Listen, metallic nails aren't new. I remember searching for the shiniest, sparkliest nail polish I could find at Limited Too back in the day. But traditionally, metallic nails have been of the shimmery variety (meaning you can see individual specks of glimmer rather than smooth, full-on mirror-like finish). And in the rare case that they were shiny and reflective in that truly satisfying way, it was because nail stickers had been involved — never polish. But no longer: 2016 shall heretofore be known as the year we, as a society, finally achieved chrome nail success.
Check out the above example, created by Los Angeles-based nail artist Sarah Bland-Barbuto. So mesmerizingly shiny, right? The videos that chronicle the steps that go into these chrome manicures are even more entrancing.
If you explore the "chrome" hashtag on Instagram, you'll notice that roughly half of the results aren't of cars or actual metal of any kind; they're of nails. But the obsession with these chrome manicure videos is evident on YouTube, too. Here's a particularly hypnotizing example:
And another that specifically promises chrome nails with "NO SHIMMER" (yes, that all-caps type represents the appropriate level of intensity here).
So what exactly is this new "mirror" or "chrome" technique that's become so popular on the Internet? It takes the process of a traditional gel manicure one step further with a special powder that transforms into a smooth, blindingly shiny coat. And it's completely fascinating. Bland-Barbuto took some time to answer my many (many) questions on the subject.
Can you tell me about the process of creating chrome nails and the steps involved?
You can do chrome nails on either a clear nail or with a base color. When it's on a dark color like black you get a better result. You start with all of the same steps as a normal gel manicure, and then you have to use a tack-free or no-wipe topcoat. Once the topcoat is cured, you can apply the chrome powder with an eyeshadow applicator, a rubber/silicone applicator or even a rubber glove. Once you've applied all of the chrome powder, you can use a lint-free pad or paper towel to gently wipe away the excess. You don't want to leave any of the excess powder, because it'll leave [the finish] sparkly, rather than with a mirror-like effect. The last step is to add a layer of no-wipe top coat; I like to add two coats to be sure that the chrome doesn't chip.
What's different about using this powder to create the effect, rather than foil stickers or a metallic polish?Nothing else looks as chrome-like or lasts as long. In my opinion, foil is just an added thing for nail art and it has a different texture.
Why do you think this trend is taking off right now?
I first discovered it through Instagram. I think most people discovered it that way or through Facebook or YouTube. These types of powders have been around for a long time, but it's just become trendy and the new techniques are specific to gel.
What has the response from your clients who've tried out the chrome nails been like?
All of my clients are obsessed with them. Everyone who has tried it has gotten it a second or third time, with a different color each time. It also looks great on toes.
Is this type of powder something people will be able to do at home, or do you think it'll stay limited to in-salon treatments?
I think for people who already do their gel nails at home it's easy for them to try this technique, especially because they'll only have to add a few items to their collection of products.
How common is this powder in salons? Are there places across the country that do it?
I know a lot of salons are starting to carry this powder, but it's still not as common as it will be. Part of the problem is that companies are selling out of it so quickly because of its popularity.
Anything else we should know?
I think everyone should try at least one chrome nail, even if they're afraid of nail art. They'll be surprised by how much they love it, even if they're used to only wearing a simple solid color.
The above interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.