Look, fake nails aren’t anything new. You’ve probably seen them before, either exiled in the back corner of drugstores (always alongside stockings and nipple covers, for some reason) or looking glaringly obvious on the tips of someone’s hands. Rarely on Instagram—that’s the territory of professional nail design. If you think about it, though, the only real difference between fake nails you buy and fake nails you get is the gaping chasm of price point, with your typical press-on set hovering around $15 and a set of professional nail art gel extensions at Vanity Projects starting at 200 buckaroos.
When COVID-19 shut down salons in early spring, many artists took to the internet to peddle their fantastically lacquered wares, closing that gap. And now, it’s easy to find fake nails (in both their press-on and glue-on varieties) that look professionally painted, custom-fitted, and wonderfully elaborate, but won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Because they're reusable, your investment doesn’t expire when your nails grow out. Plus the removal process is a lot gentler than the acetone bath required for gels, so if your job requires you to use (and wash) your hands all day, you can save the nails for dinners al fresco and avoid a big pain in the butt. While fake nails are old news, I’m willing to bet you’ve never seen fake nails like these. Find a set that speaks to your soul (and your lack of manicure skills) here.
Your Nails, But Not Exactly
Fake nails that look a whole lot like your real nails are perfect for the manicure enthusiast who's not the most dexterous with a nail brush. Or file. Or cuticle pusher. These babies fit right on top of your real ones, and can arguably look even more natural than bulky acrylics. Keep it classic, go luxe with matte, or try out a foolproof version of a Skittles manicure. No one will know unless you tell them, which you'll want to, for bragging reasons.
The Modern French
A fancy tipped French manicure, like this one by Taryn Granados combines everything you love about a classic sheer manicure and everything you love about a pop of nail art. And though it looks simple, doing your own french manicure at home isn't exactly a walk in the park. With press-ons, you can easily go rainbow, dual toned—or even try a butterfly-studded set like this one nail artist Eri Ishizu made for Lizzo. If a French tip is a low-risk way to dip a toe into nail designs before you fully jump in, a press-on set is like only dipping in a nail. Or something.
Funky Line Work
Squiggles, blobs, polka dots—you're somewhere between a minimalist and a maximalist, and graphic linework on top of a sheer or neutral base lets you have your cake and eat it too. You could stick to a monochromatic design, let something more colorful update that groutfit of a sweatsuit you've been working from home in for the past three days, or... por qué no los dos? There's a free-form design for every personality, even one as unique as yours.
These designs remind me of Hot Wheels, which I loved as a kid. (Stealing a few from my brothers and making them race each other down the hall was a much-needed break from the exhausting realities of parenting a baby doll.) The shiny, lacquered finish on a cool car is actually pretty similar to the look of a good manicure, albeit when the former chips, it'll cost you a lot more. And while Dua Lipa rocked a set of flame nails by celebrity manicurist Michelle Humphrey, there are lots of similar press-on designs.
Ahh, nature. Artists have been harvesting inspiration from its lush fields, shimmering stones, and free-as-the-wind critters since the second they discovered paint. Why not bring some of that natural wonder to your nails? Cow print, tortoiseshell, quartz-esque marbling, and floral designs all fall under the nature umbrella in my book, and though there are surely other ways to approach this trend, those are my favorites. Like the pink cowboy hat you keep around for special occasions (or is this just me?) long fake nails meld natural ruggedness with city sensibilities seamlessly.
Photo via ITG