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While I was growing up, press-on nails were mostly limited to short French manicures or extremely square nails featuring lined or floral designs — and that’s precisely why I avoided them. But times have changed. At an old internship, a colleague informed me that her gorgeous manicure was just a set of nails she bought from the drugstore, which truly shocked me. As a lover of nail art who hates seeing even the slightest chip, I immediately set out to buy some.
Fast-forward to now: My nails are almost always covered with press-ons in all shapes, designs, and lengths. Previously, it was hard to find anything but a French-manicured look, but the variety has expanded to include almond, stiletto, and coffin styles in almost every color and finish you can think of. Many of our favorite nail artists love constructing their own, like nail artist Gracie J known as @theeditorialnail on Instagram.
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The New York City-based artist is known for creating gorgeous nail art on the dramedy Claws, and she brings that creativity to many of the sets she paints. “I customize looks, shapes, and sizes for my clients — I love a custom look because no two people have the same designs,” Gracie explains. “Press-ons are quick, easy, and hassle-free. If going to the salon is not for you, these are definitely a great option.”
While you may not want to make your own (after all, part of the appeal is in avoiding doing any of the art yourself), you can certainly customize the market’s existing options by mixing and matching different styles. Perhaps a matte purple nail from one pack and a blue metallic nail from another?
While super convenient, press-ons are not damage-free. During removal, you can risk peeling off a few superficial nail cells (known as onychocytes). When those patches — which are called keratin granulations, according to New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Dana Stern — come off, they can leave you with an “uneven, discolored, and peeling nail.” To help prevent that, here’s my own little hack: Prior to applying my fake nails, I paint a couple of coats of clear polish to act as a barrier between the physical nail and glue.
However, this trick isn’t foolproof. “I love the idea of applying a protective coat to the nail prior to applying the nail glue, be it a base coat or other polish,” Stern says. “Polish can absolutely be protective, and it is generally the removal process that leads to the dehydration and potential damage.” Nail-polish removers with acetone can dehydrate that area affecting the overall health of the nail. She recommends following the removal instructions from the brand or using a little warm soapy water or cuticle oil to weaken the adhesive.
Stern also warns that most of the potential allergic reactions to nail glue are when it hits the skin. She emphasizes the importance of applying a proper amount of glue — which is usually similar to that of a small glass bead — only to the nails.
Whether you want to go short with neutral polish or long and bold with a multicolored glitter set, we’ve got you covered with the latest and greatest in press-on nails — and they come in a variety of price points, so we’ve got you covered there, too.
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