The first nail-focused beauty blog

Nail Tip – The Slimline Technique

By on April 12, 2010
in CND, OPI, Tips and Tricks with 85 Comments
slimline technique nail tip opi funkey dunkey A few weeks ago, I unofficially polled you all about my nail length.  Whether I should keep the slightly longer shape I showed in my Zoya Sparkle review or go back to my usual short tips.  Ultimately I decided that a filing was in order for two reasons:

1. Being an accident prone klutz, I’m certain to break a nail as soon as it gets more than a few millimeters past my fingertip.

2. I just prefer the look of my nails when they are short. My ring fingernail tends to get a little wonky as it gets longer.

The problem with keeping my nails “active length” is that I’m saddled with short, wide nail beds that look more stubby than chic.  So what’s a girl to do when she doesn’t want the hassle of long nails but desires a slim, elongated look?

That’s the exact I asked CND’s Roxanne Valinoti backstage during Fashion Week.  Roxanne shared a great application tip she dubbed “The Slimline Technique.”  It’s very simple and really does thin the shape of the nail.

Check out my example above using OPI Funkey Dunkey and then find out more about it after the jump!


Simply put, The Slimline Technique is the equivalent of “The Gap” that a lot of us create at the base of the nail between the cuticle and nail bed.  Instead of filling in the nail all the way to the sides, you leave a space to create the illusion of a slimmer nail.  An additional benefit of this application technique is  that it keeps your skin free from polish and remover.

slimline technique nail tip cnd dark ruby

Now I’m sure you’re thinking that people will be able to tell that you didn’t polish the entire nail.  Well, I overly exaggerated my gap in the pics above and as you can see below, from the top (which is how most people see your nails) it looks great.  The flesh tone of your nail bed blends in with your skin, making it seamless.

Tip: To create a clean line, use my favorite polish cleanup technique.  Dip a natural hair eyeliner brush in remover and swipe it around the nail.

slimline-technique-nail-tip
l: CND Dark Ruby applied with The Slimline Technique r: CND Dark Ruby applied traditionally

What do you think Fanatics?  Do you agree that my nails look thinner and more elongated using The Slimline Technique?  Do any of you already practice this style of application?  What are your tips for slenderizing short nails?

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  1. Nikia says:

    I didn’t know this technique had an actual name! I have short, wide nail beds myself and one day I stared and stared at my index finger because it looked so slim and pretty and I couldn’t figure out why. Then I looked closer and realized that I’d missed a whole strip of nail around the edges. Good technique for fat fingered babes like me to know.

  2. Grace says:

    I agree that from any reasonable distance it looks fine, but I’m too OCD for that. It would drive me crazy.

    • Deb says:

      Same here! It does make you nails look slimmer and longer though. I just think it would drive me nutty to see unpolished space on the sides of my nails.

  3. MissyPrissy says:

    What a great technique! My nail beds are a little wider than I’d like them to be so this will make them look slimmer. Quick question: When will you post swatches from the OPI Shrek Forever Collection? Thanks in advance!

  4. Karina says:

    Ha, I didn’t know this had an official name, either, but it’s been a trick/tip forever!

    Using this technique really, really flatters your nails. :-)

  5. kelliegonzo says:

    i’ve done this a lot, but don’t anymore because i find that my nail beds are way to pink and don’t blend in with my skintone. plus my cuticles are always noticeable no matter how much i soften and slough etc. so i think the slimline technique doesn’t really work for me. looks great on you tho.

  6. Hannah says:

    The difference is really noticeable, it makes quite a different look to the nail! Who would have thought a simple technique could have that effect!

  7. MimiG323 says:

    Funkey Dunkey? does that mean you have the Shrek OPI colors? When will we see them??

  8. Alisa says:

    This is how I usually wear my polish because I have some pretty wide nail beds and I don’t like my fingers to look like sausages. I think it’s really flattering on most people.

  9. Eva says:

    Wooow! amazing!

  10. Mia says:

    Yes, the nail looks longer.
    Funnily though I always wear my polish like this. Ago ago I was told that you should never paint the whole nail to let it breathe. Plus I really think it looks nicer ;)

  11. Jen says:

    For once this is a nail technique I do know about and use! It does work and it keeps nails neater.
    Hey, my ring-finger nails also go wonky – especially on the RH. D’you think it’s just us?

  12. Mia says:

    Oh, and I forgot to add that I love your blog because your nails are shorter and not this overly long as you can see in other blogs :)

  13. Lauren says:

    I hate to have to say this, but not a fan! This would drive me crazy on myself or looking at someone else. I think it just looks like a bad manicure. You have awesome nails, so appreciate them, embrace them and don’t cheat them out of more polish. ;)

  14. Lindsay says:

    Great technique! Thanks for the eyeliner brush tip btw

  15. Nicole says:

    Funkey Dunkey? You have the Shrek Forever After polishes?

  16. Delfina says:

    Me too, I’ve always left a gap on the sides because I like my short and stubby nails to look thinner and more “geometric”.

  17. Caroline says:

    I’ve been doing this for a while not out of a conscious desire for slimmer looking nails, but because I’m terrible at putting nail polish on without getting it looking like I was just playing with finger paint! ;)

  18. LucidBubble says:

    I remember this tip from the 80′s. It does make nails look slimmer but it also, to my eye, looks half polished.

  19. Caity says:

    I wondered why people did that, I always thought it looked really weird! Definitely not a technique I’d try!

  20. Katy says:

    It looks slightly slimmer, but your nail shape was fine before. I also like that your nails are shorter than other bloggers’.

  21. Shannon says:

    That’s funny. My mom taught me to paint my nails that way. She told me it makes your fingers look slimmer, so I’ve never worried to much about getting the color all the way to the side of my nails.

  22. christine says:

    i remember reading this in seventeen magazine forever ago. I have short chubby little sausage fingers. I like it.

  23. taxi says:

    “Slimline” helps, if it’s not too extreme. I always leave a tiny bare sliver to keep side cuticle clean. TIP – always let clear top coat run all the way to cuticle so sides don’t lift.

  24. Lucy says:

    I do this quite a lot as my nails are quite wide – it definately makes them look slimmer!

  25. Kallen says:

    I’m glad I have long, thin nail beds (although they look really weird when I grow them out too far) because I think the line would drive me nuts! I’m too OCD for this, haha.

  26. Diane says:

    When I had acrylics my nail tech would apply polish this way….and I didn’t like it! I must be OCD. It just bugggged me, and I wanted to grab the polish from her and put more on. Having said that, it does make the nail look slimmer.

  27. Kelli says:

    I think the idea is great if you can handle only polishing part of your nail….
    I have done nails for the past 20 years and would never limit a client to polishing only part of the nail, just in case they got home and didnt like it….
    what I do, is when I am shaping the nail with the file, is take the sides of the nail in, not much, but just slightly in from the width of the nail bed. Whether you have squared, rounded or squoval nails, this technique has worked for years.
    But if your nails are not at least at the tip of your finger, this technique doesnt usually look as nice.

  28. What a cool handy tip! Thanks! And I would have never known ;)

  29. yay yay YAY! Thank you for this!

  30. Tenns says:

    I do this method as well…didn’t realize it actually had a name though. I noticed back when I used to get acrylics that they would do this to give a cleaner look. That’s where I first got the idea to do it…go figure!

  31. Vanaily says:

    OMGOMG, this means you are posting the new shrek collection soon, right?! :D

    also, do you know the exact date it’s released, I’ve heard it’ll come end of April.

  32. Ronnie says:

    I think it just depends on what you’re used to. You clearly exaggerated the effect in the pics above in order to show how it works; in real life I do this often. On us chubby-fingered gals, and with EXTREMELY square nail beds, this makes polish workable. I look utterly silly with polish on without doing this, because I look like I have grubby kid fingers. Not a good look. And really, if you’re looking at someone and you can see this, they didn’t do it right :D!

  33. Altea says:

    As somebody said it’s an old trick. Most women here in Italy are still painting their nails with this technique. I always found it too old fashioned, it makes me think of my granny

  34. Mariah says:

    I agree, it looks nice! And it’s slimmer, and I’m sure, quicker to do. Here’s my worry though: most of the time now, I keep my nails polished simply because I know it keeps them from breaking. I know I have a bad problem with side breaks, and I’m scared that it would leave the sides of my nails weak and exposed! What could I do to alleviate that? Do you still do topcoat all over? Would that work?

  35. Christine says:

    I knew about the technique, but NEVER the clean up tip. This is awesome! Thanks!

  36. Serena says:

    I don’t really have this problem…in fact doing this would probably make my nails look too skinny! And I think the gap might bother me… It seems to look good and work on other people but not for me.

  37. menolikey says:

    Sorry to be the lone dissenter, but this technique makes the rest of the finger look all fat and puffy.

  38. LovesSparklePolish says:

    Because the eye is drawn to color, the illusion works to make the nail slimmer. My question is: does this work with lighter, more nude colors also?

  39. louise says:

    i really like it i have just taken off my extensions and am growing my own so i will try this xx

  40. mochamishmash says:

    Lovin’ Funkey Dunkey!! Can’t wait to see more OPI Shrek swatches soon!! Yay!

  41. Asami says:

    Eeek, I don’t like this unfinished look personally, but I get why people do it.

  42. Regalroyale says:

    Wow that is neat. I have slim, long nail beds and I hate it and I actually love yours. That “Gap” technique does wonders for my nails.

  43. Janet says:

    I just used to do this because I didn’t want the polish to pool around the sides and get my rims messy – but that’s cool, I never thought of the slimming aspect!! Now my friends can’t call me lazy for not painting the sides all the way! :D

  44. suzanne says:

    I think I would have a hard time getting the clean line around the edge for my right hand. I have a hard enough time applying polish and not painting my fingers! ;o)

  45. Krystal says:

    Great post. This is what I have been doing on my nails. I have short stubby nails too. They look kind of warped if I let them grow long. Its just not very attractive. But this slims them up a bit. Plus, I just think this looks better!

  46. kris says:

    I have been doing this for over 15 years. It’s funny how a label changes common practice into “technique”lol.

  47. Debbie says:

    Seriously – separated at birth or what? I have to have short nails because I break them and they really seriously bug me once they come over the tip of my finger but I also have wide shovel shaped nails and had no idea how to make them look slim and elegant and this tip is manna from heaven! You are a total star, you know that don’t you! Just wondering – do you think a think streak of fake tan down the middle of my dimpled thigh would give me the legs of Elle McPherson? No, thought not! About to send a link to this to my mum, the person responsible for the DNA that gave me the thighs and nails in the first place!

  48. I just blogged about this yesterday… My manicure was very baaaad! but I guess this was what she was trying to achieve….!

  49. Stacey says:

    Using a wooden stick dipped in remover then wrapped with cotton and dipped again is good to use if you do not have a natural hair liner brush. The stick needs to be wet in order for the cotton to stick. I also use this technique on my big toes.

  50. Anastasia says:

    You have perfect nails! I agree do not cheat them of the well deserved polish!!

  51. Sky says:

    Nice tip! I think your nails are lovely at either length, Michelle. Actually, really really long nail beds kinda gross me out.

  52. Alice says:

    I’ve got fat short stubby fingers so I decided to give it a shot last night when I was doing my nails. I think because my nails are so wide (they’re almost flat) that the gap is really obvious on my nails (even if it is small) so I guess its back to embracing my man hands once again!! :)

  53. Laura says:

    I have done this with the darker polishes. It really does help the nail look thinner.

  54. Riddhi says:

    I remember the first time I learned of this! I was 13 and a friend from Korea always had the most lovely nails while I thought mine were too wide. And then she showed me the slimline technique! What a difference that little gap makes.

  55. bel says:

    ohh i’ve been doing it for some time now! once, i accidently left gaps on both sides, but i realised that it made my nails look slimmer & longer. i personallly dont like my nails too long (cos they’ll break).
    i do it on my toenails too, cos a few of them arent exactly shaped the way i want them to be.. haha.

  56. shelley says:

    I like this technique! your shorter nails look fine though
    i particularly dont like keeping my nails very long, it looks good but i seem to always get them dirty or break them too XD

  57. Arrianne says:

    I see the difference, but I don’t think people even pay near that much attention to nails to tell that they’re “too wide”. I always leave the gap at the bottom and a small one at the sides.

  58. Scandalous says:

    I’ve been doing this when I have shorties for ages. I agree, it looks nicer

  59. Jaime says:

    I always do this! Nail places in Korea do this even without asking. I totally agree with you that it makes fingers look slimmer. I actually kind of like the gap, it gives the impression of precise lines drawn on, which is an ‘elegant’ look…

  60. Megan says:

    How did you get Funky Dunkey? I didn’t think it was out yet.

  61. WC says:

    cool tip but being a perfectionist myself i probally wont do that since i get annoyed when i see the little gaps of nail polish

  62. Ali says:

    Funkey Dunkey? Sooo that means you got the Shrek collection eh? When are you going to swatch them?

  63. bebelastrange says:

    Thanks for the tip! Since i’m a novice i have done this on accident a few times …LOL
    This also helps with less touch up. When i go close to the skin i always get polish on the skin…

  64. Jen says:

    How did you get your hands on Funkey Dunkey?? and will you be doing a review of the Shrek collection?

  65. berry says:

    I am glad to learn that I am not the only one who does this! I have the same short and wide issue, compounded with a “toe thumb”! needless to say, the gap one the sides of my thumb are very noticeable up close, but I don’t let anyone see it that close…

  66. Misou says:

    My manicurist always does this and gets upset when I want her to polish my whole nail. I have hobbit hands, which are long skinny fingers and thin nail beds when I grow my nails out long in a square cut.

  67. smALtY says:

    I am Italian and always put my polish like that… If you paint already leaving naked sides – just 1-2 millimeters – then you could just pass a q-tip with remover on sides to make polish line “straight”). Actually I started painting the whole nail after I saw pictures of US girls here on the web :-D (mine then seemed strange, as I forgot to paint everything).

  68. jill says:

    So glad to see this is official! I’ve been doing this for years since I have the same issues, I posted a photo years ago on MUA and was told by 2 “regulars” on the nail board that I’d MISSED spaces on the sides of my nails! I thanks them for their reply ;)

    super late reply here too, been out of the nail loop :)

  69. kelley says:

    As a licensed professional manicurist this is a common practice, the problem is most clients don’t want a gap even if it looks better they mostly complain and tell you to ” you missed a spot”. So slap on the polish, it doesn’t matter that you’ve been a manicurist for 14 years.

    Great day ladies, your educated manicurist will never steer you wrong.

  70. Sandi says:

    I don’t do it on my fingers but I do on my thumbs because I too have ‘toe thumbs’ as someone called them. They’re twice the width of my index fingers. Ick. I do have long nailbeds though and I’m surprised to hear Sky say they ‘gross’ her out. It’s usually something other nail fanatics complement me on. They certainly help elongate my baby hands.

  71. n0ryg says:

    Kelley your so right….I too, am a manicurist of about 10 yrs now, and I mostly use this technique on dark and reds, I find myself educating clients and find myself using words like “cool, let me work my magic, slimming affect, skinny nails, and doing magic” on them. Its funny but it is like doing a magic trick on stubby nails, all i care about is that the nails come out beautiful…my masterworks…

  72. grace says:

    omg! i love your tip!!!
    (“To create a clean line, use my favorite polish cleanup technique. Dip a natural hair eyeliner brush in remover and swipe it around the nail.”)
    i totally didnt know this!! im so excited to try this b/c everytime i try to do my fingernails with dark polish, it always looks slight wobbly around the edges =P hehehe

  73. Lori says:

    I have short, slightly thick fingers with wide, short nailbeds. I just tried this technique, and my nails look so much thinner and daintier! Even my thumbnail, which is about 5/8″ wide, looks delicate. Great tip!!

  74. Holly says:

    Thank you so much for this!!! I have been avoiding painting my nails for years because of my wide nail problem, but I love nail polish so much. Now I can finally feel satisfied when I paint my nails. :)

  75. Brandi says:

    Ha! You think your nail beds are wide! I’d love to have those! I have the widest -ugliest nails ever! I’ve never polished for that reason (unless I get acrylics because the length helps them not look so wide). I’m going to try that polish method! Maybe it will allow me to polish after all!

  76. All Lacquered Up says:

    I didn’t mean to say that flesh was a color. What shows through your nail plate is the skin underneath and that should be the same color as your skin/flesh. So the part of the nail that shows should blend with the skin surrounding it. That’s what I meant.

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