The American Manicure: A Guide to the New Basics

In the digital age, it’s easy to think of beauty as something that can be achieved with a filter or a touch-up. But the true magic of looking your best is in the details. In other words: It’s all about the little things. For many of us, modern life means wearing gloves for everyday tasks like grocery shopping, cleaning, and taking out the trash. This makes it more challenging than ever to maintain our nails—at least until summer arrives and we can finally throw those mittens aside for good.

That’s why what you might think of as trivial details are essential if you want to look your best from head to pseudo-toe. That’s why we’ve put together this ultimate guide to the new basics: The American manicure.

What is an American Manicure?

An American manicure is a classic nail look that is both simple and sophisticated. The nails are trimmed and shaped to a particular length depending on the client’s preference, and then a base coat is applied followed by two coats of colored polish. The American manicure is typically offered as part of a pedicure service. Unlike the traditional French manicure (think pale pink nails with a white tip), an American manicure is more subtle, with a neutral base color (usually a shade of pink or neutral) and a tip painted in a neutral shade. The American manicure is usually offered in salons as an express service, but it can also be done at home with a little practice. If you’re planning to give yourself an at-home manicure, be sure to use the right tools.

Nail trimming and shaping

One of the most frequent missteps is cutting nails too short. If you accidentally hit the quick, you may feel sudden pain and see blood trickling down your finger. But don’t panic. All you have to do is apply pressure to the finger with a clean piece of fabric (like a paper towel or napkin) to stop the bleeding. Once the bleeding has stopped, you should cover the nick with a bandage. If you don’t want to nick your precious peepers, you could try nail clippers designed for fingertips. Some people use a nail file to shape their nails, but this is more likely to cause damage.

Nail buffing

If you want to get a flawless manicure at home, nail buffing is essential. This is best done with a nail buffing block or a nail buffing brush. Start by filing your nails in one direction, and then use the block to buff your nails in the opposite direction. This will smooth your nails, remove ridges, and make them easier to paint. Many nail polishes contain chemicals that can damage your nails if they build up. Nail buffing helps to remove any excess polish and residue. It’s also a good idea to use a nail hardener or strengthener to prevent nails from becoming brittle.

Nail polish application

When it comes to painting your nails, less is more. A good rule of thumb is to apply one coat of nail polish, wait for it to dry, apply a second coat, and then wait for that to dry. When applying the first coat, use a quick, back-and-forth motion, and leave the second coat to dry completely before you touch anything. Touching your nails before they’ve dried could cause smudges or smears. If you accidentally smudge your nails, you can remove the smudge with nail polish remover. If the smudge is stubborn, you may need to use more nail polish remover. Be sure to use a cotton swab to wipe away any excess remover.

Hand care

The skin on your hands is more delicate than you might think. It’s essential to use moisturizer to keep your hands hydrated. You can use an everyday hand cream, or moisturize your hands with a hand scrub before washing your hands (we recommend this). If you think your hands might be dry, it’s a good idea to see your dermatologist who can recommend a hand cream suited to your skin type. If you have dry hands, you should avoid washing with soap because this dries out the skin. When you wash your hands, use warm water and avoid scrubbing too hard. Be sure to use an antibacterial hand sanitizer if you don’t have access to soap and water.

The basic differences between a French Manicure and an American Manicure

A French manicure, as you may have guessed, is one where the edge of the nail is covered in a hue that matches the nail bed. This can be any color, but most often it’s either a soft pink shade or a classic red. The French manicure is a great way to add some subtle color to your look while still keeping your nails looking natural. It’s also important to note that French manicures are typically done with a clear polish, whereas American manicures are not. As for the American manicure, as mentioned above, it does not include any nail polish at all. This means that the natural look of your nails is left exposed. Although an American manicure is typically done without any nail polish, it’s possible to add a clear top coat to add shine and protect your nails.


The small details are often the most important. From nail buffing to hand scrubbing, these are the simple ways you can look your best. Now that you’ve read this guide, you know how to achieve the perfect American manicure.

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