How to Apply Fake Nails at Home

by sabpro

Are you looking to step up your manicure but don’t want to spend hours in the salon to get the look? Skip the salon and get this look yourself with a fake nail kit. “Would you believe that press on nails used to be an embarrassment to admit to wearing?” says manicurist Michelle Saunders James. Now, they are widely accepted as the quickest and easiest way to get a pristine manicure, whether you want short or long nails. We talked to nail experts Saunders and manicurist Christina Grant on how to fake the salon look in the comfort of your bedroom. Keep reading for a step-by-step breakdown of how to apply fake nails at home.



  • Nail polish remover with acetone (the conditioning agents in acetone-free formulas can affect proper adhesion)
  • Cotton pads
  • Q-tips
  • Orange stick
  • Pack of nails
  • Nail buffer
  • Glue (Use nail glue only)
  • Scissors (In case you need to cut back the top of the glue)

Mix and match nail kits with nails of the same size to create a unique manicure.

Clean Your Hands and Nails

closeup washing hands

Wash your hands and pay particular attention to drying your nails and cuticles. You want to make sure that everything around the nail bed is completely dry.

Clean off any nail polish and wipe over with polish remover to ensure there are no oils, natural or otherwise, on the surface of your nail. This ensures that the glue lasts and doesn’t bubble up or chip.

Remove the fake nails from the pack and arrange which nail will be suitable for which finger. Saunders recommends Nails By Mimi Press On Nails. If you arrange the appropriate shapes first, it will make things easier once you begin the application. Press the fake nail against your real nail to ensure it fits. “Your natural nail shouldn’t be exposed,” says Grant.

Push Cuticles Back

Very gently push your cuticles back using an orange stick. If your cuticles are sensitive, be sure to push them back slowly; going too fast can cut them, and you won’t be able to continue applying the artificial nails.

Clip Your Natural Nails

person clipping fingernails

Clip your natural nail down close to the fingertip. Keeping a short shape won’t interfere with the artificial nail you’re about to apply. Buff the surface of the natural nail to roughen it—this makes the fake nails adhere better. Saunders recommends a white buffer with no more than 180 grit.

Prep Natural Nails With a Nail Primer

Grant recommends using a nail primer before applying anything to your natural nails. She recommends Young Nails Nail Protein Bond.

Apply Nails

fresh pink manicure

Apply the nails to your dominant hand first. The reason for this is that your dominant hand has the most control and makes it much easier to apply to the second hand.

Put a dot of glue on the fake nail and one on the real nail—try to avoid over-gluing. A small drop is all that you need because it will expand once it hits a flat surface. Grant recommends Kiss Maximum Speed Nail Glue. While nail adhesives exist, Saunders does not recommend them because they are less durable.

Place the fake nail just above the cuticle (keep it straight as you don’t want any crooked looking nails) and then press down onto the nail bed. Saunders says to press with the orange stick instead of your finger or nails so that they won’t get glued together. Keep pressure applied for 10 seconds to ensure no air bubbles are present before you go on to the next one. This step is essential because if the fake nail is not secured to the nail bed, moisture may get underneath and cause lifting or nail fungus.

Clean Up The Glue

Take a Q-tip and wipe around the cuticle to take up any glue that has seeped out from under the fake nail.

Fake nails can’t be reused if you mess up, so you want to be sure to apply them accurately and precisely. If the application isn’t pristine the first time, the glue that you have put on the underside will harden and prevent a smooth adhesion.

Keep the top of the nail glue as clean as you can (remember, if you wipe it with soft tissue, the tissue will stick) and keep the bottle upright so you can reuse it.

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