When you think about press on nails, it may conjure up memories of junior high school (and those aggressively pink-and-white French tips that were all the rage back then). However, in recent years, we’ve seen press ons evolve from borderline cheesy to undeniably chic.
With quarantine measures in place, we’ve come to really appreciate the convenience of applying nail polish strips and press ons because they allow us to experiment with different designs, lengths and shapes.
Of the many options that are currently available, we hand selected five of our favorites, and, we had Nails by Mei (who has worked with everyone from the Hadid sisters to Ariana Grande) share some of her top tips for getting the best application at home.
How should I apply my press on nails? What are the best practices?
For starters, you always want to prep your nails by pushing back your cuticles (FYI: most kits include a cuticle stick for this) and wiping each nail down with acetone or polish remover to clean off any oils sitting on the surface. According to Mei, this will make sure that your press ons adhere better, which means they’ll last longer.
To find the best fit for each nail, Mei recommends picking slightly smaller nails over larger ones for a closer, more flattering (and believable) finish.
When it comes to the actual application, the key is to be conservative with how much glue you use. A small drop is usually enough for each nail unless otherwise specified on the instructions. (Some press on nails skip the glue and come with adhesive tabs or stickers instead.) Once the adhesive is on, place each nail down cuticle first, and then firmly press down on the rest of the nail, holding it for a few seconds.
Last but not least, clip or file them into your desired shape. Mei advises shaping from either side and meeting in the center of the nail. She also notes that rounder shapes generally look better on short nails, while squared off tips are better on longer nails. Seal them in with a top coat if you please, and enjoy your chip-proof mani.
OK, ready to shop some nails?
1. Static Nails Reusable Pop-On Manicures
This was the first set of press on nails we saw that got us to reconsider the category altogether. With sleek, on-trend designs like tortoiseshell French tips and matte black finishes, the brand offers easy access to editorial nails from the comforts of your couch. Each pack comes with 24 nails in 12 sizes, so you have plenty of options to choose from, glue, a buffer, and nail file to get your shape just right. (One of our editors raved about how easy the application and removal were and how the nails let her “live a glam fantasy” while she wore them.)
2. PopSockets Nails
Think about when you look down at your hands the most. It’s likely when you’re tapping or scrolling through your phone, right? Well, the folks at PopSocket (you know, the makers of the circular phone grip holder) decided to bless us with press on nails that perfectly match your phone grip. Each set includes 30 ready-to-wear nails in varying sizes that are lined with thin gel adhesive tabs that you peel off to apply. Also included are two prep pads, a cuticle stick and a mini file. Choose from fun designs like stars or marbled nails—or our favorite rose gold mirror nails, which shine like no other.
3. Nails of LA Press-On Extensions
Just launched this month by Brittney Boyce, an editorial and celebrity manicurist who specializes in gel extensions and nail art, this tightly curated set of press ons are inspired by her top three most requested designs. Of the three, we chose “The Muse,” (shown above) but you really can’t go wrong with any of them, as they all come in flattering nude shades and sleek, minimalist designs that you won’t get tired of looking at. Each kit includes 24 glossy nails, a file and buffer duo for shaping, a cuticle stick and both adhesive tabs and nail glue that you can alternate between pending how long you want to wear them.
4. Dashing Diva Magic Press Barely Bougie Press-On Gel Nails
For a gal (or guy) who loves lots of options, we’d recommend Dashing Diva’s magic press nails. They come in a variety of colors, styles and lengths, as well as special seasonal launches around the holidays. The nails themselves are a breeze to apply thanks to their adhesive tabs (in case you don’t want to fumble around with glue) and they’re durable, too. In each pack, you’ll find 30 nails, an alcohol pad, mini file, and a cuticle stick.
5. Kiss Jelly Fantasy Nails
And last but not least, here’s another budget option with a robust selection of nails to choose from. A fashion week favorite, Kiss has the largest inventory of press ons for your tips (and toes!). Choose from three standard lengths (short, medium and long) and a variety of trendy or classic shapes like coffin of oval. For just under 10 bucks a pop, you get 28 nails, nail glue, a stick and a mini file.