A manicure primer, please.
December 8, 2008 12:42 PM   Subscribe

(shallow-question-filter) French manicures - yea or nay?

Is a sheer, short French manicure clean and presentable, or dated and tacky? If the latter, what is the freshest look for hands/nails - clean and bare, nude/pink polish, something else? And how do you keep the tips bright and crud-free throughout the day? And how often do you do your hand-care stuff, whether salon manicure or at-home maintenance or whatever - once a week? every two weeks?

(I asked this question a while back, discovered the pleasure in actually being somewhat kempt, and am trying to figure out the rest of the Girl Rules about these things).
posted by peachfuzz to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (41 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Many/most of the women in downtown offices in Calgary have 'em done. However, I cannot say if we are at the fashion trend upward curve or tail. ;-) Generally, Calgary is at the tail of any popular trend.

However, whenever I pickup a magazine or watch TV, I notice alot of French manicures...

(Why do I notice them? Well, my wife has them done all the time, so once I found out the cost, they just became part of my concious pattern recognition...)
posted by jkaczor at 12:47 PM on December 8, 2008

i think it's ok for weddings or other formal events but otherwise, i think it's a little tacky.
Nude polish is nice.
posted by chickaboo at 12:51 PM on December 8, 2008

Boston-based person here (which I guess is kind of a fashionable city?) I worked with a rather fashionable woman who always had a French manicure. I do it for special occasions (holidays and vacations, mostly) when I'm less likely to chip it than I am when I'm working; I find the French manicure chips more easily than a normal polish -- though maybe that's just me imagining things.

Normally I get a slightly translucent light pink... almost makes a faux-French look, since you can still see the white of the tips of my nails. I do it once a week, because I rip up my nails and hands at work and this is the only way I can keep them looking presentable.
posted by olinerd at 12:52 PM on December 8, 2008

I've always liked the look of a french manicure, when the nails aren't too long. Sounds like that fits in with your plans. I haven't figured out how to keep them nice for more than a day, though. Really, the only time I've had one was for my wedding. Made for great ring close-up pics. I like the look of them better if you use an off-white for the tip, or else a semi-transparent pink for the top-coat. The bright white seems too flashy, or maybe it just calls attention to the chips more.
Also, never get a french pedicure; so ugly.
posted by purpletangerine at 12:54 PM on December 8, 2008

I think French manicures can look good if done well - i.e. if it's not obvious at first glance that it's a French manicure. (French pedicures, on the other hand, are beyond tacky and make me think about the hidden grossness underneath those long toenails. But that's just my opinion.)

I've heard that bare, buffed nails are in, and a healthier and lower-maintenance alternative to polish. I have never buffed my own nails, but Google turns up plenty of tutorials.

When I had longer fingernails, I used a white nail pencil to keep my tips looking bright, which was more natural-looking and cheaper than a French manicure. These days, however, I find it a lot easier to keep my nails bare and closely trimmed.
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:55 PM on December 8, 2008

I think a nude/pale pink polish is a lot nicer. Watching Giada de Laurentis, I'm always thinking how nice her nails look and she uses a light/sheer polish.
posted by Mouse Army at 12:55 PM on December 8, 2008

I think the best choice for professional is well manicured nude nails but if the french is well done it is fine too. If it is really harsh, not so much. You don't have to use the starkest white - try for a more natural look. You can use the suggestion of the traslucent light pink on the nail bed with the white tips and it looks more natural than the creamy color with the white tip.

People here like french pedicures - ALOT. It makes their toes look like fingers, which apparently I have a phobia of, because it squicks me out.
posted by domino at 12:59 PM on December 8, 2008

I don't like them, I think they look... creepy and weird. I much prefer solid color or transparent polish. I seriously dislike those fake gel nails too. This is totally coming from personal preference, of course.
posted by neblina_matinal at 1:00 PM on December 8, 2008

You wouldn't use these with a french manicure- but metallic finishes are very chip resistant and last a long time. They come in subtle shades, too. I've had a pearly silver color stay pretty flawless on my toes for weeks.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 1:02 PM on December 8, 2008

Love the french. Sophisticated and classy. Can't do any better than that.
posted by rglass at 1:15 PM on December 8, 2008

A French manicure is my favorite. I wish I could have one every week. Since I can't I like to use a sheer pink or nude polish and sometimes the aforementioned white pencil under the nail.
posted by i_love_squirrels at 1:20 PM on December 8, 2008

French manicure is an incredibly huge NAY. It's such a huge nay that you should burn the term and idea from your brain. It dates you, is never well maintained, and it is one of those nail fashions that everyone claims looks nice but no one NO ONE can actually point to one that actually does look nice. It's not classy. It's not sophicated. It scream "Ladies who Lunch" and "Big Haired Texan Ladies". There is nothing about them that sound polished, trendy, hip, professional, "with it" as the kids call it. It turns any "lady who lunches" into that "lady who served cafeteria lunches" in 2nd grade with the ill fitting ward drobe, the stained fingers from smoking since she was 11, and the hairnet that never really sat properely and, to this day, you still tell a story about how you found a cigarette butt in your jello that you swore was from that ol' lunch lady. And you know that lady? She's still thinking she's keeping it classy. And, as you can see in this thread, way too many people think the French manicure is some throwback and permanent member of the "classy" family. It's so not.

French manicures are for a specific subset of the population and if you don't already wear it, you can't pull it off. Do not get one.

However, sheer or light pink nail polish would look awesome. If you're going out on a special night, a striking solid color that matches your outfit would be great. When it starts to chip, however, get rid of it. The only thing that is slightly worse than a french manicure is a woman who lets her finger nail polish fall off on its own. Blargh.
posted by Stynxno at 1:30 PM on December 8, 2008 [15 favorites]

To me, French manicures look tacky, especially on long nails. Much, much better, if you're concerned about chips and/or professionalism, to wear a sheer polish in a light shade compatible with your skin tone. I'm wearing OPI's "Mod Hatter" right now as I type. It's a sheer, pretty mauve that doesn't show chips.

And do keep your nails short. Long "dragon lady" nails are (JMHO) super-duper-ultra-mega tacky and also harbor germs and ick.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 1:38 PM on December 8, 2008

I like French Manicure only on natural, short-ish rounded square nails. I'm not a fan of any kind of gel or acrylic nails, and I don't really like long nails. That's just me though.

FWIW, I think the most chic look is the short-ish rounded square nail in bright, true red (I wear: Revlon Red), dark red/black (I wear: Chanel Rouge Noir), black (such as: Chanel Black Satin), pale pink (I wear: Essie Ballet Slippers) or white. I don't much like polish with glittery mica in it, just glossy or matte for me.

At the moment I'm into bright orange toenails (I'm wearing Malava Juicy) because it's summer in these parts. I think Schiaparelli pink (such as: Malava Freshy) would be great too.

I'm always looking for the ultimate: a true, glitter free, no compromise chocolate brown. I think that's the nicest thing for nails in the winter.

I realise this reply looks like I care too much about this crap, but I figured I'd try to be as specific as I can about the colours. I hope it helps.
posted by lottie at 1:38 PM on December 8, 2008 [2 favorites]

I'd honestly opt for the light pink/nude nail polish. I don't dig French manicure all that much myself because I feel like they are a bit dated and age the people who wear them a bit. They also seem like high maintenance.

Like it's really weird when I see someone who looks pretty young and then I see a French manicured hand. I kind of do a back and forth. They also seem like a weak compromise between (sometimes awesomely) tacky, crazy nail art and just painting your nail a single color. I mean go big or go home. Why not get a pink and gold argyle pattern if that's what you want; none of this former pageant circuit lady who's now the mom of a cheerleader French nail business.
posted by kkokkodalk at 1:40 PM on December 8, 2008 [2 favorites]

We used to give ourselves French manicures in 8th grade using Wite-Out. I'm not sure the "real" ones are any classier.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:41 PM on December 8, 2008 [4 favorites]

Cannot stand them. They look dated to me, as in 'Big Hair' dated. Personally, a solid neutral or light color is the modern way to go.
posted by tenderman kingsaver at 1:42 PM on December 8, 2008

Hmm. It is interesting to see all the nays on this topic, because here in LA, if you are very put together, you have french-manicured fingers, and possibly toes.
posted by sLevi at 1:44 PM on December 8, 2008

Stynxo has it right. NYC-based, fashion junkie here. 'Round these parts, French manicures are considered very bridge-and-tunnel. Fairly short, squarish nails with sheer pink or nude are the way to go, or for evening, blood red, black-blue (only on short, squarish nails) are on trend at the moment.
posted by thinkpiece at 1:44 PM on December 8, 2008 [2 favorites]

Tacky, tacky, tacky. Just buff to a shine.
posted by kmennie at 1:49 PM on December 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh, and I feel like with modern trains you're not limited to just nude or pale colors to keep things neat and professional. Sure it'd depend on your own personal style as well as where you work, or the dress code of whatever function you're attending, but really, there's a wide range of solid colors out there nowadays that are pretty spectacular and not what you'd traditionally define as proper nail colors. Then again, I'm in New York so maybe that's how it is here.

Rich plum and purple darks like OPI's Lincoln Park After Dark might seem like something that used to be reserved for goth kids who hang out at Denny's at 2 am, but on well-kept nails they can look very mod and devastatingly elegant. Browns are nice too.

And if you want to go for more primary candy colors, you're not limited to pastels (though there's nothing wrong with those in the summer). I personally have a nice pumpkin orange color that I think looks great on me as well as a both a sea foam and avocado green. So I'd say experiment with what looks good for your skin tone and your general style appropriate for your surroundings.

For upkeep, sure if you got all the cuticle removers and tiny scissors that snip and snap and hand soaks, that's cool I guess. But I just always remember to use a base coat and a top coat. Seriously, just using those two things will make a huge difference on how they last and/or chip. If you work in an office type environment where you're expected to be a certain way, I'd say get rid of the polish as soon as it begins chipping. But you have to remember that even with a base coat, constantly using acetone is going to do some sort of damage.
posted by kkokkodalk at 1:52 PM on December 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh I am so out of it with my lime green metallic nails. I personally like the French manicure but it is high maintenance so I would say you could never go wrong with well trimmed, shaped and buffed nails. The thing is, you should have nice hands to go with those nails. An occasional manicure with the nice abrasion technique and then heavy moisturizer with some sunscreen for follow up seems to work.
posted by jadepearl at 2:01 PM on December 8, 2008

French Manicures are a timeless, classic look. And as with any fashion that has been around for a long time there are those who hate it, those who abuse it, and there are those who can pull it off and who look great.

I find that French Manicures look best on shorter (but not completely trimmed) nails. If your outfits are also have a suitably classic sensibility, then go for it. Which is to say, your nails are a part of your look they should match the rest of you.

Here is a blog post that you might find interesting, pay attention to the comment on Andrea Bowen.
posted by oddman at 2:04 PM on December 8, 2008

I say yes for french manicures. But definitely keep the colors sheer and natural (including the white tips--I say go ivory/pearl), the paint maintained, and the nails relatively short. I think that they are classy and the most "natural" looking.
I say no to french pedicures. They just look weird and completely UNnatural.

I'm actually turned off by any color on nails that isn't natural looking. All of it is tacky to me.

And then, in addition to the initial turned-off-ness, I'm repulsed and completely grossed out by painted nails that are not maintained: chipped off color, worn out colors, a gap of unpainted nail between the actual paint and your cuticle. Gross. If you can't maintain it just take it off!

I'm in my mid-20's and a lot of my similarly aged female friends sport the french manicure. It's very clean, modest, and simple.
posted by simplethings at 2:05 PM on December 8, 2008

NYC-based, fashion junkie here. 'Round these parts, French manicures are considered very bridge-and-tunnel.

posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:11 PM on December 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

I think they look pretty as long as your nails are not too long.

If your nails are short, I think a nude polish is classy.

I think the most important thing about your nails is for them to be clean and well-kept. I keep a manicure kit handy both at home and at the office. You can get a kit for like $10 at Walgreens. I am constantly putting on lotion and cuticle cream.
posted by radioamy at 2:17 PM on December 8, 2008

I was okay with the French manicure, until the creepy French pedicures started. I'm in Southern California and French manis are rare here.

Instead, I'd go with a shorter nail in the squared oval shape with very neat cuticles. If you push your cuticles back gently with your towel when you get out of the shower each morning; you should be good. For day, plain buffed nails or a sheer neutral polish is nice.
posted by 26.2 at 2:44 PM on December 8, 2008

NYC-based, fashion junkie here. 'Round these parts, French manicures are considered very bridge-and-tunnel.


Nth ing
posted by cestmoi15 at 2:53 PM on December 8, 2008

I would say, the answer to your question depends on your job, your friends, where you hang out and your personal style preferences.

I think French manicures are a girly, feminine and highly groomed look but definitely not natural, edgy or hip. They also imply money, because you gotta throw down to keep them looking good. If looking put together for you means wearing a fair amount of make-up, dyeing your hair regularly and doing something like curling or straightening your hair on a daily basis, the French might be for you. If you're aiming for something more subtle, a short, round nail with a neutral or nude polish is actually timeless. They weren't wearing French manicures in the 50s. Also, if we're talking "high fashion", models and stars generally sport shortish, solid colored/nude nails these days. For me, manicures are just too much hassle to keep up and money I would much rather spend on something else.
posted by dahliachewswell at 2:58 PM on December 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

My wife got a French manicure for our wedding and it was hawt! Having said that, it would be a bit creepy if she got them all the time.
posted by furtive at 3:01 PM on December 8, 2008

Don't ask me how I know, but French manicures seem to be the style of choice with all the pr0n stars these days. So that is my first mental connection with the image of French manicure (and they like it for pedicures as well...)
posted by Vaike at 3:01 PM on December 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Kmennie has it. Buff to a shine only. (Added advantage of being cheap, and do it yourself too! Although I have paid for a mani/pedi with buff only... not that they give you a discount, the cheeky buggers.)

As a data point....I used to watch daytime tv when I was a student.... and the stripper on The Young and the Restless used to have them. In the eighties..... Ick. Very tacky.

An Australian equivalent would be "Kath and Kim".

And yes, they do chip more easily than other polishes.
posted by taff at 3:03 PM on December 8, 2008

Yeah, NYC here, tacky.


in Baltimore it might be different.

When you see a woman you want to look like/be like, look at her nails and try the look out on yourself.
posted by sondrialiac at 3:24 PM on December 8, 2008

If you're still performing the same tasks as in your last question, then I think a French Manicure would be somewhat distracting. I'd notice it, when I should be noticing whatever your disembodied hands are performing or displaying.

As to whether they are a fashion yes or fashion no? Personally, to me they always scream "fussy!" but I suppose it depends on your personal style.

Are your style icons straight off Sex and the City? Do you straighten your hair? Did you buy a fake Louis Vuitton, only to replace it with a Dooney&Burke purse which was quickly succeeded by a Coach from the local outlet mall? Do you have a subscription to Cosmopolitan? Do you have a rhinestone cell phone faceplate? Then go for the French Manicure!

Have you ever worn a plaid shirt with pearl button snaps, wafers/shutter shades/no lens geek glasses, or perhaps Converse/Doc Martens? Do you like Style Scout more than Ole Sarty? If you read the Babysitter's Club as a kid, did you want to be Claudia Kishi when you grew up? Have you ever stood in American Apparel and wondered if you could pull off electric blue lycra? Do you own a copy of Fruits? Then no, girl. Hell no.

I'm a pretentious scenester douchebag who is typing this with one hand painted hot pink and the other hand painted ink black, however, so that's just my opinion.
posted by Juliet Banana at 3:31 PM on December 8, 2008 [2 favorites]

Nay, and not just nay but HELL NAY. Also, everything stynxno said.
posted by HotToddy at 3:34 PM on December 8, 2008

I'm not a girly girl, but I occasionally paint my nails. Sometimes a sheerish pink/beige, sometimes a dark, deep reddish brown. If I want to keep it for more than a day (because of chipping), I love my nails when they are shortish (but neatly filed to a rounded square) with clear polish. Buffing (with one of those 3 or 4-sided deals) would achieve the same effect. I don't like the idea of sanding down my nails though, since they're already pretty weak and peely.

French manicures are trying way too hard, IMO. To me, it turns your hands into a caricature of what a woman's hands should look like. Also, since I work in a job where my hands and nails get dirty/beat up, I can't help but imagine the crud underneath the bright white polish whenever I see one.

If you're keeping track, I'm in NYC.
posted by AlisonM at 4:00 PM on December 8, 2008

I fall into the camp of loving a french manicure on relatively short nails.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 6:12 PM on December 8, 2008

I like to get them for myself. NYC, Manhattan. However, I have very short nails that and they are the only type of manicure that doesn't draw further attention to how short my nails truly are (and in fact makes them look halfway normal). I get a pinky-nude coat over the white so it isn't as stark and looks more like my natural nail, but better. I would say it looks more like my nails are just really clean and polished, than an outright french manicure, if that makes sense.

With one place I go to it lasts for about a week - I have no idea how since all other manicures barely last half that long on me. I find that a lot of moisturizing lotion and a new topcoat about 3-4 days in helps a bit too. When I do get them done, I go every two weeks (one week done by a pro and the next week I paint them solid at home). If I had more money I'd go more often, or maybe try different manicure options/colors. I agree that french toes are a big nono. They freak me out.
posted by ml98tu at 7:25 PM on December 8, 2008

in Baltimore it might be different.
I'm in Baltimore. It says Dundalk to me.
posted by Airhen at 3:57 PM on December 9, 2008

2nd-ing pseudostrabismus' point. In my opinion, that first French manicure is clean and natural looking. The key here is short nails, muted white, and the white NOT taking up >25-30% of the nail length: another example here and kinda here (kind of on the long side for me...). The second type linked above is oftn on long (usually) artificial nails (acrylics or fiberglass), has extremely white tips which take up too much nail-space, and thus in no way resembles a natural looking fingernail. I personally associate this look with porn stars. (no image link provided) So, provided you keep it sheer and short, it shouldn't scream "tacky slut".

however, i find that making nice clean "smile lines" with paint is really difficult, and those whitening pencils (to brighten the underside of the nail tips) wash off pretty fast (its been eons since ive tried one tho) So I'd just keep it simple unless you are OK with making nail-polish maintenance a mimum weekly task.

Oh, and I just read your other question (how the girly-hand-stuff is new) and since I dont think anyone's suggested it yet, I'd give a nail buffer a shot. They're cheap, readily available at any drugstore, and are a good paint-free way to keep your nails looking groomed. Here's a pretty good "tutorial" and I like the block-ones that look like this but often come in a stick form like this or this too.
posted by NikitaNikita at 8:01 PM on December 9, 2008

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