Jeff Pink, founder of the professional nail brand ORLY, is credited with creating the natural nail look later called the French manicure in 1976.
In the mid-1970s, Pink was tasked by a film director to come up with a universal nail look that would save screen actresses from having to spend time getting their nails redone to go along with their costume changes. Inspired by the instant brightening effect of a white pencil applied to the underside, Pink suspected that the solution was to apply that same neutralizing principle to the top of the nail. “I got one gallon of white polish for the tips, and pink, beige, or rose for the nail,” he recalled in a 2014 interview with The National.
The Natural Nail Kit, as Pink called it then, was a hit among movie stars and the studios who found the time-saving strategy indispensable. “The director commented that I should get an Oscar for saving the industry so much money,” he said. Eventually Pink took the trend to the catwalk crowd in Paris, and they liked it, too. The only thing it needed, he thought, was a kickier name. He came up with the whole “French” rebranding on the flight back home to Los Angeles.
Nails that have undergone a French manicure are characterized by a lack of artificial base color and white tips at the free edge of the nail. For this reason, they are sometimes referred to as “French tips”. The nail tips are painted white, while the rest of the nails are polished in a pink or a suitable nude shade. French manicures can be achieved with artificial nails. However, it is also as common to perform a French manicure on natural nails. Another technique is to whiten the underside of the nail with white pencil and paint a sheer color over the entire nail.