Sometimes, even the classics can benefit from an update. Just compare today’s svelte MacBook Air to its clunky older sister of yesteryear, the PowerBook 100 (look it up). And I’ll take a luxe, modern-day cleansing balm over a hefty cold cream any day. Enter the French manicure: It’s a staple in its own right, but nail artists have been reimagining it as of late in order to expand it beyond nostalgia territory into countless modern looks.
Meet the baby French, a sleek, new-age take on your grandmother’s favorite manicure. And that’s no shade to your grandma—classics are classics for a reason. French manicures are still a great option, but sometimes a little tune-up doesn’t hurt, and this one is as simple as taking the tip into ultra-thin territory.
Ahead, get to know the versatile, wildly chic baby French manicure from the experts themselves, plus see some of our favorite takes on the updated classic.
What Is a Baby French Manicure?
Baby French manicures are exactly what you think (unless you thought this technique was a French manicure for babies). According to Lim, a baby French is a micro version of the traditional French manicure, with the tips painted as thinly as possible and slightly tapered down the side of the nail. It’s incredibly wearable, low-maintenance, and chic—celebrity fans include tastemakers Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Bella Hadid.
The baby French is also pretty easy to achieve at home. Aaron suggests starting with a base coat similar to your natural nail color or a nude neutral pink, like LeChat’s Dare to Wear Sheer Bliss ($6) and using a thin striping brush to apply the white (or any color) tips. For those who aren’t as steady with their nail art, Lim suggests allowing the base coat to dry for around 10 minutes, then applying the white polish onto a silicone nail stamper and pressing the nail tip into the stamp (the tip of the nails should be covered by the stamp).
Best of all? It’s incredibly versatile, Aaron shares. Stick to neutral tones for a more professional look, or go bold with whatever hues suit your fancy. Aaron’s a fan of the classic nude-and-white combo, while Lim likes to switch things up with bold metallic or neon tips. And while both experts love the look on shorter, square-shaped nails, they also say the style will look great regardless of nail shape or size—it just works.
Ready to upgrade your look? Scroll on for some of our favorite takes on the baby French manicure.
Classic Baby French
The French mani is a classic for a reason—it always looks good. Make it a baby French for a modern twist.
Baby French, meet baby blue. I think you’re going to get along just fine.
Whether you’re excited about Taylor Swift’s Midnights or just want to add a bit more punch to the otherwise demure baby French manicure, opt for a different base color. This lilac is sure to bring you joy.
Day-Glo Baby French
Bright, neon tips are a great way to add some character to a baby French mani without going too bold. It still reads as subtle, but has some much-appreciated personality.
Take a nod from the runway and color block your baby French manicure with two complementary hues. This salmon and red combo is everything.
Candy Almond Tips
We love the way these baby pink tips offer the tiniest bit of contrast. It’s still that classic baby French we know and love—just ever-so-slightly different.
Why pick one shade for your tips when you can have two? This half-baby blue, half-bubblegum pink combo makes for one epic manicure. Stick to a neutral base to keep the focus on the tips.
Back to Black
For an edgier take on the prim-and-proper baby French manicure, opt for black tips. There’s something very Y2K about it, and we’re all for it.
To go mod, consider adding another arch around a third of the way up the nail. Make sure it mirrors the shape of the tip for a more cohesive look.
Opting for a sparkly tip means you really can have your cake and eat it too. The majority of the nail still feels professional and sophisticated, but the shimmer on top adds a bit of whimsy. It’ll go perfectly from day to night.
Add a Dot
If colorful tips just aren’t adding the punch you want, add a little dot towards the bottom of the nail in the center. The minimalist detail adds something a little different without being too bold.
Forget about subtlety—these shimmering baby French nails are absolute showstoppers. The French tip adds a classic element to an otherwise out-of-the-box mani.
Cow Print Moment
We tried to refrain from making a cow joke here, but these nails are seriously a-moo-zing (we couldn’t help ourselves!). In all honestly, these are perhaps the chicest baby French nails we’ve ever seen.
Elegant and Elongated
For longer nails, a rounded, almond shape complements the baby French look perfectly.
All Black Everything
This matte and glossy black combination makes the baby French manicure look downright punk in the absolute best way.
If you’re going bold on the design front, consider a baby French accent nail to create a white space of sorts between your designs. It’ll let the art really speak for itself without looking too crowded.
These tortoiseshell-patterned French tips are ridiculously chic. Plus, full tortoiseshell accent nails show just how impressive the design really is. We’re in love!
The Gilded Tips, or Finger Crowns
Talented, brilliant, incredible, amazing, show-stopping, spectacular, never the same, totally unique—that Lady Gaga meme is all we could think about when we saw these. Consider our jaws dropped.