How to apply fake nails properly in 4 easy steps (& how to make them last)

When I hear the words “press-on nails” I get an instant flashback of 11 year ol’ me opening up a kiddy manicure set that included cheap nail polish, Disney nail stickers, and ill-filling tacky press on nails that would pop off the minute I left my seat.

Press-on nails have come a longgggggg way since then (and so have I – thank goodness!). Today, I’m sharing how to apply fake nails properly in 4 easy steps as well as tips to help your press-on nails last longer.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you.

What are press-on nails?

Press-on nails AKA glue-on nails AKA fake nails, are just artificial nails made of acrylic resin that you glue on your nails. They come in many colors, shapes, designs, and even ingredients based on the brand.


What are some benefits of press-on nails?

1. Cost

A full set of nails at the nail shop can cost you $25-50 these days. In comparison, press-on nails average around $9 (and you can even get them around $1/set if you buy in bulk!). The most significant benefit of press-on nails is how cost-efficient they are. They are incredibly affordable.

2. Time

Another benefit of press-on nails (and the main reason I wear them) is the time! I remember spends hours at the nail shop waiting to get my nails done. I’m a busy gal. Applying fake nails at home takes me less than 10 minutes to do.

3. Better for your nails

Another reason I hated getting my nails done was due to how damaged it left my real nails. Fake nails are healthier and not nearly as damaging if you follow my nail tips down below

4. Variety & Options

You can switch up the nails, depending on your mood. Seriously, there are so many colors and designs you can choose from

5. Availability

During the pandemic, spas and salons were closed. However, with press-on nails, you don’t need a nail shop or an appointment. Press-on nails are available in most retail stores as well as online. Just check out the press-on nails available on Amazon!

How to apply false nails properly

Watch the video:


STEP 1: Prepare your real nails

A. Cut your real nails (if, needed)

Clip your natural nail down. Nails should be cut close to the fingertip.

B. Push back cuticles

Push back your cuticles and clean around your nail

C. Shape nails

Shape your nails with a nail file. Also, gently file the surface of your nails. This will allow the glue and press-on nails to grip better. Do not over-file.

D. Ensure nails are clean and free from oil

You also want to clean off any old nail polish and ensure your nails are free from oils. Oils (natural oils from your skin and nails) can cause the nail glue to chip, not adhere properly or raise the nail up which, causes nails to come off too soon.


STEP 2: Prepare your fake nails

A. Size the nails

Remove the nails from the pack and arrange which nail is going to go on which finger (sizing each nail to a finger).

B. Optional: Paint nails

If you are applying press-on nails that need to be painted, such as these, I recommend painting nails prior to gluing them on as this will make it less likely to mess up the nail when the nails are already on.


STEP 3: Apply the nails

I recommend applying nails on your dominant hand first, as this will make it easier to apply your second hand. Additionally, I recommend using a strong adhesive that will allow your nails to stay on without damaging your real nails. My favorite is Kiss nail glue.

a. Glue the nails on

Put a dot of glue in the center of your nail and apply the press-on nail.

B. Hold nails down, so they adhere better

Apply pressure on the nail for 30 seconds as this allows the glue to spread evenly on the nail and give you a stronger bond.


STEP 4: Finishing touches

Excess nail glue:

If you have any nail glue that has seeped out from under the nail, take a Q-tip and wipe around the cuticle to clean up.

Cut fake nails:

If your fake nails are too long, cut, and shape nails. I highly recommend this electric nail drill, as this makes it sooo much easier to shape nails.

Apply a clear coat of polish:

Clear nail polish will help your nails look better over time and give your nails that shiny appearance. Additionally, if you love bling-bling on your nails then applying a clear coat of polish will help keep rhinestones on your nails longer.

How to make false nails last longer

TIP #1: Make sure nails are clean before applying nails

Nails should be free of oils.

TIP #2: Use the right nails

Make sure the nails are properly sized for your specific nails. Different brands will cater to different nail shapes.

TIP #3: Do your nails at night

You should not wash your hands or apply lotion for at least 2 hours after applying fake nails to prevent interference with the nail glue. For optimum glue longevity, I recommend doing your nails are night.


Supplies needed for false nails

Some nail kits already include everything you need (such as the Ardell nails which are my favoriteeeeee). However, just in case, I do recommend the below:

1. Nail file

2. Cuticle Pusher

3. Nail cleaner

4. Press-on nails

5. Nail glue

Extras (and optional)

  1. Electric nail drill
  2. Fake nail cuter
  3.  Nail rhinestones
  4. Clear nail polish
  5. Nail oil

Remember, most nail kits include more than ten nails (usually around 20+), so you can mix and match different nail sets to get different looks! Are you a fan of press-on nails? Do you have any tips when it comes to how to apply fake nails properly? Let me know below!


In my next post, I’m sharing step by step how to do a salon-quality pedicure at home!


I LOVE beauty, and it’s my mission to help women look and feel their best (because when you feel your best, you do your best!). Download my FREE beginner beauty guide below for practical and affordable ways to look your best!

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