Just like Elle Woods found refuge in the nail salon in Legally Blonde, so did I in college. For one hour a week, I had to sit without access to my phone, watch TLC on the big screen, and be surrounded by gossip rather than talk of term papers and final exams. I continued this after college, always opting for a gel manicure. But when Covid hit and I couldn’t get my nails done professionally, I realized how much money I was spending on manicures. Plus gel nails inherently come with harmful exposure to UV light. I needed to find an alternative; the press-on nail.
Press-ons have come a long way from the bulky, obviously fake designs of the past. First of all, there’s so many different brands in the press on game, from custom made designs you can order online to celebrity collaborations. Second, they are in tune to current nail trends, coming in all kinds of shapes and sizes for a realistic look. I’ve tried everything from made-to-order sets to collaborations with Target, but I keep on coming back to the OG; Kiss press-on nails.
I would say I have fairly normal nails—they're strong, but when I try to grow them out, they eventually break. I have always wanted long, almond shaped nails, so press-ons give me the length I can’t achieve on my own.
There’s something fun about going to your local CVS or Target and picking out a new set. The brand still offers the iconic french tip but has expanded to trendier styles. Think eccentric nail art, mile long coffins, and delicate nudes and milky shades. With three different lengths to choose from, you can select the right design to match the look you are going for. Each set comes with everything you need—glue, file, and an orange stick for pushing back cuticles. There’s about 30 nails per kit, so you can use them more than once and you have extras in case a nail or two falls off.
The Application Process
Applying press-ons might sound complicated, but it’s actually quite simple. There’s no need to cut or file your nails—in fact, I like to keep my nails as long as possible since this gives the fake nail more surface area to hold on to. I first go through the set and match up a fake nail for all my fingers. You want to make sure that the fake nail is the same size as your nail bed. If it’s too big, it can pop off. Once I have all the nails picked out, I wipe down my nails with nail polish remover and start applying.
I apply a bit of glue to both the fake nail and my natural nail and then put the fake nail on top. I hold down and give a tight squeeze until I feel the glue has hardened. Once all your nails are glued on, you can pretty much carry on with the rest of your day, but I like to be a little more careful within the first hour and not do any activities that could pop them off. Sorry, typing that email has to wait.
It might feel a little weird to have fake nails on at first but after a few hours, you’ll forget they’re there, until you look down and see your fabulous manicure. I can’t tell you how many times people have commented on my press-ons and their jaws dropped as I told them I got them from the drugstore. The quality of Kiss nails is just as good as higher priced press-ons—they match my nail beds, the design doesn’t chip, and they don’t feel heavy on my nails. And they last forever. Using the nail glue that comes in the pack, I’ve had press ons last me up to a month. Coming from someone who types for a living and has worn them on vacations that involved many soaks in the pool, that says a lot.
If anything, sometimes they last too long and I have to figure out how to remove them. But I’ve learned a clever trick: I first soak them in warm, soapy water to loosen up the glue. Then I take a piece of dental floss and slide it under the base of the nail and pull to the end. This may sound painful, but as you wear the press-ons and the glue naturally weakens, you can do this easily without pain or damage.
As I get more and more wedding invites, I know I’ll be stocking up on these press-ons. Why should I shell out on a new manicure for every wedding event, when I can get the perfect nails at home? With all the photo opportunities during a bachelorette weekend or engagement party, I want my nails to look amazing, and press-ons give me the luxe length and perfect shape my natural nails never reach. And if I’m traveling, I can just take the extras in case a nail falls off. Fixing a real gel or regular mani? Not so easy.
Why Trust Brides
Emily Cieslak is an Assistant Commerce editor and writes about all things beauty and fashion. She first started using press-on nails at the beginning of the pandemic and got hooked ever since. Before writing for Brides, she interned at The Knot, where she got her first taste of bridal content. She has also written for Byrdie, InStyle, and Real Simple.