A Complete Guide To Press On Nails

Press On Nails Guide – How To Get The Perfect Set

Remember when press on nails were, well… tacky? Corny? The nails your mom would NEVER let you out of the house with on?

Well, there are now more sophisticated options that resemble a real manicure while still being fun. Many celebrities such as Ariana Grande switched to press-on nails during quarantine and they are slowly gaining popularity again for being a quick and effortless way to replicate salon nail extensions at home.

I’m going to guide you through the world of modern press on nails and why you should keep them in mind the next time you can’t make your salon appointment but you still want glam up your looks.

This article was originally published in November 2020. It has since been revised with more relevant and updated information. 

This post contains affiliate links. This means that we’ll make a small commission on qualifying purchases at no cost to you.

What Are Press On Nails?

Press on nails are artificial nails made of acrylic resin, gel or ABS plastic and painted with nail polish. If you have ever gotten gel tip extensions at a nail salon, press-on nails are similar to those but they cover the whole nail bed.

The application is a simple process with glue or adhesive tab. They can last for just a weekend or up to two weeks which makes them a great option for special events, or if you need to limit your nail length for your job.

Benefits of Press On Nails

A Great Alternative to Going to the Salon

With everything that has happened this year, press-on nails are a great alternative to gel extensions or acrylic nails when you do not want to leave your home but still want to have a custom, polished manicure look.

Easy Application and Removal for Special Events

They’re great for a last-minute event as their application and removal are so impressively quick. This you can focus on more important things — like what you’re going to wear.

Great for People Who Can't Have Nails for Their Occupation

Since they’re so effortless to apply or remove, they’re a nice style option for people who can only wear glam, fashionable, or long nails during their off-time, like nurses, those who work in conservative offices, etc.


Some press-ons are reusable, so feel free to repeat your manicure set as much as you like, guilt-free.

Has a Variety of Designs to Choose From

Press ons let you have a variety of pattern, art, shape, and colour options, just like acrylic nails. You can mix-and-match sets to change up your looks and suit your style. Classic options like a french manicure or natural pink-beige are also easy to find.


Reusable press ons, like what we have at Sunday Beauty, are a super economical way to appear glam in the long run because you are paying for multiple wears. While they’re priced higher than drugstore single-use products, they still cost less than gel extensions.

How Long Do Press On Nails Last?

Press on nails typically stay for 5-7 days if you’re using glue, and 3-4 days if you’re using adhesive tabs. Although, if you care for them right, they can hold on for up to 2 weeks

Do Press On Nails Damage Your Real Nails?

No, press on nails don’t damage your real nails as long as you follow proper application and removal procedures.

However, improper removal, like leaving your nails in acetone for too long can lead to dryness and brittleness. You can also damage the surface of the nail bed by ripping off your press ons.

You can also use a good quality base-coat before application. This creates a protective layer between your natural nail and the adhesive, which may reduce the chance of damage during removal.

How to Apply Press On Nails

Pick Your Sizes

Organize the new nails on the table in front of you, take your time and pick the most natural-looking option for each finger.

Prep Your Natural Nails

Cut and file to your desired length and shape. Cutting them as short as possible and rounding out the corners is best. Make sure to push back and/or trim your cuticles as well.

Buff and/or Apply Base Coat

Use a nail buffer to smooth out the surface and tips of your nails.

Remove Residues or Oils

Rub down your nail beds with rubbing alcohol to remove any oils or residues that can break down the adhesive. You can add a protective barrier between your nail beds and the adhesive by applying 1-2 thin coats of base coat and allowing that to completely dry first before moving on to the next step. You can also wash your hands with soap and water then pat dry to ensure your nails are not wet when you begin the application.

Apply Adhesive Tab or Glue

If you’re using adhesive tabs, select the size that covers your entire nail or trim with scissors for a better fit. If you’re using glue, use a thin to moderate amount to both the press on and the nail bed to create a more secure bond.

Attach Using a Downward Angle

Line the fake nail up with your cuticle line and press in a downward motion. Then, press down on the centre of the nail while pinching both sides to secure it to your nail bed. Afterward, wait a minimum of 2 hours before getting your new nails wet.

How Do You Make Press On Nails Last Longer?

Here are some general tips:

  1. 1
    Rub down your nail beds with rubbing alcohol before layering the adhesive. This helps remove any oils, products, or residues, which allows for the adhesive to stick better to your nail or base coat.
  2. 2
    If using glue, try using thin layers (instead of a single thick layer) to both your natural nail and the press ons. This allows the adhesive to dry evenly, creating a stronger bond.
  3. 3
    Avoid getting your hands wet for at least 2 hours afterward. This allows the glue or adhesive to completely dry, which helps them stay on longer.
  4. 4
    Avoid using your nails for damaging tasks that involve motions like picking and prying. For example, when opening a pop can use the side of your finger rather than your nails.

How to Remove Press On Nails

If you’ve used adhesive tabs, simply peel off the fake nail and any leftover tape. If you’ve used glue, make sure you follow the instructions below to avoid damaging your nails!

Soak-off Method With Soap & Water

This is Sunday Beauty’s recommended method as it’s gentle on natural nails, easy to do, and will allow you to reuse your press-on after.

To do this, submerge your nails in warm, soapy water for around 10 minutes or until the nails lift off easily.

Alternatively, you can apply a generous amount of cuticle oil to the edges of the press-on or soak a cotton ball in cuticle oil and hold on top of the nails to loosen the adhesive. Ensure all oils are removed if you are going to reuse the press on.

Remove Press On Nails With Soaking In Warm Soapy Water Method
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Soak-off With Acetone/Double-boiler Method

I wouldn’t recommend this method since it’s very drying to the skin and the press ons can't be reused afterward.

But if you really want to do it, you can also place a small bowl of acetone in a larger bowl of lukewarm water and dunk your nails in it for 10 mins. Again, be warned that using acetone will ruin the press ons and prevent you from reusing them.

Remove Press On Nails By Soaking In Acetone
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Nail Clips Method

Place a cotton ball soaked in acetone or cuticle oil on the nails, then fasten the nail clips to your fingertips. The clips will distribute pressure evenly while securing the cotton ball. This method is the same as removing gel polish. Check out our How To Remove Gel Polish At Home Easily post for more details!

[The key to nail removal] is to push in the direction that the nail cells grow. Natural nail cells are layered like shingles on the roof. Start at the cuticle and scrape out and off the nail. If you have to scrape hard, put the cotton back on and let the acetone work for a few more minutes.

Tom Bachik, Celebrity Nail Artist for Kim Kardashian, Selena Gomez, and Jennifer Lopez

How Do You Make Press On Nails Look Natural?

Press ons look the most natural when they are sized correctly. The sides should be wide enough to cover the natural nail but not going over the side walls. Combined with pushing back your cuticles, this will lead to a more polished, fashionable, and professional look.

You can also apply a layer of topcoat to the nails to make your manicure look even more new and polished if you are on your second or third wear.

How Do You Reuse Press On Nails?

For our Sunday Beauty press-on nails, I recommend soaking your nails in warm, soapy water (not acetone) for about 10-15 minutes. That should loosen the glue so you can gently lift off the press-on with a wooden nail stick. Soak additionally for 10-15 minutes if the press on did not loosen.

Here’s the great video that shows a complete press-on nail routine, from application to removal:

Where Can You Buy Press On Nails?

There are so many different press on nails to choose from. In terms of sizing and design, we absolutely love Glamnetic Press On Nails!

Depend on which set you get, Glamnetic Press Ons come in sets of 24 nails (12 sizes) or 30 nails (15 nails).

Every kit includes an alcohol pad, double-sided nail file, cuticle stick, and nail glue - basically everything you'll need to apply your press ons.


How do I prepare my natural nails for press-on nails?

Can you shower with press-on nails?

Are press-on nails hard to remove?

Why do press-on nails hurt?


Press-on nails are a convenient alternative at home when you do not want to get your nails done at a salon. They are fully customizable to your taste in design, wear-time restrictions, and length preferences.

The quick application and removal process, when done right, will let you have fun with your looks without causing damage!

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About the Author Catherine

As a kid, I discovered the world of Japanese nail art through a magazine and since then, I haven't been able to stop thinking about anything related to nails! After following a more traditional educational path and earning my Bachelor's of Science in Food and Nutrition, I decided it was time to pursue my childhood passion. In 2015, I earned my diploma from Blanche Macdonald’s Nail Technology Program. After that, I got certified with YUMI Lashes and opened Sunday Beauty Boutique in 2017. These days, I'm focused on providing a 'no rush' experience to a select clientele, teaching as a nail instructor at Blanche Macdonald, as well as providing resources on beauty related topics to clients and estheticians on my blog.

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