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Call them what you like; false nails, nail enhancements, nail extensions, artificial nails, they’re all more or less the same thing, with a few tweaks regarding application process and how long they last.

The name is fairly self-explanatory; the false nail is an artificial covering that is placed over the real nail to change their shape, colour, or length. They are massively popular all over the world and are one of the fastest areas of cosmetics. New products are being developed all the time that allow you to achieve a salon perfect manicure in the comfort of your own home.

Types of false nails

The different types of false nails are more specifically just made from varying materials; there are really only two kinds of nails; tips and forms. Tips are small plates that are attached to the end of the natural nail, thus eliminating the need to cover the whole nail, forms are larger pieces that are placed over the nail and then moulded to the desired shape. Let’s take a look at the difference between the materials used to create false nails.

Polymethyl methacrylate acrylics – These are the most common kind of false nail, they are made from a mixture of chemicals that react to one another and then start to harden after about thirty seconds. They become very hard after fifteen minutes or so, and have to be removed with acetone solvent, which dissolves the acrylic. They are quite hard wearing, but can be difficult to maintain, and the natural nail could suffer from the effects of the chemicals.

UV Top Coat – This is also developed from chemicals, they harden under ultraviolet light. In contrast to cheaper brands, UV nails are more flexible and tend to be stronger, ultimately this means they last longer. However, this does impact on the cost of the treatments, and on how easily they are removed. The only way to remove the nails is to file them down or leave them to grow out with the natural nail.

Fibreglass wraps – These are normally used to fix broken nails or to prevent splitting. If someone is allergic to the chemicals used in other kinds of nails, they could go for a wrap. It works by cutting a piece of fibreglass or silk fabric to fit over the natural nail, then using glue or resin to seal it. It’s a delicate process that can be quite expensive, but typically they are easier to remove with some solvent to dissolve the glue.

Plastic nails – The cheapest version you can get are available for just a few pounds. They’re easily glued on at home, and probably won’t last very long, but for a cost effective alternative to a salon visit, they’ll do the job temporarily.

How to apply false nails

Organising everything you need is the best way to set yourself up for success when applying false nails at home. Make sure you’ve got all the nails you’ll need – and maybe even a couple of spares – as well as some strong glue, and protect the area your work area with a sheet or some paper.

Lay down the nails in the order that you’re going to attach them, this will save you time later on. The best time to apply false nails is after a manicure – whether professional or by yourself – the cuticles need to be tidy, the tips short and filed. Start with your left hand if you are right handed, and your right hand if you are left handed.

1.Begin with your thumb. Pick up the nail from the tip and paint the glue over the inside of the piece, making sure to apply a thin, even coat.

2.Taking it slowly, press the glued nail onto the surface of your natural nail. Press it gently all over to stop air bubbles from getting in. The glue will take effect immediately, allowing you to continue with the rest of your fingers. If you don’t feel confident applying nails with your weaker hand, ask a friend to help out.

3.File the acrylic nails to your desired shape. If you like the long, square look, you could just leave them as they are, but generally they will require some sort of shaping once they’re attached

How to remove false nails

The chemicals and glues used to apply false nails are very strong, so it’s not just a case of ripping the nails out when you’ve finished with them – this would severely damage your natural nails on the surface and underneath.

If you applied the nails at home with glue, you can normally remove them quite easily with nail-polish remover that contains the solvent acetone. Fill a small bowl with the remover and soak the tips of your fingers in it for about ten minutes, after this time you should notice that the false nails are becoming softer and pulling away from your own nails – don’t be tempted to force them at this point, they should come away with very little effort.

If you’re struggling to remove them, head down to your local salon and ask their advice, or just book an appointment and let the professionals take care of it for you.

Things to consider for false nails

Like many beauty treatments, there are health risks to consider, but if they’re fitted properly, false nails shouldn’t cause any problems. Remember a few of these facts and you won’t go far wrong.

1.The most frequently occurring problem with false nails is fungal infection. This might sound pretty horrendous, but it’s very common and easy to contract if you’re not careful. Even the smallest kind of trauma to the artificial nails can cause them to separate from the nail bed and allow bacteria in. Keep your nails clean, and look out for swelling or redness to avoid this problem.

2.If you’re going to have your nails done professionally, don’t try and save money by going to a back-alley beautician. It might not cost you as much immediately, but unsanitary practices could make you pay in the future.

3.For longterm wear, it’s worth spending a little more money to get the best quality product or service you can. Upkeep of false nails is no small feat, so if you want to keep them on for a long time, be prepared to look after them.