In Defense of Chipped Nails

Let’s make them a thing

chipped nails man repeller


I used to be a beauty editor. Few can tell because I avoid doing my hair at all costs, my daily skincare/cover-up routine stops at Step 2: moisturizer/SPF and I’m mediocre-to-below-average at braiding anything other than a classic three-strander. But what makes my past career hardest to believe is probably my chronically chipped nail polish.

My nails are painted 98.76 percent of the time, but they’re chipped more often than they are solid blocks of color. And by chipped, I don’t mean a speck of nail showing through. I mean the manicure equivalent of the time I cracked and re-cracked my iPhone screen so badly it mildly hurt to scroll and I could barely make out the passive-aggressive statuses on my FB feed. There was a whole chunk of screen missing from the top left corner and the guy at the Apple store had to “go to the back” (show his coworkers) to “check something” (report me) before “seeing what he could do” (revoke my custody).

With such severe chipping, you’d think I’d “just get gels!!!” as friends tend to suggest. But I’ve grown to like all the resulting negative space. There’s something therapeutic about making a $15 to $20 mani last as long as humanly possible, until one day, I scrape off the few remaining flecks of polish to reveal a completely clean slate. It kinda feels like watching Dumbledore’s bird explode in Chamber of Secrets. My manicures are Fawkes.

nail biting man repeller

I’m definitely one of those “lazy girls” outlets write personalized guides for. Getting manis more regularly or gels in general goes against everything I believe in: shortcuts like dry shampoo, makeup-remover wipes, “smudged” it’s-okay-you-effed-up-your-liner liner, sheet masks with leftovers that you just rub back into your face instead of rinsing off. All “effortless” in one way or another and perfectly acceptable. Even post-makeout lipstick got invited to Fashion Week. All while chipped nails get shunned.

I think it’s high time society officially embraced them — at the very least, as a trend we all forget about in a season. I vote that someone (Rihanna? Anyone? Bueller?) or the collective “we” finally make them a thing, just this once. In the grand scheme of ridiculous nail art trends, it’s not asking for much (Exhibits A, B and C for your review). Sneak it under the umbrella of Normcore. Just think how perfectly a scuffed mani would pair with mom jeans and an expensive-ass hoodie!

Trend politics aside, there’s no denying this low-maintenance look is the easiest to achieve of them all. Chipping your nail polish requires nothing more than not giving AF. You may already be doing it this very instant. If you’re unsure (or just an overachiever), follow these expert tips to get started:

How to Get Chipped Nails

1. Wear bottoms that are really hard to take off to your manicure appointment. Try high-waist jeans with a crotch that is entirely buttons.

2. Make sure you have to pee immediately following said manicure.

3. Develop a severe canned-seltzer addiction and do all the can-opening. This will work with any beverage that comes in a can, actually. I’m just projecting.

4. Type on a laptop or desktop keyboard for roughly 12 hours of your day.

5. Wear as many extra zippers as possible.

6. Keep your nail polish remover somewhere really annoying to get to, like alllllll the way under the sink in your bathroom, behind all the other products you never use but haven’t thrown away just in case you need them one day.

7. Literally just do whatever else you do on any given day.

Welcome to the dark side. We’ve been waiting for you.

Photos by Tory Rust and Louisiana Mei Gelpi. 

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  • Amelia Diamond

    “It kinda feels like watching Dumbledore’s bird explode in Chamber of Secrets. My manicures are Fawkes.” <-this is amazing also I lol'd at the "how to"

  • Jennifer

    Hah! I HATE chipped nails with a passion. For some reason, I equate severely chipped nails with having dirty hands/being a gross-ish person (gives side eye, won’t share finger foods with you!). Obviously dirty hands and chipped nails are not mutually exclusive, but hands are such a big part of everything, they need to look clean and polished (with or without actual nail polish) when interacting with the world! I am also just a hand snob in general- when I used to date, good hands/nails were a big part of my pros/cons list about a dude! My fiance could be a male hand model! Guess it’s just one my things….

    [insert YouTube clip from Zoolander’s male hand model scene]

    • I’m with you. My mom was a manicurist so I was fortunate enough to grow up with an in house nail tech to give me weekly manis. I know most of us are not so lucky! But my aversion to chipped nails remains.

    • ValiantlyVarnished

      YESS. I am a nail blogger, and this is my number one pet peeve, followed closely by unkempt cuticles and uneven and mismatched nail shapes.

    • ‘Tis time to test-drive a homemade hyperbaric chamber, methinks….

  • tmm16

    It’s funny because my nails look exactly like the photos! Same color and condition. I say we make a chipped nails club. I just don’t have the time or $ to keep up with them every day or week. Maybe someday I’ll be able to, but for now, there are more pressing matters “at hand” 🙂

    • I second the founding of a chipped nails club. We already have two whole people counting the both of us. We got this.

      • Hellbetty666

        Can i join too? I’m on day five of a lurid sparkly greenish turquoise, it’s trashy as hell, and I love it.

  • Melanie

    wait – you’re NOT suppose to rinse off the serum in sheet masks. you are suppose to pat it into your skin.

  • Harriet Johns

    I don’t think I’ve ever related to anything so much. Chipped nails will always be better than no nail varnish for me

    • Yesss, I can’t stand looking at my nails when they’re naked. At least the chipped polish makes me feel like I’m waiting in line for a Taking Back Sunday concert or something.

  • ValiantlyVarnished

    I am a nail blogger. Which means I have LOTS of opinions on this subject. I hate chipped nails with the heat of a thousand suns. No one has yet to convince me otherwise. They look unprofessional, unkempt and just flat out gross to me. It gives me the vapors every time I see it. I say if you can’t maintain polish it’s best to just not put it on in the first place. My least favorite is when women wear dark polish and allow it to chip. You’d be better off wearing a neutral color that won’t show as much if it does in fact chip. Or invest in a no-chip manicure. PS – I say this as someone who has naturally dry nails and I can’t keep polish on for longer than 5 – 6 days. TOPS. But I always manage to not walk around with my nails looking a hot mess.

    • dayman

      but chipped nails + dark nails=DOUBLE EDGY (i tell myself)

      • Hellbetty666


    • meme

      Unprofessional? Unless I am a manicurist, how do my nails speak to how I do my job?

      • ValiantlyVarnished

        Wow this is a really old comment so Iwas shocked to get a notification for it. But I will answer your question: in an office setting, yes, it looks unprofessional to walk around with chipped unkempt nails.

  • Veronica Wilkins

    I just fucking 86ed wearing nail polish all together because of this weekly finger travesty. Last week I tried a sill tie-dye look on them (its not spring yet, lets slow down, here) and waited 3 days before ripping each nail polish sheet off entirely.

  • FINALLY! If I could secretly fund this into a real trend, I would.. definitely a political interest to get behind. Not only are my nails 99% chipped due to general clumsiness/activities, I have a small ax wound on one nail that means it will continue chipping right in the middle until it fully grows out. So, firstly, perhaps add clumsy wood chopping with cloth gloves on to your how-to list (though generally not recommended). Also, I’d just like to add that I think the (hopefully soon very hot trend) of chipped nails carries very important notes of empowerment and liberation (also apricot?). For what do chipped nails mean? frequently wet hands from intense water sports, probably some kind of guitar playing, aggressive undressing, doing all kinds of shit without gloves on.. this is about digging into the world. It’s time.

  • My nail polish is usually slightly chipped because of work and other activities. I’m a visual merchandiser so I’m pretty much always carrying something and moving stuff around, and I exercise at a rock climbing gym. I don’t mind seeing my tips and corners of my nails but if I can already see large chunks of my nail I usually cave and redo my nails. But it is nice to not give a fuck.

  • Liz

    I’m with the chipped nail polish club. I see chipped polish and I see a busy woman getting stuff done. The only time I actually paint my nails is when I’m feeling too lazy to do anything but sit on the couch with bottles of paint.

    • Alice

      Same. I don’t see it as statement making to wear chipped nail polish, just that it doesn’t bother me and I haven’t taken it off yet. It’s actually kinda relieving to have it chipped. The short while that it’s not chipped is so much pressure to not let them chip!

  • dayman

    THANK YOU for writing this I have honestly been thinking about this for so long! We’ve embraced messy hair, messy makeup, artfully messy clothes for years now. Why not nails?? I always think they look cool but they seem to seriously offend most people. Only adds to my passion.

  • Hellbetty666

    Yesssss!!!! I came of age in 1990 and Courtney Love was my style icon, so chipped nails, smudged eyeliner and bruises are my favourite accessories.

    See also: Beattie Johnson, the scurrilous tabloid journalist from Jilly Cooper’s Rivals (and other JC books). Chipped nails, last night’s eyeliner, dirty hair and mucky feet. Evening gowns worn in the morning. Laddered tights. I love her.

  • belle

    In my mind, the nail equivalent of “undone” hair and smudged liner is the bare nail (or nail with a clear/sheer coat) which is very much in style! Your hands are directly interacting with the people and things around you (unlike your artfully smudgy eyeliner) so it makes sense to keep them neat. Much better to have clean, trimmed, well groomed nails than a neglected manicure. See also: mostly bare nails with minimal nail art. Stylish, “done” but still low maintenance, can get a chip or two without looking gross.

  • Gaby

    Chipped nails were already a thing a few years ago. I remember many pop stars wearing them. I’m with the others who can’t stand it. I absolutely associate it with general lack of cleanliness.