How to Find Your Best Nail Shape

How to Find Your Best Nail Shape featured image
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Picking polish isn’t the only decision to be made when getting a manicure. Whether short or long or anything in between, nails can be filed into the exact shape that beautify hands. “Different shapes create a different overall effect on how the nails and hands look,” says Shel Pink, founder of SpaRitual. Read on to find out which nail shape is best for your hands.

Featured Experts

  • Shel Pink is the founder of SpaRitual
  • Essie Weingarten is the founder and creative director of Essie Cosmetics
  • Gina Alcedo is an in-home celebrity manicurist in Beverly Hills, CA
  • Mar Y Sol is a celebrity manicurist in New York

Square Nails

Straighter on the sides and blunt across the top, square nails are best on smaller nail beds; when worn on a wide nail bed, the hands can look stocky or stubby.

This clean-cut design creates a strong, bold look, making it a popular choice for those who want a neat and structured appearance. The square shape is ideal for individuals with wider nail beds, as it provides a balanced silhouette and can make the fingers appear longer and more slender.

Almond Nails

Deborah Lippmann adores the almond-shaped nail, celebrated for its graceful tapering and rounded tips reminiscent of almonds. This elegant style, favored by celebrities like Jessica Chastain and Lupita Nyong’o on the red carpet, offers a perfect blend of sophistication and versatility for any occasion. Whether for everyday chic or glamorous events, almond nails exude timeless charm and effortless beauty.

Oval Nails

Oval nails convey a feminine, classic look. “For someone with short, small hands, oval nails can create the illusion of longer fingers,” says Pink. This shape is popular for its versatility and flattering appearance, as it complements most hand shapes and skin tones.

The oval design is ideal for individuals who prefer a classic and feminine look, as it elongates the fingers and creates a graceful silhouette. Unlike square nails, oval nails are less prone to chipping due to their rounded edges, making them a durable and low-maintenance option.

Round Nails

For subdued, natural-looking nails, choose a round shape. “It looks nice on shorter nails and makes a wider nail bed look more elegant,” says Essie Weingarten, founder and creative director of Essie Cosmetics. 

In-home celebrity manicurist Gina Alcedo agrees and says a rounded shape is a favorite with her mature celebrity clients because the shape, which is typically done on a shorter nail, “thins out the nail elongating fingers.” Plus, because the rounded shape is typically worn on short nails, clients can pull off the widest variety of nail polish shades without looking too “garish or intense,” she explains.

Squoval Nails

“Nail shape should follow cuticle shape. That’s why most hands look best with a ‘squoval’ shape—a bit square, a bit oval with soft edges,” says Weingarten. The squoval offers a more durable edge with reduced risk of chipping or snagging.

This design is flattering on most hand shapes and can make fingers appear longer and more refined. It’s subtle curves and clean lines make it an excellent choice for both everyday wear and intricate nail art, providing a sophisticated and adaptable base for any look.

Stiletto or Pointy Nails

More of a trend than a staple shape, pointy nails (which can be difficult to function with) tend to make the hands appear thin. Stiletto nails are a bold and dramatic style characterized by their long, pointed shape, tapering to a sharp tip. This nail design is often favored by those who seek to make a striking fashion statement, exuding confidence and edginess.

Stiletto nails are typically longer than other nail shapes, allowing for more intricate designs and embellishments, which can include rhinestones, glitter, or elaborate artwork.

Ballerina or Coffin Nails

“For longer nails, the ballerina shape, also called the coffin shape, is trending,” says celebrity manicurist Mar Y Sol. “It looks like a point shoe for ballerinas and is a longer oval nail with the top completely tapered off. They are typically longer than traditional square or oval nails, offering a chic statement.

“Another trend I like to combine with the ballerina shape is to add Swarovski crystals. They’re chic, easy to apply, and come in all sizes which can be applied in such a way to complement your nail shape and add that je ne sais quoi to your nail look.”

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