Your guide to every nail shape out there (and how to pick the best one for you)
Back to basics
The nail shape you choose at your nail salon can make or break your manicure—here’s how to make sure you’re choosing the right one for you.
Believe it or not, manicures have come a long way since the days of “square or round?”. Rather than a binary choice, we’re now presented with myriad shapes and styles—each of which can enhance or detract from the beauty of your manicure depending on factors like your finger length, nail bed width and more. It’s not an exact science, but it’s still a science, and we’re here to break down the basics. From the lengthening contenders to the slimming shapes and more, we’re delving into the ins and outs of what to consider at your next nail appointment.
Ahead, we’ve rounded up 11 common nail shapes to know and how to pick the right one for you:
What is it: If there is any nail shape you’re familiar with, this is probably the one. The round nail features straight sides that curve to follow the shape of the fingertip.
Best for: Those who prefer function over fashion—the rounded tip does not impede daily activities too much, even with a little extra length on it. Plus, it’s a great style for those who are looking to lengthen the appearance of their fingers subtly without actually having to keep long nails.
What is it: Like the name suggests, square nails are squared off at the tip—flat on top and straight on the sides with sharp corners.
Best for: Those who have shorter nails or long and narrow nail beds as it helps to balance out the proportions of the nails. That said, we wouldn’t recommend them for those who prefer practicality—the corners can get caught on things throughout the day.
What is it: Oval nails are similar to round nails but are longer and slightly more narrow. They are filed down on the sides to elongate the appearance of the fingers and feature a much more pronounced curve at the tip.
Best for: Those who want to emulate the illusion of longer fingers and experiment with nail art—it’s still practical but has a little more room to play with different designs.
What is it: Almond nails start similarly to oval nails with slim sides and a curved edge but have a much more pronounced tip—much like an actual almond.
Best for: Those looking for a more glam option. Almond nails suit all finger lengths as it is a pretty universal nail shape that works for simple, basic manicures or ornate designs.
What is it: Essentially, squoval nails are a cross between square and oval nails. So, this shape features a square tip with rounded edges.
Best for: Those who want a square nail but use their hands a lot—the rounded edge means that your nails don’t get caught on everything as easily as they would with a traditional square nail. Plus, the shape looks great on a range of lengths!
What is it: Take an almond nail, grow it out and sharpen it to the max—that’s what a stiletto nail is.
Best for: Those who like extra length on their hands and don’t mind the stabbing hazard. PSA: Stiletto nails have to be long and sharp to be stilettos, but they’re great for nail art.
What is it: Take a stiletto nail and chop the tip off. Congratulations! You’ve got a coffin or ballerina nail (yes, they’re the same thing).
Best for: Those who want a square tip on very long nails—the tapered sides and rounded square tip are much easier to maintain at this length.
What is it: Also known as duck bill nails, this nail shape flares out at the top (to varying degrees, depending on preference).
Best for: Those who want more room for nail art (and don’t work with their hands a lot). The extra space at the top gives you lots of room to play with decals, colours and bold patterns, but the shape definitely gets in the way more than other traditional nail shapes!
What is it: An asymmetric, diagonally-angled shape made to mimic the shape of a fresh tube of lipstick.
Best for: Those looking for a shape that is off the beaten path. Lipstick nails aren’t for the practical nor the faint-hearted—they’re here to stand out. If you’re a fan of geometric designs, you may want to give this look a shot.
What is it: Take a stiletto nail and shorten it a little. That’s it!
Best for: If you like the look of stilettos but you can’t hack the extra long length, you may want to try arrowhead nails instead.
What is it: Take a square nail, fold it in half, and then file it the same way you would a stiletto nail. It’s a whole three-dimensional structure.
Best for: Those looking to make a statement with a long, pointed nail that has a design feature built into the shape of the nail itself.
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