Press-in nails get a bad rap, and quite frankly, it’s totally undeserved. They’re often left out of the conversation or ignored in favor of gel polishes when it comes to manicures and manicures, but experts have long relied on them for a number of reasons. Take manicurist Eun Kyung Park, for example, who prepares a full ironing wardrobe for quick manicure changes for herself and her celebrity clients. Fashion week backstage veterans Gina Edwards and Miss Pop both regularly use hand-painted heat transfer for their show manicures. Press-ons are everywhere, and they’re more popular than you think.
When used correctly, push pins can look seamless and allow for endless experimentation. Depending on the application, they last from a few hours to a full two weeks. But, according to Park, Edwards, and Miss Pop, there are some key rules to follow, whether you’re looking for one-night or long-term looks. These are your five pressing commandments.
How to prepare
Before starting to apply, wash your hands, paying special attention to drying your nails and cuticles. Make sure everything around the nail bed is completely dry.
Then remove any nail polish; if your nails are bare, you should still wipe them with nail polish remover to remove any natural or other oils from the nail surface. This will ensure that the adhesive will hold and not expand or crumble.
You should also take the false nails out of their packaging and arrange which nails will fit which fingers. Arranging the proper shape first will make it easier for you when you start the application.
Remove old nail polish and/or nails.
You have to remove your old nail polish, even if it is clear, in order to put on fake nails. Old nail polish on your nails will make it harder for the fake nails to stick. If you don’t take this necessary step, they will fall off within a day or two.
If you already have false nails, whether acrylic or gel, remove them. You can use acetone or something else to do the job.
Wash your hands after using acetone or any other nail polish remover. The chemicals used in nail polish remover can dry out your nails.
Trimming natural nails
Trim your natural nails close to your fingertips. Keeping the shape short won’t affect the fake nails you want to attach.
Then use an orange stick to gently push back into your cuticles. If you have sensitive cuticles, be sure to push them back slowly. If you go too fast, they’ll cut in, and then you won’t be able to put the fake nails on.
After pushing back the cuticle, buff the surface of the natural nail to roughen it up — this will help the false nail adhere better. Note that buffers come in different grit sizes, with lower numbers being coarser; Saunders recommends using a buffing wheel no larger than 180 grit for shaping and dressing.
Push back your cuticles.
When your nail beds are softened from soaking, use the orange stick or cuticle pusher to gently push back your cuticles. In this way, you can ensure that the false nails are applied to the nails and not the skin.
Don’t cut the cuticles, just push them back. Your cuticles protect your nail beds from infection, and trimming them increases the risk of dirt or bacteria collecting there.
Choose your nail size
Press-in nails come in a variety of sizes, and finding the right size will ensure your nails look natural and last. If they are too small, they may lift and separate prematurely. So if you’re between sizes, it’s best to go one size up. Press the fake nails onto the real nails to make sure it fits. “Your natural nails shouldn’t be exposed,” says Grant. Then file the nail until the edge matches the edge of your natural nail.
Apply a small drop of glue to your natural and press-in nails.
This will ensure they last 1-2 weeks. If you don’t want them to last too long, use less glue and apply it only to press-in nails.
In general, use glue sparingly. It’s very sticky and if you apply too much it will end up sticking to your cuticles.
6. Hold for 30-60 seconds.
You’ll find that the glue isn’t immediately tacky, so you’ll have to press and hold the fake nail to get it attached.