The upcoming nail trends to know for 2021
Never run out of inspo again
By Samantha McMeekin
May 10 2021
The past year has been huge for nail trends, with everything from reinventions of the classic French manicure to the much-loved multi-tonal design.
And when nail salons closed for a time and our beloved SNS nails were off the menu, we embraced the DIY manicure again, with 3D-decals and nail stickers taking our traditional paint jobs to a whole new level. Not to mention light-enhancing finishes like vinyl and velvet elevating our ordinary colours.
As we look to enter the new year, our love for intricate details, our lust for travel and twists on the classic are front and centre. But so is nail health, with many of us taking a break from acrylics and embracing cuticle oils and toxin-free formulas.
The top nail trends for 2021
Whether you’re a lover of colour, prefer to keep your mani minimalistic or are all about nail art, here’s what 2021 has in store for your nails...
French twist with a flipside
Superhuman/superstar Selena Gomez recently joined forces with Global Citizen in her role as ambassador to host the televised ‘Vax Live: The Concert to Reunite the World’. The ABC-streamed event boasted performances by Jennifer Lopez, J Balvin, H.E.R and the Foo Fighters, but one show-stopper you might have missed is the immaculate manicure sported by Gomez. Thankfully, Tom Bachik (AKA the genius responsible for the star’s nails) gave us a close-up shot of the look, which he has aptly coined the ‘French twist with a flipside’ manicure. The nails maintain the classic white tips synonymous with the French style but Bachik has mixed things up, opting for a jet-black polish for the rest of the nail, as well as an ingenious peek-a-boo red moment on the underside, which is giving us serious Louboutin vibes. Bachik was even kind enough to share the exact shades he used on Gomez so you can easily recreate this one at home – BRB picking up a couple bottles of OPI’s Big Apple Red, Alpine Snow and Black Onyx.
Image via @tombachik
Yin Yang Nails
If you’re after a bit more balance in your life or you’re just a sucker for some cutesy nail art, then you’re going to love the yin yang nail trend. Taking inspiration from the ancient Chinese philosophy known as Taoism, the symbol speaks to the balance of divine feminine and masculine energies that occur within all things in nature – including ourselves. Plus, it also just happens to look good in a multitude of colourways and with a variety of different outfits. How conveniently thoughtful...
Image via @thehangedit
Freehand French swirls
Just when we thought that even 'fresh' takes on the French mani were getting stale, Kylie Jenner has gone and reinvented the category yet again. Her take, however, is anything but 'classic'. Featuring freehand multicoloured swirl patterns across the tips and sides of each of her coffin-shaped acrylic nails (drawn by nail guru @chaunlegend, FYI), the look is all about embracing every shade under the sun, but leaving enough negative space to ensure it looks chic, not childish.
Image via @kyliejenner
For lovers of texture, let us introduce you to the light-reflecting trend your talons were made for: velvet nails. Crafted by LA-based nail artist Amy Le, the trend can be recreated with any colour but we're all for a festive gold or classic burgundy this December. Those with a phobia of furry things needn't worry either, it's all about the finish and trick of the light to achieve a velvety look.
Image via @amyle.nails
Negative space florals
Much like this daisy nail design (as seen on Hailey Bieber), negative space nails are still very much on-trend. However, rather than providing a canvas for lines and shapes, expect to see more floral-inspired prints atop bare bases.
Image via @haileybieber
The 'naked' manicure
Just like bare nails, only better, sheer colours and clear coatings are making a comeback. Think the French manicure but with minimal colour and finer detail.
Image via @harrietwestmoreland
Reflective chrome nails may have had a shining moment in the sun, but it’s muted sister metallic that’s becoming a favourite finish. Silver is a classic choice but teals and emeralds will also look terrific come winter.
Image via @betina_goldstein
Candy-coated nails are always cute. Combine a swirly rainbow pattern with a matte top coat and you’ve got what nail artist Michelle Humphrey’s calls: marshmallow stripes.
Image via @nailsbymh
Consider yourself a sucker for a classic pair of checkerboard Vans? This trend draws on the structured shoe print for a geometric, rainbow vibe that will spice up any look. Dip your toe in the trend with a French-tip version of the bold style like Kylie Jenner (pictured), or adorn your talons with the complete print for mind-melting impact.
Image via @kyliejenner
The 'everything at once' mani
Can’t decide on a trend, colour or anything even close to a consistent theme? The ‘everything at once’ mani is for you. Each nail gets its own unique design and the clash of creativity is next-level eye-catching. You will have to commit to a lengthy session in the nail tech chair though.
Image via @donna_cao
Seoul nail artist, Park Eunkyung (widely known as Unistella), is the mastermind behind many of Instagram’s viral nail looks. Her latest one of a kind designs? The crochet nail. It’s tea cosy chic.
Image via @nail_unistella
Non-toxic nail polishes are on the rise and what started out as 3-free soon climbed to 5-free, and now, there’s even 17-free. These numbers refer to the toxic and potentially harmful ingredients brands are ditching from traditional nail polish formulas (of which some say they can enter the body through the nail bed).
Brand ella + mila is leading the pack with products made without acetone, animal-derived ingredients, bisphenol-a, camphor, ethyl tosylamide, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, gluten, glycol ether of series E (glycol ethers derived from ethylene oxide), nonylphenol ethoxylate, parabens, phthalates (including DBP), styrene, sulfate, toluene, triphenyl phosphate (TPHP/TPP) and xylene.
Image via @ellamila
If you’re not one to be shy about colour, get some neon painted on your nails stat. Go for the classic glow stick yellow, tradie safety orange or do as Betina Goldstein does and individually place hot cherry decals all over a bright fuschia base.
Image via @betina_goldstein