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Keeping a fresh manicure can be a time-consuming luxury that can get pretty pricey. Between the time it takes to head to the salon and sit through the appointment, you can lose at least an hour of your day depending on what you get done. (If you're anything like me, you'll probably be spending that hour thinking about other things you could be doing.)
While it's great to treat yourself every once in a while, sometimes you just need a quick way to get a pretty set of nails. Perhaps you want to try a new style but don't want to commit to rocking it for several weeks. There's one simple solution to both of these issues: press-on nails.
Press-on nails are an easy, time-saving way to have fun with your manicure and try out different shapes, colors and styles in the comfort of your own home. If you're a beginner and don't know where to start, we asked the experts for their tips on how to properly apply salon-quality press-on nails.
Benefits of wearing press-on nails
For celebrity manicurist Jolene Brodeur, she loves that press-on nails add length in minutes while adding some much-needed protection.
"If you've got very thin nails or sometimes people's nail beds are sore, it just shields [the natural nail] from that," she told Shop TODAY.
Manicurist Rachel Messick called press-ons "an easy way to bring the look of a high-end salon manicure with minimal effort and time commitment." She also said they are "perfect for special occasions and general mood boosting."
How to apply press-on nails
Both Messick and Brodeur recommend starting with clean nails. "When I say 'clean' I mean no nail polish on, no oils or lotions. I would even, if you're a beginner, make sure you swipe the nail with a little bit of alcohol to temporarily dehydrate it to make sure it's very clean [and has] no moisture," Brodeur said.
Once your nails are clean, it's time to begin the pre-application process. Messick said to start by measuring and laying out your press-on nails in order from thumb to pinkie. "If you’re in between sizes, opt for the slightly larger tip and gently file the sides to get the perfect fit. If you use a tip that’s too small, it’ll pop off," she explained.
Messick then recommends pushing the cuticles back, gently buffing and shaping the nails and using nail polish remover or rubbing alcohol to remove any dust, debris or oil from the nail. Once you've completed those steps, apply your nail guards or nail glue, then press and hold the press-on nail down for five to 10 seconds.
Tips for wearing press-on nails
Messick's tip for anyone looking to try press-on nails is simple: "Go with a length that you're comfortable with," she advised.
Brodeur's main tip is to use nail shields or guards for an added layer of protection if you have weak or thin nails. Messick also mentioned using nail guards in case you need to take off the nails quickly for any reason because they'll help expedite the process.
If you've never worn press-on nails, Messick says to start with sticky tabs since they're easy to remove. "Try them on [and] get a feel for it. Make sure that you're comfortable with the length and that you can function," she told us.
Messick's final tip: Don't wear press-ons for too long! "I personally don't recommend wearing press-on nails for more than five to six days. While you can prep the nail and glue it and have it last for a really long time, because it's just something glued to your nail, there's a little more of an opportunity for bacteria and debris to get between your nail and the press-on and that can create some bacterial infections and some not-so-cute green spots on the nail," she said.
Best press-on nail products, according to manicurists
Messick called the press-on nails from Static Nails "one of the more elite ones" for their quality and offerings of unique shapes, colors and designs. "It's, in my opinion, one of the more salon-ready looking press-ons that I've seen," she said.
"If you're looking for something shorter — more of like an everyday kind of nail, maybe you just don't have time to get a manicure but you like to keep your nails short — KISS is really great for that. They have a pretty wide variety," Messick told us.
While KISS offers many lines and styles of press-ons, this line of imPRESS color sets is currently a bestseller in press-on false nails on Amazon. It has over 2,400 verified five-star ratings and comes in almost 30 different colors.
"I also like Salon Perfect. They tend to be more dramatic though," Messick said in reference to the longer shapes and French tip styles the brand creates. They offer options in a variety of different styles like these orange or black pointed tips.
Messick also likes the press-on nails from Dashing Diva. This floral set is perfect for a light and simple look you can wear during your regular day-to-day activities. The set includes 30 gel nails in 12 sizes, a prep pad, a nail file and a wooden stick for easy removal.
Messick recommends these custom press-on nails from Color Camp. "Those are going to be a little bit more elite, a little bit more expensive than the other ones I've mentioned but they're all handcrafted," she said.
When you order from the Los Angeles-based business, you'll get a try-on kit in the mail and a digital sizing guide to help you determine your desired nail width and length. Color Camp also hires nail artists to paint them for you. Not only do you get quality work, you'll also get a fit that is unique to you and looks natural.
Brodeur loves Pattie Yankee nail sets that come pre-glued. You can also paint them and design them in any way you'd like since they're clear. "You could wear them for hours — and possibly days — depending on how you're taking care of them," she said.
She added that removing them is as easy as adding a drop of oil underneath the free edge of the nail and rocking it back and forth to release the adhesion.
"The looks of them are so beautiful," Brodeur said of these clear nails from Apres. She's a fan of the brand for their wide variety of lengths, shapes and sizes offered. She recommends using Dashing Diva's Virtual Bond Adhesive Tabs with these nails for top-notch results.
Messick and Brodeur both recommend these protective strips from Dashing Diva. While the set recommends using them for acrylics and powder nail polish, the manicurists also like them for press-ons.
"In my opinion, the best adhesion for press-ons does come from the nail glue, but nail glue is really difficult to take off," Messick said. "There's tons of videos online of people soaking it off in soapy water and, while that is a way to remove it, unless they're already starting to come off, it's a very difficult way to do a removal. When you [use] the nail guards, you can actually use that method and it will kind of release [the nail] and help it soak off."
"I'm obsessed with them," Brodeur said. "It's like a little barrier between the glue or the pre-adhesive [press-ons] that you're putting on your nail and it's just that little added protection."
Brodeur likes this gel-based glue for applying press-ons that don't already have adhesive. "A regular liquid glue sometimes will just grab certain portions of your nail when you press down on it. But with this gel bond, it fills in the gaps," she explained. "So it'll give that tip a nice, fuller adhesion to the nail and it looks really nice."
"I tend to favor the ones that are quick-drying — they're all kind of quick-drying just by nature," Messick said before recommending this max speed nail glue. It applies like polish and only takes a few strokes to create an ultra-firm hold for your press-on nail.
When applying nails that don't have adhesive on the back, Brodeur recommends these virtual bond adhesive tabs. "I hoard these as if I'll never find another one. Every time I find them I'm like 'OMG they have them here!' so I'll buy their last five packs," she said.
"I like to keep a cuticle oil pen in my purse or in my car, so whenever I'm feeling like I need to treat [my cuticles] a little bit, I just pop it on," Messick said. She explained that cuticle oil helps repel water from the nail plate, calling water and moisture "the biggest enemies of nail health." If you experience hang nails or your hands are often in water, Messick recommends using cuticle oil at least twice a day.
This top-rated option from Amazon has a 4.6-star average and over 4,200 verified five-star ratings. It even comes in scented options including pumpkin spice latte!
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