One day I was going through my local Target and passed through the nail polish aisle. I remember I had an event coming up and I had yet to make a nail salon appointment for a manicure. The next thing I see is a box of what looks like faux nails in a variety of colors. These were the press-on nails that are making a huge come back. The clouds parted and the angels were singing. Maybe this time I didn’t have to get my butt to a nail salon after all!

And while I still enjoy a good salon manicure, I now own dozens of boxes full of press-on nails and I am definitely hooked.

So What Are Press-on Nails? 

Press-on nails, also known as glue-on nails, are just artificial nails. They are made of an acrylic resin. There are many acrylic resins available and the specific ingredients can change between different brands and models. I did review my favorite brands of glue-on nails here, so check it out, too!

My personal opinion is that press-on nails are the next best thing since sliced bread! Gone are the times of tacky fake nails you would only buy for your teenage daughter. These are a great alternative when you just don’t have time for a nail salon appointment.

Where Can You Buy Glue-on Nails?

There are many press-on nail manufacturers on the market. Some of the most common brands you will find at your local Target, Walmart, and CVS are Kiss Nails and imPRESSStatic Nails are a slightly more expensive option and are sold online.

My personal favorites are by Kiss Nails and a newer player Ardell Professional Nail Addict nails (seriously, LOVE!) I find that they last much longer and do not show wear and tear nearly as much as imPRESS nails do. ImPRESS nails, however, might be an easier option to start with if you’re just learning and looking for something mess-free. These come with adhesive strips already on the nails, so no additional glue application is required.

Press-on nails come in a wide variety of colors, shapes, and designs making it easy to mix it up a bit. You can even get clear press-on nails and apply your favorite color and design yourself.

What Are the Benefits of Press-on Nails?

  • First of all, press-on nails are extremely affordable! Prices average at about $8 per set, though you can certainly dish out closer to $20 for a set of Static Nails.
  • It takes me less than 10 minutes to prep my nails and apply the falsies which makes getting ready for an even a snap (I have even applied them in the car on the way to an event twice!) Having said that, you might take longer the first couple of times, but not by much.
  • They leave my nails healthier than before (make sure to use my tips below!!!)
  • They are super-duper easy to remove without causing any nail damage.
  • My favorite thing about press-on nails though is the wide variety of designs and colors to choose from.

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How Long Do Press-on Nails Last?

Press-on nails can last up to two weeks, although for me one week or so is the average. In my experience, the key to make press-on nails last longer is proper preparation and care.  I will discuss the specific steps I recommend further below.

Do Press-on Nails Damage Your Real Nails? 

No, press-on nails will not damage your real nails, especially if you follow the proper application and removal processes outlined below.

Here is a good link to check out if you want to know more about the ingredients in nail glue and other nail products, including how they are regulated.

The most damage that happens to your nails really comes from water, soap, and acetone. In order to keep your natural nails healthy, use a cuticle and nail oil every time you use acetone. There are a few other things you can do to help your nails grow stronger and healthier.

However, if you still fear the ingredients in the nail glue, I recommend you use a really nice base coat on your nails before applying the glue or the adhesive strips. Follow the rest of the steps as outlined below. But the main message is that press-on nails should not ruin your natural nails.

Are press on nails damaging

Make sure you apply at least one layer of polish on your nails prior to applying glue. This serves as a protective barrier between your nails and the glue.

How to Apply Press-on Nails? 

Press-on nails come in kits which include either nail glue, double-sided glue gel strips, or your fake nails might already have an adhesive strip applied to them. 

Each set comes with instructions explaining how to put on fake nails. It is actually quite easy.

Even if your kit comes with an adhesive, I recommend buying additional nail glue to have on hand. Below are the steps to give yourself a press-on manicure using one of these kits:

  • Step 1: Pick the right nail for each one of your fingers. I typically figure out a pattern I like and lay the nails out on a flat surface in front of me. When you are selecting the nails, don’t forget to pay attention to your fingernail beds.
  • Step 2: File the nails down for length and shape if needed. Because there is a wide variety of shapes and lengths available, once you know what brand and type work for you, you likely won’t need to do this too much.
  • Step 3: Remove any left-over nail polish or residue off your nails (see removal methods below) and push back your cuticles. Wash your hands thoroughly.
  • Step 4: This step is VERY IMPORTANT and KEY to keeping your nails healthy! Some kits will tell you to buff your nails, however, I would advise against this because it damages your natural nail over time. Instead, apply a coat or two of clear polish and let your nails dry. This will help protect the nail from any chemicals in the glue because it serves as another layer between your nails and the glue. You can lightly buff the surface of the polished nail, but I find it unnecessary.
  • Step 5: Wash your hands again, or use an alcohol wipe to clean the surface of your nails. This step removes any residue and oils left on your nails. Dry thoroughly.
  • Step 6: You are ready to apply your nails. When applying the press-on nails to your natural nails, make sure to start from your pinkies and work your way in. Always leave your thumbs for last.  And just like that, you’re ready for the red carpet!

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How to Make Press-on Nails Last Longer?

You can make your press-on nails last longer by following these 4 simple tips:

  • Tip 1: Whether using clear polish under the glue or not, always make sure to use rubbing alcohol to clean off any remaining residue and natural oils before applying. 
  • Tip 2: Use a strong adhesive nail glue by applying it both to the back of the press-on nail and your natural nail. 
  • Tip 3: Put pressure on every nail for 30 seconds as you are applying. This lets the adhesive spread across the full surface thus ensuring a stronger bond. This will, in turn, make press-on nails stick better.
  • Tip 4: Do not wash your hands or come in contact with water for at least 2 hours after application to help your press-on nails stay on longer. I find that doing this overnight is the easiest (no risk of accidentally washing your hands). 
  • Tip 5: Use a top hardener coat to make your nails look polished and help them stick better. This also has the added benefit of hardening the actual nail surface which makes it more durable.

How to Remove Press-on Nails? 

You can take off press-on nails without damage without much difficulty if you just follow a few easy steps. The one thing you should never do is try to physically pull them off.

Below I will outline the 3 easiest and best ways to get faux nails off and remove glue residue while keeping your digits healthy.

Are press on nails damaging

These are great methods for removing gel manicures and dip powder manicures as well.

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1. Double-Boiler Method:

Fill a larger bowl with a couple of inches of hot water. Then place another smaller bowl filled with acetone inside it. Once the acetone is warm, place your fingers into the bowl for about 5-10 minutes. Because acetone is so drying, I recommend slathering your fingers in olive oil beforehand. I use a timer and just space out in front of a TV.

2. Cuticle Oil Method:

Use a queue tip to apply cuticle oil to your fingers all around the nail. A cotton ball soaked in cuticle oil works just as well. Let it work on your nails for a few minutes and you should see the falsies come off pretty easily. 

3. Nail Clips Method:

You can buy these here. Nail clips are way easier to use to remove faux nails and even gel nails than the old foils. Your own body heat will speed up the process. You can use either acetone or oil using this method as well. 

How to Make Press-on Nails Look Real or Like Acrylics? 

The best ways to make sure your press-on nails look natural is to make sure you pick the right shape for your fingernails, match them well to each finger, and shape them when necessary.

Are press on nails damaging

Once you have applied your falsies, I recommend that you use a top coat to give them that polished look. But do not try this on matte nails. 

How to Reuse Press-on Nails? 

Another great thing about press-on nails is that you can reuse them. I would recommend using the cuticle oil or non-acetone nail polish remover when you take them off if you plan to reuse, however, as acetone will eat away at the acrylic.

It’s also important to note that kits normally come with 20+ different nails. That means that even if you used half of the box, you can keep the rest of the nails to mix and match with other sets in the future. 

Favorite Products and Accessories:

Here is a list of my favorite press-on nails and accessories discussed in the post:


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About the Author: Tung Chi