When describing my ideal nail polish colour, there are certain adjectives I use on repeat. “Sheer,” “pearlescent,” and “chrome” are the typical trifecta, but my new favourite descriptor hits the sweet spot between a transparent gloss and opaque, veering towards a matte finish. In one word: “milky.”
I’m not alone. Google trends show an influx in search around “milky manicures” and “milky nail polish colours.” On TikTok, videos hashtagged #milkywhitenails have 118.9 million views. Recently, while conducting very scientific Pinterest research for my next salon appointment, I found an interpretation of the trending milky nail design with an added soft French tip, which artists are calling a “milky French” manicure — and I had to try it.
What’s a “milky” manicure?
A milky manicure is a little bit like the lip gloss trend or the glazed doughnut design, but instead of a chrome overlay, it’s a full-coverage gloss. If you’re talking about the perfect milky white specifically, the shade reads like a cloudy sky or a glass of whole milk (more opaque than nonfat milk but not matte like heavy whipping cream, if we’re keeping the dairy comparisons going). A milky pink has a base tone of light pink with a white cream undertone that, when painted on the nail, looks like a glossy white with a whisper of soft pink.
According to Rachel Apfel Glass, founder of Glosslab, the milky manicure is a hot request across the brand’s New York City salons. “Our clients love the simplicity of it and the fact that it goes with every outfit,” Apfel Glass says.
How do you get a “milky” manicure?
Any milky base tone is pretty on its own (we’ll get to the best polish recommendations in a bit), but an elevated take on the trend is the milky French manicure. The look could easily be confused with the American manicure, which blends the white tip softly into the nude base of the nail for a more seamless look than the traditional French (with its stark white tip). The milky French is similar in that it diffuses the look into a soft white.
For my attempt at a milky French manicure, I visited Glosslab’s NoHo location. I pulled two colours off the wall: a milky pink (CND Romantique) for the base and a white (CND Studio White) for the tip. I went with CND gel polish so that the manicure would last a good two weeks. If you’re selecting shades from a salon’s offerings, try to find a pink-leaning white — and if you’re unsure of the colour’s base tone, consult with your nail artist and explain that you’re looking for a milky white base that’s not sheer or translucent.
The process involved shaping (I went with round tips) and two coats of Romantique, then Studio White was painted with a thin striping brush to give the effect of another trend: the micro French. “We are getting a lot of requests for the micro French,” says Apfel Glass, “which is a thin and more subtle line.” When my nails are short, I prefer a micro French to the traditional because it’s more subtle. Paired with the full-coverage pink base, this interpretation is a micro milky French.
What’s a good milky nail polish?
After my most recent milky French manicure, I saved both the CND Romantique and Studio White for future applications because I love the way they read on my complexion. Romantique, the milky pink base tone, is actually one of the most popular shades at Glosslab. (We drained the last dregs of a bottle on this manicure.)
If you’re looking for a non-gel polish, you can’t go wrong with OPI Funny Bunny, £14.90. No matter which brand or shade you choose, if you can still see your nail bed underneath after the first coat, go ahead and add a second and third layer to really get that milky coverage.
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