The “clean girl” makeup trend was one of the most well-liked (and divisive) beauty trends on TikTok in 2023. The beauty movement, which has amassed an incredible 1.4 billion views to date, features a blend of muted tones on radiant skin, giving the appearance of beautifully sculpted yet scarcely noticeable skin. It didn’t take long for the casual, natural makeup mood to become popular among beauty lovers and wind up on our nails.
Yes, the nail version of the “clean girl” look is here and ready to make an appearance at everyone’s fingertips this year.

What is the clean manicure and why is it trending? 

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In 2023, the TikToker @niamhlynchxxxx gained massive popularity with her compilation of minimalist manicure looks, garnering 1.2 million views. Meanwhile, searches on Google for simple nail designs, nude nail art, and nude nails are surpassing those for summertime colors with livelier hues. Imagine cuticles that are flawless, minimalist nail art that is worthy of Instagram, and sheer hues in baby pink, apricot, and milky white.
Curious? Since we’re a little hooked, we asked manicurist and minimalist nail artist Georgia Rae how to accomplish the clean nail look at home.

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Georgia says neat nails are stylish, understated, put together, and, most surprisingly, low-maintenance. “My most requested look is ‘my nails but better’,” she explains.
The over-the-top, adorned acrylics we were longing over not too long ago have given way to a newfound adoration of barely-there nails, and Georgia believes this is partly due to the shift that has occurred since the pandemic. “During the various lockdowns, we all experienced the inability to have our usual beauty treatments and it gave us a chance to truly embrace ourselves in our natural state — nails included.”

Whatever the reason, the great news about the clean manicure is that you can try it at home and it’s relatively easy. Essentially, it’s all about giving your natural nails a boost.

How to prep your nails for a clean manicure

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I’m a self-confessed nail enthusiast, so I was eager to try the clean manicure. I’ve unwittingly followed this trend in the past, albeit my regimen has a few additions that are TikTok-inspired. But perfecting the preparation is essential to a lovely, spotless manicure at home.

I enjoy using the CND Cuticle Eraser since it is a mild, hydrating exfoliant that removes dead skin from cuticles, essentially doing all the work for you. To start working, squeeze about a pea-sized amount in the form of your cuticle, rub it in, and then let it on for five minutes. When the allotted time has elapsed, use a washcloth to gently remove any excess, then use high-quality nippers (I prefer the Tweezerman Cuticle Nipper) to delicately remove any visible dead skin. Alternatively, you might spend a lot of money on a professional nail care routine like the Dry Gloss Manicure Kit from Bare Hands, which comes with a glass file and a cuticle oil pen to buff nail beds and softly exfoliate rough skin for a flawless finish.

How to paint your nails to achieve a clean manicure

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The most difficult aspect is painting. First, use nail paint remover on a lint-free wipe (easy to find on Amazon) to clean your nail plate. A base coat is essential to preserve the health of your nails, regardless of the hue you choose. OPI Natural Nail Base Coat is what I used.
A sheer, milky base is used in a classic clean manicure. Georgia suggests Chanel’s La Base Camélia or OPI Nail Polish in Put It In Neutral. OPI Nail Polish in Passion is what I used.

Make sure your brush is only filled with a generous amount of polish on one side by wiping the excess off the other side on the bottle top in order to get a flawless, streak-free nail. The polish should then be applied to the nail simply. Georgia clarifies that streaks can be avoided by exercising caution when applying pressure. Perhaps begin in the middle of the nail and ‘connect up’ the polish by swiping on each side.

It takes some time to get the clean nail look, but the effort is worthwhile. Maintaining thin layers is the key to building up perfect polish successfully. Neutral polishes are frequently rather clear, so you may need to apply two or three layers to get the desired hue. I applied two coats of color for this mani. If polish gets outside of your nail plate lines, don’t worry. You may carefully clean up any spills with a small, square brush dipped into nail polish remover.

How do you do nail art on a clean manicure?

Maintaining simplicity in nail art also makes it much simpler to duplicate at home. It doesn’t have to be dull, either. There are a ton of different styles to pick from, such as a simple French tip, delicate hearts, accent dots, and even tiny, diamanté embellishments, if TikTok and Instagram are any indication.

I experimented with a silver-tone and the reverse French manicure, which involves turning the tip to sit above the cuticle (CND Vinylux in Steel Kisses, for a similar appearance). This enhances the delicate pink base, not drowning it out. I used a tiny nail art brush to guide the silver polish (which you can also acquire on Amazon) and another thin brush soaked in nail paint remover to remove any excess that got on my skin. Practice does make perfect; accuracy is not necessary.

Get a gel manicure at your neighborhood salon if you’re feeling really fancy or if you want it to last a long time. This has an unrivaled gloss and can last up to three weeks, unlike regular polish, which can chip rapidly. Georgia suggests getting the aforementioned Put It In Neutral layered together or OPI Nail Polish in a Bubble Bath.

How to nail clean manicure skincare

Georgia is luxuriating in the clean manicure’s emphasis on hand care—we emphasize this again—and is loving it. “For so long, I feel that manicures were viewed as a chore or something you quickly pop to the salon for,” she explains. “I like to make it an experience or a treatment you look forward to just as much as you would a massage or facial.”

Georgia enjoys using an exfoliating scrub after dry brushing her hands’ palms and backs. Anybody scrub will work for this, but a hand scrub like Sidia’s The Hand Exfoliant would be ideal. She performs this once a week, depending on the preferences and skin type of her clients, before applying a moisturizer and cuticle oil. “This process leaves the hands glowing and improves the overall result of the manicure,” she claims. You may always exfoliate after taking care of your cuticles if you’re concerned about smudging but don’t apply hand cream right away because it could cause your polish to chip.

I prefer to use the Beigic Classic Hand and Nail Cream, Beigic Refining Hand Wash, and Mirror Water Buff Body Exfoliator. I then spritz it a few times with Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse Multi-Purpose Dry Oil. Jinsoon Cuticle Oil is the most opulent cuticle oil available, therefore I use it to finish off my manicure. I use this all the time to get nice, smooth cuticles—I keep a bottle by my desk and by my bed. This also lessens the likelihood that you will pick on them.

How inclusive is the clean manicure trend, though? 

The clean manicure trend may not feel inclusive of people with bitten nails or a propensity to pick at the skin around them, much like the clean cosmetics trend may alienate people with skin disorders like rosacea and acne. But regardless of the state or length of your nails, everyone may benefit from minimalist nail art and hand care. Everyone is welcome to share their manicures and nail art on Instagram with the @allnailswelcome account, which is moderated by beauty editors Laura Capon and Lucy Partington and offers inspiration for all types of nail art.

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