Vintage Nail Polish Styles and Fingernail Shapes of the 1930s

The vintage nail style for women in the 1930s inspired this post today. It was unique in shape and unique in the way nailpolish was tinted or lacquered.

Tapered Point Nail Shape

In the 1930s, there were women who wore their nails rounded, of course, but I wanted to bring attention to this tapered point nail shape. Instead of an even length of the free-edge around the tip, the free-edge tapers thinner to the outer edge. Many women today wearing vintage nail styles wear this pointed shape.

From 1932 Palmolive Soap Advertisement

Read more 1930s beauty: The Women (1939) vintage hairstyle tutorial

Stiletto Fingernails

The vintage 1930s nail shape distinct point has come around again in popularity lately with a much longer version called stiletto fingernails. It is slightly longer in length than what women in the 1930s wore, but the pointed tip is distinctly similar.

1930s Fingernail Shape style
1930s Nail Shape, Renee Perle, 1930s, by Jacques-Henri Lartique
red stiletto fingernail shape style
Stiletto Fingernails today

1930s Manicure Advice

Even in the 1930s, magazines gave us specific advice on how we should and should not beautify ourselves. In this October 1933 Modern Beauty Shop manicure article titled “Bridge Hands: Busy Hands Bid for Beauty Corrective Treatments”, a New York manicure shop owner suggests these nail shapes:

  • Oval nail shape as the most practical
  • There is evidence just now that the round tip is gaining favor
  • Only the very young girl or the exotic woman can wear pointed nails successfully
  • For very thin, long hands, a short nail tip will tend to break the length and give the hands a better balance
  • Long, tapering nails lend length to broad stubby hands
1930s nail shape and polish style half moon manicure

Special 1930s nail polish styles

In the 1930s, the above nail polish style was popular. The free edge at the end of the nail and the lunula at the base were left bare and the polish was concentrated on the nail body.

Read more 1930s Beauty: The Beauty Mark and Jean Harlow

One of the blog’s readers, Inky, commented that her grandmother wore this style of vintage polish and achieved it by actually wiping the polish off the edge of the nail before it dried.

It might be a little hard to see in the next image, but there is a small light, clean line at the edge of the nail. The nails are also slightly transparent because they were tinted, instead of lacquered. More on tinted nails below. These are the fingernails of Adrienne Ames, a model, actress, and socialite of the 1930s and 1940s.

vintage 1930s nail shape point and tinted nail polish

Tip: A great way to “clean” the nailpolish on the tip of the nail or half moon to mimic this style is with a trimmed acrylic nail brush dipped in acetone or nail polish remover. I prefer acetone because it dissolves red nail polish better than non-acetone polish remover. Acrylic nail brushes have a point when you first buy them. I use scissors to trim the edge into a rounded shape making it easier to shape out the nailpolish. I think this brush is too cute and don’t forget the dappen dish (commissions possible) to hold nailpolish remover to dip into.

The 1930s Pedicure

In a June 1934 Modern Beauty Shop pedicure article, the toenails are painted with the same style of polish as the fingernails.

1930s vintage pedicure woman's foot with sandal and vintage nail manicure

The article reads: “The excess polish is removed from the tips of the nails just as it is in manicuring. An orangewood stick wrapped in cotton and dipped in polish remover is a convenient way of removing any enamel that may get on the sides of the nails. Most patrons prefer the same shade of enamel for the toe nails and the finger nails, thus creating a toe and finger ensemble like that shown in the illustration of a finished pedicure. For beach wear the darker shades of red are very popular, while any number of interesting color ensembles may be achieved for evening wear.”

Tinted Nail Color

In the 1930s, it was very common to have your manicurist tint your nails, not lacquer them. Most of the images I have found of tinted nails from the 1930s look as if they have been painted, but with a semi-translucent nail polish so that you can still see the nail underneath.

1930s tinted fingernail polish style
1930s Tinted Fingernail Polish Style

You might also like: Vintage Curls in the Cordelia Hairstyle

Making Nail Tint

There are items out there called tints. They are a tinted nail lacquer marketed for doing shadow effects over nail polish. You can easily create a similar tint product by adding a few drops of solid color nail polish to a clear top coat nail polish.

vintage nail tint ideas
Use a few drops of solid color nail polish with a clear top coat nail polish to mimic vintage nail tint.

Benefit makes a true lip and cheek stain called Benetint, that can double as a nail stain. The color actually temporarily stains the nail, similar to the effect women use to get using beetroot juice. Woman during WWII used beetroot juice as a lip and nail color replacement when they could not get access to rationed lipstick and nail polish.

vintage nail tint options
Nail tint options

Note: Lots of cosmetics companies have lip products that they claim are a stain, but are nothing like what I would call a stain. They coat like lipstick more than they stain the skin.

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  1. love the close up shot! I file my nails that way now for the past year or so – it was hard to get used to after years of square or squovals but I love it now!

  2. Most of my life, my grandmother wore bright red nail polish. When her nails were still wet, she removed the polish off the crescent at the base of the nail with an orange stick wrapped in a tiny piece of cotton ball and dipped in acetone.

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Welcome to the Bobby Pin Blog! I am Lauren Rennells and as a hairstylist, makeup artist, writer, and generally artistic over-achiever, the Bobby Pin Blog is my outlet for thoughts and research about vintage hair and makeup trends and how to recreate them today. Thank you for stopping by!

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