Since her very first appearance on Love & Hip Hop: New York, Cardi B. has been flaunting custom acrylics, cementing her status as the gold standard in wearing nails as a literal extension of your persona. In fact, thanks to those scene-stealing manis, Cardi’s long-time nail artist, “Jenny from the Bronx,” has became a mini-celebrity in her own right. But there are other celebs giving Cardi a run for her money in the extra nail department. Rihanna’s recent appearance at Beychella was a buffet of fantastical looks paired with equally audacious nails. A full ski mask (in the desert!) may have hidden her famous face, but those nails were easy to spot, topped with bejewelled crowns and female silhouettes framed in gold. Rihanna’s weren’t the only nails making Beychella headlines: the Queen herself set Twitter ablaze with questions of whether she changed her polish during her set.
Like Britney says, if you want nails like Cardi and Riri, you better work, because there’s nothing easy or cheap about being that fabulous. But maybe you’re done with looking so done. Maybe you’d rather opt out of the whole damn aesthetic game. Just as street-chic bed head cropped up in response to the blowout, the bare nail, which dominated 2018 runways, seems like an antidote to the three-coat manicure. It shows a casual disregard for trends and the IDGAF confidence to go out into the world a teeny bit naked, a little more raw.
But as any woman who’s experienced “no” trends (like no makeup and no ’poo) can tell you, there’s a lot of something that goes into nothing. These nails aren’t the chewed-down ones of your uni days. And they certainly aren’t “low-maintenance”—a tricky word that often makes women feel bad about their beauty rituals.
Like a Breton stripe or white kicks, the bare nail has been mastered by French women who, quelle surprise, forgo nail polish in their oft-imitated beauty routines. But being bare costs a few Euros, even for the doyennes of chic. (Never forget, those pristine white kicks are Celine and that easy-breezy basket tote is Cult Gaia. No French lady worth her fleur de sel is wearing a Gap striped shirt.) Keeping up with this particular trend means cuticle clipping and oil, filing, buffing, Biotin supplements and semi-regular manicures. Those nude nails that were all over the runways? They were helped along, of course, by a backstage manicurist, ready to apply a nourishing mask, push back encroaching cuticles and polish those nails to a healthy glow.
We’re on board with this new nude: it’s a grown-up grooming ritual with subdued results. But let’s not pretend it takes no effort at all. Even when a reinvented Xtina decided to “go bare” for Paper, falsies ditched and freckles on display, it’s no coincidence that her nails were still gleamingly shiny and carefully almond-shaped. Stripped is great, but chipped? We’re not there yet.
If you’re up for the challenge, here are 10 products to help you master the no-polish look:
When working on repairing or strengthening nails, start on the inside. The most anecdotally effective supplement is Biotin (a B vitamin that dissolves in water as it enters the body), which is purported to help with weak and brittle nails. Only a small dose is needed as natural Biotin deficiency is very rare. Taken once a day, there’s a few options for ingestion: pills, powders (for smoothies or cold-pressed juices) or tasteless liquid that can be added to a glass of water. To amp up biotin in a diet, consider adding more cauliflower, mushrooms, swiss chard and sweet potatoes.
Webber Naturals Biotin, $14, well.ca