In the past, press-on nails were fiddly and finicky, taking forever to apply (and taking no time to fall off again). Plus, generally speaking, many of them were cut into a shape that never quite matched your nail bed, or were so thick they looked oddly heavy — basically, they always looked ersatz. However, just fake tan has become much more seamless in recent years, so have press-on nails. There’s now so many options on the market that are quick to apply and far more customisable, meaning you can easily adjust them to the size and shape of your natural nails.
They’re also the perfect way to try nail art at home without the fuss. Instead of spending hours with teeny-tiny brushes attempting to recreate a design you saw on Instagram, you can simply use press-ons, and get the effect without needing surgical dexterity. We asked seven beauty experts, from editors to manicurists for their top picks. Read on for the best gel effect press-ons, acrylic effect press-ons, and press-ons with nail art.
Best overall press-on nails
Drugstore brand KISS was the choice of two of our experts. “My ‘go-to’ press-ons are those that are pre-glued. This avoids any natural nail damage that can happen when adhesive is used and not removed correctly. KISS have some beautiful examples of these,” said manicurist Marian Newman. “They seem to fit every nail bed and have a perfect almond shape.” Nail technician Mari Suda-Kosumi agreed, saying that while she rarely uses press-ons for clients, if she was in a rush to refresh her nails, she’d buy KISS. “The brand has been very popular for years and it’s easy to see why. Their designs are so elegant and classic, and they have something for every occasion,” she explained.
Newman is also a fan of Elegant Touch, citing how easy they are to remove and reuse. “Because they’re pre-glued, they can be easily removed from the nails without damaging them and there are plenty of ‘sticky tabs’ available in the drugstores to replace them,” said Newman. Manicurist Sophie Bridge is also a fan, saying that her clients like the Totally Bare option. Because they’re a total blank canvas, you can paint them with their own designs. “Nail art is everywhere at the moment and lockdown has brought out everybody’s creative side, so these are the ultimate solution for an at-home manicure that doesn’t damage the natural nail.”
The best (less expensive) press-on nails
Just want something cheap, or a quick option in case a nail breaks? Refinery29 U.K.’s beauty editor, Jacqueline Kilikita, recommended Finishing Touches, Superdrug’s own brand. “I’ve tried almost all press-on nails the high street has to offer, but nothing comes close to Superdrug’s bargain own brand. There are lots of styles to choose from, they’re so convincing and they don’t budge until you see fit to remove them.” With a selection of nude shades, French manicures and solid colour, they’re a great option if you want something simple and office-friendly.
The best gel-effect press-on nails
If you specifically want that high-gloss, Shellac manicure effect, Tinu Bello, owner of Colour Riot Nails suggested KISS Fantasy Gel. “They come pre-decorated, they’re very easy to apply and there’s so many designs available,” said Bello. There’s a range of different designs, including glitter, ombre and solid colour, and they come pre-glued for easier removal.
The best acrylic-effect press-on nails
If you’d like to replicate those super-long, glamorous nails you see on Instagram without committing to the full cycle of acrylics, infills, and more acrylics, Kilikita suggested Tres She. “I love long talons but acrylics have wrecked my nails in the past, so press ons are the better option. Tres She is amazing. They’re Insta nails without the price tag and they last for ages. Unlike some others (which look obviously fake and don’t fit to the nail bed properly) you couldn’t tell the difference between these and a professional full set from the salon,” said Kilikita. Designs include solid colour, neon flames, glitter, and animal print — if you want nails to turn heads, Tres She is probably your best bet.
The best press-on nails with nail art
No good with fiddly things, but love nail art? Simply buy your press-ons pre-decorated. “My go-to press-on nails are from Shrine,” said celebrity manicurist Kate Williamson. “Shrine always comes through and delivers with the cutest designs and colours. They come in a generous pack of 20 nails, and they also regularly collaborate with nail artists and brands to feature new designs, so you’re also supporting small businesses.” Shrine also offers a variety of shapes, including coffin, stiletto and classic squoval, so there’s plenty of choice — Williamson especially like the Head in the Clouds pack. “Get ready for a lot of people asking who did your nails!”
The best custom press-on nails
For a totally unique manicure, you’ll need to get made-to-order press-ons, said manicurist Tajá Pothmont and one-half of the Style & City Diaries podcast duo, Amber Leaux. “I always recommend Arjenisis Nails to my clients if they want something easy and quick for a special occasion. All of the nails are custom-made so they’re sure to fit nice and snug. Also, it’s a small business so the effort shows in the detail of every design whether it’s simple or intricate as all orders are handmade to order,” said Pothmont. You’ll need to contact Arjenisis Nails directly on Instagram to place an order, but Pothmont she’s always had a fast response and fast shipping. Leaux recommended PTI Nails, saying, “Press-on nails have been a gift from the heavens when I don’t have time to get to the salon. PTI’s founder, Andreia Nogueira is self-taught and is always so attentive to designs and puts magic into her work. I love all of the designs I’ve bought from her. The custom fit is amazing, too.”
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