Put Down the Polish: Here's How to Apply Press-On Nails Like a Pro

Katie Intner
Photo credit: imPRESS

From Harper's BAZAAR

We don't have to tell you that a polished, chip-free set of nails can instantly lift your whole mood. Just because you can’t get to your nail artist at the moment doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice a flawless mani—or even attempt to paint your own nails. Press-on nails can expertly take the place of a fresh coat of polish, and they’re easier to glue-on than you might think. We asked celebrity nail artist and KISS brand ambassador Gina Edwards to find out the dos and don’ts of applying press-on nails like a professional.

SIZE MATTERS

Not every nail in your kit is the same size. To ensure you’ve chosen the right nail, check the number on the back of the press-on; zero is the largest for your thumb and 11 is the smallest for your pinky finger. But size isn’t the only aspect to consider. “When choosing a press-on, select a style that fits into your everyday lifestyle,” explains Edwards. “Factor in shape, length, and nail designs.” If you’re between sizes, Edwards recommends going smaller so the press-on doesn’t overlap on your skin.

CLEANSE FIRST

Just like a classic manicure, prep is a critical step, starting with a thorough cleaning. After pushing back your cuticles to remove excess skin, cleanse the nail with an alcohol prep pad to ensure there are no oils or dirt on your hands, notes Edwards. This prep helps the press-ons better adhere to your nails. Press-on kits like the ones from imPRESS often include a pad. You can also press a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol onto your nails. This crucial step will also help to remove any existing polish.

REACH FOR GLUE

If you’re opting for press-ons as a temporary fix, use the sticky tape that comes in the set. To prolong your nails—which typically last five to 10 days according to Edwards—add a touch of glue. “Depending on your nail beds and lifestyle, you can sometimes stretch press-ons past 10 days,” she adds.

APPLY AT AN ANGLE

When applying press-ons, bring the nail right up to your cuticle line and apply at a downward angle. Follow by applying pressure to the center of the nail and pinching at both sides to solidify the adhesive or glue.

FILE LAST

While it may be tempting to file the press-on as soon as it hits your natural nail, wait until after you’ve applied the entire set to shape. “Always contour the nails from the sidewalls to taper them for an even more natural look,” says Edwards. “Everyone's nail beds are different and contouring is key for super natural-looking nails.”

REMOVE WITH EASE

“Removing press-on nails is fairly easy to do,” ensures the KISS ambassador. “If you are applying a press-on with self-adhesive, it can simply be removed with warm water and a little oil.” If you opted for glue, the removal process changes, but is still straightforward. “Place an acetone-based remover in a small ceramic or glass dish and soak your nails for 10 minutes, or use a glue remover like Glue Off by KISS Products,” says Edwards.

KEEP OR TOSS

While some nails, such as the imPRESS sets, are single-use, there are a slew of press-ons that can be reused. If you’re in the market for a reusable set, try Static Nails, which can easily be popped off and stored away for next use.

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