Newsflash: Press-on nails are awesome. Like nail art itself, they’ve long been beloved—and popularized—by trendsetting Black women, and more recently they have become a beauty secret-weapon for red carpet events by celebs like Jennifer Lopez, Kim Kardashian and Cynthia Erivo. But they don’t have to be just for special events: Wearing press-on nails IRL is surprisingly easy and seriously cute. (Plus, they’ve come a looooong way from the fussy sets of the past.) Not only do modern press-ons look like a professional paint job, they are also less maintenance and cost less money than a salon manicure, says Neketa Andrews, a Toronto-based nail tech and founder of Nailketa.
With salons and spas still closed across most of the country, there’s never been a better time to give them a try. Here’s how to use press-on nails to get a profesh-looking spring manicure from the comfort of your own couch.
Step 1: ID your nail size
When determining what size of press-on nails to use, Andrews explains that the right fit should lie flush with the edges of your natural nail bed, perfectly covering your whole nail. To help make the process easier, many brands have a number system when it comes to sizes. The numbers go from biggest to smallest, with zero typically being for thumbs and higher numbers for pinkies, explains Gina Edwards, KISS products Inc. brand ambassador and a celebrity manicurist whose client list includes Naomi Campbell and Rosie Huntington Whiteley. This number system can vary slightly between brands but generally sizing tends to be similar, and many brands provide a sizing guide on their website. Once you ID your size for each finger, write it down in your phone, so you remember for future applications and don’t have to spend time on trial and error.
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Step 2: File and prep your nails
Prepping your nails for press-ons doesn’t differ much from what you would (ideally) do for a regular polish mani. “Pushing back your cuticles, cutting your nails down and giving them a gentle buff to create a rough surface so that the glue can bond well is recommended for a better hold,” says Andrews. You also want to get your nails as clean as possible. Edwards advises washing your hands before getting started and swiping an acetone-based remover over your nail beds to get an extra-clean surface, which will help with adherence.
Step 3: Glue down your set
Your nails are sized and your fingers are prepped, so now it’s go time. To achieve the best application results, Andrews recommends applying one nail at a time and not rushing it. Apply a small amount of glue onto your natural nail plate. (Most sets are sold with glue but you can purchase it separately.) For the sturdiest hold, Andrews recommends applying one or two drops of glue and then spreading it across the entire surface of your nail for a thin, even coat. Then, apply your press-on nail right away and hold it in place for 10 seconds before moving on to the next finger. To ensure your nails are secure, Edwards advises placing your press-on right up to the cuticle leaving no gaps or exposed nail bed.
Step 4: Shorten and shape them
Now that your nails are on (hooray!), if the length is too long for your liking, simply file down the press-ons to your desired length. “Filing and contouring the sides of the nails will give a more natural and streamlined look,” Edwards says. She recommends always using your file at an angle underneath the nail and never directly on top of the press-on because you may end up filing off the colour or design. And if you’re tempted to cut them at all with nail clippers, don’t! It can damage and crack the nail.
Step 5: Make them last
Now that your application is finished, you want those babies to last, right? Depending on the type of press-on used and the form of glue, most sets should stay on anywhere from five days to well over a week. To get the most out of your newly applied manicure, both Andrews and Edwards advise against soaking your nails in warm or hot water as this can cause the press-on to swell and pop off. (Pick up some dish gloves, stat!) Another no-no: using your nails to open cans or jars, as it can weaken the hold of the glue.
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When it’s time to remove your press-ons
When it’s time to take your press-ons off, you want to take precautions to ensure you don’t damage your natural nails during the process. According to Edwards, the best way to remove your press-ons is soaking them in warm water for a few minutes, then applying a little bit of cuticle oil or olive oil onto an orange-wood stick and gently encouraging the nail to release by massaging in a circular motion around your nail beds.
Can you reuse press-on nails?
If your press-ons are in good shape after removal (there’s no wear and tear and the shape didn’t get warped during removal), they can be worn again. Some brands, like Static Nails, even carry styles that are specifically made to be worn again and again. But before you pop them back on, Andrews recommends wiping down the inside of the nail with an alcohol-soaked cotton swab to remove any residual glue. If there’s still glue hanging on post wipe down, she says you can gently buff it off with a file or buffer. Editor’s note: Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, it might be best to refrain from reusing nails for the time being.
Spring 2020 nail trends to try
One of the golden rules of nail art is to have fun, and press-ons are no different. There are *so* many options now, from nude to OTT glitter to intricate designs, that you truly are spoiled for choice. If you want to hit on a spring trend with your next application, Edwards is all about light peach and terracotta hues right now, and Andrews is obsessed with pastels and metallics. Both call-out the double French manicure—two stripes of colour on the tip—as the nail art style du jour. Just remember: Anything goes. “Try something fresh, like a nail colour or design that is new to your style and step outside your comfort level,” says Edwards.
Press-ons are flying off the shelves right now, but here are a few styles to try if you can snap them up!
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Static Nails Reusable Pop-On Manicures in Ballerina Round, $23, staticnails.com
This chic neutral set can be reapplied for multiple wears and the kit includes 24 nails in 10 sizes, glue, instructions, a buffer and a file for precise application.
The Nailest Instant Glam Neon Glory Nails, $21, thenailest.com
Give a hint of neon tint with this set from The Nailest. Included in the kit are 24 nails that come in two sets of sizes from zero to nine so you’re sure to get the perfect fit.
Sensational Gelvolution Nails in Purple Sunglasses, $15, shoppersdrugmart.ca
This set of 24 press-on nails has a gel manicure finish and is equipped with technology that allows for a more flexible and comfortable wear, especially around the sensitive cuticle area.
Quo Beauty Artificial Nail with Glue, $15, shoppersdrugmart.ca
The French manicure trend is having a comeback and we’re not made about it. This set of nails puts a twist on the classic look with a chrome tip that’s a subtle step up from a neutral.
Marmalade Press-On Nails in Aurora, $17 US or $24 CAN, marmaladenails.com
These best-selling holographic tips from US-based brand Marmalade Nails can be filed down to get the look just right. The kit comes with everything you need for application including a guide and manicure stick.
Pinky’s Nails Neon Ombre Lemonade Nails, $30, pinkysnails.squarespace.com
Hello, neon! This almond-shaped set from Toronto-based Pinky’s Nails comes with 15 nails and screams ‘summer’ with eye-popping neon hues in three shades.
L’Oreal Paris Colour Riche Press-On Nails in Lucky Penny, $15, londondrugs.com
This drugstore fave has a chrome finish and will last for up to seven days. Application is easy peasy as they stick straight onto your nails, no glue required.
Rebecca Minkoff X imPRESS Press-on Manicure in Le French Pop, $9 US or $13 CAN, impressmanicure.com
It doesn’t get much cuter than this collab between imPRESS and NYC-based designer Rebecca Minkoff. This set of 30 press-on and go nails is the perfect way to add a bit of negative space nail art to your mani.
KISS Gel Fantasy Sculpted Nails in Night After, $9 US or $13 CAN, kissusa.com
Hop on the pastel trend with this matte lavender nail set that includes adhesive tabs and glue so you’re able to customize your application.
A Little Sunshine Handmade Press-On Nails Pink Collection, $18, etsy.ca
This Canadian-based brand sells handmade press-ons in a variety of shapes and styles. Their sizing guide makes online shopping a cinch and helps to ensure you’re getting the right fit for your fingers.