How to Apply Press-On Nails Flawlessly

How to Apply Press-On Nails Flawlessly

several press on nails and a hand with press on nails applied on a red backgroundAmir Mukhtar

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These days, there are tons of ways to DIY a manicure without ever having to leave the comfort of your home. With products like at-home gel nail kits and nail stickers, you can create the cute, polished looks you love at a fraction of the price. But if you’re more of an at-home mani novice, don’t want to have to remove gel at home or want a more professional look without the risk of chipped nails, it’s time for you to you familiarize yourself with the world of press-on nails. If you don’t know what press-on nails are, don’t worry — there’s not too much to catch up on. The name gives it away: press-on nails are pre-made artificial nails (often adorned with polish or designs) that are ready to stick onto your natural nails.

Ahead, we’re showing you how to apply press-on nails step-by-step like a pro, tips to make your press-ons last longer and how to remove them as easily as you applied them.

First, pick a size

Packages of press-on nails come with varying sizes inside so they can fit seamlessly on your fingertips. When you open up the package, play around with the different sizes to find the press-ons that fit best on your nails. "Confirm the tip fits from one side to the other, making sure it’s not too large and not too small," advises celebrity nail artist Elle. "If it’s larger you can file it, tailoring it to fit. If it’s too small you can’t put it on your nail."

Next, prep your nails

Simply put, "manicure the cuticles," Elle says. This includes "trimming, filing down, pushing back cuticles and buffing the nail surface," adds Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab Senior Chemist Danusia Wnek. "Then, wipe down your nails with rubbing alcohol and let dry." This will clean your nail plate and remove any natural oils to help make the press-ons last longer.

Nail prep is the most important part of this process — if you’re wondering how to make your press-on nails last longer, this step is where you’ll see the difference. "It’s all about the prep," emphasizes Elle. She and Wnek both agree that it’s also important to follow the directions on the packaging of whatever press-on nail you’re using for best results.

It’s glue time

Now for the main event — it’s time to apply the press-ons. Press-on nails can be applied in two ways: They either need glue or they come with a two-way adhesive tab. If you’re applying your press-on with glue, "apply glue on the tip, hold tip at a 45-degree angle with the cuticle and then press down," Elle says. "You can actually see the glue go forward, and that’s how you know you have a seamless tip application."

Kiss Impress Press-On Manicure

Impress Press-On Manicure

Kiss Impress Press-On Manicure

$9 at Amazon$12 at WalmartCredit: Kiss

However, if you want to apply your press-on without glue, opt for a product that comes with a two-way tab, like the Kiss Impress Press-On Manicure, a 2021 GH Beauty Award winner and recommended by both Elle and Wnek. "The Impress nails are super easy to apply and remove," Wnek says.

Finally, customize your nail

As your last step, you can "tailor your shape and apply nail art if you’d like, unless it already has existing nail art," recommends Elle. This is when you can file the press-on if you want a different shape or size and create your customized look.

How long do press-on nails stay on?

The short answer: It depends. "The Impress nails last about a week for me, but it depends how hard I am on my hands and how much they are exposed to water," says Wnek. "They don’t last as long as press-ons that are applied with glue, and I find that they don’t damage nails as much." Elle echoes that point, sharing that "it can be anywhere from one to four weeks," depending on the brand and type of press-on.

How do you remove press-on nails?

When it’s time to say goodbye to your press-on nails and try a new design or opt for a new nail polish color, it’s not difficult to remove them. "Press-ons have to be soaked off," explains Elle. "You can cut the length first," she adds, which helps the process go more quickly. However, like applying, follow the product’s instructions for removal, advises Wnek. "The Impress Nails can be peeled off with a little acetone," Wnek shares, though not all press-ons may be this easy.

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