Acrylic nails are designed to enhance the appearance and strength of your actual nail. Acrylic nails usually provide a more uniformed and longer-lasting manicured style that can last for weeks. The shape, length and thickness are customizable to the style and design that the wearer really wants.
If you have decided to enter the acrylic nail fray, below you’ll learn everything about acrylic nails and will also find 51 stylish acrylic nail designs for your inspiration.
Acrylic Nails: Contents
1. What Are Acrylic Nails?2. Differences Between Acrylic Nails, Shellac and Gel Nails3. How to Do Acrylic Nails4. DIY Acrylic Nails At Home5. Acrylic Nail Shapes6. How Much Acrylic Nails Cost7. How to Fill In Acrylic Nails8. How Long Do Acrylic Nails Last?9. How to Care for Acrylic Nails10. How to Remove Acrylic Nails11. Pros and Cons of Acrylic Nails12. Acrylic Nail Designs
What Are Acrylic Nails?
Acrylic nails have a long history of dependability and durability that people enjoy. I can attest to this as I wore acrylic nails for years – I loved them. They look good, they are strong and they made my hands look amazing.
Acrylic nails are basically a protective layer, once described by Dana Stern, a board-certified dermatologist and nail specialist, as a coat of armor for nails. Most nail specialists do not recommend nail additions at all, as they can actually weaken nails in the long term (unlike dip powder nails), but let’s be honest, we like the look so most of us will get them anyway for various reasons.
If you have naturally weak nails and it seems like nothing else is working, acrylics could be a great option for you. The acrylic nails are added and built up to the right shape and thickness for your nails. The actual acrylic is a combination of a powder polymer and liquid monomer that cures as it dries into the hard nail covers we know and love.
Differences Between Acrylic Nails, Shellac and Gel Nails
Acrylic nails, shellac and gel nails can be easily confused, if you are not familiar with each nail treatment and what to expect. Acrylic and gel nails are enhancements that are placed over your actual nail, typically in an attempt to lengthen them to one uniform length and shape, and then carry a design on top.
Shellac is the design. With acrylics, the technician can glue on a fake nail, trim it to the right length and then apply the acrylic over it, or they can attach a shield that they build the nail with the acrylic combination. Acrylic nails are also done in an effort to strengthen nails that are already long in order to prevent them from breaking as easily as they would naturally. Once applied the acrylics just have to dry, be shaped and painted.
Gel nails can be placed in much the same way acrylics are, but there is a different formula to build the nail enhancement and a different way to treat it. Gel nails are also known as UV gels because they use UV light to cure the gel formula, though there are other methods (like the no light gels) that you can choose from.
Shellac manicure is a blended use of nail polish and gel to make the design or color remain shiny and last much longer than the nail polish would on its own. The reason that shellac is so often confused with gel and acrylic nail treatments is because of ‘Gel Manicures’, which are essentially shellac. The small amount of the gel used to seal in the color is often just attributed to gel nails, causing confusion for the customer and the tech, if the request is not explained.
DIY Acrylic Nails At Home
At home, the process is incredibly similar, but because you lack the technique and skills of a tech, the details are very important, and most DIY acrylic nail kits will do their best to make it easy for you.
Many of the kits include everything you will need: nail file, nail buffer, acrylic liquid, acrylic powder and acrylic brush and an acrylic dish, as well as a non-acetone nail polish remover (for mistakes with polish) and a nail primer.
• First remove any old nail polish.
• Next choose your tips – match them up to your fingernails to make certain each one is the right size, then use nail glue to glue the nail tips on.
• Make certain each nail extension is not too big, and if it is the nearest size, file the sides down a bit to make it fit better.
• Be careful not to use too much glue – you don’t want the glue to touch your skin.
• Dab a small dot of glue on the tip and spread it from side to side and press it to your natural nail.
• Press the nail down for five seconds to allow the glue to dry and the nail to adhere.
• Once the nail is secure, trim down the length of the extension to the right length.
• Make certain the next step is done in a well-ventilated area. Put your liquid acrylic into the acrylic dish.
• Put the powder into a separate dish.
• Set up a few folded paper towels nearby.
• Dip the acrylic brush into the liquid and press the brush all the way down and wait for all the bubbles to dissipate, and then slide the brush on the edge of the bowl to remove any excess liquid acrylic.
• Dip the brush in a small sweep through the acrylic powder to create a small, moist ball of acrylic material on the end of the brush.
• The right ratio of liquid and powdered acrylic will not drip off the brush but will stay in a small bead at the end. The bead should be moist and spreadable.
• If you need to redo your blend of the acrylic liquid and powder on the brush, wipe off the initial attempt on the napkin and repeat the above steps.
• Between additions of the acrylic to the nail, wipe off excess on the napkin/paper towels to keep the acrylic from bonding to the brush. Make certain to do this between each wipe on the nails.
• Do not put the acrylic on your skin or cuticle. Make certain to start just a few millimeters away from the cuticle so that the acrylic bonds to your nail, not your skin.
• Wait approximately 10 minutes for the acrylic to dry and set (it won’t be pretty yet.). You can test the acrylic nails by tapping the surface with the handle of the acrylic brush – if you hear a clicking sound, your nails are set!
• Use a coarse nail file, (preferably electronic for speed) to shape the tips and then file them down to the desired length. Use a 180-grit one to shape the nails, a 240-grit file to remove any scratches from the 180-grit and finish up with a 1000-grit to shape. For a stunning shiny finish, follow up with a 4000-grit file.
• Paint your nails!
Common Acrylic Nail Shapes
With acrylic nails you can choose to have any nail shape you want, and the popularity of some over others can vary. Some of the most popular acrylic nail shapes currently are:
• Coffin shaped acrylic nails are similar in shape to ballerina and stiletto shapes, but with a squared tip. The name is chosen because of the resemblance to the shape of a coffin. People do grow their nails out to a good length for this and then have them shaped, but this is a far easier style to achieve with a set of acrylic nails.
• Lipstick acrylic nails follow the same curve as a tube of lipstick for a pretty interesting look. The sides are straight, while the top of the nail features a diagonal curve. There are quite a few variations on the lipstick nail shape, but the general rule of shape is the same.
• Duck shaped acrylic nails are flared. These are certainly eye-catching, but take more getting used to than other styles and shapes, as the dimensions at the end of your hand flare out rather than whittle down. The shape does not change the width on the nail beds, further enhancing the flared shape at the end. Duck nails are ideal for expansive art thanks to the increased nail surface.
• Mountain shaped acrylic nails (also known as stiletto shaped acrylic nails) are getting as popular as coffin shaped nails thanks to their prevalence on red carpets. The key features for mountain shaped nails are length and a pointed tip. The shape is easy to replicate on both natural nails and enhanced nails, but it certainly looks better on acrylic nails.
• Squoval shaped acrylic nails have the perfect combination of the straight walled nail beds of square shaped nails and the smooth oval top of the oval shaped nail. This is a universally flattering shape that is very easy to maintain.
• Almond shaped acrylic nails help promote the appearance of lengthy, dainty fingers with a chic end. This shape is typically for shorter nail lengths, so maintaining a shorter length is important, and it can be done on natural or acrylic nails.
• Oval shaped nails are the obvious result of combining almond, square and rounded nail shapes on acrylic nails. The more rounded look is considered to be inherently feminine, and the shape is easy to achieve with natural and acrylic nails.
• Round shaped nails are the perfect easy-to-do and -maintain shape for short nail designs. If you are not looking to seriously extend, just protect your nails with a coat of acrylic, you can always go with the round shape. It is a very natural look that is easily one of the most appealing and non-assuming.
• Square shaped nails are ideal for anyone with a wider nail bed, as they can be filed down to the appropriate square shape (for a French manicure, for example). It honestly is flattering on all hands regardless of the size of the nail beds.
• Square shaped nails with a point are definitely a bit edgier. These are definitely ‘square looking’ nails, as the right angled sharp pointed edges are not rounded out. The look is easily distinguishable and iconic.
Choosing the shape of your acrylic nails is as individual as the style of manicure or nail art that you get. It is fun to try out new shapes that may be slightly out of your comfort zone, but you never know what you might get attached to.
How to Fill In Acrylic Nails
Acrylic nails will have to be filled in every 2 to 3 weeks to keep them looking pristine. You can learn to fill in your acrylic nails on your own if push comes to shove, but the process does not take as long as the initial install whether done by you or by the tech.
If you are looking to fill in your acrylic nails yourself, it works very similarly to installing them. You’ll need the same kit supplies mentioned earlier: a nail file, nail buffer, acrylic liquid, acrylic powder and an acrylic brush and an acrylic dish, as well as a non-acetone nail polish remover (which will remove the nail polish without damaging the acrylic beneath) and a nail primer.
• Remove the old polish with the non-acetone nail polish remover.
• Wash your hands thoroughly, and then dry them to eliminate likelihood of an infection.
• Buff away any acrylic that might have lifted up as your nail grew out – you don’t want a seam. Be sure to buff away only the acrylic so you don’t damage your nail bed.
• Apply 2 to 3 coats of nail primer to the newly grown nail surface, making certain to allow each layer to dry completely before applying the next coat.
• Prepare and apply the acrylic in the same method as mentioned above, but only place the acrylic mixture on the natural nail and only the amount needed to meet the existing acrylic smoothly. If needed, do another coat of the acrylic to make certain the surfaces line up smoothly.
• Dry your acrylic nails.
• File your nail length down if you like and buffer the entire nail to achieve a smooth, uniform texture.
• Paint your nails!
How to Remove Acrylic Nails
Removing acrylic nails is done one of two main ways. The first is the quickest but can be really annoying for those with weaker or more brittle nails. With this method, the acrylic nail is clipped down around the edges, and they use faux nail to slip in between the acrylic nail and the natural nail. The fake nail is slid around between the acrylic and natural nail until the acrylic comes off.
The second method is gentler but also more time consuming. The acrylic nails are soaked in acetone, then filed down a bit, and the process repeated until the old set is completely removed. Both of these methods can be done at home or at the nail salon.
You should no way remove acrylic nails by filing away the hardened acrylic paste or snapping off the nail tips, as you are likely to cause damage to your own natural nails by following any of those methods of removing acrylic nails.
Below you’ll find the detailed explanation on how to remove acrylic nails at home.
Method 1: Splitting the Acrylic from the Nail
With this method, you use either a fake nail to slide beneath and pry off the false nail or the preferred splitting method using dental floss. When using the fake nail to split the acrylic from your fingernail, it can be done alone or with help. When returning to the salon, most places use another fake nail to remove the acrylics.
If you are using dental floss, you will need help from someone else because it requires 2 hands to use it properly. Here are the steps:
• Step 1: Clip down the acrylic nail to where your nail ends.
• Step 2: Find the seam and slide either the tip of the fake nail or the dental floss into the seam.
• Step 3: Gradually and carefully work either the nail or the floss further into the seam until the acrylic pops off completely.
• Step 4: When using the floss, have the person move the floss side to side lightly to help work it under the acrylic.
• Step 5: Moisturize your hands and use a nail strengthener afterwards.This method will completely remove the acrylic nail without chemicals, but your nails will likely still be weakened beneath the acrylics. Taking care of them right away is the best way to go.
Method 2: Soak Your Acrylic Nails off with Acetone
When soaking your acrylic nails off with acetone, you can do so one of two ways. You can soak your fingernails in a bowl of high acetone nail polish remover or pure acetone, which will essentially melt off the acrylic nails.
The other method involves soaking a cotton ball in the acetone or nail polish remover, placing the soaked cotton ball on your fingernails and securing them to your nails using foil. In either case, soaking the acrylic nails off will take at least 20 minutes. Here are the steps:
• Step 1: Remove your nail polish. The color can cloud the liquid, making it difficult to judge how much the acrylic nails have disintegrated, and the color can also redistribute on the cuticles.
• Step 2: Wash and dry your hands and under your nails.
• Step 3: Push back your cuticles.
• Step 4: Apply Vaseline or coconut oil to your cuticles and the skin around your nails to protect them from the acetone.
• Step 5: Fill a small bowl with acetone or soak your cotton balls in the acetone.
• Step 6: Start the soaking process either by using the soaked cotton ball and foil or holding your fingernails in the acetone in a small bowl.
• Step 7: As the acetone melts off, push it off with a craft stick or an orange cuticle stick.
• Step 8: Continue removing the acrylic until there is just a thin layer left on the nail.
• Step 9: Let your hands dry, then use a buffer to remove the remainder of the acrylic.
• Step 10: Moisturize your hands and use a nail strengthener afterwards.
Please note that when using acetone to remove acrylic nails you should work in a well ventilated area because of the fumes and be aware that you will need to moisturize your nails afterwards. The nail glue from the application and the acetone from the removal will dry them out. Many people leave a thin layer of acrylic on the nails to offer some protection, as they will be thinner than normal.
There are at-home acrylic nail removal kits available that will help you remove the acrylic nails, but most of them utilize a version of the two methods mentioned above, which will also cost you much less and can be used in other ways. The benefit to the kits is that they usually include a cuticle oil or nail hardener in the kit as well.