Achieving the nude-nail look without the hassle. (Photo: Getty Images)
Along with nail art, nude nail polish has been trending for years. But now, in lieu of neutral tones of lacquer, some celebrities are opting to go totally naked, as in sans colored polish altogether. “Clean nails have always been a thing, but it’s only now gaining interest as a trend,” says Jenna Hipp, manicurist to stars like Jennifer Garner, Christina Applegate and Anna Paquin. “In the past, a completely bare nail was frowned upon or considered boring, especially on the red carpet. The real shift in clear nails came about when my clients became moms.”
While motherhood and a desire to use less chemicals is the impetus for some, for others it’s about practicality: “A beautifully buffed nail can get a celebrity through multiple travel days and endless wardrobe changes — it’s clean, nondescript, and timeless,” says Hipp. Celeb manicurist Deborah Lippmann agrees: “More celebrities these days are embracing a more minimalist look and enjoying that simplicity, making au natural the new glam.” The nail guru to Reese Witherspoon, Common, and Lupita Nyong’o says that just as with our skin and makeup, talons need a break, too — especially after abuse with gels or staining polish.
But, as Jennifer Lawrence, Lea Michele, and Anna Wintour know (Hipp has given them all colorless manis), going bare naked takes even more care than lacquer since it reveals everything, cuticles, imperfections, lackluster color and all. “It takes daily maintenance to make the look seem intentional instead of lazy,” says Hipp. She swears by whitening toothpaste scrubbed on with a firm nail brush, and sometimes finishes the look by swiping a white pencil underneath the nails to look clean and finished. Think of it as no-makeup makeup.
A rounded length and well-kempt cuticles are key: Essie celebrity manicurist Michelle Saunders advises applying cuticle oil daily; Hipp likes Dr. Hauschka Neem Oil Pen ($19) for its ease, and Lippmann suggests her exfoliating Cuticle Remover treatment ($20). Then there’s the finish. As Saunders says, “If someone is walking down the red carpet, a glossy nail is a must.”
Buffing is one way to achieve shine sans polish. “My Smooth Operator 4-Way Nail Buffer ($12) is one of our highest sellers right now, so that just speaks to the strong desire of going back to basics and super clean, healthy nails,” says Lippmann. But Hipp warns against buffing more than two to three times a year since it removes layers of the nail. An alternative is RGB Liquid Buff ($20), a subtly shiny one-coat polish, or Lippmann’s forthcoming Genie In A Bottle Illuminating Nail Tone Perfector ($20), which uses violet pigments to neutralize dull or yellowed nails.
Finally, when going naked, hydration is essential. “Think of your nails and hands like your face,” says Lippmann. “It wouldn’t occur to most women to wash their face and not apply a moisturizer, but they wash hands over and over without applying hand lotion.”
In the end, “When a celebrity gets ready for a big event, the hero of the day is the dress, then the jewelry, then the handbag and shoes,” says Saunders. “Many times the best choice is an understated nail so it won’t clash with the ‘star’ of the red carpet.” It looks like the mani cam may be out for good.