Do Nails Need To 'Breathe' Between Manicures?

The beauty of the French manicure is its versatility. It goes with every outfit and works for a casual coffee date with friends or a formal wedding.

Fun fact: the French manicure is not French. It was invented in America, most believe by Jeff Pink (the founder of Orly polish) in the 1970’s. When filming movies, it was time-consuming to change an actor’s nail polish to match their wardrobe when going from scene to scene. Jeff Pink game up with the neutral base and white tip look that could be kept consistent throughout the entire film while still looking polished and sharp.

The trend was picked up by the public and named after being featured in a Paris fashion show. Today, it’s not nearly as popular in France where it’s commonly referred to as an “American manicure.”

As a style that was meant to last you through many days and outfit change, French manicures and gel nail polish are made for each other. With gel, you get a manicure that lasts weeks before chipping, unlike normal nail polish which can only give you days. Gel is the ideal medium for a classic French manicure so I’ve found the best gel polish products to give you the best French manicures around.

If you’re new to doing your own gel polish at home, see my guides to the Best LED and UV Nail Lamps and Best Gel Nail Polish Kits for more information about doing your own gel nails. For other gel nail products, read my articles on the Best Gel Polish Remover Products, Best No Wipe Gel Top Coats, and Best Gel Nail Polish Brands of 2018.

The how.

French manicures are one of those looks that seem like you could only get at a salon, but these days you can find all manner of gadgets and tricks to give yourself that perfect curve. If you don’t have steady hands, there’s everything from curved sticker guides to reusable metal forms to scallop shaped brushes. It may take a few tries to figure out which method works for you, but take it from someone who does nail art despite being as clumsy as a baby giraffe–with practice, you can do it.

Below I’m only including colors for a classic manicure, but let your creativity run wild. Do glitter-tipped French manicures, bright colors, or (my favorite) the matte French manicure.

But if you’re looking for the classic, these are the colors you want.

1. Simple Sheer by Gelish

white bottle of sheer gel nail polish for French manicures> Amazon

Simple Sheer is a translucent, healthy pink tone that works as perfect base for your French manicure. It’s called sheer and it’s very sheer. It’s a subtle tint at one layer and is buildable for a stronger shade. This is the base color that Gelish chose to be included in their French manicure set (paired with Sheek White) which they no longer offer sadly. The only reason to skip this one would be if you have discolored or stained nails as this may not be opaque enough to give you the color you want.

Price: $13.25

Buy Simple Sheer by Gelish here.

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2. Cream Puff by CND Shellac

White bottle of shellac polish for gel polish french manicures> Amazon

Cream Puff is a good middle shade among white nail polishes. It’s on the warmer, more natural side of white as opposed to a cooler, stark white. That said, it is a bright, true white that will stand out. Cream Puff is a good choice if you’re looking for a clean French manicure that pops or if you plan on incorporating nail art. If you’re looking for a more subtle, natural shade, keep reading. While a quality LED nail lamp will cure CND Shellac, its particular formula will always perform best when cured under the calibrated CND LED Lamp.

Price: $15.95

Buy Cream Puff by CND Shellac here.

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3. Pink Ribbon by LeChat

Two nail polish bottles, one gel and one regular, of a sheer pink shade> LeChat

LeChat is a salon-grade, self-leveling brand that I’m a fan of partly because they tend to offer their gel lacquers in sets where you get the gel as well as a free bottle of regular nail polish in the same shade. Having matching polish means you can give yourself an emergency touch up if you have a chip and don’t have to time to remove and reapply, plus it gives you options for when you don’t feel like wearing gel. Pink Ribbon is more opaque than Simple Sheer but is still translucent. It’s almost a crelly formula with a creme look but too sheer to be a true creme. It’s a soft coral pink shade that brightens your nails while still looking very natural.

Price: $12.99

Buy Pink Ribbon by LeChat here.

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4. Snow Bunny by Gelish

Bottle of white gel nail polish for french manicures> Amazon

Snow Bunny is a sheer white that will give you the most natural white tips for your French manicure. This one isn’t as bright as Cream Puff and has a more beige look to it. There’s a distinction between a French manicure and an American manicure where French tips have a brighter, louder appearance. With a French manicure you can tell you’ve had a manicure. An American manicure is much more natural and could almost get away with fooling people that your bare nails just look that good. Snow Bunny is good for American manicures since it has a more subtle, eggshell tone rather than a bright white.

Price: $16.90

Buy Snow Bunny by Gelish here.

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5. Clearly Pink by CND Shellac

Pink bottle of gel nail polish for french manicure base> Amazon

This shade is a favorite for French manicures because of its rosy tone. It’s very sheer but imparts that healthy glow and shine you want out of French manicure. Clearly Pink is sheer enough that at two coats it’s still a very natural look. You won’t get full, opaque coverage with this one. You could say it’s a clear polish with a hint of pink, which is basically what you want for natural looking French manicure. Being CND Shellac, this one will last longest when cured with a CND LED Lamp.

Price: $15.95

Buy Clearly Pink by CND Shellac here.

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6. Only Natural by Kiara Sky

Two nail polish bottles, one gel and one regular, of pinky nude polish for french nails> Amazon

Known for their awesome dip powders, Kiara Sky also has a nice line of gel and regular polishes. This polish comes in a pair of gel lacquer and matching regular polish which is a huge plus. Only Natural is a sheer nude that’s slightly darker than some of the other shades we’ve looked at. There’s a light tan hue in there blended with a mild pink. While quite sheer this polish is very buildable so you can get more complete coverage with a second or third layer.

Price: $14

Buy Only Natural by Kiara Sky here.

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7. Sensationail French Manicure Gel Polish Starter Kit

All included french gel nails kit with lamp, files, gel, and accessories> Sensationail

If you don’t already have a gel nail set up, Sensationail has a French manicure kit that includes an LED nail lamp, gel primer, gel cleanser, top and base coat, sheer pink gel lacquer, cleansing wipes, nail buffer, orange stick, and French tip stickers. It comes with an instruction sheet that walks you through how to get your French manicure that will last you over a week. While I wouldn’t classify this as high-end quality, if you’re on a budget, getting everything you need for under $40 is a great deal. Babydoll Pink, the included gel, has a very fresh, light pink tone that leans more toward the traditional French manicure look rather than the more subtle natural shades. The only downside is the white tip stickers are finicky and not the best. Sensationail has a kit that includes a white polish as a bonus, but for the price, it’s more cost-effective to just buy a separate white gel polish.

Price: $33.79

Buy the Sensationail French Manicure Gel Polish Starter Kit here.

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8. Negligee by CND Shellac

white shellac nail polish bottle for gel polish french manicure> Amazon

For something a little out of the ordinary, Negligee offers a neutral French manicure base with a twist. This shellac polish is a translucent pinky nude with a subtle iridescent finish. It’s sheer and light enough to be worn in an office, but it has the right amount of a shimmer in the light to make a statement. With all the shimmer and glitter that’s in this Spring, try bringing a little of it into your classic French manicure. It’s CND Shellac so you know it’s salon-quality and can get three weeks of wear if you’re using the CND LED Lamp.

Price: $15.95

Buy Negligee by CND Shellac here.

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9. Clear White by Elite99

Bottle of white gel nail polish with bright white swatch> Amazon

When you want white, like really white, pick up Clear White by Elite99. At about half the price of the other polishes on this list, what could it hurt? In contrast to the other whites on this list that have a more natural warmth to them, French White has cooler, blueish cast to it that really pops against the warmer nude base colors. This is as white as it gets so if you’re looking for bold tips, give this one a go.

Price: $6.80

Buy Clear White by Elite99 here.

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10. Studio White by CND Shellac

gel french manicure, french gel nails, french manicure gel nails, gel polish french manicure> Amazon

Studio White is an ivory gel polish for a much more natural look. It’s a very opaque polish and you can almost get full coverage in one coat. The creamy off-white if a great middle ground between subtle and a brighter, more traditional French manicure. Plus it’s Shellac so it’s long-lasting and easy to apply.

Price: $15.95

Buy Studio White by CND Shellac here.

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Heavy, Inc. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to Amazon. Our product recommendations are guided solely by our editors. We have no relationship with manufacturers.

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