Are These $25 Nail Polish Strips Better Than a Gel Manicure?

From the days of getting acrylics at my local strip mall to my standing appointments at a tiny Japanese nail art salon in New York, I have always found immense joy in getting my nails done.

As I’ve gotten older and time has grown scarcer, I’ve shifted more into doing my own nails. Luckily for me (and soon you!), there has been a lot of innovation in this space in recent years. From tools that help you paint with your nondominant hand to precut decals that instantly upgrade plain polish, you can get a pretty solid mani from the comforts of your own home.

One of my favorite ways to do this is by applying a nail polish strip. You see that photo above? That, friends, is a polish strip and it took, ohhh, about seven minutes total from start to finish.

They’re from ManiMe, which is a Los Angeles–based company that specializes in the first-ever custom-fit stick-on gels developed with 3-D technology. And though nail polish strips (and certainly press-on nails) have been around for a while, these are the first that take your individual nail shape into account.

Using your phone, you take a series of photos of your nails from various angles and select from a variety of designs. Once you choose which designs you want, ManiMe then uses your photos to create a custom pack of polish strips to fit your nail beds snugly—no matter how wide or short they are. Oh, and if the strips don’t fit exactly the way you want on all ten digits, you can submit additional photos and ManiMe will work with you to get a better fit before sending you a replacement set.

Here’s how the application process works:

best nail polish strips manime step 1
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Each package comes with 15 stickers (one for each finger and five backups just in case), a prep pad and a mini file.

best nail polish strips manime step 2
Jenny Jin for PureWow

After taking off any polish, use the enclosed prep pad to wipe your nails clean of surface oils. The key to a long-lasting mani—stickers or otherwise—lies in the prep, y’all.

best nail polish strips manime step 3
Jenny Jin for PureWow

Next, peel and press on each gel sticker, working from the bottom of your cuticle to the tip of your nail. Smooth out any bubbles and file off the excess to finish.

best nail polish strips manime step 4
Jenny Jin for PureWow

And there we have it, folks. Your chic, custom-fit mani. Now you’re probably wondering how much they cost and how long they last, right?

Depending on the design you choose, a set of strips will run between $15 and $25, which is pretty on par with the cost of a regular salon manicure. (The set I’m wearing here is a special collaboration they did with famed nail artist Madeline Poole—which is another great thing about these strips. You can get access to cool nail art wherever you live.)

Now let’s talk longevity. They claim ten to 14 days of wear time, but I’ve probably capped off at seven. That said, I am a very hands-on person. I open a lot of packages and wash my hands (and dishes) frequently. Also, for me, usually by the time I hit the week mark, I want to switch things up anyway.

Which brings me to my final point: removal. When you’re ready, just peel them off slowly. Unlike some other strips I’ve tried in the past, these don’t cling on or pull off bits of your nails. It truly doesn’t get much easier than this, guys.

Buy it ($25)

Jenny Jin Headshot Vertical 2023

Beauty Director

Jenny Jin is PureWow’s Beauty Director and is currently based in Los Angeles. Since beginning her journalism career at Real Simple magazine, she has become a human encyclopedia of...