What's an American manicure?

An American manicure looks a lot like its French cousin -- just a touch more natural.
An American manicure looks a lot like its French cousin -- just a touch more natural.

Nail color, like so many seemingly innocuous choices in life, can say more about us than we realize. Historically speaking, this is especially true: In ancient China, the color of one's nails could indicate social status. Ancient Egypt supposedly had the same type of manicure ranking.

Modern manicures may be a bit less specific to social rank, but the general feeling holds true: Choice of nail color and style can make a statement. Certainly, pink-rhinestone-coated nails say something very different from, say, a French manicure.

The Frenchie, to some the elegant go-to style, is no longer the only choice to achieve a near-natural look that is nonetheless luxuriously manicured. A more recent development in nail news posits the "American manicure" as an alternative to the classic white-tipped look.

Was it invented in America? Who knows? (The French manicure may or may not have come from France, after all.)

To the untrained observer, American-manicured nails may look exactly like French ones, but they are subtly, perhaps significantly different. The American manicure foregoes the classic, stark-white tip for a more neutral one, creating an even more natural, blended look. Rather than painting (or airbrushing) the nail tip white, an American manicure goes with an ivory, off-white or pale nude.

Some experts claim the nail shape changes as well, from a squared tip in the French style to a rounded American one. Others say no tip shape is especially associated with either style.

Regardless, it's an update on the classic French manicure that can be a nice change for women looking for a barely made-up appearance. In this article, we'll see how to apply your own American manicure for that "Are those perfect nails even polished?" effect.

Meet the "American manicure"…