The K-wave is undeniable right now. The culture from South Korea is influencing everything from fashion and beauty to lifestyle habits, self-care regimens and musical tastes. Like any style-minded person, we want to stay ahead of the game by finding out exactly what K-pop worthy trends are coming our way.
We've tried the 10 step skincare routines. We've figured out why North America is obsessed with BTS (did you see them on the Grammy's red carpet? So cute). Now it's time to embrace the next beauty frontier Korea is taking over: nails, baby.
Top nail artists from Korea are pointing to a few key trends to follow in 2019. Some involve delicate, minimal details that are actually gorgeous. Some involve OTT texture. From multidimensional diamond shards to a new take on the 3D crystal nail, South Korea is bringing the drama along with more simplified, ultra-wearable looks.
We've dug deep into the IG accounts of Park Eunkyung from the popular nail art company Unistella, manicurists Yumi Shiriashi and the Ryu Sisters plus celebs including Lee Ho-Jung, Deejay Soda and Park Sora to see exactly which nail trends we NEED to try. Along the way, we also discovered a few duds that we'd never advise anyone in their right mind to put on their fingers.
Scroll on and decide if any of these options could work well IRL. We think that numbers 6-20 are definite keepers, and numbers 1-5 need to be set on fire, but opinions are always welcome in the comments. Let's get to it!
20 Rainbow Cuticles (Try)
Who wouldn't want rainbows coming out of their nail beds? It's like having a green thumb, but better. This style originated in South Korea from the salon of Park Eunkyung herself. It's one way to keep to 2019's 'minimal with a pop' aesthetic, because it utilises both healthy bare nails and light-bright stripes of colour.
This manicure is also both fun and practical. It's subtle enough to go with any outfit, and you can choose to use the colours that you wear most often if you want a matchy-matchy vibe. The only downside to this nail trend is how finicky it is to DIY. If you're good at painting on small details, go for it! Otherwise, find yourself a professional to lend a hand.
19 Tattoo Nails (Try)
The K-wave is bringing the tiny tattoo trend right onto our fingertips. It's not just about putting nail stickers on and calling them tattoos, it's about using appliques that were designed in the style of a classic tattoo aesthetic.
Think old-timey tattoo stylized birds, anchors, arrows, hearts, stars and anything else you could imagine being inked on a sailor's bicep. Thinking of getting a real tattoo yourself? Try it out on your fingers for a semi-permanent way to test your commitment to the look. Just be sure to do it on unpainted or neutral nails to pull off this particular trend.
18 Slip-On Tips (Try)
Love the feel of long nails but not the commitment of keeping them up? Just pop on some metal tips and call it a day. These are big in the fashion scene in Korea, worn by celebrities and stylish regular folks alike.
You can choose to outfit every finger with one of these, or just a few accent nails. Each tip is custom fit to you when you buy them online through vendors like Unistella Nail Jewelry (a favorite). The accent-nail option has been seen featured on the IG of stars like Lee Ho-Jung from South Korea's popular drama Scarlet Heart Ryeo.
17 Spell-It-Out Nails (Try)
What do you want your nail polish to say? You don't have to just hope it comes across as classy or edgy, you can actually write those words on your nails and be guaranteed that people are getting the message.
This style has been seen on street-stylish in a variety of ways. Some use vinyl letter stickers to adhere to their nails, and some paint the letters on using pre-cut stencils. If you want to DIY nails like these, don't feel limited to words that are five letters (aka five fingers) long. You can always fill up extra space with punctuation marks or a formerly mentioned nail tattoo.
16 Sheer Studded Nails (Try)
If you've learned anything from nail trends from Korea so far, we hope it's that you need to buy a good bottle of clear polish before 2019 is up. For this trend, the sheer base coat is meant to help the 3D metallic studs stand out even more.
Gluing diamonds to your nails doesn't have to look dated or over the top. Try this ultra wearable style if you want to put just a little bit of sparkle in your life. Stars are easy and trendy appliques, but feel free to stick anything small, glam and metallic to your fingertips this season.
15 Retro Cartoon Nails (Try)
Sugar. Spice. Everything nice. These were the ingredients chosen to create the perfect K-popstar worthy nails. Whoever your favourite old cartoon characters happen to be, they have probably made an appearance on a trendy influencer's nails this year - and we are obsessed.
One celeb rocking this style is DJ Deejay Soda, whose IG account shows her using cartoon-adorned fingertips to spin records at clubs and events. From Winnie the Pooh to the Peanuts franchise characters like Charlie Brown, tiny finger-topping characters are making their way west real fast. Try this adorable trend before it's gone!
14 Picasso Face Wire Nails (Try)
We have one word for this nail art: FASHION. Picasso-style wire face sculptures were a big part of last year's jewelry scene, according to StyleCaster. Top nail artists have moved the trend from our earlobes to our fingertips with this rad wire nail outline idea.
A quick visit to your local craft supply store makes this trend easy to DIY. Trace the outline of your nail with wire and cut it to size. Then don't worry about designing your own Picasso faces to fill it in, just find some templates on Pinterest (or use the photo right here) and trace them. A blob of nail glue later and tada - your own made-to-measure wire nails. Gorg.
13 Tie Dye Nails (Try)
When asked to predict 2019's biggest trends, nail artist Lauren Michelle Pires told Refinery 29, "We'll see a lot of textured colors, for example, different tones blended together, with physical, textured surfaces." Tie dye nails from nail artists like Park Eunkyung are already proving her right.
These nails are actually also easy to do yourself. If you start with a big dab of one colour and keep layering smaller dabs into the middle of it, you can use a toothpick to swirl them all together in a tie dye-ish pattern. (That being said, putting your hands in the hands of a professional is always a good idea if you want picture-perfect results!)
12 Next-Level French Manis (Try)
We've all heard of, or had our own, French manicures before. Pink on the body of the nail and white on the tip: classic. But edgy nail artists like Yumi Shiriashi are taking this classic and twisting it up to a new level.
Using the usual pink and white as a base, this trend involves adding black as an accent colour onto the white tip of the manicure. The black can be used to write words, make checkerboard or grid patterns, and even drip artfully down onto the pink part of the nails. Ask your manicurist to give this a try the next time you're tired of a regular French mani.
11 Blank Space Nails (Try)
This look takes the minimalism trend to the max. It involves bare nails - BARE, not even smeared with just a coat of clear polish - and whatever kind of accent colour you prefer. By leaving colour completely off some nails, you're leaving blank spaces that show off the healthy natural nail beauty that some nail artists from Korea are all about.
One way trendsetters have been spotted wearing this style is by leaving their ring fingers completely polish-free. It's kind of like a reverse sparkly accent nail situation. Instead of putting all the fun on the ring finger, they add colour to the rest of their digits and let the ring finger's blankness be the statement. Who knew?
10 3D Diamond Nails (Try)
If you were into the shattered glass nail trend of last year, the diamond nail trend is like that style stepped its sparkle game up. When it's made by Park Eunkyung, the same applique principles apply. Get diamond shiny nail papers, cut them into different shattered slices, then piece them together on the nail to maximize the shine. The shine is maximized, all right.
This is another style that you'll probably need to go to a salon for. It's a bit holographic, a bit glittery and a whole lot of glam. Just be sure that all your nail artist's hard work gets sealed in with a sheer topcoat when it's all done. Get that shine locked down!
9 Bracelet Nails (Try)
Park EunKyung takes credit for the invention of this amazing nail trend we've been seeing everywhere lately. They're called bracelet nails because, you guessed it, it looks like your nails are wearing tiny bracelets. Aww.
To achieve this look yourself can be as easy as drawing a few layers of lines horizontally across your nails, or as tricky as laying actual strings and small chains across them and gelling the whole thing down with some nail glue and a clear topcoat. We seriously can't get enough of this trend, so send us pictures if you do it yourself! It's so cute.
8 Textured Candy Nails (Try)
Wowza. You've seen the most minimal of the minimal styles, now check out the most OTT of the OTT ones. This nail art is inspired by Pop Rocks, the candy that literally bursts (in a fizzy, bubbly way) in your mouth when you eat it. These tiny crystals won't do that, but they will give any outfit a big pop of extra fun.
Remember the furry nail trend of 2016? This is a more practical way to do super-textured nails than that was. These crystals are made to stay in place, so they won't be brushing up against anything that gets in your way, or worse - shedding hairs. Try this for a wearable option that still says 'out-of-the-box.'
7 Tortoise Shell Nails (Try)
Tortoise shell is crawling into a lot of collections this year, from Jimmy Choo spectacle frames to ASOS patterned sandals. To us, it gives off a classy vintage vibe. Model and influencer Park Sora wore nails like these out to a fancy dinner in February 2019, according to her IG stories.
If you want a trendy nail style that keeps to a neutral colour palette but still looks edgy, this might be the one for you. It's yet another brown-based animal print coming back into fashion, so it will look fierce with any leopard print pieces you've already bought.
6 High Heel Nails (Try)
A high heel? On a fingernail? Sort of! According to Pop Sugar, high heel nails are another trend started by Unistella's Park Eunkyung. They involve swiping a thick stripe of colour down the center of the nail and leaving the spaces beside it blank. The stripe is meant to represent the heel of a shoe in a super subtle way.
Other nail artists from Korea like the Ryu Sisters have featured this nail style on their IG pages. It totally encapsulates nail trends of the moment: a bit of blank minimalism with a POW of creativity right down the middle. Try it in some fun colours for extra flash on your fingertips this season.
5 Pearl Drip Nails (Wacky)
Pearls on a fingernail are nothing new, but pearls clustered onto a nail and glued onto a finger itself...we don't dig it. This pearl drop style is another one created by Unistella, and it's been praised in publications like Glamour.
It's definitely out of the box, but there are reasons why most nail styles stay INSIDE the box of the actual fingernail. It's just not practical to have accessories glued to the skin on your hands. As if that wasn't unwearable enough, we think the cluster and drip pattern looks like some kind of infectious skin disease. Glamour warts? Pass.
4 Chain Linked Nails (Wacky)
We know we said earlier that a bare nail with a metallic accessory was a good idea, but we don't think that these many nail piercings is a good idea. Could you have nails like this and do any kind of job where you need to use your hands? We don't think so.
Using real nails for piercings is riskier than using fake nails because most people's nails aren't actually strong enough to handle multiple metal add-ons. Start chaining these nails together and we are CERTAIN this manicure won't end well. Why chain your fingers to one another? Why? Just don't do it.
3 Egg Nails (Wacky)
Have you heard of the cartoon character Gudetama? It's basically a lazy egg yolk that only ever wants to eat and sleep (#relatable). This character is now all over products sold in Japan and China, and Chinatowns worldwide, and Korea hasn't escaped the influence of the egg in pop art.
No matter how much you eat eggs, please don't feel the need to put cracked or fried-looking egg patterns all over your nails this year. Stick to showing off your egg love via the occasional IG brunch plate post, or buy yourself some Gudetama merch and call it a day.
2 Bulletin Board Nails (Wacky)
Have something important to remember? Just pin it to your nails! Or don't. These nails are the result of a lot of work and not actually that practical. If you're a person who likes lists and keeping organized, sticking to your agenda is a good idea.
DIY-ing nails like these involves cutting up a real bulletin board into nail-sized ovals and gluing them on like acrylics. Then you can pin tiny papers and little accessories on any way you like. Honestly, if you have the time to do this, make some of the Picasso-face wire nails from earlier in this list instead. They actually look good.
1 4D Nails (Wacky)
4D nails are nails that have an added dimension to them like smell or taste. Adventurous nail salons have been experimenting with 4D nails for a while, but we really hope 2019 isn't their year.
Don't get us wrong, we love ramen. Even Kylie Jenner loves ramen, according to recipes posted on her own app. But neither she (probably) nor us would be willing to have ramen attached to our acrylics. And nail art that looks like a cow and squirts actual milk? We can't even stomach the idea of that. Let's all stick to the less strange nail trends heading our way.