Over 134,000 followers drool over her nail art now, but Betina Goldstein's career as an editorial manicurist-turned-Insta-sensation started by accident. She started off in television, working at NBC, the Food Network, and MTV before landing in fashion at a production company that did runway shows. One day, a manicurist bailed and the team needed help—quickly. Someone asked her if she could paint nails and despite not being a professional, she said yes.
"I ended up doing an Express runway show with 27 models. Just me! Hair and makeup was getting done at the same time. I was under a table—just craziness," she recalls. "I was like, this is so fun. I really want to do this." That eventually led her to LA, where she started working on magazine editorials, campaigns, and with celebrities like Bella Hadid, Zoë Kravitz, and Billie Eilish.
Though she did some formal nail tech training, the artistic intricate nail art you see reposted everywhere? That's all her. "I'm self-taught completely," she says. "I wasn't a huge fan of nail art, but I wanted to adapt it to something that I would wear. I love the clean and simple approach." Her work always surprises and delights with details: tiny pearls or sequins deftly applied onto naked nail beds, skittles-like manicures with multiple shades, negative space and tortoise shell, delicate leopard print, tiny red thread, (literal) frayed denim.
Now, Goldstein has parlayed her work as a manicurist into designing jewelry with her newly launched accessory brand, Double Moss. Her designs—dainty gold chain rings, snake-shaped midi rings, and pearl rings are thoughtfully made for complementing your manicure.
Read on for more about her creative process, her best tips for healthy hands and nails, and how to take a not-awkward manicure selfie (she is the master!).
When did you start your Instagram account?
I started doing nails around 2011, then got on Instagram in 2014. Four years ago, maybe, just after I started my nail art an image was re-posted by a magazine. It just started picking up and consistent growth came from a lot of reposting. One day [my count] was 2,000, the next time 6,000, and I was like oh my god, this is so crazy.
One of the things that stands out most about your page is that you photograph designs on yourself—and have amazing hand modeling. Any tips for not being awkward when showing off a manicure?
Honestly, I'm not a hand model, it was just trying to find the right angles for my hand. I love a white background because it doesn't get in the way of the nail art and really lets the art shine. I just started really experimenting on what works best for my hands. It was just positioning my hands so that the light didn't reflect onto the shine of the polish. And natural light, always.
How would you describe your approach to nail art?
I focus on designs that are more contemporary and they have intricate detail and dimension, but don't necessarily overwhelm your nails. It's all about the placement of the nail art. It's really minimal. At the same time some of my nail designs are really out there: I'll do chains on the nails—but with a sheer base.
I don't ever do gel unless it's for a celebrity client who asked for it. On myself, I rarely ever do gel, acrylics, or nail extensions because I like a healthy natural nail. There's nothing better. I always like to let that shine and then just do detail on top of that.
What are your tips for healthy-looking nails?
I try not to [get nail extensions] and I love doing a hand scrub like Herbivore's Coconut Rose Body Polish. It smells amazing and it removes all dead skin and leaves your hands super soft. I do that once a week.
I use an oil-based nail polish remover that really keeps your nails and cuticles hydrated. Acetone is so harsh on your skin. It's super drying. If you're using regular polish, just make sure that you use an oil based remover.
For moisturizers, I always mix argan oil or a face oil and then hand cream and I feel like that really does the trick for me. Supergoop has an SPF 40 hand cream that's very hydrating. If you're here in LA you're driving everywhere and it's just one thing that you absolutely need because if not, you'll start getting spots on your hands and wrinkles.
For oil, I really love Chanel's jasmine or rose oil because it's subtle. It doesn't leave your hands greasy. Then, the last thing is Burts Bees hand salve—I always recommend this for people that have really, really dry hands. If you put it on at night, massage it into your cuticles. It builds a little barrier because it's so oily.
Betina Goldstein's Favorite Hand Products
Hand Salve (Pack of 2) Burt's Bees amazon.com $16.50 SHOP NOW L'Huile de Jasmin Chanel chanel.com $230.00 SHOP NOW Coco Rose Body Polish Herbivore Botanicals amazon.com $36.00 SHOP NOW Forever Young Hand Cream with Sea Buckthorn Broad Spectrum SPF 40 Supergoop! nordstrom.com $12.00 SHOP NOW
You do a lot of 3D embellishments—pearls, chains—where did you get your inspiration for those designs?
I'm always going into craft stores and finding like random things around my house to put on my nails. One time I had this Chanel ribbon, and it was too beautiful to throw away so I just cut out each letter and then place them on my nails. I don't know what the inspiration, I just see that object and I'm like, oh I could do something with this. That's it!
How long does it typically take you to do a really intricate design, like these Hokusai-style waves?
I love designs that challenge me and really require a lot of tiny details and a lot of patience. It doesn't take me as long on my own nails because I just know my nails so well. I would say it takes one hour to do that one on myself. But, if I properly recreate it on somebody else it would take me more time.
You also extend your nail designs to the fingers—like you did for Gemma Chan at the Met Gala. How did you come up with that?
Nails are like jewelry—it's just a different way of expressing how I'm incorporating it into the rest of the hand. It doesn't just stop at the nail.
What are your favorite nail tools to use?
I don't know the exact name of that file, it's so rounded at the other end, you can really get into the area. One side is really fine grit, so it doesn't leave your nails feeling like you just went in with a hacksaw. The brushes I use for nail art I got from Amazon, a set of three from Makartt for $12 that are really thin and great for detailing.
Makartt 3Pcs Nail Art Liner Brush Acrylic Nail Brush Gel Nail Painting Brush Pen Set Metal Diamond Acrylic Handle, Q-09 Makartt amazon.com $12.99 SHOP NOW
What does the average person not know about editorial nail artists?
There's so much: You have to be really fast. I think the biggest thing is it's a team effort with hair and makeup. You kind of have to dodge the hair and makeup artists at the same time—like dancing. It's great because there's so much time and love that goes into each look and story. It's just a bunch of artists working together to create this fantasy world. Also, I'm always telling clients "Put your hand on your face please. One finger! I got a thumb!" Especially on a cover—it's a fun thing to see come together and pick it up in a magazine store and say I was a part of that.
Kristina Rodulfo Senior Beauty Editor Kristina Rodulfo is the Senior Beauty Editor of ELLE.com—she oversees beauty across ELLE's digital media platforms and is an expert in product testing, identifying trends, and exploring the intersections of beauty, culture, and identity.