You might think Instagram sparked the golden age of manicures. But looking back, it turns out the early aughts walked so the 2010s could run. The new millennium started out with some late-’90s mall relics like frosted polish and French manicures but became more adventurous as time went on when Chanel’s gone-but-never-forgotten Black Satin polish hit the scene. And things just got more over-the-top from there.
But like so many other nostalgic fashion and beauty trends, we suddenly want to wear them all over again. In fact, the biggest nail trends of 2021 are remarkably similar to those that took over 2001. To prove it, we’re taking a walk down manicure memory lane with Brittney Boyce, celebrity nail artist and founder of Nails of LA, and including ways to re-create the looks right this second. Best of all, the polishes and products of this decade are much healthier for our nails and a little more, well, polished overall.
1. Classic French Mani
The French manicure was the go-to for celebs like Jennifer Lopez but then faded into obscurity. “For a long time, white tips were almost forbidden and seen as dated and tacky,” says Boyce. “But with almond or round shaped nails, it looks really updated and classic. It’s back to the original intent of the look, which is to accentuate the look of a natural nail for film, runways, and photos by elongating the look of your hands.”
2. Frosted Nail Polish
This Y2K-era trend, seen here on Mya, gives us all the feels. “Frosted nail polish is very easy to do when you’re busy and don’t have time for extensive nail art. I love the jewel tones,” says Boyce, adding that the trend “looks better on short, natural nails.”
In the early aughts, long acrylics were a celebrity favourite, with everyone from Missy Elliott to Pink wearing the look. And although natural, short nails had their moment in the 2010s, longer nails have had a resurgence in the last five years or so. “I’ve never been a big fan of acrylic, as it’s harsh on the nail, but I am a big fan of gel extensions, which is the modern way of achieving length without damaging your nail,” says Boyce. “I think good nail extensions look super sick!"
4. Black Nail Polish
The punk staple went mainstream after Chanel Black Satin became the It nail colour, and everyone from Jessica Simpson to Lauren Conrad wore the shade.
5. Hot-Pink Nails
Kimora Lee Simmons’s flip phone may be totally 2000s, but her nail colour will never be out of style. “I did a hot pink recently for Megan Fox for the iHeartRadio Awards, and it was really fun,” says Boyce.
6. White Nails
If you spent maths painting Tipp-Ex onto your nails, you found your next mani shade. “White nail polish looks really great in the summer,” says the nail pro. “I also like using the white base as a canvas for nail art.”
7. Graphic Nail Art
The nail-art bubble may have burst in the last decade, but it’s been around forever. Fergie showed off this entry-level take back in 2005. “I always love minimalistic graphic nail art. It’s like modern art meets nails,” says Boyce. “In 2021, I think a graphic nail looks great with color-blocking.”
8. Red Nails
Gwen Stefani’s vintage-inspired phase brought lots of red lipstick and nails. “I think classic red will never go out of style,” says Boyce.
9. Crystal Manicures
From cell phones to sunglasses, “bedazzling everything was really big in the 2000s,” Boyce reminds us. The wearer of this crystal-embedded manicure? None other than Serena Williams, who is a certified nail technician(!).
10. Reverse French Tips
“The reverse French with clear tips started coming into the scene in the early 2000s, and it’s one of my most requested looks nowadays,” says Boyce of looks like Christina Aguilera’s. “But now we amp up the clear tips more by using a thin metallic shade to show the separation.”