Whether you typically rock a longer length or shorter nails, nail shape is a very personal decision. For many, it hasn’t changed in years. A fresh set of nails can boost your personality and attitude with a little shape-shifting, so don’t be afraid to change it up and try something new. New nails or a new mani style can feel as fresh as a brand-new haircut, but with much less risk. Cut your real nails, experiment with gel or try new shapes with acrylics and voilà! Nail and beauty expert Jenna Hipp weighs in on tips for experimenting with different nail shapes both out at home or in the salon. Find out what to ask for when you’re getting your next mani.
1. Round & Oval Nail Shapes
Classic charm meets quick and delicate ease. This is a look that’s traditional and easy to do at home or in the salon. Round nails are the ideal casual look, for everyday wear with a feminine touch. Oval is similar to the much-loved almond shape, but oval also accentuates long nails with a much more blunt tip.
Best for: Pros say round or oval nails are incredibly versatile and work for short, medium or long length. Round and oval nails do tend to make fingers look longer and softer.
How to Create at Home: Hipp recommends to “cut or file off corners into a V by angling the file to the fingertip. Then use a file along the sidewall of the nail, following the shape of the tip of your finger. The roundness of the nail should follow the roundness of your cuticle, so feel free to use it as your guide.”
2. Square Nail Shape
Square can be equally chic in comparison with its rounder counterpart, but experts warn against trying to attempt a longer length with a square shape. Aim for short and sassy to master this style.
Best for: Hipp emphasizes the importance that this style is for “short and medium nails only. I’m sure many of you are gasping for breath right now. It’s sad but true; a long, squared nail—either natural or artificial—is simply just not chic.”
How to Create at Home: “File tips of each nail straight across and the sidewall straight down. Use file in a vertical motion to smooth and perfect.”
3. Stiletto Nail Shape
Channel your inner diva and crank up the sizzle a notch with stiletto-shaped nails. These smooth, sculpted nails filed to a thin point are ideal for nights out and adding drama. Cons? Maybe a little less ideal for work or anyone who particularly needs dexterity with their hands. Hipp points out that while this style may not be for everyone, it’ll be worth the upkeep and maintenance if you want to feel like a million bucks.
Best for: Save this look for long nails, special occasions, date nights and holiday parties.
How to Create at Home: “Remove square corners of each nail with a clipper or a nail file. Using a little extra pressure, file tips to a narrow, sharp point. Slightly narrow sidewalls, filing at an angle to meet the pointy tip. Round sharpness off tip for safety purposes.”
4. Almond Nail Shape
If you’re aiming for a look that’s less bold than the coffin or stiletto, try out neatly tapered almond shape nails. Perfect for light nudes or deep burgundies, the almond shape is ladylike and accentuates longer nails.
Best for: Apologies to any nail-biters out there, but the almond shape fares best for medium to long nails. Hipp recommends this style for anyone who needs a confidence boost, as it’s her “favorite to wear and most requested ‘special event’ shape for celebrity photo shoots and red-carpet events.”
How to Create at Home: “The trick of the almond nail is making sure it’s not too narrow and not too pointy. It’s delicate, it’s soft…especially when painted a full coverage nude. Think of this look as an extension of your fingertips. You will feel like a goddess, or at least an actress. Try it! Truly, to get the best idea of the shape, use a real almond as your guide.”
5. Square-Oval "Squoval" Nail Shape
The squared-oval or “squoval” nail shape works for all lengths. This hybrid shape defines a nail shape that has rounded edges on a squarish nail. Feel free to break out the flashy colors if you’re working with a shorter look.
Best for: Short, medium or long nails. While we discourage the classic square look on long nails, go ahead and try out the squoval if you’re working with a longer pair of paws. Casual, everyday wear for everyone.
How to Create at Home: Hipp says, “To re-create at home, file nails straight across, and in one direction. Round sharp edges by angling the file, using the side of your finger and the roundness of your cuticle as a guide, smoothing corners of nail inward. Lightly run file along the sidewall of the nail, but do not narrow the nail or the tip.”
6. Ballerina/Coffin Nail Shape
he ballerina/coffin shape is extreme and similar to the stiletto look, but with a squared-off tip that resembles a pointe shoe or a coffin. Planning a Vegas trip or bachelorette weekend? This is a fun style to make a statement.
Best for: Halloween, a show or a themed event. Hipp says this look works best for long nails and that a “diva with major confidence can pull off this look no problem.”
How to Create at Home: “Usually the coffin/ballerina shape is created on an artificial nail, either gel or acrylic. Not as dangerous as the stiletto, but equally hard to maneuver if you’re not used to the length. Shaping is pretty simple. First, file the side walls at an angle towards your fingertip to narrow the entire nail in the shape of a V. Then, file the sharp tip straight across, making sure it is flat and symmetrical with the others.”