beauty trends

The Guide to Finding Your Perfect Nail Shape

With so many types of nails you could switch it up every week.
March 03, 2023
Nail Shapes

If you’re like us and you love endlessly scrolling through nail art content on Instagram and TikTok, then you know that the possibilities are endless when it comes to nail designs. Perhaps you’ve also noticed how many different nail shapes there are and what a difference the right nail shape can make for a manicure. 

Whether you’re all about experimenting with unique designs or you prefer a minimalist mani, understanding the differences between the most common nail types is quite helpful when deciding which shape is right for you. Ahead, we’re sharing a comprehensive guide outlining eleven different nail types so you can pick the right shape next time you get your nails done.

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What to Consider Before Choosing a Nail Shape

Just like when you undergo a hair transformation or try out a new makeup look, there are some things to consider before selecting a nail shape. 

Your Natural Nail Shape

Take a look at the shape of your natural nails. Are your nail beds super tiny? Do you have wide nails? If you have tiny nail beds, a longer nail shape may not be the best idea because you’re more likely to experience breakage. If you have wide nail beds, a slimming nail shape, like oval or almond may be hard to grow on your own but is a sound choice for nail extensions because the longer form will elongate your hands.

Natural Nails vs. Extensions and Tips

If you like a longer nail shape but have a hard time growing your natural nails, using nail tips or extensions is a great way to achieve the look. If you prefer short, natural nails, then the number of choices you have for your nail shape is going to be more limited.

Your Lifestyle

If you have an active lifestyle or you’re constantly using your hands for things like working out, doing dishes, cooking, typing and more, a nail shape that requires long nails may not be the best choice. Remember that longer nails are more prone to breaking off than shorter nails and if you damage the nail bed, that can have serious implications. 


The Occasion

If you’re selecting a certain nail type for a specific occasion, consider what the occasion entails. For example, if you are traveling and going on adventures, you’ll likely want to choose a more low-maintenance nail shape — maybe even a shorter style, like round, squoval, short stilettos or rounded-square. If you’re celebrating a birthday, anniversary or something even bigger, like a wedding, a longer nail shape may be the better choice to elevate your look (but consider the activities you’ll be doing on your honeymoon if you’re going immediately following wedding).

11 Nail Shapes You’ll Want to Get Your Hands On (and in)

Nails come in all shapes and sizes, probably more than you would expect. Here are 11 nail types to consider for your next manicure.

1. Round Nails

A classic nail shape, round nails are — as you may have guessed — rounded at the tip. A round nail shape is perfect for shorter nails and minimalist nail designs that don’t require a ton of space. 

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2. Oval Nails

Oval-shaped nails are similar to round nails, but they have a steeper curve. This shape works beautifully with medium and long nails, and especially for those with narrow nail beds. An oval-shaped nail can also elongate your hand, especially when paired with neutral or nude nail polish.

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3. Almond Nails

At first glance, you may think that almond-shaped nails look strikingly similar to oval nails. But when you look closer, you can see that almond nails start wider at the base of your nail and get narrower towards the tip while still being rounded. This is another nail shape that pairs great with longer nails. Like oval, it helps to elongate your hands and it looks gorgeous with trendy nail art, like colored French tips.
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4. Square Nails

If you’re stuck on a nail shape, opting for square-shaped nails is always a safe choice because they’re flattering for all nail lengths. Square-shaped nails are filed straight across at the tip for a precise, uniform look. 

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5. Coffin Nails

Coffin nails — sometimes referred to as ballerina nails — are somewhat similar to almond nails as they curve inward toward the tips. However, this shape is filed straight across instead of featuring a rounded tip. Think of it as a cross between almond and square-shaped nails, except this shape is pretty much always worn long length, typically with acrylic nails or gel extensions.

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6. Stiletto Nails

If you like an edgy, statement manicure, the stiletto nail is for you. This shape curves into a sharp point at the tip, resembling cat claws in the best way possible. While you may think a stiletto nail shape is best for longer-length nails, the 2023 Pinterest Predicts report shared that short stiletto nails are on the rise this year.

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7. Squoval Nails

Squoval-shaped nails are the marriage between oval and square nail shapes. Simply put, it’s a  square-shaped nail with rounded edges instead of sharp corners. It’s a great option if you work with your hands and it looks good on all nail lengths. 

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8. Rounded Square Nails

Rounded square is a softer version of square-shaped nails with rounded corners. If you like a square shape but don’t feel the same about the pointed edges, this one is a perfect compromise, though it works best for shorter nails. If you have longer square nails but you want rounded corners, opt for the aforementioned squoval shape.

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9. Lipstick Nails

Lipstick nails have an asymmetrical shape like a pointed lipstick bullet. It’s definitely a trendier, statement-making nail look but we’re seeing it a lot more on social media. Lipstick-shaped nails work best with a longer nail length.

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10. Duck Nails

As the name suggests, duck nails have a wide shape like a duck’s bill. This was a popular choice in the early aughts, but since it’s not the most practical choice, it’s not super common today. If you’re looking to serve up some ‘00s nostalgia with your manicure, give it a try. Due to its flared shape, this style works best for medium and longer length nails. 

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11. Tapered Square Nails

A tapered square shape is the intermingling of a square and coffin nail shape. It has a slightly wider base and an inward pull at the tip so it’s not as uniform as square-shaped nails, but not as pinched in as coffin-shaped nails. If you find a square shape too clunky, but a coffin shape too narrow at the tips, tapered square is your perfect shape. Plus, it looks good on all nail lengths, especially long nails.

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Next: What Are Builder Gel Nails?

Additional Story Reporting: Alyssa Kaplan, Photographer: Chaunte Vaughn, Art Director: Hannah Packer, Creative Producer: Becca Solovay, Visual Designer: Sarah Duvivier, Content Director: Shalwah Evans, Prop Stylist: Catherine Pearson, Prop Assistant: Lindsay Jones

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