'I Wore $8 Press-Ons for A Month, And My Nails Have Never Been Healthier'
My nails haven’t been naked since the age of 12, so I know damage. I’ve tried gel manicures, dip powder, acrylics, Aprés X extensions, and every lacquer formula under the sun. My digits have taken a beating, and in the past few months, they have been weaker than ever, with yellowing, scratches, and white scuff marks. They were so thin and brittle, I could barely grow them a couple millimeters. Desperate for healthier nails, I decided to wean myself off of manicures with a month-long polish break. And in that time away from brush-on paint, I’ve fallen hard for press-on nails.
They’ve come a long way since Lee Press-Ons from the ’80s—today, faux nails are made with real gel polish and look so realistic, I’ve even fooled manicurists. I’ve fielded dozens of compliments from friends and strangers alike and have had countless people ask me, “Where do you get your nails done?” It shocks them every time.
My go-to brand, Dashing Diva, makes such a wide range of lengths and designs, from plain solid colors to elaborate rhinestone-bedazzled talons, so it can suit all tastes. Plus, they have a co-sign from Dana Stern, MD, a dermatologist who specializes in the treatment of nails. “Positives include ease of application, do-it-yourself, speed and efficiency, longer lasting/less chipping, and potentially less nail damage than soak-off gel,” she says.
Here are five more reasons I love them.
They come ready to apply and take five minutes.
Once, before I jetted off on a weekend trip, I did a whole set in the back of a moving car on the way to the airport. The kit comes with a prep pad, mini cuticle pusher, and tiny file to help the press-ons fit your natural nail bed. There is no separate glue required because the press-ons I use have acrylate-based adhesive tabs already attached on the back to pop on. The more pressure you apply, the longer they stick on.
“The advantage here is that the acrylate is theoretically only coming into contact with the nail and not the surrounding skin,” Dr. Stern says. While an allergic reaction to acrylate is possible if it has to be cured with a UV light, “these stickers are low-risk because they don’t require curing. And because they are pressed against the nail, not the skin.”
They last for a full work week.
I have had press-on toenails (yes, toenails) last for 10 days. I use my hands much more often for everything from styling my hair to opening packages, so they get a lot more wear and tear. That being said, I’ve held on to a set for up to five days. I could apply them Sunday night, wear them until Friday night, then switch it up again for the next week.
They help promote the health of my nails
This is the biggest draw for me. After one month of wearing press-ons, my nails look much healthier, thicker, and stronger than before. I suspect that’s because the removal process is really gentle—I typically wait for the faux nail to start lifting naturally from wear and then gently peel them off. Dashing Diva advises using some cuticle oil around the side and gently lifting off the press-on with a wooden stick.
“If the product can be easily removed without acetone, that is a big advantage,” Dr. Stern says, although she does note that one risk of using press-ons is peeling off some superficial layers of nail cells when you’re taking them off. The marks are called keratin granulation.
“These granulations appear as superficial white patches on the nail and can be gently buffed and moisturized to treat,” Dr. Stern says. Another more severe risk to be aware of is onycholysis—the separation of the nail plate form the bed—if the press-on is so stuck that it requires aggressive pulling. This sure sounds terrifying, but I have never had this issue with my press-ons.
“Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions,” Dr. Stern adds. “In general, if it is difficult to remove, then you will likely have more nail damage from the product.”
They never, ever chip.
No matter what type of nail art you wear—I once had a fully bedazzled nail with 3D crystals—the press-ons are super durable. They don’t chip or peel at all. If one of the nails starts falling off for whatever reason, there are more than enough back-ups in the case to replace it in mere seconds.
They can cost less than $10.
Most brands of press-ons, including Dashing Diva and Kiss Impress, sell full sets for a very affordable $7 to $9. As someone who has paid $200 for a manicure before (and still regrets it), I am here for it. Plus, the low price is more incentive to collect more styles and experiment in ways you may not have if you were getting a standard gel manicure.
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