Remember over a year ago when I got my very first set of acrylic nails? I’d never fallen prey to the pink-and-white French tip sets in high school during prom season, but my natural nails suck, so I threw some tips on them.
A year later, I still do not regret a single thing. My acrylic nails are my babies, my true love. They’ve become just another of my “things,” like blonde hair and red lipstick.
I knew next to nothing about caring for tips when I got them, but I’ve learned a lot since then. Are you interested in having fabulous celeb-style nails like the Kardashian sisters and Rihanna? Of course you are. Here’s what you need to know.
Find a nail lady you love and be faithful to her.
I’ve had three nail technicians since starting my acrylic career: Kathy, Anna, and Rachel. Each one is special to me, though geography does come between us. Find someone you connect with, who knows your style and isn’t afraid to help you bust out of your comfort zone every so often. Once, Anna had me wearing hot-pink and leopard-print claws with rhinestones. It was so not my style, but I loved it. I tip my technicians in cash and try to tip 30-40% each time. Rachel sings as she does my nails!
Keep your nails clean.
I have a nail brush and use it regularly to scrub gunk out from under my tips, especially when they get super long. Wash your hands all the time! Keeping your acrylics clean helps decrease the risk of infection.
Get regular fills.
A friend of mine once went a month without a fill and ended up getting a pretty nasty infection when a nail broke. If you don’t get fills often, the nail is more likely to separate from your natural nail bed and expose it to nasty gunk. I go every two to three weeks without fail.
Budget for it.
Having acrylics isn’t cheap. I thought it would be relatively inexpensive when I started, but it’s not. However, I made the choice to work it into my personal-care expenses; it’s worth it for me because my nails always look professional and cared for. A fill with gel polish at my salon is $35, plus tip. A new set, which you get after about four months, costs about $50. I could go somewhere cheaper, but salon cleanliness and technique is important to me.
Getting a new set is a pain.
I have really weak natural nails, and having acrylics isn’t helping that. I actually had them taken off for a few days in September and my real nails were so brittle that they split down the center. I put my tips back on immediately; I missed them too much anyway. When I get a new set—around the four-month mark—I soak my nails in acetone for a few minutes, then we gently file the old set down, and repeat the process a few times. This is a lot more gentle than having the old set removed with a clipper and an acrylic nail shoved under my existing nails to pry them off. I hate that process and refuse to have it done.
You will adjust to life with acrylics, I promise.
I actually can’t text without mine; I use the sides of my nails to type on my iPhone. Sure, certain things become impossible, like picking a penny off the floor or peeling a sticker. But you’ll definitely get addicted to how good they look all the time.
What are your acrylic stories? Do you have them? Do you want them? Did you have them and it was a disaster?
This article originally appeared on xoJane.