There are certain things about summer we never want to end. Days at the beach, anyone? Though some will have to wait for the weather to warm up again next year, there’s one summer favorite you don’t have to let go of: Jelly nails. The hottest nail trend can easily be transitioned to the fall.
“Jelly nails are nostalgic and were inspired by jelly sandals from the 90’s, which were a staple for kids that grew up in that decade,” says Lilly Rojas, co-founder of New York City’s first indoor/outdoor nail salon, Lili and Cata. “Jelly nails remain in style because they simply spark joy! They remind us of those playful, stress-free days as a child. Plus, anything 90’s is back with a bang! The translucent, glass-like nail trend is easy to create and it’s a great base for nail art.”
Essentially glass skin for your nails, jelly nails earned their moniker for their transparency. The color is see-through, with a translucent effect. “This trend is making a comeback right now during a time of the ‘illusion of effortless,’” says Steph Stone, Essie celebrity manicurist, who has painted the tips of Miley Cyrus, Hailey Bieber and Billie Eilish, to name a few. “Jelly nails look a little more casual than full coverage opaque nail polish. Even though it has a comparable amount of steps to a regular manicure, it really sends the message of ‘oh this old thing? I just threw it on.’ As far as a nail look is concerned, it actually is a more simple look to achieve by comparison to other forms of art! It is something everyone can try at home.”
Another reason jelly nails are still going strong is you don’t need perfect tips to get the look. “They look good on any nail shape, so don’t think you need extensions to try the trend,” Rojas says. Transitioning jelly nails from summer to fall is equally easy. “Jelly nails can be done with any color, so for fall we’ll see deeper hues,” Rojas adds. “Think anything that gives you a cozy sweater weather feel: browns, forest green, burnt orange, midnight blue and dark reds. Neutrals like creams, beiges, sheer or milky whites and gray tones will also be trending for fall.” The JINsoon Fall Pottery Collection has plenty of fall-ready hues, like Green Clay, a sultry olive, or Earth Clay, the perfect wear-with-anything neutral. Get in on the brown trend with OPI’s Brown to Earth.
However, there’s no need to stick to traditional autumnal hues, since these days it’s all about mixing it up. “What we’re really seeing happen in beauty right now is that anything goes,” Stone says. “You can play, be more adventurous and don’t need to stick with safe seasonal colors. People are really starting to gravitate towards what resonates with them rather than what’s ‘on trend’ right now. Essie’s Fall Off The Grid collection even has a bright turquoise called “Transcend the Trend” for those who don’t want to go for more subdued colors this season!”
Though the look is nail art in itself, you can still wear designs with jelly nails. “Fall variations of jelly nails will include fun tortoiseshell designs and animal prints,” Rojas says. “We’ll also continue to see jelly nails in deeper hues mixed with sparkles or chrome designs.”
If you really want to take the look up a notch, try a twofer trend: “We’re going to start seeing a hybrid of the jelly and glazed donut,” Stone says. “Should we call it the jelly glazed donut? Back in the day we would call this a ‘jelly sandwich,’ which you can achieve by painting one coat of sheer, one layer of chrome or glitter, and then another layer of jelly, giving it sort of a milky chrome effect.”
Since jelly nails are easy, a DIY mani is just a few steps away. “Jelly nails are accomplished by mixing an opaque nail polish with a sheer base coat to create a more translucent version of your color,” Stone says. “You can do this on a piece of foil or in a tiny glass cup to mix. You will choose your mixing ratio based on how opaque your color is and how sheer you want it to become but I generally do a mixture of three to five drops of clear to one drop of color. The most important thing about accomplishing jelly nails with regular polish is making sure you choose a pretty runny base coat to mix your polish with. For mixing I love Essie Here to Stay base coat. If you use a fast dry top coat to mix your polish it will dry too fast while painting it and likely chip earlier than you’d like.” Follow Stone’s steps for a DIY jelly nails mani:
Step 1: On a piece of foil mix three to five drops of clear with one drop of color. Start there and adjust accordingly until the polish is at a sheerness you like.
Step 2: Paint on your nails as usual. Apply a thin first coat to avoid goopiness and spillage into the cuticle. You can be slightly more generous with product on your second coat to ensure a smooth and glossy appearance.
Step 3: Apply a top coat to give that manicure extra shine and to prevent chipping.
If mixing feels a little intimidating—or you just want to save that big step—you can cheat by opting for a sheer polish that has just the right tint to nab jelly nails. True to its name, Dior Nail Glow delivers a French manicure-esque effect in a single application, leaving nails subtle yet luminous. Orly has shades that were designed with the jelly nails trend in mind, like Ray of Sunshine, a brilliant saffron; Poolside, a pop of hot pink; and Make Waves, a bright royal blue. When you want just a wash of color, Morgan Taylor’s Simple Sheer has major your nails but better vibes.
Ultimately, it’s all about choosing the hue that works for you. “The jelly nail trend—like most nail trends—is fun so don’t be shy with it!” Rojas says. “You should have fun with the colors and nail art you choose because it shows off your personality.”