There’s something chic and sophisticated about long nails, but they’re not exactly practical for everyday wear. Normal activities like typing on a keyboard, ripping open packages, or even opening up a can of soda become a tightrope walking act of sorts, where any sudden movement could result in a broken nail, undoing months of careful patience and growth.
But for those not so well-endowed in the nail length department, those who have busy lifestyles, or those with a job where long nails are simply impractical, there’s a sneaky nail-painting technique that can give the illusion of longer nails without any of the hassle or fuss of actually having longer nails. Meet the Italian manicure and learn why it’s the best way to fake longer nails sans extensions, according to nail experts Syreeta Aaron and Evelyn Lim.
What Is an Italian Manicure?
According to Lim, “an Italian manicure is a painting technique that elongates the nail,” or at least gives the illusion of longer nails. Predominantly done with classic full-color manicures, the technique uses the brush from the polish bottle to get as close to the cuticles as possible (without touching the skin, of course). Then, the brush is pulled up towards the tip of the nail, coating the center area but leaving a small gap between the edge of the nail wall and the polish. Alternately, you can fill in the entire nail and then go over the sides with a small brush soaked in nail polish remover to create those gaps. While minuscule and barely noticeable, the negative space gives the illusion of length to otherwise short nail beds.
It’s a great option for those who prefer to keep their nails shorter but crave an elongated look, says Aaron. It’s a win-win, really, because the technique gives the illusion of having length while actually maintaining the active length requested. Plus Lim says Italian manicures can also make the nail beds appear thinner, giving an overall slimming effect to the fingers.
While Lim suggests sticking with bold, vibrant colors to really play up the effect, Aaron likes a more natural nude shade like LeChat’s Dare to Wear in Paloma ($6) for clients with fairly boxy nails and frequent nail biters. Italian manicures are a great option for those who don’t want to spend hours in the salon applying acrylics or simply want to switch up their regular mani for something a bit more polished.
Scroll on for some of our favorite takes on the Italian manicure.
Both experts agree: Bold, vibrant colors make Italian manicures really shine, and this raspberry shade is no exception. If you look carefully, you can see where the edges have been subtly carved out to create leaner, longer-looking nails.
When it comes to Italian manicures, Aaron says darker wine shades are perfect for those with more rounded cuticles. Plus, it’s the perfect color to transition into fall while faking a little nail length.
There’s no need to limit your creativity—we love this ombré-style look from nail extraordinaire Betina Goldstein.
The Italian manicure technique looks great on squoval nails like these. It elongates the nails without making them appear too narrow, which can be an issue when used on longer, almond, or coffin-shaped nails.
Good news: The Italian manicure can be done using any type of polish. With gel, your look is far less prone to chips and lasts way longer.
While Lim isn’t the biggest fan of nude shades when using the Italian technique, Olive & June makes a serious case for a classic pink. Paired with the Italian manicure, it creates a look that’s both polished and versatile.
The Italian manicure is one of the most popular techniques around, largely because it can be done with any combination of polishes and nail art. We’re fans of a good rainbow mani, such as the one above.
We love these bright blue nails. The Italian manicure technique allows the nails to look their best without sacrificing practicality.
You can even do an Italian-style French manicure. Unlike a classic French mani, where the tips start closer to the sides of the nails to create a crescent shape, the Italian style starts around halfway up the nail to create more of a “U” shape.