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Pool Nails: How to Ace this Summer’s Coolest Optical Illusion Manicure


You may have spotted all kinds of fun summer mani designs—from ombré and coquette nails to mismatched nails—but now it’s time for pool nails to have their day in the sun.

As you can imagine, pool nails look exactly like water in a pool and often feature different shades of blue nail polish. They also have a cool, almost tie-dye effect that’s representative of the light patterns on the bottom of a pool. There’s also a more literal take on the design, which reproduces the appearance of water droplets.

To recreate the splashiest summer manicure trend, we tapped Michelle Nguyen, the founder of PLA (Paris Lash Academy) and PLA Nails to share her best tips.


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Luckily this look is pretty easy to DIY at home. “You’ll need an off-white shade, a blue shade, a blooming gel (to help disperse the color), a dotting tool, and a top coat,” says Nguyen. “The off-white and blue shades create the color scheme, while the blooming gel helps to disperse color and give nails the refracted light look. The dotting tool helps to further disperse the polish with more precision, while the top coat sets in all in.”

PLA’s Blushin’ Baby and Santa Social Club are nice a white and blue, respectively. If you don’t have a curing lamp at home or gel just isn’t your thing, you can always use regular polish. Nails Inc. has a set called Made in Mykonos that features royal blue and white polishes.

Rather opt for press-ons? Static Nails in Vanilla Clouds have a similar vibe. So do Dashing Diva Magic Press On Nails in Starfish Waters.

Nguyen recommends creating this mottled design with gel nail polish, which can be a bit easier to use since you’re able to quickly cure the polish between steps and don’t have to wait for it to dry. Plus, the blooming gel helps to create the wavy water effect.

Step 1: Paint one coat of an off-white color.

Step 2: Cure this coat.

Step 3: Paint one coat of blooming gel, but don’t cure it.

Step 4: Use a dotting tool to dot the nail with the blue color of your choice. The blooming gel will help dilute and spread the color.

Step 5: Once colors are properly bloomed, cure the blue coat.

Step 6: Paint on a top coat and cure.

If you’re looking for more of a textured water drop instead of the pool design, that would require “a builder gel to create the shape of water droplets using a dotting tool,” explains Nguyen. “This can be a bit of trial and error and takes a steady hand.”

Nguyen says she especially loves the design on almond-shaped nails. You don’t have to have super long nails to rock this trend, but it is nice to have a little more room to get the design just right.

Ready to dive in? Ahead, pool nails inspiration for your summertime mani.

Deep End 


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Pool Nail Tips

Pool Floaties

Water Droplets


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French With Flowers


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Octopus Nails


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Mismatched Pool Nails


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Koi Nails

Multicolored Pool Nails

Accent Pool Nail



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Surf’s Up

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