Riding the wave of ‘90s nostalgia, the latest manicure sweeping salons and our social media feeds is known as jelly nails. Also referred to as PVC nails, the playful appeal is edged, of course, with a nod to those jelly sandals we all adored back in the day. And as demonstrated by Instagram, which has over 13k images tagged #jellynails, there’s a whole rainbow of inspo to tempt even the most talon-tame. Whether you choose completely clear tips or a combination of colors, it’s a surprisingly versatile trend, letting you tailor the shape, shade, and finish to be as polished or out-there as you like.
“While this started as a summer trend, jelly nails are still going strong into the new season,” says nail artist Imarni Ashman of Imarni Nails in London, who happens to be one of the leaders of the look. Jelly nails are achieved with clear nail extensions and sheer polishes, she explains: “You can’t use the typical block coverage polish; it needs to be low pigment, so it works almost like watercolor.”
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And while you could try a subtle version at home with low-pigment polishes painted over your natural nails, it’s best to go to a pro technician for the full effect. Many of the popular styles have super-sharp stiletto or long, squared-off shapes that require added length, Ashman says. But for a more practical (and keyboard-friendly) version, she points out that the trend also works with shorter almond or rounded shapes, too.
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For more bespoke takes on the trend, glitter finishes, swirled colors, and nail designs are all options, too. It’s well worth researching the hashtag to see all the possibilities out there, and then taking ideas to your nail salon to work with. Just keep the embellishments quite minimal as not to take away from the jelly effect, Ashman suggests.
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And for maintaining those jellies? “This is a look for those who are willing to put a little upkeep into their mani,” she says. “These nails are prone to getting condensation underneath and showing any dirt or residue from the day, so it’s good to brush them a few times throughout to keep them clean.” You might also want to give them an extra layer of clear topcoat once a week, so they keep that extra glassy effect, she adds.