Variations on a Theme: The Traditional Essie French Manicure

I know I’m in the minority when it comes to love for french manicures. I even like french for… *gasp*… pedicures, blasphemy, I know. In hopes of convincing more people to come to the dark side (rather the light pink and white side), I decided to do a series on the various types of french manicures. We’ll be looking at different polishes that can comprise the set as well as different application styles and looks. Today, we’re looking at, what is in my opinion, the quintessential french manicure: The Traditional Essie French Mani.

When it comes to demure, but sophisticated, nudes, pinks, and neutrals – Essie is the go-to brand. To me, Essie is also synonymous with french manis. I’ve tried several french mani combinations, nothing compares to the look you get with Essie Mademoiselle and Essie Marshmallow. Most people would refer to this combo as being an American French Manicure. (For an explanation for the differences between french mani styles check out this link.) The combo is soft and natural looking, definitely among my personal favorites but also widely popular with just about everyone who like french manis. Essie Pink Glove Service can also be used as a base color for a french mani but here I used it as the over-layer. Generally, I like flashy stark white tips but since I’m temporarily stuck in realm of professional looking manis, I decided to layer Pink Glove Service to dim Marshmallow a bit. I like the way it looks but ultimately I could have done without the extra PGS coat because Mademoiselle and Marshmallow look very professional all on their own.

As far as application: This is base coat plus one coat of Mademoiselle, perfectly smooth and even. Mademoiselle looks very pink in the bottle but applies translucent. I needed two coats of Marshmallow for the tips to look solid. I did this free hand so, as you can imagine, it was a huge pain in the butt. Stickers are great but they work best for the very patient. I find it easier to just do it free hand. Doing free hand correctly takes some practice but that’s better than fumbling with the stickers. The nail board wisdom tip for getting a good solid white tip is too move your finger instead of the brush, that’s also what works best for me.


15 Responses to “Variations on a Theme: The Traditional Essie French Manicure”

  1. ericka Says:

    I totally agree with you and love Essie for their pales! Have been debating by Marshmallow forever now…still searching for a wearable semi-opaque white!

  2. Ponchy Says:

    Great french mani! I must confess that I will always think that french mani’s (at the proper length…not talons) are classy & classic. Thanks for the great article/pic!

  3. Alison Says:


    I love your blog and really appreiate the trouble you go to for the great swatches, it’s really useful being able to see the colours before I buy.

    I too love french manicures (although I like them to look really natural so probably more of an american manicure) anway, I always use mademoiselle and marshmallow but just one coat of each.

    Your nails are beautiful, perfect length and shape, do you do them yourself? If so what are your favourite products?

  4. pretear Says:

    Thank you so much Alison. : ) I actually use a ton of stuff but I think the most essential are cuticle oils (CND Solar Oil is my go-to), hand creams, and a glass nail file (which helps prevent peels and breaks). I don’t really use strengtheners, I find that my nails stay healthy and grow nicely if I just constantly keep them painted. Let me know if you have any other questions. : )

  5. The Asian Girl Says:

    I needed professional-looking colors and bought both Mademoiselle and Marshmallow for a French mani. I used Seche’s ridge filling base then Mademoiselle; streaks ahoy! I didn’t have time for a redo; I’m cringing at my current nail state. I read that your favorite ridge filler is Barielle Camo; I’m still saving up my pennies for that inevitable purchase. What do you do to combat the inevitable Essie streaks?

  6. pretear Says:

    You can get camo for dirt cheap at TJ Maxx – I just scored a bottle for 3.95! I’m sorry to heard that you’re having streak issues. Maybe try Mademoiselle over a non-ridge filler?

  7. Caitie Says:

    I love french manicures, I’m glad to see that you do too!

  8. Steph Says:

    I do! I know a lot of people don’t but I love them. (Even on toes! *gasp*) lol.

  9. Marsha Says:

    Thanks so much for the tips on the french manicure. I had purchased an Essie polish called Hi Maintenance. I used two coats and my nails are abit too pink. I will try Mademoiselle next time and only one coat. I applied Marshmallow on the tips first after the base coat and before applying the Hi Maintenance. Am I doing this in the correct order?

  10. Dani Says:

    do professionals use only one coat of pink for the french mani? I can’t get a solid pink look without streaks. I used Zoya and Orly. I know you recommend Essie, but not sure its the product but how I apply it. Orly Bonder as Base coat, 2 coats of pink, then one coat of white on tips, finally Seche top coat. Still streaks!

  11. Tania Says:

    Do you have any Essie color recommendations for something that is more stark white than Marshmallow? I put on 4 coats of Marshamallow and it’s still pretty sheer…am jealous that you achieved the perfect French tip with just two coats!

  12. Val Piedoza Says:

    If you’re looking for a great deal on Essie Mademoiselle check out Cosmopro This site has great prices and offers Free Shipping on Orders over $50.

  13. Francesca Says:

    This article confirmed that Essie’s Marshmallow is for French mani TIPS, not to be applied as a regular coat! I absolutely love Mademoiselle on its own, and it is just gorgeous with 2 applications (and lasts a while w/o chipping). Since I wanted something a bit creamier/whiter for a clean look, I bought the Marshmallow shade. When applied to the entire nail bed, it goes on goopy and pasety and takes forever to dry. So, thanks to your article, I realize it’s for tips, not actual polish. Will try an at-home French mani now!

  14. The Polish Addict » Blog Archive » The Polish Addict: Wedding Edition!! Says:

    [...] Some of you are going to be disappointed, haha, that I decided to do a standard french, using Essie Mademoiselle and Essie Marshmallow. But I did spice it up a bit with two coats of Orly [...]

  15. laura Says:

    Very late to the game, but nothing is nicer than the look of the French mani and pedi! I love the pedi for summer, natural, yet finished.
    Thanks for posting!

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