April 1, 2023

ICYMI, shimmering, iridescent nails are on the rise thanks to Hailey Bieber’s glazed donut nails. The way these styles catch the light is truly something special, and we can see why the trend has caught on.

As stunning as subtly shimmering nails are, though, some of us crave even more sparkle power. If you fall into that camp, it’s time to learn how to apply glitter to your nails like a pro. After all, if you’ve ever tried swiping glitter-filled polish onto your nails—especially formulas with large chunks of glitter—you’ve likely experienced the frustration of trying to get the glitter to look even as opposed to clumped together.

Fret not, though: Celebrity manicurist Julie Kandalec, who works with A-listers like Jessica Chastain, Eve, and Joe Jonas, is here to save the day. Ahead, find her step-by-step guide on how to apply glitter to nails.

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Manicure Prep

Clean, well-manicured nails with no polish

In order for any nail look to look its best, Kandalec says it’s important to start with proper manicure prep. This means removing any residual polish from your last mani, trimming, filing, and pushing back your cuticles (if you have the right tools, that is).

If you’re in need of a starter kit, celebrity manicurist Tom Bachik, who works with the likes of J.Lo (ahem, Jennifer Affleck), Selena Gomez, and Madelaine Petsch, recently debuted his Ultimate Nail Care Set with Tweezerman ($59). It includes a fingernail clipper, toenail clipper, full-size cuticle nipper, mini cuticle nipper, nail buffer, dual-sided file, and a double-ended steel pushy and nail cleaner. In other words: It has everything you need to make your nails look pristine.

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Base Coat

Silver to pink iridescent ombre nails

To prolong the life of any manicure, Kandalec says it’s imperative that you begin your glitter nail art journey with a layer of base coat. We love the Londontown Kur Nail Hardener & Base Coat ($20).

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Apply Your Base Color

Solid orange glossy manicure against white shirt sleeve

Most manicures look best with two coats of color. As such, Kandalec says to begin with one coat and allow it to dry for five minutes before following up with the second. This will help prevent bubbles and clumping, in addition to speeding up drying time overall. Let your second coat dry for one minute before moving on to the sparkle you’ve been waiting for.

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Apply Glitter

Pink and white glitter wavy manicure with gold rings

Here’s where things get interesting. For the most even glitter application, Kandalec recommends using loose glitter and a clean, disposable mascara wand (like the GoWorth Disposable Crystal Eyelash Mascara Brushes, $6).

“Dip the wand into loose glitter to pick it up in the bristles,” she says. “Then, tap the handle of the mascara wand to let the glitter fall naturally into the tacky polish.” Note: She does not say to tap the wand into the polish. Rather, she says to hover it above the nail and let the glitter fall freely into place.

At first, you may find that this process takes a bit of time to master. As such, Kandalec suggests starting off by painting the second coat of polish onto one hand, applying the glitter, then moving onto the second hand. Doing so will allow the polish to stay tacky so the glitter has something to stick to.

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Top Coat

Pink marble manicure with glitter and gold flecks

If you’re worried about your glitter looking textured, don’t. When you finish your nail look with a coat of high-gloss top coat, it will encase the glitter for a picture-perfect mani. Our go-to is the Olive & June Super Glossy Top Coat ($9). If you’re someone who has trouble sitting patiently while your nails dry, be sure to try the Olive & June Dry Drops ($10), which are designed to dry nails to the touch in just 80 seconds.

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The Seamless Shortcut

Long almond nails with blue glitter polish holding bottle

If this step-by-step process feels like a lot for an at-home DIY, there’s always the option to paint your nails with glitter polish. The trick to achieving a more even glitter application this way is to opt for polishes with ultra-fine glitter, and lots of it. Lights Lacquer, which is one of Kandalec’s favorite glitter polish brands, has a Shimmer Polish ($11) with a bunch of great color options (Frog Prince, Booze Cruise, and We’ll Always Have Paris are just a few shades that have caught our eye).