Want longer nails without the wait? Top manicurists reveal how to fake it 'til you make it.

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Breaking nail news: It’s possible to score longer-looking tips, no acrylics required. Whether you bite them down, keep them short on purpose, or simply have nails that just won’t grow, check out these fast and easy tricks for creating the illusion of longer nails. The experts share their best short nail ideas, including flattering shapes and polish colors, to help you customize your manicure with ease.

Pair of female manicured hands with short nails on white table
Image courtesy of Getty.

1. Remove Cuticles

Getting rid of cuticle buildup at the edge of your nail reveals more of the nail plate itself, so nails instantly look longer, says celebrity manicurist Geraldine Holford. She suggests applying a cuticle remover, like Sally Hansen Nail Treatment Instant Cuticle Remover, $7, Target, then very lightly pushing back the cuticle with an orange stick, moving in circular motions. Once that’s done, wipe the entire nail with a warm washcloth.

2. Create an Almond Shape

Here's an on-trend short nail idea you'll go nuts for. “An almond-shaped nail creates the most visual length,” says celebrity manicurist Michelle Saunders James. Picture, well, an almond and create a slightly pointed tip. Alternately, an oval shape will also elongate the nail, says Holford, who also suggests to avoid going square.

3. Go Nude

Darker polish highlights the actual length of your nail, so to make nails look longer, lighter shades are always best, says Sarah Gibson Tuttle, CEO & Founder of Olive & June. “Much like wearing a nude pump elongates your legs, a nude polish elongates your nails,” Holford adds. A light, opaque shade leads the eye outward; the closer the color to your skin tone, the longer the nail will look, she says. If you want a little bit of contrast, opt for a hue just slightly lighter than your skin.

4. Contour with Dark Colors

While lighter hues are more elongating, if you prefer a dark mani, try Holford’s trick: “Create a more linear shape by not painting right up to the sides of the nail. By leaving a little space at the sides, you’ll create the appearance of thinner, longer nails,” she explains.

5. Choose a French Manicure

One of the reasons the French mani became so popular was because enhancing the free edge with a white tip made nails look longer, says James. The key? “Don’t paint the tip any color other than white, or it can have the opposite effect,” she notes.

6. Try Nail Art

Use a simple short nail designs to make nails instantly look longer. “Paint one thin, vertical line in the middle of the nail and add a creative embellishment near the tip. This will lead the eye to the tip of the nail, giving the illusion of length,” says Holford. James likes to create a similar effect by using a dark shade to paint on a triangle in the center of the nail (with the tip of the triangle pointing toward the tip of the nail), then swiping a neutral on both sides. Her go-to color combo: Essie Midnight Cami and Topless and Barefoot, $9 each, Essie.

See? It is possible to have cute short nails. Try one or more of these easy hacks to make your next manicure more gorgeous and your nails look longer than ever.


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