10 mins


This season, nails take inspiration from Y2K styles, with chrome and 3D making a comeback and slivers of colour updating French looks. Kezia Parkins uncovers the biggest trends


Nail art is becoming ever more adventurous, creative and often wonderfully outrageous, and now more than ever, nail techs are being influenced by fashion and art, with some choosing to apply aspects of catwalk trends while others go all out recreating their favourite inspiration. Simultaneously, an uber-minimal trend now widely known as “the clean girl aesthetic” has risen to new heights.

2022 was considered the year of the “micro-trend” where we saw collections of rising fashion fads grouped together under punchy titles or “aesthetics”, which spilled over into nails and beauty. “A massive thing recently has definitely been putting catchy names to an existing look, which somehow makes it more of a trend,” explains nail tech and salon owner Faye Louise Dennis whose precise natural manicures are the epitome of the “clean girl” look.

While many criticised the micro-trends of 2022 for being exhausting thanks to the never-ending trend cycle on TikTok and Instagram, it has undoubtedly helped the spread of nail trends and clients’ knowledge and interest in them.

Fresh take on French

The French manicure, arguably the first example of a globally popular nail design, is here to stay with 1.1 billion views on TikTok, but for SS23 we will increasingly see it in a number of different iterations.

“Y2K-style nails have definitely become more popular again in recent years,” says Dennis. While the classic French mani predates the ‘00s and ‘90s, these eras saw the style come into its own with blunt square shapes, milky pink bases and crisp white lines.

The style became synonymous with the prevailing “bimbo aesthetic” of the era – think Elle Woods in Legally Blonde – and the “mob wife aesthetic” of Carmela Soprano. While simple, this style, with all of its points of cultural importance throughout the years, makes a statement.

When Y2K style – cargo pants, embellished crop tops and skinny brows – phased out, so did the French acrylic manicure, becoming “basic”. 2022 saw a resurgence of all of these trends, including the classic French, but in spring 2023 we can expect to see a more muted version, says Dennis, describing the “vanilla French”. This involves using a more neutral pink base and an off-white/creamy vanilla shade for the tip.

Clawgasmic founder and chief executive Chantelle Vermont points out that Pantone’s colour of the year is always a sure thing for a spring/summer nail trend. “Pantone’s Viva Magenta is a gorgeous pinky-red. As a really skinny tip, this will be amazing for summer,” she says. “Pops of colour always come back around this time of year and pastel French tips are a great way to incorporate that. Lilac is a go-to pastel because it’s so wearable and suits so many different skin tones.”

Glazed and glossy

The “glazed doughnut” is the perfect example of a micro-trend that absolutely exploded into public consciousness in 2022, with 175.8M views on TikTok. It was popularised by Hailey Bieber last summer, who broke the internet when she posted a picture of her new nails – a nude pinky base with a white pearlescent chrome pigment over the top, giving the effect of a pristine Krispy Kreme.

Our nail experts expect to see more experimentation and variations of the glazed trend for spring 2023. “It will all be about pushing it to see how far you can take it,” says Dennis, predicting pearlescent powders over different colours.

“We’ve not have a chance to try glazed doughnut nails on top of a lilac, hot pink or a bright neon,” says Vermont. “This summer, people will really want to experiment with that glazed trend but with bright summer colours. Coral is such a go-to holiday shade, so let’s glaze it up.”

“Lip gloss nails” is a trend we’re also seeing rise on social media, which involves using a super-sheer pink with a double dose of super-shine top coat [sometimes with tiny flecks of glitter] to create an ultra-shiny, glossy effect.

Classic clean girl


The “clean girl” look is widely criticised for excluding people with certain skin conditions, colours and hair types but when it comes to manicures, it is essentially the TikTok generation’s name for the classic gel manicure. “Clean girl nails” has 20.1M views on TikTok.

“For the minimal girl, I’m seeing this creeping back. Before lockdown, it was very much about nail art,” says Dennis. “People went back into single colour or simple French manicures at home because they couldn’t go to a salon… now they’ve got used to natural nails.”

Dennis’s work is the ultimate example of the chic, clean girl manicure, involving precision prep, medical-grade products and immaculate application, with attention and care paid to the entire hand. “A lot of people just focus on nails but I advertise my services as a manicure, which means hands as well as nails, and involves the treatment of the entire skin,” she says.

Prescriptive or medical manis are new terms being used to describe this, as well as the use of ingredients that focus on nail health. “People are really researching ingredients in products after the pandemic; we have a more conscious consumer,” adds Dennis. Dennis also uses skincare like scrubs, creams and oils after her manicures and thinks we will start to see more add-on treatments for the hands, such as lymphatic drainage, reflexology or dry brushing. Earlier this year, Hydrafacial launched treatments for the body, including the hands, to help fight signs of ageing and sun damage. “It will be a way to elevate treatments to the next level,” says Dennis.

“With the rise of allergies in the industry, it’s natural for people to focus on having healthy natural nails,” says Vermont. “The fact that people are assessing the natural nail and tailoring treatments to each client is a silver lining from the pandemic.”

Chrome/metallic nails


Adding a futuristic twist to the nails, hyper-cool chrome is essentially an extension of the kind of alien aesthetic that dominated in 2022, in many ways brought about by Balenciaga and those cult sunglasses worn by Kim Kardashian.

The chrome or metallic look is also another hark back to the Y2K era and the cyber excitement of the time. Chromed silver and gold claws donned the hands of countless people of influence last year, adding fuel to the trend, which has 486M views on TikTok. On the SS23 catwalks, chrome nails appeared in numerous shows, including Tommy Hilfiger.

“Regular clients are ready to dip their toe into this trend by doing this on a minimal scale.” says Dennis. Blending with other trends, Dennis says a chromed silver French tip or a liquid metal tipped effect will become more popular, as well as chrome accents like little silver or gold hearts over a nude base.

This look has long been achieved with chrome powder, buffed in between non-wipe top coats, but now more nail brands are starting to bring out polishes and gels that achieve this smooth chrome effect. “Chrome is going to continue to be a big thing,” says Vermont. “Incorporating it with 3D in spring 2023 is going to be really cool.”


Melissa Samuel, New York-based British celebtrity nail artist and owner of salon Finesse Your Claws, is seeing pink chrome becoming a big trend across the pond, especially as we get closer to the release of the Barbie movie and the rise of another micro-trend, “barbiecore”. “Pink 3D chrome will be big this season,” she says.

The new 3D


Almost-unwearable 3D nail art has become hugely popular in the music videos of Black and Latinx artists and in the editorials of fashion magazines, and with 136.4M views on TikTok, the trend is starting to pique the interest of salon clients.

“3D nail art is definitely creeping its way in,” says Dennis. “I think there’s going be some people that love it and some that hate it, but there are ways to make it wearable.”

Samuel, who creates extreme, textured 3D nails for her clients in Brooklyn, believes that when it comes to this trend, our American counterparts are more experimental than the Brits. “A lot of my clients are born and raised in New York and Black culture here, especially in Brooklyn, is very prevalent,” says Samuel. “When people think about long, adorned nails, they think about these old ‘hood’ areas and the chop shops with the long curvy nails or the square tips with hand-drawn flowers or airbrush designs. That’s come full circle and we are seeing these nails again, but now we’ve got more products.” Samuel watches the runways carefully each year for inspiration and recently has been inspired by the work of couture fashion houses like Schiarapelli.

“I think 3D will go from being really editorial to wearable,” adds Vermont. “People are going to have fun with their nails again this summer and finally be confident enough to wear 3D every day.”

Don’t know where to start? Vermont says to try Swarovski crystals or embellishments to start building texture into the nail. “It doesn’t have to be really chunky and bold,” she says. “Work up to making shapes with builder gel that are super wearable, like a heart, or add swirls or a water drop going down the centre of the nail.”

Mood ring

“Aura nails are part of that whole Y2K movement, and people love a gadget,” says Dennis, referring to the airbrush machines that rose to prominence in the ’90s and ’00s. The aura trend, which has 29.5M views on TikTok, involves using a light touch with an airbrush machine to create a graduated burst of colour. “People have become more interested in crystals, wellness and self-healing,” says Dennis. “The aura nail is an extension of that and people wanting to carry ‘positive vibes’ with them,” she adds.

Contrasting colours can be airbrushed over the top of each other to create a completely custom nail, designed to suit the mood or aura of the client, which is why this trend is often referred to as mood ring nails. For those without an airbrush, this look can be achieved with gel and a sponge or pigment powder.


Another way to achieve a mood ring effect is with cat eye gel, which uses a magnet before curing to create a gradient effect in glitter gel. “To me, this is 2023’s version of glitter but it’s more elegant, classy and wearable,” says Vermont.

Nail techs on social media have been experimenting with using multiple cat eyes of different colours to create what they call “Northern Lights nails”, which also give that magical aura effect. Cat-eye nails in general are on-trend for SS23 under the name “velvet nails”, which has 39.9M views on TikTok.


Press-on nails are another trend that took off during lockdown. They are fantastic for editorial shoots, catwalks, music videos or influencers because they can be popped on and off easily and allow for extra-long, extra-adorned looks.

Last year, Kim Kardashian, known for her love of the classic manicure, posted numerous press-on looks with long, stiletto nails, adding to their popularity. “People want to put things on their nails that resemble how they view their fashion choices,” says Samuel. “It’s bespoke art that wouldn’t necessarily make sense for everyone but it makes sense for them.”

During lockdown, Samuel started making press-ons for clients she wasn’t able to see. “It quickly became a full-time job,” she says. “Not everyone can wear the extra-adorned nails every day. That’s what’s great about press-ons – you can try out a trend without the commitment.”

However, Vermont predicts, “We will also start to see more press-ons for everyday wear – ones that can help achieve the clean girl aesthetic, for example.”

This article appears in March 2023

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This article appears in...
March 2023
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