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How to re-create the milky French manicure trend at home

The milky French mani is a modern take on a classic


The French manicure may be the most classic and timeless nail look of all, but there are countless modern takes on the style that play with colors and shapes to make it more interesting. This year, the milky French manicure has been seen all over Instagram and TikTok.

While a traditional French manicure combines a light pink or nude base color and bright white tips, a milky French manicure uses a sheer, creamy off-white base color that offers a very subtle contrast between the nail base and the tips. The effect is softer and more opaque than the classic French mani.

How to re-create the milky French manicure look at home

While you can always go to a salon if you’re looking to try the milky French manicure, the look is actually easier to re-create at home than you might think (and a DIY manicure is more affordable, of course). 

First, you’ll want to prep your nails as you do for any manicure. Use a nail polish remover to rid your nails of any residue from a previous manicure. File your nails to the desired length and shape (make sure they’re completely dry first, as filing wet nails can cause nail splitting). Gently push back your cuticles so you have a clean nail to work on. You may want to buff your nails as well.

Now, you’re ready to begin painting your nails. Start by applying a clear base coat in a thin layer. If you have thin or brittle nails, look for a base coat with strengthening properties. Or, if you’re in a rush, you can use a quick-drying base coat to help prevent smudges. Wait for the base coat to dry completely (use a nail dryer to make this go even faster). 

Here’s where the milky French manicure deviates from the traditional French manicure. While a traditional French mani involves applying a base color first and painting the white tips on top, to get the milky look, you’ll want to apply the white tips first. You can use any opaque white nail color, but our testers are partial to OPI nail lacquers because they’re long-wearing and have great color options. 

Apply the white color only on the naturally white part of your nails, called the free edge. You can go a little thicker or thinner than your natural free edge, depending on the desired look. Use a light hand to apply a thin layer of white and wait for it to fully dry before moving on to the next step. 

Next, apply a layer of a semi-sheer milky off-white color to the entire nail, including over the white tip. Apply just a single thin layer so that you’re not completely concealing the white tip, but rather painting over it in a way that blurs the line between the base color and the tip just a bit. Let your nails dry fully before moving on. 

Last, apply a layer of a top coat to seal in your color, add a high-shine finish and help your mani stay chip-free as long as possible. Let your nails dry completely before touching anything or moving on to other activities. 

Best products to create a milky French manicure

Bona Fide Beauty Glass Fingernail File for Natural Nails

To get your nails in polish-ready shape, this glass nail file is a great pick because it gives consistently smooth, snag-free results. It’s etched on both sides with a medium to fine grit.

Sold by Amazon

OPI Nail Lacquer in Alpine Snow

From a brand beloved by professional manicurists, this quick-drying lacquer is the perfect shade of opaque white for painting your nails' tips. It lasts up to seven days without chipping and has a creme finish. 

Sold by Amazon, Ulta Beauty and Target

OPI Nail Lacquer in My Vampire is Buff

This barely there nude polish has a creamy finish that's great for your entire nail. As with all nail polishes from this top-selling brand, it’s long-wearing and looks great even with one coat. The formula is phthalate- and formaldehyde-free. 

Sold by Amazon and OPI

Orly Breathable Nail Color in Barely There

This off-white creme is the perfect hue for the milky look for your whole nail. The breathable formula prevents chipping and peeling, and it helps keep nails healthy and strong thanks to argan oil, vitamin B5 and vitamin C.

Sold by Amazon and Orly Beauty

Deborah Lippmann Addicted To Speed Ultra Quick-Dry Top Coat

Don't worry about smudges — this top coat dries in as little as a minute, without streaking or bubbling, which is why it's our testers' favorite. It uses cellulose and dimethicone to give nails a brilliant, high-shine finish that's long-lasting and chip-resistant. 

Sold by Amazon and Sephora

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Talia Ergas writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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