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The Nail Shapes Dictionary: All the Need-to-Know Styles, from "Squoval" to "Coffin"

What's your signature shape?

Design by Monica Park

While manicures are meant to be a relaxing half hour or so, they can be fraught with decisions that are just too overwhelming to make in a massage arm chair. Now that we've mastered the art of finding the right nude tones and nail magic tricks, the next salon challenge you'll face is picking a shape.

To help us nail which one is right for you (get it?), we consulted manicure expert Elissa Schell from Paintbox in Soho for a primer on each shape—from how to distinguish between styles to how to select the right angles for your nails—so you can get back to enjoying that hand massage.


Design by Monica Park

Basically, this is a perfect square with no soft edges. Sure, with a square shape you *do* run the risk of your hands looking stubby, but it's great for those with short nails who aren't into a round shape.

Squoval/Soft Square:

Design by Monica Park

This shape is just like the square, but the edges are a lot softer. It's a good compromise between square and oval (obviously), and it's easy to maintain on shorter nails.


Design by Monica Park

The round shape is really popular at Paintbox, and Schell recommends round nails for clients who tend to think of think of their fingers as short or chubby. Round and almond shapes elongate and makes hands look more slender.


Design by Monica Park

Almond and oval nails are a very common pick for celebrities. With almond, the nail is slender on the sides and wide on the base, coming to a peak—reminiscent of an actual almond.


Design by Monica Park

Oval is very similar to the shape of the almond, but the tip is soft and much more blunt. Sorry, nail biters—oval and almond shapes only work with longer nails.


Design by Monica Park

A big misconception is that almond is stiletto, but the stiletto shape has a much more drastic point. Plus, the stiletto is not possible on natural nails because they don't have enough strength to hold the shape, meaning that the nail might very well break off in a couple of hours. If you want this look, opt for nail enhancements.


Design by Monica Park

This shape is similar to stiletto, but with a squared off tip (that makes it look like a coffin, or in a slightly less macabre description—a ballerina slipper). This is a favorite of Kylie Jenner, and is a cool shape if you want to try something different. You can pull the coffin look off with a natural nail, but it will hold up a lot better with false nails.

For those of you with barely-there nails:

Design by Monica Park

1. Essie Gel Couture, $12 BUY IT: ulta.com | 2. Deborah Lippmann Cuticle Oil, $20 BUY IT: deborahlippmann.com | 3. Rejuvenate Nail Treatment Bag, $80

BUY IT: arianna-skincare.com.

If your nails have been bitten down to nubs or cut super short, some of these shapes won't work, but that doesn't mean that your manicure can't look fab. Ask your nail technician to follow the shape of your nail–does it look more round or more square at the moment? And if you are looking to grow out your nails (New Year's resolutions, anyone?) here are Schell's top tips:

Put on cuticle oil every night.

When nails get moisture, they can grow and stay strong. Schell likes Hydrating Cuticle Treatment by Deborah Lippman. Or, for a full on nail care kit, try Arianna's nail kit with cuticle oil, a miraculous nail buffer that creates lasting shine, and a smoothing mineral hand treatment.

Keep up with your manicures.

If you tell your manicurist that you are aiming to have almond or oval nails, she will start rounding them out so that your nails can grow into the shape.

Get down with gel.

Gel manicures help nails grow out because they provide reinforcement that prevents nails from breaking as easily. If you're going to get gel, just make sure to never peel it off yourself, and get the color replaced every two weeks. MC Tip: If you want to cut down spending on gel manis, invest in a cheaper, easier to remove at-home gel solution like Essie's Gel Couture polishes.

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