With all of the ever-changing and enviable nail trends out there these days, it can be tempting to want to change up your manicure design every week. However, if you aren’t looking to spend all of your time (and money) sitting in a salon to get your claws looking good, press-on nails are your best friend. Even if you’re new to the press-on game, figuring out how to apply press-on nails isn't rocket science — it’s marked by convenience and functionality. That being said, there are some expert-approved methods you should follow if you want to maintain your nail health during, in-between, and after the use of press-ons.
To say that press-ons have been having a major moment recently would be an understatement — on TikTok alone, the #pressonnails hashtag has a whopping 4.5 billion views. When nobody could visit nail salons during the peak of the lockdown in 2020, lots of people turned to press-on nails as an at-home beauty substitute for in-person manicures. Since then, the press-on nail market has boomed. From hand-painted to printed, maximalist to minimalist, there are tons of styles and price points to choose from these days. You can buy pre-designed packages of press-on nails or even commission independent artists to create custom sets for you. Truly, there are more press-on options than ever before, and small businesses are always on top of the latest nail art trends.
Ahead, check out the tips straight from nail experts for a press-on application that lasts, keeps nail beds in tact, and lays just the way you'd like, so you can rightfully show them off everywhere you go.
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Prepping Your Nails For Press-Ons
In order to have your press-on nails not only look good, but also last longer, you should begin by prepping your hands and nails. "The first step would be to wash your hands," Ayesha Hopkins, founder of Sparkle Nail Bar in Clinton, Maryland, tells TZR.
The next thing to consider is cuticle health and dehydrating the nail bed, Sarah Nguyen, a New York City-based editorial and celebrity nail artist says. "Using a wood stick, gently push back your cuticles,” Nguyen tells TZR. “Then lightly buff the nail plate using a buffer. Next, clean the nail and remove any dust by wiping the nail plate with rubbing alcohol or an acetone-based remover. This step is super important, as this will remove any oils from the nail for better adhesion."
Applying Press-On Nails
Your method of application really just depends on how long you want your press-ons to last. "If you are looking for a day or two wear, you can use double-sided adhesive tabs by applying them to the nail, peeling off the tab, and pressing the false nail and holding for 10 seconds," Nguyen says. This easy method is a great option if you only plan on wearing the press-ons for a short amount of time, say, to an event, photoshoot, or weekend vacation.
However, if you want something more reminiscent of a full set, nail glue is the way to go. "Using nail glue is safe and will allow the press-ons to stay on for about one to two weeks with proper application," Hopkins says. "The glue goes a long way, and a small drop is all you’ll need."
And when it comes to shaping, the pros suggests taking a file to the bottom corners of the nail for a more realistic curve.
What To Do If You Lose A Nail
It's inevitable that eventually a nail or two will get lost as you go about your days using your hands. When that happens, don't panic. Simply buff out the nail again, removing any residue from the previous application. "You don't necessarily need to push the cuticles back again, but I would buff your natural nail and dehydrate with rubbing alcohol or an acetone-based remover," Nguyen says.
Removing Press-On Nails
The last thing you want to do is ruin your nail beds, which is why a professional-style removal (from the comfort of your home, of course) is a must. "If you don’t plan on reusing the press-ons, just cut them down and soak your nails in pure acetone for about 15 minutes," Hopkins says.
If you do want to reuse the press-ons, though, all you need is a little oil. "Saturate your nails with cuticle oil and then soak in hot soapy water," says Hopkins. "If you don't have cuticle oil on hand, olive oil will do, too. The nails will start to lift and eventually pop off. This method is a little lengthy but with patience, it works!"
For her nails, Nguyen uses a combination of acetone and cuticle oil on the underside of the nail for a removal that also acts as nail care. "The oil and alcohol will act like a double solvent to not only lift the adhesion, but hydrate your natural nail as well," Nguyen says.
Taking Care Of Your Nails After
Once the nail is removed, rehydrating the nail bed should be your first priority. "Buff the natural nail to assure you’ve removed all of the glue," Hopkins says. "Then, follow up with some cuticle oil."
Consistent use of cuticle oils is especially essential to combat the drying effects of over-washed hands, as is wearing gloves if you’re someone who handles soaps and cleaning chemicals often. "Make sure you are wearing gloves when you are cleaning or washing any dishes, as extra moisture can build up between the nail plate and false nail, sometimes creating nail fungus,” says Hopkins.
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