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How to remove press-on nails with minimal damage and effort

They say “fashion repeats itself,” and that seems to be the case with press-on nails, which have seemingly surged in popularity since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. And while you might still associate the drug-store staple with the ill-fitting, plastic manicures of the 80s and 90s, know that today’s temporary tips are far chicer and longer-lasting than their predecessors — all while being just as easy (if not easier) to use.

To apply, simply dab some glue or lay down a sticky tab onto your natural nail then press on the, err, press-on. Repeat for all ten fingers and, violá, you’ve scored a salon-quality manicure from the comfort of home. But just because they’re convenient, easy, and cost a fraction of professional treatments, doesn’t mean press-ons are too fragile or impractical for everyday use. The adhesives used today are far more advanced than those from yesteryear (read: a few decades ago) and can stand up to wear, provided you take the time to apply your press-on nails correctly, says nail expert Gina Chang, senior manager of Marketing Communications at Dashing Diva. The only trade-off? Stronger nail adhesives have more potential to damage your natural nails during removal, notes Chang.

In general, however, self-adhesive nails tend to be easier to apply and remove without damaging your nails vs. press-ons that call for glue, she says. What’s more, glue-on tips can also take longer to remove. Still, whether you choose a sticker-like option or a glue variety, proper removal of your press-ons is essential for avoiding breaking and peeling your natural nails. In the case of reusable press-on nails (which tend to be of the glue-on variety), careful removal also allows you to preserve the press-ons if you wish to wear them again. The good news? Unlike other nail enhancements such as acrylics or gels, press-on nails do not require acetone to remove ’em. (Acetone, aka the chemical found in nail polish remover, can dry out your natural nails, leading to breakage and peeling.)

Press-On Nails
Image: Courtesy Anna Kumpan/Unsplash

Removing self-adhesive press-on nails is simple, according to the celebrity nail artist and ImPRESS spokesperson, Tom Bachik, whose work has graced the hands of Olivia Rodrigo, Selena Gomez, and Jennifer Lopez. Self-adhesive options often require cuticle oil to loosen and lift the nails gently, he says. If your press-on nails are lifting on the edges, go ahead and see if they’ll easily loosen after rubbing cuticle oil around the perimeter of your nails, which can help break down the adhesive.

If you’re dealing with glue-ons or particularly stubborn self-adhesive nails, try this DIY soak from Bachik to carefully and properly remove your temporary tips.

What you need to remove press-on nails

  • A glass bowl
  • Soap (either hand soap or dish soap will do the job)
  • A cuticle stick
  • 150 grit nail file or buffing block
  • Cuticle oil
  • Hand lotion

How to remove press-on nails easily

  1. Add a few squirts of soap to warm water in a glass bowl and soak your nails in the water for around 5-10 minutes for self-adhesives or 20 minutes for glue-ons. (If the water temperature cools during this time, feel free to refill the bowl with warmer H20.) When you’re able to get rid of part of a press-on nail by gently applying pressure to the edge with a cuticle stick, it’s time to stop soaking. If you’re pressed for time, try adding a bit of cuticle oil or nail polish remover into the bowl to speed up the process without totally drying out your nails since you still aren’t resorting to pure acetone.
  2. Once the glue gets loose, apply pressure with the slanted flat side of a wooden cuticle stick at the edge of the nails to gently remove them. Do this for all ten nails until the temporary tips are copmletely gone. If the press-ons do not entirely remove after gently pushing with the wooden stick, soak for a few minutes more and try again. Be patient; if you don’t soak your nails long enough for the glue to loosen, you’ll risk peeling off the top layers of your nails by trying to force it off.
  3. Once all of the press-on nails are removed, use a 150 grit nail file or buffing block to remove any glue or residue from your natural nails. (The higher the grit, the more gentle a file is on your nails.) Be careful not to buff too hard; your goal is to just get rid of whatever leftover is visibly noticeable.
  4. Wash your hands then apply cuticle oil and hand lotion.

When you can, go a few days without temporary tips and use a nail strengthener to fortify your natural nails between press-on sets. Your nails don’t need technically need to “breathe” as they get oxygen and nutrients naturally through your bloodstream. However, if your nails are prone to breakage or peeling, prolonged use of nail enhancements such as acrylics, gels, or press-ons can exacerbate that. It’s also important to moisturise and treat them regularly, as this can help them grow longer and stronger.

Granted, once you’ve hopped on the press-on train you may feel reluctant to take regular breaks — and that should be okay as long as you’re practicing healthy nail care and applying and removing press-on nails correctly.

This story first appeared on www.shape.com

(Main and Feature Image Credit: Getty Images)

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