Oh, crackle nail polish. Used to make even the prettiest of nail polish colors look distressed and oh so very “punk rock.” At least that was the goal, the execution might have missed the mark a bit depending on how well someone was at actually applying nail polish. It’s definitely not something easily perfected in middle school, when it felt like it took at least two years for the base coat to dry before color could be added.
For those who are blissfully unaware of what this article is covering, crackle nails were a short-lived trend that peaked in 2013. Labeled as an “overcoat,” black, white, or even pink if you could get your hands on it, could be painted on top of a neutral-toned base coat. When the overcoat dried, it would splinter, or “crackle,” leaving a chipped look across the entire nail.
While the distressed look is nothing new, taking it to nails was an interesting concept. It’s so easy to chip nail polish anyway, why not do it intentionally and stay on trend? Sally Hansen dominated the crackle nail polish game, being cheap and accessible definitely helped, and it can still be purchased today if one looks hard enough. There might not be as many colors as there were in its heyday, but if the nostalgia hits and it feels like the best way to work out that energy is by painting nails like it’s 2013 again, go for it.
The trend came with mixed reviews, though. It was definitely geared more toward middle schoolers and high schoolers and less for people with 9-5 jobs who had to look as polished as possible. In 2012, The Huffington Post wrote a whole article about why the trend had to end, and while some might have disagreed at the time, it definitely overstayed its welcome in the opinions of others.
As stated before, it’s completely possible to try your hand at this trend now, be it a recreation of prepubescent nail designs or a first-time attempt. For those who prefer gel over regular polish, don’t fret. Crackle gel sets can be found online with a quick google search, but they can come with a hefty price, as they more often than not come as sets meant for salons and not single-person use. Make sure to apply a clear base coat and a neutral base color before applying the crackle overcoat, and don’t forget to seal it all in with a top coat.
Crackle nails might not have made it past everyone’s pop-punk phase, but they definitely made an everlasting mark as a staple look in early 2010s fashion. They’re not for everyone, and are definitely not as versatile as a French tip, but if the mood to mix up the nail look arises, maybe pick up a bottle of crackle nail polish at the store next time.