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Once upon a time, you would walk into a nail salon for a manicure, and your nail technician would ask if you wanted round, square, or semi-square nails. And that was the end of it.
You had simple choices and spent the better part of your time deciding on cute nail colors or nail art.
But that’s not the case anymore. Nail shapes have evolved, and now the shape you choose for your nails can be just as important as the polish or nail art you want.
Nail shapes are one of the most popular trends in nail care these days, thanks to celebrities and social media influencers.
These celebrities share a wide and diverse variety of fun and funky nail shapes, from traditional silhouettes like round and oval to gorgeous almond (yes, nails) and daring coffin (also nails, don’t worry!).
Beautifully shaped nails are now an “it factor” when it comes to a manicure, and the shape you choose can already set the tone for your mani long before you decide on your lacquer or nail art.
So now maybe you’re wondering, “What nail shape should I get?” How do you choose the best shape for you? And just how many shapes are there?
We take a closer look at the different types of nail shapes, share an essential nail shape chart, highlight manicure tips and tricks for every nail shape, and give tips on choosing the best shape for you!
Why Both Nail Shapes and Nail Polish Matter
You may now be asking, “Why does your nail shape matter? After all, isn’t your polish the defining part of a manicure?”
The answer to that is simple. While nail polish can make your nails look beautiful and give you an instant boost of color, the shape of your nails will help define the “tone” of your manicure.
Think about it this way: Short round nails can be feisty and cute and even cozy if you think about them wrapped around a mug of hot cocoa. But the vibe changes immediately if you apply that same red polish to stiletto nails. Now they are daring, bold, and sexy.
So an essential consideration for choosing your nail shape is the mood and tone you want to set. The feel you want for your mani can help you decide what nail shape you’ll ultimately choose.
Nail Shape Chart
Now that you know that your nail shape can determine how your mani looks, let’s look at the different nail shapes available.
There are 12 different nail shapes you can choose from. Check out this nail shape chart for easy reference:
|Nail Shape Name||Description||Mood/Tone|
|Round||Round-shaped nails have straight sides but then curve at the edges to mimic the natural shape of your fingertip.||If you like classic and clean nails, this is for you!|
|Square||Square nail shapes are flat and straight on the sides, ending in a square top with sharp corners.||This shape is still easy to maintain but also cheeky and fun, depending on your polish.|
|Oval||Oval-shaped nails are filed down on the sides and not just at the tips to create an oval tip.||Elegant. This shape elongates the nails and makes them look sleek and pretty.|
|Squoval||The squoval shape is a square nail shape with rounded edges. It’s a combination of square and oval.||This is for those that want an elegant shape that still looks trendy and fun.|
|Almond||Almond nails are similar to oval shapes in that the sides are filed down but with a more pronounced peak to resemble the silhouette of a real almond.||This nail is ultra-feminine and makes nails look sleek and sophisticated. It’s an excellent go-to shape for effortless style.|
|Ballerina||Ballerina nails are called this because they resemble the shape of a ballet slipper. They are long, tapered, and have a slightly rounded tip and curvy sides.||These trendy nails are great if you want something stylish and unique while still looking feminine.|
|Coffin||Coffin nails are similar in shape to ballerina nails without the rounded edges or curvy sides. These nails are straight and sharp at the square end, resembling a coffin.||Coffin nails are feminine too but are also trendy and eye-catching. Plus, they have a lot of real estate for nail art.|
|Stiletto||This shape is similar to the almond but has a very sharp point at the end.||This is probably the most visually striking shape for those looking to make a sexy bold statement.|
|Flare||Flare nails are long and, as the name says, flare outward at the tips like a fan.||Flare nails are very flashy and perfect for grabbing attention.|
|Lipstick||Lipstick nails are cut and shaped to look like a new tube of lipstick with a diagonal tip at the end. ||Lipstick nails are trendy and highly unique. You can use these edges to create unique French tips.|
|Arrowhead||Arrowheads are like shorter stilettos. They are made to look like small pointy arrowheads.||Arrowheads are playful and perfect for those who want sharp tips without the length of stilettos.|
|Edge||Edge nails are sculpted to produce the ridge or rise in the middle of the nail, like a small cone or mountain peak in the middle of each nail.||Not for the faint of heart! They are flirty, futuristic, and literally edgy! Plus, they are incredibly unique.|
With just one glance, you can see how each shape is different and how they can automatically transform how the fingers and hands look.
Now let’s look at what you should consider when choosing a nail shape and learn more about one.
What to Consider When Choosing a Nail Shape
Generally speaking, you can choose whatever nail shape tickles your fancy. If you’re very adventurous, you can try them all!
But some shapes may look better with your hands and work better for you. When you discover which shape that is, you may find yourself returning to that one repeatedly.
Here are some considerations you should keep in mind when you pick the best nail shape for your hands:
One of the first things many nail techs look at when making nail shape recommendations is the client’s nail bed and cuticle shape.
If your cuticle shape is rounder or if you have narrow nail beds, then round, oval, or narrow nail shapes usually work best. If your cuticle is wide, these are the perfect nail beds for a square or squoval shape.
Length of your fingers
Another essential aspect to consider is the length of your fingers. If you have shorter fingers, shapes like oval or almond fingernail shapes are usually recommended to help lengthen your fingers and make them appear longer and more slender.
Square or more unique nail shapes like coffin or flare-shaped are the best nail shapes for long fingers. Those with long nails can generally wear any shape.
Upkeep and maintenance are other important factors when choosing a nail shape. The longer, unique shapes require more upkeep than traditional silhouettes like round or square, which are considered the best shape for short nails.
Lastly, while your personal aesthetic is important, you should also consider your lifestyle when choosing your nail shape. If you are conservative, then perhaps avoid extreme or crazy shapes.
Additionally, consider shorter nails if you are in an industry where you use your hands a lot and intensively. You can always try acrylic or gel extensions if you want length for special occasions.
Though this should be the last consideration. It also helps to look at what’s popular to see if there are any new trends that work for you or if you want to hop on the trend when picking a nail shape.
Looking at the Different Nail Shapes
Now that you know what to think about before selecting a nail shape, let’s take a closer look at the different shapes on the nail shape chart and learn more about them.
Round-shaped nails are the most traditional and easiest to maintain. They are classic for a reason, and they never go out of style.
Round-shaped nails have straight sides but then curve at the edges to mimic the natural shape of your fingertip.
This shape is also a favorite among those who want to avoid high-maintenance nails and want to keep their nails short. There are also cute nail shapes for short nails.
If you worry that lack of length will make your nails appear shorter, opt for short round nails instead of short square.
Best with: Works with any nail color!
The square shape, like the round one, is self-explanatory. Square nail shapes are flat and straight on the sides, and they end in a square top with sharp corners. They don’t flare out on the sides or taper in.
These are a good choice for slim nail beds or if you want short, easy-to-care-for nails.
Best with: Vibrant block, geometric, floral nail art, and deep, bold colors
Round and oval shapes are different in the sense that oval nails elongate the fingers and lengthen instead of mimicking the natural fingertip.
To do this, oval-shaped nails are filed down on the sides and not just at the tips. The curve is more pronounced and extreme to make your fingers look longer.
Oval-shaped nails are very flattering and can make fingers look long and slim. They are also one of the best nail shapes for short nail beds.
Oval nails work with long or short nails.
Best with: Nudes, neutral colors, and nail art.
As the name suggests, the squoval nail shape combines square and oval. This is perfect for those who find a square nail’s sharp edges too harsh.
The squoval shape is basically a square nail shape with rounded edges. It softens the traditional square shape but still maintains the same trendy feel.
This best-of-both-worlds nail shape works on everyone.
Best with: Dark and deep nail colors
Almond shape nails are similar to oval shapes in that the sides are filed down, but the round peak at the end is more pronounced than an oval to resemble the silhouette of a real almond.
This shape works best for longer nail lengths, but many natural nails can’t hold this shape, so some need to use acrylic or gel extensions to create an almond shape that lasts longer.
Best with: Unique French tip designs, negative space manicures, or soft and gorgeous pastels for an ultra-feminine look
Ballerina nails are called this because they resemble the shape of a ballet slipper.
The shape of the nail is long and tapered like a stiletto but with a square end (like a ballet slipper) and slightly rounded edges and curvier sides instead of sharp or straight corners.
This shape gives you the drama and length of the stiletto shape but without the dangerous sharp tips.
These nails became popular because of celebrities like Lizzo and Selena Gomez, who have sported several manicures with this iconic nail shape.
Best with: Feminine colors and the glazed trend
Coffin nails are very similar to ballerina nails with a subtle difference. Coffin nails, like ballerina nails, are named such because they resemble traditional coffins.
Like ballerina nails, coffin nails are long and tapered with a flat end, but they lack the rounded edges or curvy sides of ballerina nails and instead are straight and sharp at the corners.
Rianna and Kylie Jenner are big fans of coffin nails.
Best with: Nail art, 3D elements, and ombre mattes
The stiletto shape is probably the most visually striking nail shape. They are all about the drama, much like the heels that are its namesake.
This shape is similar to the almond but has a very sharp point at the end. These are also hard to maintain and are often reinforced with acrylic nails.
This shape may be more high maintenance than others, but the plus side is that it’s a perfect shape for showcasing manicure creativity, allowing you to play around with nail art, colors, and texture.
Best with: Rhinestone details, nail gems, and other 3D elements
Flare nails are a unique new nail shape that, as the name says, flare outward at the tip. These are also often called duck nails, duck feet nails, duckbill nails, or duckies.
Flare shape nails are very flashy and may not be for everyone. Plus, you’d have to commit to acrylic or extensions to achieve this shape because nails don’t naturally flare outward.
Also, if you work with your hands quite a lot, this shape is probably not for you as it can get in the way compared to more traditional silhouettes.
Best with: Fun and trendy nail colors, glitter, and gems
Lipstick-shaped nails are another name that is easy to understand. These nails are purposefully cut and shaped to look like a fresh new tube of lipstick.
To get this shape, the nail tech will file the nail at an angle to create a diagonal tip at the end. For lipstick nails, you immediately see the nails going in one direction.
Lipstick nails work with long nails and are perfect if you want to stand out.
Best with: Minimal French tips to really show off the nail edge or bright and bold colors
Are you beginning to sense a pattern with nail shape names being quite literal? That pattern continues with arrowhead nails.
These nails are similar to stilettos in that they have a sharp point. The difference is that arrowhead nails are shorter, with the nail tech guiding the edges of the nail toward the center right above the edge of your fingertip.
Some arrowheads also have a slight curve at the sides, unlike the straight sides of a stiletto nail. The end result is the nails look like small pointy arrowheads.
This shape is best for those that want road-test pointy nails before committing to length.
Best with: Bold themes or colors to make the tips stand out
This shape is not for the weak-hearted! It’s flirty, sexy, and edgy (pun intended).
Edge nails are sculpted to produce the ridge or rise in the middle of the nail, like a small cone or mountain peak in the middle of each nail.
They extend straight, and the tips are filed down to look like an edge. They are sexy and fun if you can commit to the care and upkeep, including regular filing and filling.
Best with: Matte finish, unique French tips to highlight the edge and shape of the nail
Questions About Nail Shapes
How are almond nail shapes and oval nail shapes different?
Almond-shaped nails are similar to oval nails in that the nail sides curve inward past the fingertip edge. However, oval shapes have more rounded tips, while almond shapes are almost pointed.
What is the easiest go-to nail shape?
The most straightforward nail shape to maintain is round. This is because round-shaped nails are known for following the natural shape of the fingertip.
They are great for shorter nails, and it’s very easy to get the shape and maintain it.
What are the most common nail shapes?
The most common shapes are still round and square. However, many people are now opting for unique shapes to make their nails stand out and make their fingers appear longer.
What looks best with coffin-shaped nails?
The coffin or ballerina shape is feminine and flirty and is an excellent look if you have long nails. A creative French tip, glossy manicure, and some 3D elements are great options for this fabulous shape.
What is the best shape for nails?
This is a difficult question because there are so many shapes to choose from, and people’s lifestyles and preferences aren’t the same.
Your best bet is determining your daily activities to see which nail shapes you can opt for based on your lifestyle and preference.
Finding the Best Nail Shape for You
With so many fun choices, choosing your nail shape is just as much fun as choosing your polish color and nail art. Each shape is unique and gives off a different vibe.
Keep these different considerations in mind and be willing to experiment, and you’re sure to find the perfect shape for you.
And most of all, remember to enjoy yourself! Playing around with nail shapes and colors is a great way to express yourself and should always be a fun experience.
Do you have a favorite nail shape? Let us know in the comments below!
Love being adventurous with your nails?
Check out these pieces for some more mani inspo: