This post was originally published in May 2020 and has since been updated.
Like the return of tie-dye and lava lamp nails, it looks like ’90s-style butterfly nail art is shaping up to be a big trend this summer. And what better time to bring back the nostalgic trend? After all, the beautiful creatures symbolize hope and perseverance, and they’re often thought to help us in cope with challenging changes.
Searches for “butterfly nails” are up 450 percent on Google, and a quick Instagram search for #butterflynails will pull of an endless scroll of inspiration. Salons have also seen an uptick in butterfly nail art requests over the past year, after Kylie Jenner showed off her acrylic manicure with pink butterfly decals last summer.
Nail technicians have since been recreating butterfly nails, using clear acrylic for a modern, more fashionable take on the mani you may remember from grade school.
To create clear butterfly nails, professional nail artists use a technique known as “encapsulated nail art,” in which sequins or stickers are encased between layers of acrylic gel. A very thin layer of clear acrygel is applied to the nail and cured until it’s slightly sticky. The butterflies are put in place, then a thicker layer, also called a covering layer, is applied to lock them in.
Another trendy take on butterfly nail art involves adding a dramatic French tip to the base. Rhinestones, pearls, and confetti are often added to the look, too.
You can also try the trend without going to a salon. All you need are some butterfly nail sequins, like this multicolored set available on Amazon, and a gel nail polish set. We like the Essie Gel Couture Polishes and Top Coat ($12 each; ulta.com). Then, with a steady hand, simply follow the same steps as above: paint your base, apply nail sequins, let dry until slightly sticky, and finish with a thick layer of top coat.
Looking for an even easier way to try butterfly nails? Opt for nail stickers, like this super-cute Butterfly Fantasy set by Olive & June ($8; oliveandjune.com) and this colorful set of Butterfly Spectrum Decals by Dippy Cow Nails ($6; dippycownails.com). Or, give press-on nails a try. This clear butterfly nails press-on set by Rave Nails ($25; dollskill.com) comes complete with 24 pre-decorated tips, a nail file, and nail glue. Nail art really doesn’t get any simpler than this.
Whatever method you choose, we’ve rounded up the inspiration you need to get started. Scroll though some of the chicest clear butterfly nails below.
Butterfly Nails Inspiration:
Short Butterfly Nails:
Butterfly designs aren’t reserved for long nails. The trend works on short nails, too. Scroll through some of our favorite looks for shorter tips below.
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"We often receive complimentary products to review at Family Proof. Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team."