12 Ways To Wear The ’90s-Inspired Smiley Face Nail Art Trend

It’s an instant mood-booster.

by Sophia Moore

Sure, it’s annoying when someone tells you to smile — but, regardless of your mood, it’s totally possible to have your nails smile for you (and that’s never annoying). Slapping a smiley face or two onto your fingertips is the latest manicure trend taking over the internet, guaranteed to instill at least a little happiness into your life. The best part? They’re super easy to customize.

From subtle to sparkly, smiley face nail art can be whatever you want it to be. Brittney Boyce, celebrity nail artist and founder of NAILS OF LA, says you can wear the design in a more minimalist fashion with a single face in the middle of a neutral nail, or you can pair the smiley with different trends like checkerboard print or chrome polish. “You can even use a happy face to create a ‘wallpaper’ pattern where you repeat it once or twice on the nail using a metallic color,” she tells Bustle. “What’s great is that it looks great on long and short nails and can be incorporated into a lot of different designs.”

The smiley face design, according to Boyce, is one of multiple ’90s-inspired prints (think aliens and peace signs) trending in the manicure world. If you want to try the nostalgic look for yourself, here are 12 swoon-worthy examples of the smiley face nail art trend that are equal parts joyful and chic.


Simple Smiley

Go for a minimalist take on the trend with smiley faces on just one or two fingers. Combine it with a French tip and a wavy design on your other fingers and you’ll have a cute mani that’s not too flashy.


Wavy Tips

These cute wavy French-style tips combine cherries, hearts, flowers, and smiley faces into a multi-colored manicure without looking too busy. Try pairing a few pastel colors with some miniature designs to create a mix-and-match look that’s still cohesive.


Black & White

Try this black-and-white mani — featuring a subtle pop of color on the pinky — pairs checkered patterns, flames, and a slew of smileys. Each nail gets its own design and comes together to form a stand-out set.


Retro Smileys

This groovy orange set takes a retro approach to the smiley face trend with ’60s-esque florals and classic French tips.


*All* The Faces

Reflect all your feels with an assortment of emoticons on your mani. Paint each one over a colorful base and you’ve got a different vibe on each fingertip.


Heart-Shaped Tips

This mani upgrades the French manicure trend with its heart-shaped smiling tips. Stick to a solid yellow across the board for a summery, playful spin.


Holographic Smileys

You can never go wrong with a little sparkle. These holographic nails are eye-catching and sweet, with a mini smiley face pattern atop the iridescent purple to complete the look.


Wavy Faces

For an eye-catching smiley manicure, try an alternating color scheme from one hand to the next, like this pink and blue combo — featuring wavy faces — to add some extra flair to the look.


Subtle Smiling Tips

Looking to add just a little detail to your next French mani? This set combines delicate flowers and mini smileys onto a few fingers to spice up a classic look while staying on-trend.


Power Clashing

If you’re into neons, try this checkerboard-color block combo that showcases power clashing at its finest. Use lightning bolts and smiley faces to amp up the colorful look.


Brown & White Patterns

More proof that checkerboard print and smileys are the perfect match in nail art heaven: This dual-toned mani is a clean, elegant look that’s only improved by the tiny emoticons on two fingertips.


Smiley Flowers

For a different take on floral nail art, paint some smiling flowers onto your nail beds. The little faces only serve to make your set that much cuter, and the bright orange and yellows of this look are sure to put a smile on your face.