Sometimes you’ll have a nail client come in wanting natural-looking acrylic nails—which seems like a conundrum because acrylic nails can be long and who even has natural nails that long? But that’s not the point.
The trick to natural-looking nails is in the thickness, the shape, and the color. She’s not looking for a bulky nail with a bold color that makes it look like she just spent hours in the salon. This look’s goal is to come off as effortless—even if it takes more effort and attention to detail.
Step 1: The Foundation Is Key
Properly filing, buffing, and applying the dehydrator and primer will make the plastic tip glue on for good and the acrylic powder adhere. Buffing each nail and removing the nail’s oil should not be skipped, because this provides some texture on the nail for the acrylic to grip on to. Once you’ve got that out of the way, it is time to apply your layer of acrylic.
Follow the steps you’d take in applying acrylic as usual. The difference is how you file them with an electric file after the acrylic is dried. If your client has “natural” on her mind, it is likely she doesn’t want a thick, bulky acrylic on top of her nail. They want the fake nail to flow seamlessly with how the natural nails would. Look at the nails from the side view and try to file them, so there is not a lump sticking out from her cuticle at the base of the nail.
Step 2: Shaping
If your client is asking for a natural-looking set of acrylic nails, some shapes may easily blow their cover. You can’t really deny that stiletto nails or long coffin nails are fake—so recommend some other shapes that follow the natural direction nails naturally grow.
This style is a great option for clients who want their nails long but also to look natural and feminine. Resembling the shape of an almond, this style gradually thins as it extends from the end of the nail and is softly and subtly rounded off at the tip.
A great option for a classic look for either long acrylics or short acrylics, the style is pretty durable, reliable, and timeless. If your client prefers a long nail, it is best to file the square so that it tapers ever so slightly for a more natural-looking look as opposed to fanning out with the length.
If your client wants to opt for short square nails, you can file a sharp square edge with no tapering necessary. They will look well maintained and polished, with on-lookers none the wiser.
Best for shorter acrylic extensions, the oval nail is a simple, natural look ideal for those who often work with their hands or just prefer shorter nails. They curve slightly, extending from the fingertip while maintaining their short length and mimicking the natural angle of the fingertip.
This shape is a hybrid between the square and oval. It’s a slightly more natural alternative to the hard-angled square for a client who likes a flat edge but isn’t so crazy about the sharp corners. The nail should be filed straight across with the corners subtly rounded.
Step 3: Polish
When painting on their polish, if your client opts for gel, this can be a make or break moment. Sometimes nail techs will layer on 3-4 coats of gel to get a solid color, but this adds thickness to the nail, which is going to be a dead giveaway that her nails are fake.
When painting with gel polish for a natural look, pay close attention to the application. If you apply the polish evenly and with care—you shouldn’t have to go back in for a third coat. You’ll also want to be sure your salon is using a quality pigmented gel to successfully achieve a natural look with gel polish.
Choose Natural Colors
If natural-looking nails are what your client seeks—neutral-colored polishes will be her best friend. Light colors will mimic that natural nail color as closely as possible while just kicking it up a notch for a *polished* look.
Skin Tone Shades: Depending on the color of your client’s skin tone, you can recommend pale whites to light tans to darker browns. Recommend a color that is either one step down or one step up in color tone when comparing it to her skin tone for a natural look.
Light Pink: This is a great go-to for any client, no matter their skin tone, who wants a subtle, natural look. It is feminine and ladylike while also being super pretty.
French: The classic French tip manicure is so popular because it mimics the way your nails actually look. If you’re like us, you probably haven’t seen your nails without polish on them in a while, but if you can remember… as the nails grow to extend off the fingertip, they have a naturally white tip. The difference is, the natural nail is translucent, while a French mani will be opaque.
Ombre: The ombre nail polish look is another option when your client wants to have a natural polish style but maybe isn’t too crazy about the hard-edged strip often associated with the French manicure. The ombre polish can still use a light pink/nude with a white tip, but instead of painting on the tip, either an airbrush or a sponge is used for a blended effect having a gradual transition from the pink base to the white tip.
How To Do Ombre Acrylics
- Step one: Pick up a small bead of white acrylic and place it just before the tip of the nail. Blend the bead back towards the cuticle, then blend towards the free edge. Use the most substantial part of the brush to pat the acrylic down, so it lays flat.
- Step two: Pick up another bead of white acrylic and place it a little bit higher than the last bead. Again, blend that bead back towards the cuticle, then blend towards the free edge. Follow the same process in the first step.
- Step three: Make sure you’ve blended enough of the white on the nail. Be sure it blends close to the cuticle but gradually becomes more white towards the tip. You won’t be able to add more white after the pink is applied in the fourth step.
- Step four: Pick up a small bead of the pink acrylic and place it at the cuticle area, blending it up towards the free edge. Adding a thin layer of clear acrylic to the ombre will seal it and preventing it from getting removed at the time of filing.
Once your work is done as the nail tech, the ball is in your client’s court to properly maintain them. It doesn’t matter how much attention to detail you put into seeing her walk out of the salon with natural nails. If she doesn't care for them properly, they aren’t going to keep looking natural.
Advise your client on the importance of wearing gloves when applying self-tanner or hair dye since it can easily seep underneath the acrylic and permanently stain their precious set. Be sure they know they will have to come back bi-weekly for a fill. As her nails grow, there will be a gap between the cuticle and the acrylic, and you will be able to see they are fake.
When you have a client who wants natural-looking acrylic nails, your first step should be to ask for an inspiration picture. Does she have a picture from Pinterest or Instagram she saw so that you both can be on the same page for what exactly she means by natural? Let her know what you recommend for a natural look so you both are in agreement and your client will be happy with the outcome.