This Sneaky Mani Hack Solved My Fast-Growing Nail Struggles

When your nails grow at the speed of light, manicures grow out in mere days. This genius polish trick is The Answer.

If you’ve glanced at anyone’s nails in the past few months, either IRL or on the seriously addictive Instagram accounts devoted to polish jobs, you’ve seen negative space manicures: nail polish that covers part of the nail, leaving the rest blank. Half moons, geometric shapes, thick swatches of color and tiny lines — the trend comes in as many styles as there are shades of nail polish. 

Science says that nails grow about 3mm a month, but tell that to anyone who’s ever paid for a pricy polish or gel job only to have what seems like an inch of growth in a week, magically lifting the color to expose “roots” at the bottom of your nail bed and making your mani look old before its time. 

This beauty editor’s nails grow a mile a minute — I’ve cut my nails on Monday, filed them down again on Thursday, only to find talons at the end of my fingers by Sunday night. 

Which is why the first time I tried a negative space manicure, I couldn’t shut up about it. I’m now a negative space manicure evangelist, spreading the word to all the fast-growing-nailers I know. And I’m not alone: Jessica Washwick, creative director at New York’s Van Court Studio and founder of the Tumblr blog U Don’t Need a Man, U Need a Manicure, says she’s seen a rise in negative space manicures over the past year. “It’s perfect for people whose nails grow fast,” she says.

The best part: You don’t need to head to a salon for picture-worthy nails. As long as you have polish and an emergency supply of nail polish remover at home, you’re good to go. 

Washwick suggests starting with geometric shapes, such as diagonals and triangles, that just require a straight swipe of a brush. In the pictures here, Van Court nail artist Frances Liang painted triangles onto two nails, an extended chevron on the middle nail, and triangles facing the other direction on the two remaining nails on each hand. 

It’s not as hard as it looks — Liang says even first-timers can free-hand this. Follow these GIFs to get the look. 

Start with a base coat of clear polish over the entire nail, then swipe your color diagonally across the nail, filling the rest in from line to tip. Paint a second coat, then brush on a top coat, covering the entire nail again.

If you don’t trust your hands to stay steady, reach for tape — you can find nail tape online and in specialty stores, but scotch tape and masking tape work as well. If you do mess up, or if your line’s imperfect, go in with a small, flat brushed dipped in a little bit of nail polish remover and erase what you need, then paint on a top coat. Worried about getting polish on your fingers? Liang suggests scraping still-wet polish off your skin with a toothpick.

The negative space at the base of your nail should hide days, even weeks, of growth, but there are a few speed bumps to watch out for. If your nail polish is thick enough, you’ll see a ridge where the clear polish ends at the base of your nail after a few days. 

Resist the urge to peel it; Instead, grab an acetone-free nail polish. Dab some on to the soft part of your finger, and gently pat the edge of the polish. You won’t remove it all the way, but you’ll smooth out obvious bumps. Once it’s dried, paint on another top coat to extend the clear polish back to your nail bed. Voila — a totally fresh manicure.

If you can’t handle the new negative space as your nail grow out, try adding glitter or decals to the base of your nails for an extra two to three days. Also an option: filling in the negative space with a new color after a few days. 

But with so many possible designs (and so much inspiration), we can’t guarantee that you won’t be itching for a new look before your manicure starts to show some wear.

(Photos: Yahoo Beauty,

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