theory that the more you fuss with your cuticles, the more hardcore and gnarly they grow back. Who knows. I imagine that the way our cuticles behave is largely genetic. But I like to play it safe and opt to gently push them back with a cuticle stick. This leaves them intact but can help straighten them a bit to give the nail a more “clean,” symmetrical look.
Also on the subject of cuticles, you’ll be much less likely to pick at them or want to remove them if they’re well-moisturized. Keep a cuticle oil or rich hand cream handy. When cuticles aren’t sad and crusty, they kind of fade into the background!
The final piece of the nail puzzle is being sure to use a crystal/glass nail file, which is the most sustainable option for your nail filing needs and it doesn’t snag nails the way a rough emery board can. You can run it under water to clean it, and it will be like new, ready to be reused again and again!
There you have it–a few simple, but nail/life-changing tricks to get your manicure into a classic, classy shape that looks good with or without polish. (If you are polishing your nails, you may also want to follow my other steps for a gorgeous at-home manicure.)
Has your approach to nail care changed over the years?
Related: These Germs At Your Nail Salon Could Put You At Risk For Fungal Infections—& Worse
Find Your Signature Fall Nail Color Among These Heart-Stopping Trendy Shades
Grow Strong, Gorgeous Nails With This Restorative & Soothing DIY Cuticle Oil
Get more like this—Subscribe to our daily inspirational newsletter for exclusive content!
Photo: Respective brands