Sea Glass-Inspired Nails: Henna Meets The Jersey Shore

This frosty henna manicure looks just like the sea glass I collect from the Jersey Shore.

Summer is my favorite season, but between swimming, sunbathing, soccer games, and rooftop dance parties, my nails take a beating.

Where I grew up, near the Jersey Shore, we have this river beach called Fisherman’s Cove, also known to locals as Dog Beach. It's where people bring their dogs to swim, jump, chase each other around, and beach party canine-style. I like to take my nephew dog there on adventures, because he's an active breed (Black Lab) and he shows my little city dog how to have fun in nature, i.e. get sticks from the river, which she hates.

Fisherman's Cove/Dog Beach is also special for its abundance of sea glass (which you can learn about here). I collected sea glass all through high school, sometimes even scoring rare red and yellow chunks. I saw them as treasures.

And now we circle back to my original problem: having more summer fun than my nail color can handle. Most nail polish brands cause dermatitis-like reactions on me, so I generally tint my babies red with henna and then seal with a 3-free topcoat. This doesn’t hold up well in active situations, and on an impulse, I purchased some NYC Matte Top Coat and forgot about the painful bumps it could have caused but, thankfully, didn't. In addition to not giving me hives, this particular top coat lends a frosted sea glass effect to my bright red henna.

Before you start this how-to, refer to my nail henna tutorial to learn about using henna as nail polish. If you prefer not to use henna, I suggest American Apparel Sheer colors like Redondo Beach and Zuma Beach. (Now that Dov Charney is fired I can finally shop there again!)

Here's What You Need:


STEP 1: Use nail polish remover to clear previous polish or henna. Clean beneath your nails and file to desired shape.

STEP 2: Apply a thin coat of henna or one coat of sheer polish. If using henna, wipe off after five minutes for a soft orange, or leave on for 20 minutes for a deep red.

STEP 3: Prep nails for matte top coat by swiping with a cotton pad soaked in vinegar. Allow to dry.

STEP 4: Apply one coat of matte nail polish for a natural look, two for a frosted glass look. Done!

Lately I switched from making my own henna paste to using tube hennas that are free of PPD. These are crazy affordable, usually around $2.99 or so, and stain SO much more potently than homemade paste. This also means it is harder to apply, so be careful! You can find these tubes easily on Amazon, Henna King, or in a South Asian grocer near you. I prefer the Shahzadi Kone and Ligon brands.

I love this orangey red color, but sea glass is often found in turquoise, dark blue, brown, and clear.

Have you ever picked up sea glass on the beach? How do you keep your nail color going strong in the hard-partying summer months?