Oval Nails 101: How To Master The Shape + Nail Care Tips
Growing out your natural nails and keeping them long is no easy task. This takes time, patience, and some dedicated nail-care sessions. One of the perks that makes all of this effort worth it: the ability to play around with the different nail shapes.
If you're on the path to longer tips, you may want to consider opting for an oval nail. This is a classic shape that's safe for fragile nails, easy to achieve, and arguably one of the better canvas shapes for nail art.
What are the different nail shapes?
There are 7 common nail shapes to choose from, all of which give a different visual aesthetic.
Within this list, there are a few categories that distinguish which shapes are best for which kind of nail length and look.
First, we have classic shapes like square and round. Classic shapes are a universal fit regardless of nail length. These two are perfect for someone looking to start growing out their tips, even if they're just past the nail bed.
Next, we have slightly more complex shapes like squoval (square with round edges), almond, and the shape we're breaking down today, oval. These take a bit more filing work but can be achieved fairly easily on medium-length nails.
Finally, we have standout shapes like stiletto and coffin. These shapes require more length and attention to detail but offer a unique and memorable aesthetic look.
What is the oval nail shape?
Oval nails look like, well, an oval. They have a rounded shape but more length on the sides than classic round nails. This shape can technically be achieved on shorter nails, but it will be a bit more difficult to do evenly.
If you want a rounded tip but don't have the length to support an oval shape, consider starting with a round nail first and growing your way into an oval.
There are plenty of perks to opting for oval tips. For one, like rounded nails, this shape helps protect from breakage. Harsh corners and sharp edges can get caught on clothing and break easily if you're using your hands often. Rounded, soft edges, however, tend to run into fewer casualties.
For nail art lovers, oval could be your next favorite. "Oval won't cut off the shape and can display your art better," celebrity nail artist Elle Gerstein tells mbg. So if you're looking to nail down a colorful French tip or try your hand at more intricate designs, oval is a perfect fit.
How to achieve oval nails:
Prep the nail.
Nail prep is essential to achieving a look that lasts. You'll want to start by cleaning your tips. Obviously, this will remove any old polish, but it will also get rid of dirt or buildup on the nail that may prevent a smooth manicure.
Just take some nail polish remover on a cotton ball or cotton pad and rub over each nail. Be mindful of any cuts you may have around your cuticles, as the remover will make those tiny wounds sting.
Trim the nail.
As we said earlier, oval nails do call for a bit more length than other classic shapes like round and square. For this reason, keep your trimming to a minimum. You may not need to trim every nail, especially if you're working toward gaining length.
However, any cracked or peeling nail tips should be trimmed off. If you want the nails to be even in length, trimming may be essential as well. Plus, going in with nail clippers before filing makes it that much easier down the line.
Grab your file.
When you file for an oval shape, you will be thinning out the sides a bit, but with caution. "File your nail at a diagonal in an egg-like shape, really going in on the sides," nail expert and founder of nontoxic nail company sundays Amy Ling explains.
This doesn't mean hasty or aggressive filing, though. "Make sure that you're filing toward one direction, instead of using the back-and-forth motion," Ling says.
This will help preserve the strength of your nail.
If your nails are fragile, Gerstein explains, you may want to consider filing from underneath the nail, rather than on the edges, to achieve this shape. This will help preserve the strength and avoid unnecessary breakage.
Nail care 101:
Keep a file with you.
If your nails are fragile, you may consider having a nail file on hand throughout the day. Toss a file in your purse, or keep it in your car to ensure you're not without next time you get a snag or tear. This way, you can gently file the snares away rather than manually tearing them off.
Don't pick or bite.
We know—this step is easier said than done. Picking at your nails will hurt them in the long run, especially when it becomes a habit. The same goes for your cuticles. In order to avoid picking, you can use an anti-bite polish and have cuticle oil at the ready.
When your cuticles begin to feel dry and peely, thus creating the urge to pick, layer on your favorite oil to nourish the dry area. Keeping this up and adding a hand cream to your daily routine will help prevent future drying as well.
Exfoliate your nails.
You may already have your face exfoliation routine dialed in, but what about your nails? Use an exfoliating serum like this one from Dr. Dana Nails or a simple scrub to flush away dead cells. This will help your nails feel smoother and ensure healthy growth.
Take your supplements.
Topical nare care is essential, but so is inside-out work. One place to look: collagen supplements. Research shows that collagen supplements can support healthy nail growth.*
Growing out your tips isn't easy, but the TLC it takes will be well worth it when you get to play around with fun shapes. If you're looking for an easy, sustainable, nail-art-friendly shape, choose oval. Be sure to keep up with healthy-nail habits to maintain your shape and encourage healthy growth. If you want to explore more fun ways to file your tips, check out this guide to the seven most popular nail shapes.
Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more. She previously interned for Almost 30, a top-rated health and wellness podcast. In her current role, Hannah reports on the latest beauty trends, holistic skincare approaches, must-have makeup products, and inclusivity in the beauty industry. She currently lives in New York City.