What Are the Different Nail Shapes (And Which One is Best for Me)?

editor@purewow.com (PureWow)

Just as things aren’t always black and white, nails aren’t just round or square. There are some subtle and some not-so-subtle variations on those two popular shapes that can really change the way your nail looks. For the sake of differentiating, but also not overwhelming you with too many options, we’ve narrowed it down to 10 different nail shapes that are most requested in salons.

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Round

What it looks like: Straight sides with rounded edges that follow the curve of your cuticles. There’s no discernible point to the flat edge of your nail and the overall aesthetic is soft.

Who it’s best for: People who prefer to keep their nails on the shorter side, as well as those who have rounder cuticles. (From a purely practical standpoint, it’s a good shape for people who wear contact lenses.)

Oval

What it looks like: Similar to the round shape, but the edges curve inward more and make the nail appear slimmer overall.

Who it’s best for: Those who have naturally narrow nail beds tend to wear this shape well, as it doesn’t require as much filing on the sides to maintain the look. That said, it’s also a go-to shape for people who typically favor short, round nails but are trying to grow them out.

Square

What it looks like: Straight edges and squared off corners with a flat edge. There is no curvature at all to this shape.

Who it’s best for: It’s good for people who either have naturally small nail beds and want to keep their nails short or people who have long, narrow nail beds and want to make their nails appear shorter.

Squoval

What it looks like: Often thought of as the most universally flattering shape, a squoval is a mish mosh of a square and oval—hence, the name. It has the same flat edge as a square shape, but the edges are rounded off.

Who it’s best for: Anyone who prefers a square nail, but doesn’t want to deal with the snags and scratches you often get with sharp corners.

Almond

What it looks like: Like the nut it’s named after, an almond nail shape is characterized by slender sides and a pointed tip.

Who it’s best for: Nail strength is key here as an almond shape is more prone to breaking than others. That said, if you have brittle nails, filing the tip to a less exaggerated point can help keep them intact—as will reinforcing them with gel or acrylic.

Stiletto

What it looks like: Structurally, it’s very similar to the almond shape above. The key difference is that the edges curve in more and end at a sharp point.

Who it’s best for: Those who get regular gel or acrylic manicures, as the slender shape and spiky point are prone to breaking and catching on things. This is definitely more of a statement shape than a practical one, as it can be challenging to wear if you’re very hands on at home or work.

Coffin

What it looks like: Similar to a stiletto nail in length, but with a flat edge like a square shape.

Who it’s best for: You’ll want to have longer nails (or faux tips applied) to really execute this look properly. This is definitely a, shall we say, trendier look that was recently popularized in the mainstream by celebrities like Kylie Jenner.

Ballerina

What it looks like: This one is nearly identical to the coffin shape, but the corners are rounded off slightly.

Who it’s best for: For the person who likes the coffin shape, but doesn’t want the sharp edges.

Lipstick

What it looks like: Long and slender like a coffin or ballerina shape, but filed at a diagonal slant on top to resemble a fresh tube of lipstick. Topped with shades of crimson, it’s the sexiest mani of the season.

Who it’s best for: This newly popularized shape is the brainchild of Korean editorial nail artist Park Eunkyung (aka Unistella). It’s a fresh look for anyone who is tired of their usual shape and is best worn on long, strong nails or extensions.

Flare

What it looks like: With wider edges than the base, this exaggerated shape flares out (as the name implies) and resembles duck feet. They can be long or short, but with such a wide tip, it may be safer to keep them on the shorter side to prevent them from catching on things.

Who it’s best for: Those who are OK with getting regular acrylics or gels, as this shape is difficult to create and maintain on natural nails.

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