A Complete Guide to Retro Nail Polish Styles

The perfect finishing touch to your retro look!

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Photo of pink and red nail polishes on a marble background

A great manicure can add the perfect finishing touch to your look. Whether you prefer something subtle and seamless or loud and flashy, nail art and nail colors provide the perfect outlet for showcasing your personality.

For fans of retro and vintage-inspired clothing, the next step is retro-inspired beauty.

{RELATED POST: The 50 Hottest Fall Nail Trends This Year}

While retro hairstyles often require a lot more work than we’re used to today (victory rolls weren’t easy!), retro nail designs and nail aesthetics are beautiful and easy-to-do–you can achieve the perfect vintage nail art at home! Here’s how:

Classic Half-Moon Nails

Half-moon nails date all the way back to the ’20s and ’30s. They’re both elegant and glamorous, and they still look a bit unexpected today.

The style makes your nails look longer and creates a more rounded shape. But, it’s also easy to do on short nails. (See our list of the best short nails ideas for more on this.) So if you don’t have the patience to grow yours out (guilty) or don’t like wearing fake nails, fear not! The perfect retro nail look is still attainable.

Traditional half-moon nails involve painting the “moon” of your nail a different color from the rest of it. You can mix and match with whatever colors, textures, and hues you like — try a light color on the bottom with a neon on top, or matte finish paired underneath something glossy.

Cobalt Half Moon Nails w/ Madam Glam & Canni Gels

You can get this look a variety of ways. If you have a steady hand, you may not even need to use nail tape at all. The video above paints the half-moon on with a nail art brush.

Other tutorials involve using tape or even paper reinforcements to get that circular shape. Some involve painting a full layer underneath and then leaving the half-moon blank as you fill in the rest of the nail. Whichever way you choose to get there, the result is something cute and timeless.

Double Half Moon Nails

Nail Taping Tips & Tricks: How to Create Half Moon Nails

If one half-moon isn’t enough for you, you can try the super fashionable double half-moon look. To achieve this, you paint both the bottom moon and the tip of your nail a different color than the center. It’s like a French manicure, but more stylized.

This style is a little bit edgier and more eye-catching than the single half-moon, but it’s just as gorgeous. The nude-and-black combo seen above is classy and professional, but you could have just a nice a look with contrasting colors or metallics.

To make the look even funkier, you can even try the tutorial above with three different colors or shades.

A Mix of Moon Shapes

100 Years of Nails | Allure

Of course, half-moon nails aren’t the only vintage nail look. You can also test out different shapes and combinations of tips and moons as they do in this incredible video by Allure.

The best retro looks aren’t over the top — they pay tribute to the styles of bygone days without looking like costumes. Retro nails add a flair of authenticity and detail.

The Easy Way: Retro-Inspired Colors & Finishes

Finally, if shapes and patterns aren’t your forte, play with colors and finishes, instead.

Classic bright red is a staple of 1950s fashion. Paired with a red lip and cat-eye, this is about as classically vintage as it gets.

Related reading: 17 Beautiful Red Nail Ideas You Can Rock Year-Round

But, the 1960s were known for a variety of different hues and finishes, my favorite of which is pearl.

Pearlized nail polish has an almost metallic look to it, but it sparkles like a subtle glitter. The best of both worlds, it’s feminine and funky without being as difficult to take off as a true glitter, or as bold as a metallic color.

Look up which colors were popular in the era you’re trying to recreate, then pick your favorite. It will add an extra kick to your ensemble and finish off the look.

Are you into nail art? Or just solid colors? Let us know in the comments!

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