Yes, the thought of press-on nails still gives us flashbacks to that one time in gym class when one of our totally rad Lee press-ons popped off mid-dodgeball and hit our longtime crush in the face. But with the sudden resurgence of prints, patterns, and decorative decals for nails, press-ons are once again having a moment.
Different from their peers of yore, these nails have a modern update — they’re much shorter, come in patterns and colors galore, and are offered in multiple application methods. But do they look good? Are they easy to apply? Do they last without flying off and hitting people in the face? We were determined to find out.
We tested three brands — Sally Hansen Salon Effects Nail Polish Strips, Broadway Nails Impress Press-On Manicure, and L’oréal Project Runway Limited Edition Nail Stickers. The goal: to find out if these do-it-yourself press-ons really provide salon results in less time. Here’s what we found out.
Sally Hansen Salon Effects Nail Polish Strips
Pattern: “Check It Out”
Total time to apply: 25 minutes
This brand is chock full of patterns — houndstooth (our fave!), leopard, floral, sparkle — but didn’t seem to have too many regular solid colors. Inside the box, you’ll find 16 nail strips, a cuticle stick, and a mini nail file and buffer. Starting with clean, cuticle-free nails, you select the best-fitting strip for each nail, remove a clear protective plastic cover, then peel the strip from its white backing paper. You then choose the side of the strip that best fits the shape of your cuticles and break off this silver tab. At first, we had issues peeling the backing paper and then placing the strip onto our nails, but three nails in we got the hang of it. After stretching the strip to cover your nail (believe us, it’s not as easy as it sounds), you then smooth the excess over the nail edge, form a crease, and file away the excess.
Results: A few minor user errors, but all in all, the application process wasn’t overly difficult and the no dry time element is a nice. The strips supposedly last up to 10 days and removal is fairly easy — just use nail polish remover. We’d like to see more variety in colors, since most of the patterns aren’t exactly practical.
Is it a time saver? Perhaps if getting a manicure takes longer than 25 to 30 minutes.
Broadway Nails Impress Press-On Manicure
Pattern: “It Girl”
Total time to apply: 10 minutes
Most similar to the press-on nails of the past only much shorter, the Impress nails feature a tab on one side (the side that goes toward the cuticle) that is removed to expose the adhesive. After cleansing your natural nails with an included “prep pad,” you place all 10 plastic nails in front of you in finger order (we failed to follow this step and paid dearly with an awkward wrong-size nail on the right pinky). Then remove each tab and firmly apply to pinkies first and thumbs last.
Results: It was a super easy application process with few errors, and while not completely salon-quality, the nails do have a shine and shape that you’d get from a professional manicure. We suggest making sure your natural nails are extremely short so they won’t peek out from under the press-ons. Again, not having a dry time is nice, but we weren’t too fond of the double-nail effect at the edges (our nails with the plastic nails on top were visible unless you were looking straight at them). Impress does come in more solid colors than other brands. Removal is slightly painful, as you have to peel each one off.
Is it a time saver? Yes, and we’d probably apply them again if we were in a jam.
L’oréal Project Runway Limited Edition Nail Stickers
Pattern: “The Seductive Temptress”
Total time to apply: 20 minutes (our time is improving)
Here, you get 18 nail-shaped stickers (though much shorter than the Sally Hansen strips), choose the best size for each nail, peel off the sticker, and apply to nail while pressing firmly. Similar to the Sally strips, you fold the excess over your natural nail tips and file in a sideways motion to remove the overhanging sticker. This one did not include a file or cuticle stick so you’d have to supply your own.
Results: Fewer steps were involved than with the first strip-style nail, but this brand only had patterns available; we couldn’t find any solid colors. The application process was a bit easier since you’re only peeling the nail sticker from one backing. Removal was fairly easy; you simply peel them off your nails starting from a side corner.
Is it a time saver? Yes, but we’d like to see more color variety!