Afterpay is here! Shop now, pay later in 4 easy installments

French vs American Manicure: What’s the Difference?

March 02 2022 – Nadia Stamp

American manicure with a metallic finish
American manicure with a metallic finish

In our past series of blog posts on the classic French manicure, we’ve covered a tutorial on how to do your very own salon style French nails at home with our DIPD French Starter Kit; and a selection of fresh, trending ways in which to jazz up your traditional French nails for the holiday season.

As classic and recognisable as the French manicure is, sometimes the look may feel a little too popular to the point it comes off as basic; or you still want to sport a clean, classic look, but one that stands out less and feels more polished, and matches all of your outfits more easily. 

This is where the American manicure comes in. While the French manicure dates back to as far as the 1930s, it’s hard to trace the origins of the American manicure. But over the last three years, it’s surged in popularity as the newest chic nail trend for a more natural, polished look to your fingertips. It’s also the look most commonly sported by the ladies on the Victoria’s Secret runway.

So what is an American manicure, and can you do it yourself? Let’s get right into the nitty-gritties of it…

American Manicure Basics

Though their methods of application are more or less the same, the two manicures differ in their colour, shape, and overall look - all the key fundamentals you need to create an unforgettable nail. Let’s break them down.

Colour: The key difference between the French and American nails is the colours they use to achieve their signature look. While the French nails use stark white tips and a clear or pink base, the American manicure goes for a more off-white tip with nude tones for the base. The nail is then painted over with a light or skin coloured tone to seal in the tips, though we can achieve the same result with dip powder nails using similar tones.

Shape: Since the tip of the French manicure is its most standout feature, the shape can help enhance it more, usually a striking square shape and with longer, bolder tips. With American manicures, because of its more natural look the tips need to look more natural too, and are usually rounded and more blended. This is also an ideal choice if you prefer your nail tips to be shorter.

Overall Look: The end result you get with an American manicure is a more natural, subtle look that is perfect for daily wear and professional settings thanks to its more lowkey appearance. Though you can still take these nails to formal events, weddings and parties; they’re very versatile when it comes to jazzing them up with nail art and add-ons.

American manicure with dip powder nails

The American Edge

I know, I know, here in the land down under we tend to turn our noses up at anything with an ‘American’ tag… but trust me when I say they know what they’re doing with this one. There’s a reason more and more salons are opting for the American manicure as their recommended look, and it’s all to do with their versatility:

The biggest advantage is that the American manicure is perfect for short nail tips. Some ladies don’t like keeping their nails too long for functionality reasons but still want an effortlessly glam look for everyday. Shorter, more rounded tips are the essence of an American manicure, because it’s all about subtlety.

Maintaining that subtlety means it’s recommended not to go over the top with embellishments to your nails, just like the French manicure. But one creative idea is to replace the sealing beige coat with a more metallic variation of the same shade, to add a little shimmer and modernity to the look.

American manicure with a metallic finish

Can I Do an American Manicure with Dip Powder Nails?

The answer is absolutely yes! As mentioned previously, the French and American manicure differ in the colours used, shape and overall look, but their methods of application are essentially the same. So let’s revisit our DIPD French Nails tutorial, where we follow the same steps and tools used, but make a few subtle (get it?) changes:

  • Instead of the bolder colours that come with the standard French starter kit, we switch to more muted options, such as our dip powder shades Peaches and Cream or Countess for the nail base and Champagne for the tip.
  • For a more blended or shimmery look, you can use an extra coat of clear base dip powder as your last layer before moving to the activator step.

If you’ve already purchased the DIPD French Starter Kit, you can use all the same tools and resin coats included in the kit, and grab the colours you need separately.

Ready to try something new and give your nails a fresh but familiar look for the summer? If you’ve got any happy snaps of your latest American manicure experiments, be sure to share them with us on social media!


Nadia xoxo