We Tested 13 Press-On Nail Sets, These 6 Give You a Salon-Worthy Mani in Minutes

PaintLab Press-Ons nailed our rigorous testing

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I was in high school when I first discovered press-on nails. Admittedly, the nails I picked out were far too big for my nail beds and looked ridiculously fake, so I swore to never wear them again. But, sure enough, when I got tired of painting my natural nails and wanted to try something new that didn't cost a fortune, I found myself perusing the press-on section of my local drugstore once again. Honestly, there's nothing quite like a salon manicure, but for those who are DIY-ers at heart or are simply on a budget, press-ons are the next best thing. They mimic the look of acrylic tips, but are pre-shaped and come already decked out in designs — all you have to do is adhere them to your natural nails with glue.

Press-ons have certainly come a long way since I was a teenager: They now come in more appropriate sizes and feature adorable, unique designs. But, with more variety comes more confusion, especially when trying to narrow down which press-ons are worth your money. So, we made it our mission to find the best press-on nails of 2022. We recruited a handful of reviewers who researched and tested the most popular press-on nails to determine which ones deserve a spot in your nail kit. After rigorously testing 13 of the most highly-rated press-on nails — keeping application, look, strength, and nail integrity top of mind — we determined the six best press-on nail sets. In the end, PaintLab nails reigned supreme thanks to their comfort, ease of use, sleek designs, and high scores in all of the aforementioned categories.

So, if you're ready to ditch the salon, keep reading for the full list of the best press-on nails, according to InStyle testers.

Best Overall: Paint Lab Press-On Nails

5
Paint Lab Wild-One's press on nails

Paint Lab

What We Love: These press-ons fit comfortably on any nail bed and come in countless designs.

What We Don't Love: The nails are thick and sturdy, which can make filing and shaping time consuming.

PaintLab's press-ons come in a variety of designs — like swirls, cherries, smileys, and more — so it's easy to find a set that matches your aesthetic. While the fun nail art caught our attention, it's the nails' size range that captured our hearts. Each PaintLab press-on set comes with 24 nails in a slew of different sizes so you can find the perfect fit for each fingernail. You might not think it's important, but, according to Julie Kandalec, a professional nail artist whose work has graced the fingertips of celebs like Sydney Sweeney, Mariah Carey and Jessica Chastain, ill-fitting nails will be uncomfortable and are more likely to pop off prematurely. "Press-ons can come off easily if they don't fit right. But, when applied correctly, they can last you up to two weeks," she explains. So, the better the fit, the longer the press-ons will last.

Once you've picked the right size nail for each finger, the application process couldn't be easier. "The press-ons fused to my natural nails really well," our tester shares. The best part is that once they're on, they don't even look like fake nails. In fact, our tester says their nails looked professionally painted.

The nails themselves are sturdy, which is a good thing when it comes to staying power. However, if you'll be shaping and filing them, you may need to dedicate a few minutes to each nail since they're so solid.

Price at time of publish: $15

Number of nails: 24 | Adhesive included: Glue | Extras: Dual-sided nail buffer, Cuticle stick

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Best Value: Dashing Diva MagicPress Solid Colors Press-On Nails

5
Dashing Diva Magic Press On

Dashing Diva

What We Love: These nails make it easy to fake a gel manicure in a pinch.

What We Don't Love: The set doesn't come with glue, so staying power varies based on each nail's adhesive backing.

Have you ever been in a situation where you needed to look put together but your chipped manicure made you feel otherwise? The Magic Press Solid Color sets from Dashing Diva are perfect for achieving simple salon-quality gel manicures in seconds. A must-have for someone with a penchant for barely-there, nude nails, these customizable press-ons make for an easy, high-gloss mani without the use of any UV light. There's no need for glue, either: You can pop these on your natural nails and head out the door with no muss or fuss. Not only are they easy to apply, but they look convincingly real. "The nails look amazing on my fingers," our tester admits. "I'd prefer applying these over going to a salon and getting my nails done."

Despite the lack of glue, the tester explains that the adhesive felt strong in the lab setting. However, if you tend to be rougher on your hands or spend a lot of time in the sink, you might want to consider another option. After a number of hand washes, it's safe to assume that the adhesive will eventually give, and you may lose a nail or two.

Price at time of publish: $9

Number of nails: 30 nails in 12 sizes | Adhesive included: Double-sided nail tabs | Extras: Prep pad, Nail file, Cuticle stick

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Best Designs: Chillhouse Chill Tips

4.8
chillhouse chill tips heart strings

Chillhouse

What We Love: These press-on nails have unique designs that rival professional nail artists' creations.

What We Don't Love: Testers found the glue to be a little too sticky and difficult to remove.

As far as designs are concerned, press-on nails have really evolved. Back when I was dipping my fingers into the world of fake nails, I could only really find plain pinks and reds. While there's nothing wrong with a simple, one-tone manicure, a set with nail art that looks like it was done at a salon is unmatched — especially now that quirky graphics, psychedelic swirls, and colorful tips are all the rage. Constantly heading to the salon for a new design can get pricey, though, so I'm thankful that Chillhouse offers tons of designs for a fraction of the cost.

If there was one thing we could change about the Chillhouse Chill Tips, it would be the glue. It works well in adhering the faux nails to natural nails, but when it comes in contact with the skin, it gets super sticky. "The nails were easy to apply, but the glue was tacky when it got on my fingers," our tester shares. "When I removed the press-on nails, I found that there was some residue left on my natural nails, too."

Price at time of publish: $16

Number of nails: 24 nails | Adhesive included: Glue | Extras: Dual-sided buffer, Cuticle stick

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Best Long Lasting: Static Nails Reusable Pop-On Manicure

4.7
Static Nails Sway in White

Static Nails

What We Love: You get your money's worth with these press-on nails that can be reapplied, re-shaped, and even re-painted.

What We Don't Love: We wish the kit came with a manicure stick to help with application.

Available in a variety of lengths, designs, and colors, selecting a set from Static Nails is comparable to choosing a shade of polish from the wall at the nail salon — it can feel impossible to pick just one. Once you do, though, the possibilities are endless. Each set can be reused, re-shaped and even re-painted. Best of all: These nails have some serious staying power. "I wore the nails when doing laundry and washing dishes, and to my shock they stayed on," the tester says.

The tester also shares that the nails look very natural. Kandalec explains that to ensure your press-on manicure looks as convincing as possible, the nail's edge should match up with your cuticle line. "Not filing this area is a tell-tale sign that the nails you're wearing are fake," she says.

One thing to note: the kit comes with everything you'll need for application except a wooden manicure stick. It's not a big deal, but you may need to use your fingers to push your cuticles back before putting on any glue.

Price at time of publish: $20

Nails included: 24 nails in 12 sizes | Adhesive included: Glue | Extras: Dual-sided buffer

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Best Kit: Olive & June Press-On System

4
Olive & June Press-On System

Olive & June

What We Love: This kit includes everything you'll need for a full-fledged salon-quality manicure.

What We Don't Love: The nails look a little fake.

While all you need for a gorgeous-looking faux manicure is nails, glue, and a little patience, the Olive & June Press-On System convinced one of our testers that extras (like a nail clipper, dual-grit nail file, pro-grade nail buffer, and cuticle serum) make all the difference. Simply pick your favorite press-ons, which are made with 94 percent post-consumer recycled plastic, and let Olive & June supply the rest.

The kit comes with a full set of nails, but when you're inevitably ready to switch things up, you can buy a new design for just $10 without repurchasing the entire kit. Don't discard nails you've already worn, though, because they can be reused, too. Once you're ready to take the nails off, all you have to do is follow the simple instructions on the removal kit. Tip: After gently removing the press-ons, be sure to use the nail strengthener to reverse any damage that may have occurred.

Since the nails are made from recycled plastic, they don't exactly look like real nails, but that didn't seem to bother the tester. "The tips are sturdy. Plus, the designs are pretty and have a nice glossy finish," they say. "Do they look real? Absolutely not, but who cares? They're fun!"

Price at time of publish: $10

Number of nails: 42 nails in 21 sizes | Adhesive included: Glue | Extras: Carry-all pouch, File, Buffer, Prep pad, Cuticle pusher, Clipper, Cuticle serum, Nail strengthener, Removal system

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Best for Damaged Nails: ManiMe

Mani Me

ManiMe

What We Love: These gel nail stickers are custom made to fit your nails.

What We Don't Love: They don't last as long as other options.

Press-ons might not be the best choice for you if you have damaged fingernails. According to Kandalec, sometimes your nails just need a break to "allow new, virgin nails to grow." If you think your nails need some time to chill, skip the glue and press-ons and opt for nail stickers instead.

The ManiMe nail stickers differ from others because they're custom made to fit your nails: The site guides you to take five photographs of your hands, and from there they create stickers that are made uniquely for you.

Once you receive them, the application process is super simple — all you have to do is press the stickers onto your fingernails and file them to your desired length. And, thanks to the fact that there's no glue involved, it's easy to correct mistakes. "After I realized I put one of the stickers upside down, it was easy to just peel it off and try again," the tester explains. "The longer the stickers sat on my nails, the more bonded they became, but my fingernails didn't look damaged post-removal."

The brand says that the gel nail stickers will last up to 10 days, and for the most part, they did. "The nails stayed put after multiple rounds of washing with warm water and even a shower," the tester shares. "No water seeped underneath, which really surprised me." If you're someone who uses your hands a lot or tends to rough up a normal manicure, you should keep in mind that these are just stickers and they may become damaged after a few days.

Price at time of publish: $10

Number of nails: 15 nail stickers | Adhesive included: Stickers | Extras: Prep pad, Nail file

Our Testing Process

To find the best press-on nail kits, we did our due diligence — by talking to nail pros, as well as researching press-on sets on our own — to hand-select and test 13 of the most popular press-on nails on the market. Once we curated a group of testers, they got to work trying out the initial picks in an effort to narrow down the best ones.

In order to do that, our testers rated each set of nails on a scale of 1 to 5 in a few categories: Ease of use, overall look, glue strength, and the integrity of their natural nails post-removal. Once all of the nails were on and reviews were in, we determined the categories for the top-performing press-ons.

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What to Keep in Mind

Size and Fit

When it comes to press-on manicures, size matters. In fact, how each fits on your nail actually determines how long the press-on mani will last. "Make sure to pick a press-on nail that matches your nail bed size and curvature," Kandalec advises. If you're in between sizes, choose one size larger and then file down the sides so it hugs your natural nail. The impressive size range in PaintLab's Press-On Nails is just one of the reasons why it earned our Best Overall spot.

Application

According to Kandalec, you should always clean your nails with 91 to 99 percent alcohol before applying your press-ons, and use a pea-sized amount of nail glue on your natural nails. "Don't press too hard when applying," she warns. Doing so will cause the adhesive to seep out from the sides and dry along the cuticle line, which will make the nails look fake and crusty.

Removal

Press-ons can be applied with nail glue or double-sided sticker tabs. If your press-ons were applied with nail glue, the fastest way to remove them is to trim down the length as much as possible, use a coarse grit nail file to rough up the surface of the nail and then soak them in pure acetone.

As for double-sided nail tabs, Kandalec explains that the soaking method can actually make the adhesive even stickier. Instead, she suggests using a paintbrush dipped in acetone to loosen the edges of the nail before gently pulling them off. Then, to remove the sticker, roll it off using your thumb.

Your Questions, Answered

What are press-on nails?

Press-on nails are artificial nails that are made of acrylic resin, gel, or most commonly, ABS plastic. They are sold blank and ready to paint, or already painted with nail polish, gems, studs, or many other mediums. (Our favorite press-on nails with nail art are the Chillhouse Chill Tips.) Press-on nails cover the entire nail bed, unlike the tips in the salon that adhere only to the tip of your nail and are covered with acrylic or gel by a salon pro. Some press-on nails can even be re-shaped, re-applied, and re-painted, like the ones from Static Nails.

How do you apply press-on nails?

"Before applying your press-ons, make sure you trim or file your polish-free natural nails short so the free edge doesn't show," Kandalec explains. "Then, lightly buff your nails to improve adhesion and swipe them with 91 to 99 percent isopropyl alcohol." After you've chosen all 10 nails and shaped them to fit perfectly, cover each fingernail with glue (one at a time). For best results, try aligning the press-on along the cuticle line and applying each one at a downward angle, pressing firmly for 20-30 seconds. "If any glue seeps from the sides, remove it right away with a cuticle stick dipped in acetone," she adds.

How can you care for your nails after removing press-ons?

Always make sure to remove your press-on nails correctly. Improper removal (like ripping them off) can lead to brittle, damaged nails. Kandalec says that after you soak your nails off, be gentle with them for a few hours. "Apply a hydrating cuticle oil and hand cream to replenish the skin after removal since acetone can be drying," she says.

What Is InStyle Picks?

Did you notice the InStyle Picks seal of approval at the top of this story? That means our team of testers has reviewed every product on this list using a unique methodology to ensure it's really worth your time, money, and attention. We may get samples for free to try but we never promise positive (or any!) coverage in exchange. Put simply: InStyle Picks are products we love, and we've put them to the test to be sure you will too.

Why Trust InStyle?

Caitlyn Martyn is a commerce writer for InStyle, where she covers all things beauty and fashion. With expert insight from a professional nail artist, she compiled insights from our in-house testers, poured over product specifications and rounded up our top picks for this story. Caitlyn has experience researching, testing and writing about beauty products and has tried tons of different press-on nails, including several of the above brands.

Want more product recommendations? From best-in-class concealer to the black pants you need for work, check out all of our InStyle Picks content.

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