THE SUMMER GOTH MANICURE: Get The Look With Sally Hansen's Great New Product

I know that everyone is saying that nail art is over, but my Instagram feed would disagree.
Publish date:
June 9, 2014
shoppables, nail art, nails, summer beauty, Sally Hansen, sheer, black nails

I know that about the last thing any of us need is another article on nail art, but here we are. Every once in a while, an interesting product comes along that’s worth checking out. I know that everyone is saying that nail art is over, but my Instagram feed would disagree.

Just after the new year, I was lurking the beauty section of some store and came across Sally Hansen’s new line of “Big” top coats, which include different finishes and effects like matte, shimmer, and glitter. There was one that especially caught my eye, The Big Smoky Top Coat.

I was in a hurry though, so I set it down thinking I’d be able to pick it up some other time.

I was wrong. It completely disappeared from stores for months and I was kicking myself for not picking it up when I had the chance. What was I thinking? I am the king of impulse purchases! When will I learn? Don’t think, just buy.

Luckily for me, Sally Hansen’s Big Smoky Top Coat finally decided to show its face in stores again, and I snatched it up the first chance I got. It’s such a little freak show that I had to find a sick way to use it and really show it off, and I think I’ve done just that.


This soft goth manicure is basically a love letter to my Internet wife and xoJane’s very own fashion icon who keeps it goth no matter what, Olivia Hall, as well as my personal lord and savior, Kylie Jenner.

It’s news to nobody that the goth trend is back, thanks in part to Lorde and manufacturers of dark lipsticks everywhere, and now we can bring it to our nails. Goth doesn’t always have to mean boring, chipped black polish. This look gives me “Lana Del Rey attending Marilyn Manson’s summer barbecue on the eve of a nuclear apocalypse.” Get into it.

Here’s what you’ll need:

So, I started off with a soft, nearly sheer pink base with Essie’s Ballet Slippers, which is just a touch more opaque than Mademoiselle, another Essie favorite.

I wanted something sheer, but my nails are a little beat up right now and I didn’t want any damage to be visible in the photos out here on the world wide web. Are you Team Ballet Slippers or Team Mademoiselle? Wage war in the comments.

Lay down two or three thin coats and let dry. Apply a regular top coat because we’re going to be playing around on top of the color and we don’t want to dent or smudge the polish, I used Seche Vite because I refuse to try anything else.


This is where I worry that you all with accuse me of recycling all of those basic nail art tutorials that started showing up on Pinterest two years ago and just won’t die. And really, you’d be right. I mean, I’m about to use scotch tape. BUT the Smoky Top Coat breathes new, gothy life into these tried, true, and played-out techniques and makes for a subtle and sophisticated look that doesn’t try too hard. Stay with me.

The Smoky Top coat is less of a top coat and more of a sheer black polish, kind of like the sheer white RBG X Jennifer Fisher collabo, but in black. I’m usually not a fan of sheers since they’re almost always geared toward French manicures, but this sheer black looks fantastic over other polishes or alone, and begs to be used for nail art. Unlike a lot of other sheers, this one applies evenly and dries down without staying tacky forever.

I snapped a photo to show just how sheer we’re talking: one coat on the left, and two on the right.

To begin, I grabbed some tape, rubbed it on my T-shirt a few times to make it a little less sticky and make sure it wasn’t going to pull the polish up, and went to town. I made a v-gap, a criss-cross, and some stripes. Basically I kept going until I lost patience, about four minutes.

I painted one coat of the sheer black over the tape, waited until it had dried a bit but was still tacky, did a second coat, and then peeled the tape up. All polishes are different, but I like to wait until the color has set enough that the edges will stay sharp and not run while I yank the tape up. JUST A TIP.

Next I tried a gradient. I still love them, for the record. The Smoky Top Coat makes achieving a perfect gradient basically foolproof, since you’re basically building the sheer polish to an opacity that you’re happy with. I sponged on two to three coats and then finished it off with a normal black polish at the very tip to really get that light-to-dark effect. EASY.

There are a million ways to do gradients. I would normally prefer to do both colors at the same time to get a really nice blend, but you should be fine with some strategic sponging.

Speaking of black polish, I threw in some contrasting black polish details and I think it looks just great. I dotted on some polka dots using my trusty dotter on one nail, and used a striper to put a black tip and and a black detail on another.

And we're finished! You've got yourself a manicure that's subtle, girly, and gothy.

And bonus: They match the Air Force 1s that I just finished!

Are you into it? Are you OVER it? What do you think about sheer polishes? Where do you stand on nail art? Tell me everything down below.

Tynan is gothy on Twitter @TynanBuck.