I'm calling it: 2021 is the year of the manicure. After months of dabbling in DIY nail jobs and experimenting with gel nail polishes, I think that there was a collective sigh of relief when nail salons reopened this year and we could finally let a professional loose on our cuticles. This is why it comes as no surprise that I've already spotted an impressive amount of cool nail art and It colours taking off this year. With so much nail inspiration bubbling to the surface right now, I thought it would be a great idea to turn my attention to micro nail trends—those smaller nail trends that might not be dominating your Instagram feed just yet but certainly will be with time.
From nail-art designs to suit every taste to the hottest colour to wear on your nails right now, I've pulled together eight of the hottest micro nail trends of the year so far. Keep scrolling to see them all.
1. Cloud Prints
Clouds are emerging as one of the biggest—and quite frankly the cutest—micro nail trends of 2021 so far. The meteorological print has already had a moment in our wardrobes, so it makes perfect sense that it's transitioned onto our manicures too. Top tip: Keep your base colour barely there to allow the clouds to take centre stage.
A different pastel-coloured cloud for each nail is so playful.
Soft, fluffy clouds and a glossy base coat are beautifully subtle take on this micro trend.
These stark-white clouds are almost cartoonish in their design yet look surprisingly grown-up.
2. Rainbow Tips
The colourful French manicure is probably one of the coolest micro trends right now, with beauty editors and celebrities going wild for it. However, the latest incarnation is to go for rainbow-coloured tips—a different shade for each nail—for a summery switch-up.
I love how fun this double-tipped nail look is.
Harriet Westmoreland's micro manis are all over Instagram right now. These pastel tips are so chic.
Forget choosing just one colour at the nail salon. Pick a different hue for every nail instead.
3. Smiley Faces
Say cheese! This emoji-inspired nail trend involves a classic smiley face being hand-painted onto your nails for a new take on talking with your hands. I have to say, of all the micro nail trends, this is the one that I'm most excited to try at my next nail appointment.
Sunshine yellow + smiley faces = the happiest manicure that I ever did see.
I love the mix of smiles, frowns and wobbly mouths on this emoji mani—it sums up how I feel about 2021 perfectly.
I love the mismatched pastels and teeny-tiny smiley faces on these nails.
4. Painterly Patterns
I've seen so many cool girls embracing an artsier approach to nails this year with freehand patterns, painterly motifs and abstract prints all order of the day for this micro trend. While I don't think I'd be able to do this one myself at home, nail technicians will love being given free rein to experiment with different colours, shapes and techniques for this conceptual trend.
This psychedelic nail art embraces pastel hues, swirling marble shapes and elegantly pointed tips for a nod to the '70s.
I love how monochromatic dots and dashes are overlayed on a rainbow of colour for this artsy mani.
A masterpiece in its own right, this nail art is actually inspired by the works of Mexican artist Pedro Coronel.
5. Cow Print
Animal print normally makes at least one appearance in lists of top nail art trends but it's usually leopard that leads the way. This year, however, cow-print manicures are the mico manicure trend to watch.
Animal print doesn't have to be loud, this monchromatic cow-print looks really elegant worn on a natural nail.
On the other hand, if you really want an cow-print mani that will turn heads, then this is it.
Choose a colour palette of neutrals and then mix-and-match your cow-print for a tonal take on the trend.
6. Glitter Nails
The most surprising micro nail trend of 2021 so far has to be glitter nails. While sparkle and shimmer are normally reserved for party season, it's having a moment right now, and it turns out that glitter really does come into its own during the summer.
These soft glitter shades look like velvet on the nails.
Team your classic summer pastels with a dusting of sparkle for a nod to the micro trend.
By keeping the glitter at the tips and base of the nail and the rest of the nail bare, this look feels fresh and modern.
7. Blue Hues
Blue nails are the surprisingly versatile colour of 2021, and their popularity shows no sign of dwindling. Cobalt, navy, cornflower or azure—whatever your blue of choice, there's a polish to suit.
A bold, electric blue is so eye-catching and perfect for summer.
This deep-turquoise blue with a metallic sheen will be my night-out colour of choice this year.
A glossy indigo nail looks so chic.
8. Pick 'n' Mix
If you're as indecisive as I am in the nail salon, then this final micro nail trend will be right up your street—pick 'n' mix nails. Whether it's a switch-up of colours or an entirely different design on each nail, this fun trend should leave you feeling like a kid in a sweet shop.
Mix brights with pastels for a vibrant, tonal look on each nail.
Keep things simple and opt for a different colour that you love on each nail.
Why not combine a few of the micro nail trends that you love in one manicure? This one has clouds, cow print and more. I'm totally obsessed.