How to choose the right nail shape

Different Nail Shapes

It’s more important than you might think

Beauty Crew Beauty Writer / November 07 2019

Popular opinion: Getting a manicure is stressful. Yes, it should be totally relaxing, but seconds after you sit down you’re forced to make some pretty crucial decisions. And more often than not, you’re rushed into making a choice on both the colour and nail shape because a) it’s busy as hell, and b) you want to pretend you know what you’re doing. If you’re anything like us, you immediately regret your choices.

Third world problems, right?

But while you’re more than likely aware of the plethora of different nail polish options, you might not know just how many different nail shapes there are out there (hint: there are TONS), so it can be hard to choose one that’s right for you. So, what's the best nail shape?

To help you know what to ask your manicurist for the next time you're in the nail salon, we asked the National Trainer of Mavala, Tracey Winder, to give us a breakdown on the most common nail shapes and who they’re best suited to. 

What are the most popular nail shapes?

“There are a range of nail shapes to select from and this really depends on personal preference,” says Winder, adding that you should also take into account your hands, fingers and cuticle shape. “Some of the more common choices are square, round, oval, squoval (slightly square, slightly round) and almond,” she explains.

“There are additional shape options for synthetic nails, and these include stiletto (just like the shoe) and coffin or ballerina (as the name suggests). These require a hard synthetic nail to maintain the shape without breakage during everyday wear and tear,” says Winder

If you’re looking to try different nail designs, Winder recommends keeping your nails healthy and hydrated so you can delve into more options. “Use a nourishing treatment on the nails regularly to restore elasticity to the nail plate and strengthen nails – something like Mavala’s Nailactan,” she advises. Revitanail Nail Strengthener is also another great choice.

“The most important thing to remember is, whatever nail shape you choose, the free edge is kept neat and clean and the cuticles are completely free of polish,” says Winder.

Square nails
Square nails are characterised by straight edges, and are squared off at the tip of the nail. This kind of style is perfect for those with shorter nails or long, slender fingers, says Winder. This shape also breaks less easily than other nail shapes, so it’s a goodie if you’re a low-maintenance gal.

Round nails
This classic round shape is another great choice for short nails, or for those who want to add the look of length to their fingers. Similar to square nails, round nails feature straight sides, but curve at the edges to follow a natural shape of the fingertip.

Oval nails
While they might sound like the same thing, oval nails are actually different to round nails. Instead of straight sides, oval nails are filed down on the sides in addition to the tips, so the curvature is a little more intense. This shape is ideal for anyone who has short fingers and would like to elongate the look of them.

Squoval nails
You guessed it – squoval nails are a combination of square and oval styles. This shape is just like the square shape, except the edges are a lot softer. It’s a pretty popular shape, and also really easy to maintain. “The most commonly requested nail shapes are square and oval, or a balance between the two,” says Winder. “Squoval nails flatter all fingers and because of this, they never go out of style. They also work with both short and long nails, and they help keep nails strong,” she says.

Almond nails
With almond-shaped nails, the sides are usually quite slim (like oval nails) and they taper towards the end in a round peak. Wide on the base, they have a similar shape to, well, almonds! While it is possible to do this shape on natural nails, they are usually too weak, so you will probably have to get gel nails or acrylic nails to support the nail length.

Stiletto nails
If you love long nails and want to add a touch of drama to your mani, the stiletto shape is your jam. Starting off the same as the almond shape, this style ends at a much sharper point and usually has a wider base. As your natural nails won’t have enough strength to hold this shape, you’ll have to opt for acrylic nails.

Ballerina or coffin nails
Ballerina nails (also known as coffin nails) have become a popular shape thanks to celebrities like Kylie Jenner (it’s her go-to!). If you like longer nails, this is another great option for you. This particular style takes a similar shape to the stiletto nail, however instead of being pointy at the tip, they are squared off to resemble a ballerina’s slipper, or a coffin – however you’d like to picture it! This shape also holds up a lot better with acrylic nails, rather than natural nails.

Looking for more nail inspiration? Check out this season’s hottest manicure trends, straight from the Spring 2020 runway (psst...nail art and French manicures are officially making a comeback!). 

What’s your go-to nail shape? Share with us in the comment section below.

Main image credit: @thuybnguyen

Erin Docherty is a Beauty Writer for BEAUTYcrew, Beauty Editor for Women's Health magazine and a Grooming Writer for Men's Health magazine. She has a keen interest in cosmeceutical skin care and is currently working on minimising her 9-step skin care routine – because ain’t nobody got time for that. When she’s not writing about the latest beauty news, or applying copious amounts of serum, you can find her spending all her money in Sephora.