This Chic Nail Shape Is Universally Flattering — How To Achieve It

It's the perfect middle ground between basic and bold.

This Chic Nail Shape Is Universally Flattering — How To Achieve It
This Chic Nail Shape Is Universally Flattering  — How To Achieve It

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March 25, 2022 — 11:04 AM

Choosing the right nail shape can seem like quite the commitment—truthfully, it sort of is, at least until your next mani. But instead of selecting at random, picking a nail shape should be based on the health and length of your nails, and sometimes even the shape of your fingers can play a role. However, for most people, an almond-shaped nail is super flattering and easy to maintain. It’s not the most basic nail shape, but it’s not a strikingly bold one either. Consider it an ultra-chic happy medium.

According to celebrity nail manicurist and brand founder, Deborah Lippmann, almond-shaped nails are very French-esque. And when has French-inspired beauty ever led us astray? Our point exactly. Below, find everything you need to know about the almond nail shape, including how to get it and expert-approved tips for a salon-level manicure. 

What are the most common nail shapes? 

First, let's discuss how almond nails compare to other common shapes. There are seven popular nail shapes that range from basic to bold: Starting with the basics, you have oval-shaped nails, which is most traditional and ideal for shorter fingers. Then there’s the rounded nail, which is a go-to for those who love sporting short nails without any fuss. Next is the square-shaped nail: It looks like, well, a square, which extends across the width of the nail bed. The squoval nail—a mix between square and oval-shaped—is the same as square nail with rounded edges that make it a bit softer than the former. 

Then you have almond-shaped nails, which again are the perfect middle ground between basic and bold. They appear slim on the sides and wide at the base towards the nail bed—and they are oh-so flattering on practically every nail and finger shape.

And finally, we have more daring, modern choices, like stiletto- and coffin-shaped nails. Stiletto nails are similar to almond, just way more bold and edgy: Imagine an almond-shaped nail filed down to a sharp needlepoint. Coffin nails, on the other hand, are squared with a tempered end. These nail types may make a statement, but they’re harder to sport if you work with your hands a lot—not to mention, they are not so easy to achieve on a natural nail

What is an almond nail shape? 

almond nails

“Almond-shaped nails are slim on the sides and wide on the base, coming to a rounded peak,” Lippmann says. If you placed an actual almond on your nail bed, it would actually follow the shape of the rounded nut (hence, the name). We like to consider it the middle ground between oval and stiletto tips. In fact, it’s pretty much a combination of the two. 

Lippmann says this nail shape is finger-slimming and quite sexy. “You can use an almond nail shape with any color and it’s flattering on most hands,” she notes The good news is, anyone can sport an almond-shaped nail: The only requirement is a nail bed that is longer than the base of your finger.

Lippmann also says almond nails can be hard to accomplish if the nail is too short, since you want the tapered edge to reach beyond the fingertip. Elle Gerstein, a celebrity nail tech, agrees: "[The nail] will never reach an actual almond if it's too short, because you'll be filing in the sides and it'll just collapse," she previously told mbg.

While you could always head to a nail salon to carve your almond-shaped tips, you can also accomplish this look at home with a few easy steps. 

If you’re doing an at-home manicure, the first step is always to remove any previous lacquer from your nails. Even if your nails weren’t previously painted, using a nail polish remover will help provide a clean surface. Lippmann recommends holding a saturated reusable cotton pad on the nail, holding for five seconds and working in a S-motion from cuticle to tip. “If you have long nails, put less pressure on the tip and go from cuticle to tip, so you’re not breaking the nail in any way,” she suggests. 

Now that you have a clean surface, it’s time to shape the nail: “Shape your nail so it mirrors your cuticles and elongates your fingers,” Lippmann says. “Remember to use gentle motions to prevent breakage.” When shaping your nail into an almond, make sure your sides are straighter to get the perfect look. Experts recommend filing at a diagonal angle to created that tapered tip. "Make sure you're not filing too much on one side and that the sides are even," notes Amy Lin, the founder of sundays—a nail care brand focused on wellness.

If you’re new to shaping your nails at-home, remember to go slow. No need to speed through it! If you’re rushing or working too aggressively, achieving the perfect shape on all 10 fingers can become quite the feat. 

Now that your almond-shaped nails are in place, the hard work is done. However, that doesn't mean you should forget all about pampering. Lippmann suggests preparing the nails for lacquer by creating a beautiful buff on the nail. Just be sure to rinse your hands and nails clean before applying polish. 

“This is one of the most important steps,” Lippman says. “Soften and hydrate the nails and cuticles.” In this step, you’ll first focus on removing dead skin from the nails with a cuticle remover and pushing back the cuticles, too (see here for how to cut them safely). Once those cuticles are properly groomed, wipe the nail of debris and add a drop of cuticle oil to the base of each nail. 

5. Now paint, if you please.

At this point, your nails are picture-perfect and it’s time to apply the lacquer (unless you love a bare nail; if so, by all means, stop here!). Start with a base coat or primer, then apply two coats of color followed by a top coat. And voila! You’ve mastered an expert approved at-home manicure. 

OK, in reality, it's not that simple—who else among us has splatter-painted their fingertips?—but if you'd really like to master the at-home mani, we have a full guide for that here.

Just like a balanced scalp is the foundation for healthy hair, proper nail care is the first step to an eye-catching manicure—no matter the nail shape. Here are a few pro tips for proper nail care you can practice at-home. 

1. Have the proper tools.

Lippmann says a great nail look starts with a great shape, which does require a few high-quality tools and products on hand. Her go-to’s include a good nail file, cuticle remover, cuticle pusher, and cuticle oil. Using these tools before every paint job will make a world of difference in the look and health of your nails. 

2. Don’t forget to moisturize your hands. 

Freshly painted tips are lovely, but a top-tier manicure is so much more than glossing your nails in color. Read: Dry, cracked or flaking hands can take away from an elevated finish. That's why Lippmann says moisturizing is key: To make matters easier, carry a hand cream in your purse or car. Since we wash our hands so often, they can easily become dry and ashy. No matter how oily or dry your skin is, it’s best to lotion your hands after each time you wash (and derms say you may only have two minutes to trap in the moisture). 

3. Adopt a scheduled routine.

Just like skin care routines and hair trims, regular nail hygiene is a must. Generally, experts recommend opting for a professional mani once every two weeks (they advise against more than two salon manicures a month). If that's not accessible for you, create a schedule that relies on at-home sessions, with a salon visit every once in a while if you can. The truth is, there really are no rules—just make sure your nails are getting the attention they deserve.

4. Take a nail-supporting vitamin.*

As important as external care is, don't forget to nourish your nail health from within. "Your nails are made of proteins and naturally need a lot of vitamins," Lin previously told mbg. There are plenty of vitamins on the market that can support strong and healthy nails (here's a list of our favorites), but some key ingredients to look for include biotin, collagen, keratin, omega-3s, and antioxidants, like vitamin C and E.*

Almond-shaped nails are universally flattering, chic, and easy to accomplish. It just takes some patience and precision to perfect the shape. Oh, and don’t forget regular nail maintenance: The difference between a basic polish change and an elevated, salon-quality one is proper nail care