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The best press-on nails to try now

Forget everything you think you know about press-on nails.
press-on nails
Beauty treatment photo of nice manicured woman fingernails holding a cup. Very nice feminine nail art with nice pink and purple nail polish.Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

Press-on nails have come a long way since the '80s and '90s.

We all remember the press-on nails that would look cheap and pop off way too easily. But the newer versions are made with higher-quality plastic and adhesives that last much longer.

“I call them Cinderella nails,” Adeline Sarino, national director of nails at The Red Door Salon & Spa, told TODAY Style. “They are perfect for an event or if you (can't) visit the nail salon.”

Like many at-home beauty hacks, you need to follow the directions and affix them correctly. And if you do, Sarino says they can last for as long as a week. Plus, there are tons of options from which to choose.

“In the drugstore nail section, you will see a variety of full-coverage, press-on nails that are cute and trendy mixed with classic styles and also made with nail art on them. You can even find full-coverage nails that you can glue and decorate yourself,” she said.

And for those who have a particular nail shape they love, there are plenty of choices, too.

“I love that they come in a variety of shapes — from square, round and stiletto — to suit what you're looking for. The press-on nails often come in a kit with sticky tape, glue, nail file and easy-to-follow directions. I love that some of the kits come with a glue that is tinted pink for the French looks. It really gives the nail a natural look when the tips are on,” Sarino said.

What are press-on nails?

Press-on nails are basically the (same) fake nails we use when doing nail extensions; the only difference is these are molded to cover the whole nail bed," celebrity manicurist Erica Marton said. “We use only half of a press-on nail (in the salon) then, the other half, we use gel or acrylic to fill that space in, which is much more durable on the nail.”

How do press-on nails work?

It’s actually pretty straightforward and user-friendly.

Choose a style you love and shape or file your nails to prepare them. Open the box and match up a nail to each of your fingers (if some fake nails are too big for your nail bed, file them until they fit). Clean your nail beds with acetone or alcohol and apply the nails according to the box instructions. Whichever kind you use (glue or tape backing), put the adhesive directly onto the nail and apply the false nail to it. Hold and press down in place for about 10 seconds, and you're done!

Can press-on nails damage your actual nails?

They shouldn’t damage your natural nails if you are careful. Most of the damage, if any, could occur if you are too rough in the removal process.

“Repeated use of press-on nails may be damaging depending on the type of glue or adhesive used and the chemical composition of the glue,” said Dave Crisalli, founder and CEO of Prose, a nail boutique. “A common method to remove press-ons is to soak the nail in pure acetone for up to 10 mins. Extended exposure to acetone can be very drying to nails and cuticles. We recommend using an intensive hand moisturizer and cuticle serum to counter the drying effects.”

And try to save press-on nails for special occasions, Dr. Debra Jaliman, a New York City-based dermatologist, suggested.

“Let your real nails breathe. Don’t have them covered with artificial nails and wraps too often,” Jaliman said. “The glue used and the process of removing the artificial nails or wraps can weaken your own nails (over time).”

How long do press-on nails stay on?

This can vary depending on if you are using glue or adhesive. But, according to Marton, glue can be expected to stay on for about five to seven days and adhesive backing around three to five days.

What are press-on nails made of?

Generally, they are made of plastic. If it says “gel” or “acrylic” on the packaging, that means it is on top of the plastic nail, Marton said. The difference between glue or adhesive is in the backing. Press-on nails with glue tend to last longer (depending on how rough you are with your nails).

How do you remove press-on nails?

Be gentle when removing fake nails, meaning don’t rip them off (that's the most common way to cause damage!).

If you used “self-stick” nails, you can simply soak your fingertips in warm, soapy water for about five to 10 minutes then gently start lifting the artificial nails. For glue, however, you will likely need acetone to break it down, according to Marton. She recommends adding a drop of oil or rich cream onto your hands to regain moisture immediately after using acetone.

“Again, these nails were not designed to last long, so they should come off fairly easy — just be gentle in your process,” Marton said.

The best press-on nails:

A good way to think of press-on nails is to compare them to at-home eyelashes. You can have them professionally done with eyelash extensions and know they will last longer or you can do them at home and know they will last only so long. If you choose the at-home route, Marton recommended the following three press-on nails.

1. Impress Press-On Manicure

“They have great styles and designs and sizes, but I do like the adhesive backing — makes it super easy to apply,” Marton said.

2. Kiss Products 100 Full-Cover Nails in Active Oval

“Kiss is just good all the way around, from sizing to designs and all the different shapes they offer. They even bring in real nail artists to design their products, which I think is amazing,” Marton said.

3. Icing French Manicure Square Faux Nail Set

“They have great designs, but I (especially) like the sizing of their fake nails; they always fit great!” Marton said.

This story was originally published Feb. 21, 2019.