It used to feel almost obligatory that you brought in the new year with an extravagant nail look. High-intensity sparkles, jewels dangling from the pointer finger, or some unconventional nail shape. The best 2021 nail trends, however, are none of those. Instead, they're marked by negative space, velvety, light-reflective shimmers, and more variations of French tips.
But above all, the experts insist that nail health should be at the top of your list before deciding what color or design to don on your nails. "Cuticle oil, cream, and lotion is great for our hands, particularly during the cold weather," Molly Romah, lead nail tech at Chillhouse tells TZR. "These help to keep our nails and cuticles from drying," agrees Elle, celebrity nail artist to Blake Lively and Chrissy Teigen. "Most importantly, use gloves when exposed to the cooler temps," she says. She also suggests trying skincare-specialized hand coverings under your actual gloves. "They are fingerless and have SPF barrier for [the] salon or driving in your car to protect you from sun exposure," she says. "A woman’s hands age faster than our faces, avoid sun exposure to maintain moisture in your hands as well!"
But once you've properly hydrated and moisturized, you can look to these looks for your December manicure inspo.
2021 Nail Trends: Soothing Heather Blues
Seen in: Los Angeles & New York City
"Don’t be blue next year," Elle says. "But opt for a deep blue that casts navy and heather blue grays. These shades are trending because of its calming effects."
2021 Nail Trends: Sleek Embossing
Seen in: New York City and London
"I'm seeing a lot of embossed nails," Aja Walton, celebrity and editorial nail artist says. "I've been particularly seeing them for various designers: Telfar, Chanel, and I recently did one for Givenchy. They're so cool and three-dimensional."
2021 Nail Trends: Free Squiggles
Seen in: New York City & Miami
A favorite for experts and amateurs alike, there's no steady hand required to make this design work. Play with different colors and varying line placement for extra dimension.
2021 Nail Trends: Raised Leather
Seen in: Atlanta and Nottingham
"In the spirit of staying with texture, I think something that's really got to take off is this three-dimensional crocodile print that I keep seeing," Walton says. "Everyone is going to love it. You can do every shade."
2021 Nail Trends: Glitter Gradients
Seen in: New York and Chicago
And while glitter will take on a much more chic appeal, that doesn't mean it's gone completely. "Glitter gradient nails will be a big hit," Romah says. To keep it understated, she suggests choosing a nude color as your base.
2021 Nail Trends: Speck Designs
Seen in: New York City
Just like our lives this year, our manicures are also all over the place. The great thing is, however, is that nail designs don't require continuity. A circle here, a rectangle there, layer patterns and shapes together for a look that will appear both abstract and intentional.
2021 Nail Trends: Minimal Messages
Seen in: New York City
Making statements aren't relegated to Instagram posts and tweets. These days, with much to say, statements will be made through messages on nails. The minimalistic style is understated yet powerful.
2021 Nail Trends: Thin Tips
Seen in: Miami & Paris
French tip variations have been everywhere this year. And now, they're taking on new form with barely there lines draping the top. It's also easy to recreate at home. Simply take your nail polish brush and trail the uppermost part of your nail.
2021 Nail Trends: No-Nothing Nails
Seen in: Los Angeles
"Skin and nail health care are the biggest trends for the colder months ahead," Elle says. That's why, she believes that many will skip the energetic designs and vibrant colors this season, opting for a bare look.
2021 Nail Trends: Light-Reflective Shimmers
Seen in: Los Angeles
"Shimmers are perfect for nailfie junkies everywhere," Elle says. "It's my go-to this holiday season and can be done without looking like your typical, cliché manicure."
2021 Nail Trends: Cocoa Hues
Seen in: New York City & Dallas
"Nail Inc.'s Don’t Be Bitter is one of my all-time favorites for December," Elle says. "It's a velvety hot cocoa bomb that we all need on our nails. Furthermore, it even smells like chocolate!"