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Your Ultimate Guide to Different Nail Shapes


There's something about a freshly painted manicure (or pedicure!) that lifts our spirits and makes us feel brand new. Likewise, an ill-shaped manicure can quickly dampen our mood. Sure, you can makeover your natural nails at home, but there's nothing quite like the TLC from a professional manicurist. But before you start sharing your Instagram-worthy nail art ideas, there's one question you'll likely have to answer first: What nail shape?

To help you answer with confidence, we did our homework and curated some of the most popular nail shapes for every nail bed and finger length. We also consulted with nail artist Miss Pop, who has created fun, show-stopping looks for the fashion runways and the magazine pages. Trust us, you're in good hands.

About the Experts:

Miss Pop is a New York-based editorial nail artist. Her nail designs have been featured in many beauty and fashion publications—from Allure and The Cut to Refinery29 and Cosmopolitan—and on the runway for brands such as Moschino, Oscar de la Renta, and Rodarte.

Infographic image of different nail shapes

1. Square Nails

Dainty fingers with narrow nail beds ~*ThRiVe*~ in a square shape—just look at this matte design on Kylie Jenner. One of the mogul's go-to shapes not only further elongates her fingers, but also shows off her well-manicured cuticles.

Remember: Cuticle care is to nail polish as skin care is to makeup. Your cuticles are the foundation for the best manicure and don't require a lot of upkeep. "Simply push back your cuticles right after a hot shower," says Miss Pop. "I use the nail on my opposite thumb or pointer finger." Miss Pop also recommends a hand cream to lock in moisture.

2. Round Nails

The classic, round nail shape follows the natural curvature of the nail. "This is the most natural shape," says Miss Pop. It's also fairly low-maintenance. With no edges, say goodbye to snagging and hello to longer-lasting.

As far as color goes, Miss Pop is a firm believer in following whatever your heart desires—but she did share one funny anecdote: "I was once doing comedian Amy Schumer's manicure. She had round, short nails at the time and pointed out that a red nail color would just make her nails look like tiny tomatoes. I can't unsee it!"

3. Oval Nails

Think of an oval shape like a fancy round. It follows your natural nail shape but has accentuated tips that elongate your fingers. Keep in mind that you can only have oval nails if your nail grows beyond the fingertip. This is what's known as the free edge. “An oval also slightly tapered, whereas round nails can be shorter," says Miss Pop. Need help growing your nails this long? Check out our top tips to strengthen your nails.

4. Square Oval (Squoval) Nails

In an area between square and oval is squoval. Yes, you read that right. Miss Pop says squoval nails are best for preventing snags and breaks. No wonder it's a popular nail shape! Nail salons are accustomed to squoval too, so you don't need to feel awkward making the request!

5. Ballerina Nails

With a squared-off tip, ballerina nails have a similar but less-dramatic taper of a stiletto. If you have longer nails, you might even be able to pull off the nail trend without extensions! Also known as coffin nails with its straight edges, Miss Pop prefers a less ominous name: Squareletto. No matter what you call it, once you see it, you'll see the trending style everywhere.

6. Almond Nails

Even more exaggerated than oval nails is the almond shape. With its narrower tip, Miss Pop describes the almond as "a wearable stiletto with a rounded tip." The popular shape is often the base for fashionable, editorial additions like these charms on nails seen at the Met Gala in 2019.

7. Stiletto Nails

The name says it all. Like stiletto heels, stiletto nails come to a point at the tips. Enter acrylic nails—or wraps—to help reinforce your natural nails and provide enough nail length so your stilettos don't look like cat claws.

8. Lipstick Nails

This unique nail shape features an asymmetric tip that's unexpected and cool. Renowned nail artist Park Eunkyung of Unistella Nails coined the name, which reflects its inspiration: a lipstick bullet. Whichever nail shape you choose, Miss Pop has one tip to leave you with: Don't file back and forth. "File in one direction at a time to help prevent flaking and breaking," she says. Noted!

Want more, personalized tips and suggested products? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get started. Already an Ipster? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and Twitter @IPSY.

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About the author
Gerilyn Manago
Gerilyn Manago
Gerilyn is a freelance writer with more than nine years of editorial and social media experience in lifestyle and beauty. Her background includes Allure, Men’s Health, and PEOPLE. Currently, she oversees content for four Napa Valley wine brands.
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Article Last Updated October 12, 2021 12:00 AM