What Is a Reverse French Manicure?

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  • Written By: Allison Boelcke
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 10 September 2019
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A French manicure is a specific type of cosmetic design for the fingernails. The exact history of the origination of the French manicure has not been conclusively proven and the exact design may vary depending on the person applying the design. It generally involves the application of a neutral, such as light pink or peach, nail polish to the entire fingernail, and a white, ivory, or other light colored nail polish applied in a horizontal line across the very top of the nails, to mimic the natural nail tips. A reverse French manicure is a variation of the traditional French manicure that uses a dark color for the majority of the nail, and a lighter shade at the nail bed instead of the fingernail tip.


For the best manicure results, it is generally recommended to have nails that extend past the fingertips so that there is more room to paint the design. Before a reverse French manicure is applied, a manicurist will typically prepare the nails by applying a layer of clear nail polish over the entire nail. This clear layer serves as a base for the manicure because it gives the nail a smooth texture so that the colored nail polish can be applied evenly and last longer without chipping. If the manicure is being applied to artificial nails, the clear base coat may be skipped since the nail will already have a smooth base since artificial nails do not have the ridges or other imperfections that natural nails have.

The process of applying the colors for a reverse French manicure usually begins with applying the white, ivory, or other light colored nail polish over the entire nail. The dark nail polish color, generally black, is then applied over the entire nail, except for painting around a crescent shape at the bottom of the nail bed so that a white crescent remains at the nailbed and the rest of the nail is black. It is generally thought to be easier than attempting to paint the crescent shape at the nail bed white and then painting the black color around it because it may not leave as clean of an outline and the colors may bleed together. To make painting the nail bed portion even easier, some manicure kits come with adhesive manicure guides that stick to the nail and can be painted around to provide an even shape.

There are variations on the design and color scheme of the reverse French manicure. Although the most common versions tend to use a black base with painted white nail beds, other variations may opt for dark colored tips and a light colored base. Variations on color may use dark brown, burgundy, navy, dark green, or other dark shades in place of the black nail polish.


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