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I am not a drugstore beauty person. I have a small arsenal of luxe products that I am extremely devoted to and have ignored the cosmetics aisle ever since my Bonne Bell days. Yet, here I am recommending the epitome of drugstore glamour: press-on nails.
How did we get here? Deep into the pandemic, I met up with a friend who had an impeccable manicure.
"Where did you go?!" I demanded, acutely aware of my own naked nails that had not seen the inside of a salon in over a year. She told me that they were press-on nails, not anything fancy, just a pack of Impress that runs about $9 at Walgreens and other drugstores (each pack has 30 nails, which is good for at least two manicures). I rushed out to get my own and within 15 minutes I had a manicure to rival my pre-pandemic nails and felt the responsibility to spread the gospel far and wide.
These are not the plastic claws of yore. Today's press-ons are thin and come in sophisticated nudes and classic reds as well as fun designs like marble, stripes, and glitter. They solve the problem of having streaky pale polish (personal pet peeve) and let you experiment with wild prints for a one-off event. Crucially, the nails can be trimmed and filed, making them completely natural looking. To apply, prep your nails as you would for any manicure (wash hands, push down cuticles, etc.), clean the nail with the provided wipe or rubbing alcohol, then peel and stick. Lastly, trim and file to your desired length and you are done within a few minutes, no drying or setting needed. I kid you not. Removal generally involves soaking the nails in warm soapy water or oil and then gently prying them off. There is little to no damage to your natural nail.
Mine routinely last for two weeks, even through regular nail-destroying activities like washing dishes and opening cans. I have lost a nail or two, but can pop on a new one on in one minute, flat. On a recent two-week trip, I threw the pack into my carry-on and kept my nails in tip top shape—look TSA, no liquids! My sister, a flight attendant and new mom, applied hers last-minute in the crew room (note, she just filed them, no nail clippers in public, please).
My two favorite brands are Impress, for its easy availability and collaboration with OPI—with tried-and-true colors like Lincoln Park After Dark, Cajun Shrimp, and Bubble Bath—and Dashing Diva, which has a slightly better fit and a wider variety of designs. Since I trim and file all of mine to be short and oval, I ignore the length and shape of the press-ons (unless they have decorative tips) and simply reshape them on my nail. I've also experimented with a little nail art, which I normally wouldn't bother to play around with in a salon. Last-minute party invitation? A long-deserved vacation? Pop open a pack of press-ons, because if we ever deserved a summer of perfect nails, this is the one.
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