The 'French Fade' Ups The Ante On A Classic Manicure

If you've ever gone to a nail salon, you've probably walked out at least once with a crisp, fresh French manicure. The classic French manicure features a painted nail tip (usually white) with a defined separation from the rest of your nail color (usually natural or nude). It's a style that certainly won't go away anytime soon; in fact, we're excited to announce it's gotten an upgrade in the French fade manicure.

French fades (also called baby boomer nails) are a subtler, modern take on the classic French mani. It features a colorful tip that then fades into whatever base color you're using on your nail. This ombré look is effortlessly sophisticated and chic, perfect for whatever occasion you'd typically wear a French mani as well as just for everyday wear. The subtle French fade also offers a world of variability — you can make the fade long or short, beautifully blend contrasting colors, and even add some designs on top. Ready to hop on the French fade train?  Here are some of our favorite takes on the French fade manicure to give you some inspo before you hit the salon.

Add a tiny jewel to each nail

If you're trying a new style for the first time, it's sometimes best to stick to the basics. A classic French fade manicure will feature a white tip fading into a nude base and is elegant enough to wear to a wedding but subtle enough to be a great everyday look. If you're someone who always wants to take everything up a notch, get a French fade in the classic colors but add a tiny jewel to the base of each nail. 

Make it a long fade

Do you adore the color you're using on the tip of your nails? Then make the most of it by asking your manicurist for a long French fade. Longer fades will typically carry the tip color down to the middle of the nail (or farther, if you want) before fading into the base shade. You could even carry the color all the way down your nail and subtly fade out of it near your cuticle. There are no rules here.

Do a French fade with darker neutrals

If you want an edgier take on the French fade, this tip is for you. Let your French fade tell everyone not to mess with you when you do it with darker neutral colors. You could utilize beige and taupe shades, as in the picture above, or do a gray-to-black (or black-to-gray) French fade. Stiletto-shaped nails will only add to the edge factor of this mani, but if stilettos are too sharp for your liking, opt for a coffin shape instead. 

Bejewel a single nail

We all love a good accent nail in a manicure, but sometimes you don't want to mess with the uniformity of a French fade. If this sounds like you, go half-in on your accent nail by bejeweling it. Bejeweling the base of your nail lets you keep the classic French fade throughout your manicure while adding visual interest.

Make it a barely-there mani

The French fade is already a subtle choice for your manicure, but why not take it a step further with some barely-there French fade nails? To pull off this look, you'll use two shades that closely match each other and your natural nails. Use the lighter one on the tip and fade it into the darker one. This will give your manicure that neat, polished look you're going for without being too showy. 

You can do it on short nails

A common misconception when it comes to French fades (and French manicures in general) is that you can't pull it off unless you keep your nails long. Fortunately for all chronic nail-biters, the French fade is a perfectly easy look to pull off on short nails, even with a longer fade. Longer fades will create the illusion of length, but a shorter fade is also a perfectly elegant option. 

Do a French fade for summer

Want a French fade with a bit of a seasonal twist? Then in the warmer months, do a fade with a bright summer color like yellow, green, pink, or orange. You could just pick one of these colors and use it to do a French fade on all your nails, or to make it more interesting, you could incorporate a French fade with floral nail designs, like sunflowers or small, leafy buds.

Add some decorative leaves

If you're gearing up for a particularly formal event — say, you're a bridesmaid (or even the bride) in an upcoming wedding — ask your manicurist for a French fade with a decorative silver leaf pattern on one or two of your nails. To keep the look as elegant and classy as possible, stick with light colors for your French fade, like the white and light pink shown above. If you're down for more contrast, get a gold leaf pattern instead of going for subtle silver.

Invert the colors on one nail

If you want to have a little bit of fun with your French fade, make an accent nail by simply inverting your French fade colors on one of your nails. This is an especially striking look on longer nails, but it could be pulled off just as well on shorter nails. For a particularly bold take, use two bright, contrasting colors on your nails to make the inversion stand out even more. 

Do it with a bold color

Yes, the standard for a French fade is to use neutral colors, but it's definitely not a requirement. For a take on the French fade that's just as bright and bold as you are, do it with a bright summer nail color like orange. A long, orange fade into a neutral base is stunning, but you can tone it down by doing a shorter fade if you want. 

Make them matte

Everybody loves a good glossy nail, but sometimes you want something a little more natural and muted. If these are the vibes you're going for, get your favorite version of the French fade and cover it with a matte top coat. This will keep the natural look of your nails while still adding some glam to your look. 

Do a glittery French fade

When you want to get a French fade perfect for a New Year's Eve party, Christmas cocktail hour, or another holiday soiree, go all out by doing it with glitter. A glittery tip can add some stunning visual interest to the already gorgeous French fade manicure. Do it on all of your nails, or use this look as an accent nail to a solid-colored mani. 

Or just add some glitter on top

When you want to incorporate glitter throughout your manicure without compromising the classic French fade look, there's a top coat for that! Get a French fade in the standard neutral colors and finish it off with a glittery top coat. Small glitter flakes will give you a barely-there look that's stunning under the summer sun, or you could opt for bigger flecks of glitter to really stand out. 

Add a subtle pop of color

Maybe you love color but don't want to go too bold with this manicure. Lucky for you, the French fade makes it easy to incorporate subtle pops of color, like with the above lavender nails. Choose a pastel shade of your favorite color as the color for your tip; then, ask for a short French fade into a neutral base color. This look is stunning on everyone, and it retains enough visual interest to be distinct from your standard French fade.

Fade together two contrasting colors

On the other hand, maybe you love color and aren't afraid of getting a mani that will have all your friends talking. If this sounds like your vibe, pick your two favorite colors and do a French fade with both of them. Orange and green would make a stunning French fade for fall, while you could use darker colors like blue and purple in the winter and stick to light pastels in the spring and summer months. 

Or just make them multicolor

Can't pick a color, or even two? No worries — you don't have to. Make your French fade manicure bright, fun, and still elegant when you use a different color on each nail. To keep this look uniform, keep all your nails in the same color family (pastels, jewel tones, earth tones, etc). That said, there aren't rules when it comes to your nails, so feel free to choose whatever colors make you feel the most like yourself.

Combine it with the glazed donut look

If you've been obsessed with the glazed donut nail trend, this tip is for you. The next time you go in to get your French fade, ask to get it glazed donut style. This will typically involve neutrals that are nearly transparent and blend in stunningly with your natural nails. 

Add some abstract lines

Sometimes all you need for a manicure that's just a little offbeat is some abstract lines, so if the standard French fade seems just a bit too blah for you, this is an easy way to take it up a notch. We love the subtlety of the silver lines in the above photo, but this is also a great opportunity to add a pop of color if that's more your speed. 

Incorporate your fav celestial symbols

If you're a fan of astrology, a French fade is a beautiful opportunity to showcase your love for all things celestial. Create a French fade that emulates the sky by opting for a light blue color on the tip (or a dark blue or purple if the night sky is your vibe). Then, add your favorite astrological symbols on top in an accent color like gold, white, or silver. 

Fade a dark color into a lighter one

Typically, a French fade would feature a lighter color (such as white) fading into a slightly darker neutral. If you want a fun take on this look, flip the script and fade a darker neutral into a lighter one. This will give you a French fade that you're unlikely to see on any of your friends at a party, and we wouldn't be surprised if you end up asking for it time and time again, too. 

Only fade one nail

Want to try the French fade look but aren't ready to commit yet? We have a solution: Just do it on one nail. A French fade accent nail is the perfect way to take the French fade for a test run before you go all-in at your next salon appointment. Of course, if you don't love it, you never have to turn that single-nail look into a full-on French fade mani, but we bet you'll love the look once you've tried it out.