Guys, Press On Nails Look So Much Better (And More Real) in 2021

As I write this, we are nearing a full year since quarantine restrictions were first put in place due to COVID. And as a beauty reporter whose job involves testing different treatments and meeting with people regularly, my approach to getting that information has changed completely.

In-person meetings have turned to an endless stream of Zoom calls and routine visits to a nail or hair salon have been replaced by home kits and instruction manuals.

After a year of experimenting with countless DIY beauty treatments, I am still hesitant to try anything beyond a root touchup, buy I have become quite adept at giving myself manicures.

I’m not the only one, it seems. A recent report by McKinsey & Company (a global consulting firm) showed that sales for nail-care products were up 218 percent as compared to 2019. Note that “nail-care” extends beyond the standard bottles of polish and tools here. There has also been a surge in nail polish strips, nail art stickers, and press on extensions (the latter of which I have ignored since I was a 14-year-old whose main beauty objective was to look older than I actually was).

As an adult, I haven’t thought much (or highly) about press on nails. They gave me flashbacks to the artificially pink-and-white French tips that dominated the drugstore beauty aisles during the early 2000s. In my memory, press ons looked a bit garish and so far off from the minimalist vibe I usually go for with my manis. (By the way, I just realized how pretentious I sound. Yeesh.)

Despite these preconceived notions, when Brittney Boyce, who is a celebrity manicurist launched a set of sleek press-on extensions recently, I decided to give them a try. These weren’t the over-the-top, talon-like tips from my memory. These faux nails were nude with simple white and gold designs. Thin barely-there lines and chic curves along the tips. Little works of modern art. In short, exactly the kind of nail art I’d request when going to salons was still a part of my routine.

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Jenny Jin for PureWow

There are three designs the choose from: The Minimalist, The Modest and The Muse. I opted for The Muse here.

Each set will cost you 16 dollars and includes 24 nails of varying sizes, a double-sided file/buffer, a small cuticle stick, a pack of adhesive tabs and a tube of nail glue.

To start, gently push back your cuticles with the enclosed stick. Then, shape and buff your natural nails to their desired length before giving them a quick wipe down using rubbing alcohol and a lint-free cloth. (I used a small square of paper towel and hand sanitizer, which is 65 percent alcohol so...close enough, right?)

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Jenny Jin for PureWow

After prepping my nails, I matched the various-sized extensions to my own nails to find the best fitting option for each finger. Then, I laid them out in a line so I could easily grab them during the application.

I decided to go with the adhesive tabs since it had been a while since I tried applying press ons and I wanted something that was less permanent in case I made a mistake or changed my mind about them. (For reference, the nail glue will get you anywhere between 7 to 14 days of wear time, whereas the adhesive tabs will get you a few days max.)

The instructions were fairly straight-forward but I will point out that they clearly state that once you’ve put the adhesive tab on your nail, you should press the extension on at a 45-degree angle for 30 seconds.

I regret to inform you that I didn’t do this for all of my nails and you can tell which ones I haphazardly pressed on because they aren’t laying as flat against my nail beds as the others.

Learn from my mistake, friends. Press your nails on at a 45-degree angle and hold them down for 30 seconds for the best fit.

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Jenny Jin for PureWow

All in, applying the nails themselves took about five minutes and some change. Here they are just after application.

Again, I love the design and I’m impressed with how real they look. My only issue with them is that they’re a smidge long for my liking. As a contact lens wearer, I prefer to keep my nails on the shorter side, so I decided to clip and file them down a bit.

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Jenny Jin for PureWow

Ahh, much better. Shortening my extensions was easy. Too easy, in fact. I accidentally trimmed off a bit too much length on one side of my pinky nail and ended up having to remove and replace it. Luckily, the removal was even easier than the application. You just apply rubbing alcohol (or in my case, hand sanitizer) around the edges of the nail, let it absorb for 30 seconds and gently rock the extension from side to side to wiggle it free from your nail bed.

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Jenny Jin for PureWow

With my pinky nail fixed, I gave the rest of my nails a final few swipes with the file. (I’m very particular about the shape of my nails, guys.) Here they are in all of their shiny and stylish glory. Fitted to my nails and trimmed and filed to a contact lens-friendly length. All for the cool price of 16 dollars, which is less than the cost of most regular manicures if you think about it.

Three days later and I still get a little rush of joy whenever I look down at my fingertips.

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...