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What is the Difference Between American and French Manicure?

What is the Difference Between American and French Manicure?
Need some stylish yet sophisticated look for your nails? Then French manicure is what you are looking for. And if you want a look so natural that it seems simply like untouched fingernails, then American manicure is what you need. NailArtMag further explains the subtle differences between the American and French manicures.
Payal Kanjwani
Last Updated: Feb 23, 2018
Historically speaking
In ancient Babylonia, males colored their nails with kohl. The nail color indicated 'status', where males of a higher class wore black, while males of a lower class wore green. From 5000 BCE to 3000 BCE, ancient Egyptian women used the color of one's nails to indicate their social status.
Do you need a day out for pampering? It's time to get your manicure done. But are you sure which one to get out of the most common choices offered, an American manicure or a French manicure? Is there a difference between the two?
French Manicure
French manicures are designed to give you a clean, gorgeous look. These are so classic that women never want to go to weddings without their French manicures done. The French style calls for a vivid, bold white tip, with a neutral, pinkish style of tone on the rest of the nail.
American Manicure
American manicures are not as crisp and defined as the French manicure. This manicure can be considered as an update to French manicures, giving a more natural, softer semblance. A flesh- or cream-colored base is applied, with an off-white or pale nude-colored tip, forgoing the stark-white tip for a more neutral one. Quite simply, this manicure look calls for a translucent or pale look. To an onlooker, American-manicured nails may look exactly like French ones, but they are finely, perhaps significantly different.
Let us take you through the step-by-step approach to doing your nails with your choice of manicure, while pointing out the subtle differences between the two.
Getting Your Nails Ready
Get your supplies
Need a magnificent manicure, but no time to visit a manicure salon? A home manicure can look professional, if planned and prepared. Make sure to keep all the supplies handy to avoid mishaps and irritation.
Some common tools and supplies that you'll require for manicure are:
  • Nail polish remover
  • Cotton balls or cotton swabs
  • Nail buffer
  • Nail trimmers
  • Cuticle trimmer
  • Bowl of warm water or fingerbath
  • Hand towels
  • Nail file
  • Cuticle or hand cream
  • Nail polish
  • Base coat
  • Top coat
Set up your work space
Sit on a flat surface where you can easily accommodate your hands with all the essential tools. Nail paints and removers can easily damage cloth or wooden surfaces, so be careful on that.
Remove your old nail polish
No great painter ever started his masterpiece on a dirty canvas. Use cotton balls to remove any old, chipped nail polish. You can use an acetone- or a non-acetone-based polish remover; it's totally your choice.
Shape and smooth your nails
Clipper And Scissor
Clipper and scissor for cutting and shaping
After the old polish is out, it's time to cut and shape your nails as desired. Use nail clippers to trim your nails. Do not cut them too short. A little of the white tip should be visible. Bidirectional trimming should be avoided. Always file your nails in the 'bottom edge to center top' approach. Since we are talking about two different types of manicures here, we cannot specify the shape of the nail. It will be covered later.
Buff your nails
Emery Board
Buffer to buff your nails
Buff the surface of the nail gently to smooth out the ridges. A soft, flexible buffer is advised.
Soak your nails
Soak Your Nails In Water
Finger bath
Get a bowl filled with warm (not hot!) soapy water. Soak your hands in it for a few minutes. It will soften your cuticles for the next step. You can use a nail brush to gently clean the dirt around your nails.
Prepare your cuticle
Orange-wood Stick For Cuticles
Orange-wood sticks for removing cuticles
Dry your nails. Apply the cuticle cream (or olive oil in case you don't have the cream). This helps in retaining the moisture to keep the cuticle supple. After a certain time, use an orange-wood stick or a blunt cuticle stick to push back the nail cuticle to each of its base. Don't ever cut the cuticles.
Apply hand cream or lotion
Once you're done with the re-positioning of your cuticles, apply a moisturizer or lotion to your hands. Wipe them dry, leaving no oil residue on it.
Proceed to painting your nails.
The FRENCH Style
This style looks graceful on any occasion and goes with any getup. Today, with the "fancy" French manicure, the free edge can be any color―not just white―and the shape of the color at the free edge can be any shape, not just the smile line. How to do the traditional French manicure is being discussed below.
Cut and shape your nails
French Manicure Nail Paints
French manicure nail color kit
French manicures look more appealing on longer nails, so you don't want to trim them too close to your fingertips. Use nail clippers and nail buffs to even the uneven edges. A squarish shape is ideal in French manicures. But you can round them too, depending on your preference.
Painting your nails
French Manicure Final Look
Your French manicure is done!
  1. Apply a very thin layer of polish as a base coat over the entire nail. A pink, beige, or peach color polish is to be used here. This will give your nails a healthier look. You can try OPI Natural Nail Base Coat or Essie Ridge Filling Base Coat. It helps the color to go on smoothly and also to stay longer. Don't rush. Let it dry completely.
  2. Add a second coat of polish if required. This step is completely optional.
  3. Paint your tips with a dense, white paint, using manicure strips or nail guides. The white coat should stop exactly where the whites of your nails stop. If you do not have nail guides, you can create them by cutting them out of painter's tape. You can also use a Band Aid to paint French manicures. It has a naturally round edge. Carefully try giving a crescent-shaped edge, like making an upside-down smiley on your tips. You can use paints like Orly White Tips or OPI Alpine Snow for the tips. Be cautious while doing this because the edge of the tips in French manicure is so sharp and distinctive, that even the smallest mistake is very much noticeable. Let them dry nicely.
  4. Apply a clear top coat, thin and transparent, to give your nails the natural yet manicured appearance.
  5. Clean up any color outside the edges of your nails by using orangewood sticks or cotton swabs, dipping them in a paint remover.
  6. Flaunt your newly manicured nails. You can always try variations by using other shades for the base, or use bright colors for the tips, if you do not wish to stick to the classic French manicure.
Most people are going for American manicures these days, for they offer an incredibly simple and relaxed look.
Cut and shape your nails
American Manicure Nail Paints
American manicure nail color kit
American manicures are mostly squoval (square + oval) in shape. But they can be round too, totally based on your choices.
Painting your nails
American Manicure Final Look
Your American manicure is done!
  1. Apply a thin layer of base coat which would give a natural nail color or a fleshy-creamy appearance. Some paints like OPI Bubble Bath, OPI Honeymoon Sweet, OPI Passion, Essie Heavenly Harp, or Essie Sandy Beach can be used.
  2. Paint your tips with a paint like Essie Marshmallow. The good thing about American-manicured tips is that we don't want them to stand out like those in French, so there's a room for small errors.
  3. Apply the top clear coat all over the nail. Those who wish to hide the tips can use something like OPI Swedish Nude and Kyoto Pearl, giving your nails the desired blurred look. Let your nails dry. Again, don't forget to clean the edges with orange-wood sticks and a thinner. This style is tailored to look more like your natural nails. But you can get the tips designed with cute stuff, maintaining a simple, pleasant look.
Check These Out!
Some variations can be incorporated in these sober manicures. Let your crazy side shine through. Get wild, get choosy, giving modifications to the conventional French and American manicures.
Go the French Way!
Kitty French Manicure
Black And White French Manicure
Polka French Manicure
Red Hearts French Manicure
Purple Shoe French Manicure
Go the American Way!
Purple Flower American Manicure
Blue Glitter American Manicure
Beige American Manicure
Green Glitter American Manicure
Purple Glitter American Manicure
All set to move around with those beautiful nails? The next time when someone says that there ain't a difference in the French and American manicures, we hope that you'll be able to picture out the differences. Keep experimenting and flaunting the inner you with your nail art.
Colorful French manicure and makeup
French manicure
Pink purple French manicure and makeup
French Manicure
Awesome nails and beautiful clean manicure
Awesome nails and beautiful clean manicure
Awesome nails and beautiful clean manicure
Awesome nails and beautiful clean manicure
Awesome nails and beautiful clean manicure
Awesome nails and beautiful clean manicure
Awesome nails and beautiful clean manicure
Awesome nails and beautiful clean manicure
Awesome nails and beautiful clean manicure
Beautiful bright natural nails with perfect clean manicure
Beautiful bright natural nails with perfect clean manicure
Perfect manicure and natural nails
Woman Applying White Polish to Finger Nails
Hands with blue matte manicured nails
Manicured nails
Gray nails
Mauve colored nails and nail polish bottle
Beautiful woman's nails with nice stylish manicure
Beautiful healthy natural nails. Beauty long woman nails close up
Spicy mustard colored nails and nail polish bottle
Dark green nails
Perfect manicure and natural nails
Beauty and Makeup concept. Luxury Nails and Makeup
Nails with manicure and peacock feather