I Found 4 Ways to Make This “Tacky” Nail Trend Look Chic

There’s one nail trend that I think has gotten a bum rap in recent years: glitter nails. Although I don’t paint my nails that much now, I was a huge fan of nail art a few years ago. I’d get so many intricate designs, but one favorite look that I got for New Year’s Eve 2015 was a statement-making, super-shiny glittery ombré design. I remember being so transfixed with my nails the entire night; I think I was more excited about my nails than the new year, to be honest. I loved it so much I even saved the Snapchat I took of it (see the relic below).

Anyways, I think glitter nails now have a reputation for seeming tacky or being just a little too extra, which is just a damn shame to me, a person who loves a little razzle-dazzle in life. But I get it. When you’re sporting glitter nails, it can get pretty flashy, especially when minimalism seems to be the norm nowadays.

Because I can’t let anything go, I had to get to the bottom of this “tacky” reputation and find out ways you can use glitter nail polish without making a manicure faux pas. So I asked nail artists why glitter was stuck with this sad label. Some told me it’s because kids normally opt for those nail polishes, so they can be seen as immature.

“I think anything glittery, shiny, and big can easily be overdone, which leads to people thinking it’s tacky,” says Brittney Boyce, a consulting nail artist for Orly. “If you look at fashion, black and white along with muted colors are always seen as ‘chic,’ so the opposite of that gets labeled as loud and cheesy. Plus, I think millennials associate glitter to the late ’90s/early 2000s, with raves, butterfly hairclips, and tons of tacky scented rainbow body glitter that you can never fully wash off.”

But rest assured, the nail artists I spoke to weren’t completely antiglitter. In fact, Hang Nguyen told me, “Glitter is definitely not seen as tacky anymore in the nail-art world.” It’s all about how you execute the sparkly look. They gave me a couple of tips for turning glitter’s rep around:

Go minimal: “Minimal nail art with glitter can bring life to the look and create a very fashion-forward take in your nail game,” says Hang Nguyen. “Negative-space art with glitter added are all great examples of taking glitter out of the tacky zone (if done properly).”

Try an accent: “Glitter accent designs are always more sophisticated because they are more wearable past the holidays or events,” explains editorial nail artist Queenie Nguyen. The designs she recommends that call for a subtle use of glitter are half-moon, half dip (straight across instead of a scoop like the half-moon), abstract lines, ombré french tips, and a glitter gold trim or cuff around the nails.

Boyce also suggests doing a thin pinstripe down the center of the nail as another option.

Opt for certain colors: “I think that sticking with the classic glitter colors like gold, silver, and rose gold is generally chicer,” Queenie Nguyen says. “It is risky to wear an actual color with glitter, like neon pink glitter or purple glitter, because those are not very appropriate for everyday wear. Sticking with classic gold and silver can extend the wear of the manicure and pair easily with most wardrobes.”

Think about the glitter size: It all depends on the type of look you want. “Larger glitter will look a lot bolder, and smaller glitter will be less dramatic,” Boyce says. “I personally like mixed glitter sizes. I think this makes an easier application because the glitter fills the nail better and has a fun look.”

Glitter nail polish can be a little bit trickier to apply because you’re dealing with the little flecks. And if you’re trying to do nail art, even the simplest design can have some challenges because you want to get the pieces just so. Follow these tips for flawless application (or something like it):

Prep the polish: Hang Nguyen says you should give the bottle a good shake. Be patient in between coats: “Make sure the glitter dries after the first application before you apply the next coat,” Hang Nguyen says. Paint thin coats: “Very thin coats! Always apply multiple thin coats instead of trying to glob on the glitter polish to fill in gaps,” Boyce says. “Multiple thin coats will leave a smoother finish and a better look.”

Use a sponge: “I’ve seen but never tried this—you can paint the glitter on a sponge so the sponge soaks up most of the clear polish and then dap the sponge onto the nail bed,” Hang Nguyen says. “This supposedly is a better application for more glitter to transfer to the nails.”

Separate the clear polish: This is especially helpful for nail art. “When picking up the glitter pieces, try your best to eliminate as much of the clear polish as possible so that you have most of the glitter pieces on one side of the application brush,” Queenie Nguyen says.

Pour the polish out: This is another trick for specific nail art, and it’s meticulous, too. Queenie Nguyen suggests pouring the polish onto a piece of foil or art palette and picking up each piece for precise placement on the nail.

With all of those tips and ideas in mind, did I fix glitter nail polish’s reputation? Guess it’s up to the nail gods out there. But if you’re feeling glitter polish now, here are some of our favorites.

Both Boyce and Queenie Nguyen recommend this glitter polish, which is a mix of silver and gold.

It doesn’t get more luxe than this rose gold polish. It’s also chip resistant and has an eight-free formula.

If you prefer a darker, more sophisticated shade, this black polish has a silvery sheen. It’s just the right amount of moody.

Boyce also likes Essie’s Summit of Style, which has bigger glitter flecks. It has a high-shine, super-glossy finish.

This one is made for those who aren’t afraid of a little color and who definitely don’t think glitter nail polish is tacky. It’s a statement maker with a mix of silver, pink, and blue glitter.

If you’re looking for that classic glitter polish, NCLA’s silver shade could be your go-to. It has maximum shine and glam. It’s a seven-free formula and is vegan and cruelty-free.

The dark gray gives this polish a more sophisticated take, but the multicolored flecks don’t make it all too serious.

For a sweeter look, you can grab this pink-hued polish. It has bigger flecks, which means it’s extra sparkly.

Queenie Nguyen likes this subtle gold polish. It has a melted-gold hue that looks so chic.

Black glitter polish can seem so unassuming because it can be super reflective in some light and more subtle in other light. This one is perfect if you want to try out glitter polish but want to keep your sparkle at a minimum.

Sally Hansen’s glitter shade is another fun and happy polish with its multicolored flecks. The formula leaves an ultrashiny and reflective finish.

Because we can’t have too many gold options on this list, Zoya’s is another favorite. This one is iridescent with flecks of multicolored glitter. Next up, 13 Doable Nail-Art Ideas Perfect for Short Nails

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