I have a friend who was always known for her red nails. For her, summers called for Essie’s Clambake, a joyful red-orange hue. When the leaves would start to turn, she’d wear an apple- red colour before eventually switching over to a deep crimson for the winter months. “I used to feel that red made me more chic, more Parisian,” she says. “I couldn’t go out if I didn’t have a red nail that was perfectly done.” Then something changed. Her classic red manicure took a back seat to a look that’s become increasingly popular: rounded nails buffed to perfection with a single coat of clear gloss. “I find it easier to live my life [this] way,” she says.

This preference isn’t unique to her; many are now opting for neat cuticles and healthy-looking nails over intricate designs and artificial enhancements. Natural-looking nails not only offer a simpler and more cost-effective maintenance routine compared to gels and acrylics but have also evolved into a symbol of style and status. Consider Sofia Richie’s aspirational bridal manicure by nail artist Georgia Rae, which featured a delicate layer of Bio Sculpture’s Sweet Candy Breath. Kate Middleton has favoured a polish-free look for decades. Even celebrity influencer Alix Earle took to TikTok to declare a “naked-nail summer,” prompting several high-profile content creators to follow suit.

@alixearleIs this a hot take?♬ original sound – alix earle

Top OPI nail artist Samantha Silvius (@samanthanailedit) has noticed this shift in her own clients, largely attributing the trend to social media. “TikTok is a huge driver,” she says. “There’s an element of that clean-girl aesthetic that goes along with the naked-nails trend.” Gelcare manicurist Sarah Alaina (@saruhnails) agrees. “I find that it’s trending because of this whole clean, natural, quiet-luxury [look],” she says. She also ties the movement to the rise of the ingredient-conscious consumer. “People are really into clean skincare ingredients, and nail culture has always been behind. You don’t need plastic, glue, extensions or acrylic powders. If you wait two to three manicures and use the correct products, your natural nails can thrive.”

When transitioning to natural nails, it’s crucial to have your polish removed correctly. “If you have enhancements like acrylics or gel, it is in your best interests to have them pro- fessionally soaked off,” says Silvius. Picking off gel polish can strip away layers of your nails, leading to signs of damage like ridges and lines of demarcation. “Your nails are like onions,” she says. “You’re peeling off layers [of your nail plate], and that makes them thin.”


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Alaina recommends investing in regular manicures for two to three months to build a solid foundation and then doing regular at-home maintenance. “If you go to a nail artist, they’ll do 50 percent of the work,” she says. “But once you have your nails [done], you have to do the other 50 percent.” To maintain immaculate nails, it’s essential to keep those cuticles tidy by applying cuticle oil and gently pushing them back, regularly file your nails to prevent snags and frequently apply hand cream.

Similar to achieving clean-girl skin and clean-girl hair, maintaining clean-girl nails hinges on one key factor: hydration. “Our hands and nails are really dry,” says Alaina. “If you don’t use cuticle oil and moisturizer, your nails are going to be brittle and they’re going to break. Like your hair, your nails are made up of keratin, so it’s like not using conditioner.”

Above all, bare nails should be low maintenance. “They’re accessible because they’re affordable and don’t need to involve extra spending,” says Silvius. If you’re on a budget (and who isn’t these days?), Alaina recommends combining your naked-nail routine with your skincare regimen. “Your hands are just like your face—they show your age. So at the end of your skincare routine, take [your moisturizer] and rub it on your cuticles and nails.” And remember: Less is always more.

Bare Necessities

Everything you need to score stunning naked nails


Repair Mode, OPI

Price: $30


Already a staple in hair care, bond-building formulas are now venturing into nail treatments. OPI’s fast- absorbing keratin-infused serum penetrates the nail to restore strength and smoothness and reduce discolouration after two weeks of use.

Nail Glow, Dior

Price: $42


Fans of Dior’s bestselling Lip Glow will adore its polish equivalent, which creates a “your nails but better” look with its understated rose tint and shiny finish.

Almond Delicious Hand Cream, L’Occitane

Price: $29


To keep natural nails looking their best, be sure to regularly hydrate your hands. L’Occitane’s signature vanilla- and-almond-scented hand cream contains almond oil, protein and milk to help keep dryness at bay.

L’Huile Camélia Hydrating & Fortifying Oil, Chanel

Price: $42


Manicurist Sarah Alaina considers Chanel’s L’Huile Camélia to be the ultimate nail and cuticle moisturizer thanks to it having a jelly-like texture that melts into a luxurious oil.

Glass Nail File, Tweezerman

Price: $10


Trade in your emery board for a crystal or glass nail file to gently smooth sharp corners without causing further breakage.