How to Make Your Press-On Nails Last as Long as Possible, According to the Pros

From prep to removal, this eight-step guide will keep your nails fresh for days.

<p>Getty Images</p>

Getty Images

Whether you’re deep in wedding guest season or you just want a quick cosmetic pick-me-up, a set of fresh press-on nails is almost always a solid remedy…except when they pop off mid-reception or right before date night. Before you stash a bottle of nail glue into each of your purses, here’s how to make press-on nails last in a few easy steps.

Meet Our Expert

• Fleury Rose is a celebrity manicurist and owner of an eponymous nail care line.

• Julie Kandelac is a celebrity manicurist, educator, and founder of the Julie K Nail Academy.

• Melissa Samuel is a celebrity manicurist, owner of Finesse Your Claws, and press-on designer.

We tapped expert manicurists to give their tips for prolonging the life of your tips and making sure that your natural nails stay strong and healthy.

1. Prep properly

Prep is the first, and arguably most important, step for long-lasting press-on nails. “Lightly file the free edge of your nail in one direction, push your cuticles back with a wood stick, and lightly buff your nails,” says Melissa Samuel, celebrity manicurist. Buff them only until your nails are no longer shiny—it’ll give your nails a bit of texture to help the glue adhere better. Lastly, Samuel says, cleanse your nails and nail beds with acetone. This will dehydrate your nails and remove oil, dirt, and other residue.

For everyone with long nails, consider a trim. “Take down your free edge—a.k.a. the part of the nail that extends beyond the fingertip—because you don’t want to see too much underneath length under the press-on, as it can affect longevity,” says celebrity manicurist Julie Kandelac.

2. Size matters

Finding the right size involves more than meets the eye for long-lasting adhesion. “A lot of people come to me and their biggest issue with press-ons is that they're trying to force a more curved nail onto a nail plate that's probably too flat, and it pops off,” Kandelac tells InStyle. Ensure that the C-curve (a.k.a the arch that’s created by the nail plate from one side wall to the other) of the press-on matches your actual nail. If it’s still too curved, go up a size, because the press-on’s C-curve will be flatter.

Then, Kandelac says, file down the side walls of the press-on if it’s too wide, and that will give you a better fit. The key to knowing when you have the perfect fit? You shouldn’t be using a lot of pressure to adhere the nail. Kandelac says a bit is okay, but any more than that and it’s going to want to pop right back up.

3. Find the best nail adhesive

Many press-on sets come with a small squeeze bottle of nail glue. Of course, the pros have their own recommendations if you want to go the extra mile. (And, if you’re buying custom sets from Etsy or Amazon, you might have to.)

For short-term occasions like weddings, or when you only have 10 minutes before you need a fresh mani, opt for a set of nail adhesive tabs. Essentially, they’re double-sided glue stickers that take the place of traditional nail glue.

<p>Getty Images</p>

Getty Images

4. Don’t skimp on glue

Just like you buff your nails, Samuel suggests buffing the inside of your press-ons. “This will help the glue spread more easily and adhere right next to the cuticle, providing longer wear time,” she says. Next, she says to apply a thin layer of glue to the press-on and your natural nail. You might think that’s too much, but a sandwiched effect will keep those nails on longer. “If any excess glue comes up from around the nail, carefully clean it before it dries with acetone on a lint free wipe or nail brush,” says Rose.

5. Don’t apply press-ons with UV gel

This viral TikTok trend is probably not one to follow, according to manicurists. Press-ons that are opaque are not compatible with traditional UV gel. “The UV light cannot penetrate the press-on fully, which means the gel will not cure fully,” Rose says. “Having under-cured gel can lead to chemical sensitivity, and even dermatitis over time, which will make you allergic and unable to use gel long-term.” Not great, folks! Kandelac suggests only using press-on brands with gel that are meant to be used with gel, such as Apres Gel-X or KISS Salon X-Tend.

6. Keep them dry

“If you want your press-ons to last, avoid soaking your hands in water for a long time—which means swimming, washing dishes, and soaking in the bath,” says Rose. This is a tough one, especially during the summer months, but Samuel notes that long periods of water submersion can loosen the glue bond.

7. DIY project? Don’t use your nails.

When you have a set of claws on, you might want to start using them as tools. Box cutter? An index finger will do. Bottle opener? The thumb works great…right? Not so fast. Your nails, though they might be long, are not to be used as tools. This can weaken the glue bond, and if you’re using enough force, cause you to break a nail.

8. Take them off—the right way.

It’s all too easy to yank off those press-ons as soon as they start lifting. Take it from the author, who is a notoriously bad example. “When you take a nail off improperly, whether it's gel or acrylic, it's going to take off some layers from the natural nail with it,” says Kandelac. “That's the healthy keratin that you're taking away, so when you want to use a press-on again, it's not going to last as long, and that’ll create a recurring cycle of damaging your nails.” So try your very best to do it the right way, by soaking the nails in acetone until the press-ons pop right off. If, during your nails’ tenure, one or two fall off, Samuel says it’s key to go through the prep steps again and remove any old glue from the underside of the press-on. Those steps might sound annoying, but they’re worth it for healthier nails and longer-lasting manis.

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