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There are times when you simply don't have enough hours in the day to squeeze in a pedicure. Chances are high that this happens when you have a special occasion—like your best friend's summer wedding or a beach vacation. And while you can always paint your toes at home, press-on toenails are an easy solution worth adding to your bag of beauty tricks.
Thankfully, press-on toenails aren't just easy to apply but also long-lasting, so you won't have to touch them up like chipped polish. Intrigued? We thought so. Keep reading for everything you need to know about applying and using press-on toenails, including expert advice from celebrity nail artist Pattie Yankee and board-certified dermatologist Dana Stern, MD.
Meet the Expert
- Pattie Yankee is a celebrity nail artist and nail expert based in New York City and Los Angeles.
- Dana Stern, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of Dr. Dana.
What Are Press-On Toenails?
Press-on toenails are much like press-on nails, only made and sized specifically for toes, explains Stern. Typically, they are made with a sticky adhesive on the underside of the nail.
"Today's press-on options are generally made with real polish or gel polish, so they look and feel like an actual pedicure rather than a sticker," says Yankee. Some benefits of press-on toenails include ease of application and the ability to do it yourself.
Are Press-On Toenails Safe?
Press-on nails are safe overall—however, they aren't for everyone. "The true press-ons that are applied with a sticky tab or already contain a sticky adhesive are safe," explains Yankee. However, they often stay secure past the claimed wear time, so you should always remove them after two weeks. "Toenails tend to hold a lot of moisture, so it's imperative not to wear them past 14 days," says Yankee. "This will help maintain the health of the natural toenails and ensure that bacteria doesn't begin to develop from trapped moisture."
Since "press-ons are made with an acrylate-based adhesive embedded in the underside of the sticker, additional glue or acrylate is not needed unless you want to try to prolong the life of press-ons," says Stern. "Acrylates are potentially problematic in that they can cause allergic reactions if they come into contact with the skin." While the risk of a reaction is pretty low (since the amount of acrylate is pretty low), those who decide to add glue can run into this problem.
Stern emphasizes the importance of not aggressively pulling the nails off. "This may induce onycholysis, which is the separation of the nail plate from the nail bed if the product is difficult to remove and requires aggressive pulling," she says. However, if you tolerate press-ons and your removal is easy, press-ons are a fantastic nail option.
How Do You Apply Press-On Toenails?
Before you apply press-on toenails, you should start with clean feet. "Shape your toenails, push back your cuticles, and clean your nails with acetone or isopropyl alcohol to ensure the natural nails are clear from oils and residue," says Yankee. It's also important to ensure your toenails are completely dry before application to prevent unwanted moisture from getting trapped under the press-on toenails.
"Select a press-on nail size for each toe, and then begin applying the nails," Yankee continues. Some press-ons have a clear peel-off backing film that covers the adhesive, whereas others use sticky tabs. "For sticky tabs, apply the tab to each toenail and remove the film from the top of the sticky tab to reveal the adhesive," she says. "For glue on toenails, apply a small amount of nail glue to the underside of each press-on toenail." Finish by aligning the press-on nail with each cuticle, pressing down firmly, and trimming or shaping if needed.
How Long Do Press-On Toenails Last?
Generally, press-on toenails last about two weeks—some last longer, and some last for less time, depending on the brand and application technique. Your shoe choices, activities, and other lifestyle factors will determine how long they stay on.
How Do You Remove Press-On Toenails?
Similar to press-on nails, press-on toenails are a bit tedious to remove. However, it's not difficult. For sticky tab press-on toenails, you'll begin by applying a generous amount of cuticle oil at the base of each nail. Then, gently use a cuticle stick to loosen and release the press-on, explains Yankee.
The process for glued-on press-ons is a bit more complex. "For glue-on toenails, trim the length as short as possible, then file the top surface of the press-on," advises Yankee. "Apply cuticle oil to each nail and cuticle. Next, place a small piece of cotton, saturated in acetone, on top of each nail, then wrap each individual nail in foil." This should soak for 10 to 15 minutes before you take off any softened or loose product with a manicure stick. "Reapply foil and acetone-soaked cotton and repeat as needed until the press-on is fully removed," she says.