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What Is a Moon Manicure?

By Kay Paddock
Updated May 21, 2024
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A moon manicure, also often called a half-moon or reverse French manicure, is a style of nail polishing that got its start in the 1930s. In this style, a half-moon shape at the base of the nail is left unpolished or is painted in a contrasting color from the rest of the nail. The lunula is the natural crescent shape most people have under their nails at the cuticle. This natural half-moon shape sometimes serves as a guideline for the manicurist. People can get professional manicures in this half-moon style, and they can also do this style of polishing at home.

Manicures date back to about 5,000 years ago, when nails were cleaned, trimmed and decorated with materials popular at the time. Indian women, for instance, used a plant dye called henna to color their nails. Women in ancient China also colored their nails, but in a fashion that represented their social statures. In the United States, women did not generally color their nails until the 1940s, after polished, red nails were regularly worn by female celebrities. Most manicure styles that are trendy today have their roots in styles popularized by public figures in the 20th century, including the French manicure and the moon manicure.

When it first became popular, the most common form of the moon manicure was done in a deep red or maroon color. The half-moon shape at the base of the nail was generally left bare, with only a clear coat of polish for shine. The moon manicure has come into fashion again, thanks to designers who are sending their models down the catwalk with several variations of this style of polish on their nails. Many celebrities have also been spotted wearing moon-style nails.

Professional manicures may be a good choice for someone who wants stylized nails. Both French and moon manicures require a clean line across the nail that separates two different colors. If this line is crooked, jagged, or in the wrong place, the look of the manicure may be ruined. Most professional manicures of this type will last from several days to several weeks, depending on how fast the nails grow and the quality of the materials used.

Home manicures for those who want a moon manicure are also possible with the right tools, though the manicure will not typically last as long as professionally done nails. Some sort of template or stencil can help cover up the half-moon semicircle on the base of the nail to keep it a different shade than the rest. Small manicure kits designed to help users perform moon manicures at home are also available with instructions to help them achieve the right look.

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