How to Still Get Salon-Level Nail Art When You Suck at Doing Your Own Nails

Nail stickers and wraps to the rescue.

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close up of woman's nails with blue ombre nail polish
Photo: Instagram/@colorstreet

Painting my nails is always an Instagram vs. reality situation. I pick a nail art design from the dozens of manicures I've added to my saved collection and always expect it to come out exactly the same. But in reality, my polka dots look like blobs that have somehow ended up on my nail beds.

The good news? With a little help from nail stickers, I'm still able to get a manicure with salon-level nail art at home. These full-on wraps, decals, and foils come in practically every nail polish color and finish, from matte to glitter. The actual designs are impressive, too. Flowers? Gradients? Geometric lines? Yup, they all come in sticker form.

Sure, nail stickers are basically magic, but there is a technique to putting them on so they, you know, actually stay on your nails.

That's why I reached out to Hannah Park, a specialist at Color Street to break down how to apply full-on nail stickers, strips, and wraps.

Your Nail Sticker Application Tool Kit:

Step One: Prep the Nails

Start off by cleaning up your nails. This includes filing them into your desired shape, pushing the cuticles back, gently buffing the nail beds, and wiping them down with a nail polish remover pad to remove any excess oils.

Step Two: Apply the Nail Stickers

Remove the clear film that covers the sticker or strip, then peel the strip from the backing paper. "You can remove the tabbed end for more sizing options," Park shares. "There are 16 total size options per hand." She recommends starting with your pinkies first and ending with your thumbs for the easiest application.

Next, align the rounded end of the sticker or strip to the cuticle (but not on it) and smooth it down until the nail is covered from the base to the tip.

Step Three: Stretch the Sticker to Fit

Once the sticker or strip is laying smooth on your nail bed, stretch it horizontally or vertically for a perfect fit.

Step Four: File Off Any Excess

If the sticker or strip hangs over your nail, you can file it down to size. Park says to crease the sticker over the nail first, then remove it with a nail file.

How Do You Remove Nail Stickers and Wraps?

When you're over your nail stickers or strips, taking them off isn't much different than getting rid of regular polish. Use nail polish remover or acetone and a cotton ball to gently loosen up the adhesive that's binding the sticker to your nail beds. But whatever you do, don't pull nail stickers, strips, and wraps off. Park says that peeling and picking at them may damage nails.

VIDEO: The 10 Best Nail Polish Colors of Summer 2022

The Best Nail Stickers, Wraps & Foils That Make DIY Nail Art Look Pro

Dashing Diva Gleam Queen Gloss Ultra Shine Gel Strips

Dashing Diva Gleam Queen Gloss ultra shine gel strips
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There's a major con to nail art done with traditional polish: when you take it off, you're saying goodbye forever to a design you've loved for the past week or so. That's where Dashing Diva's nail strips come in. The pack comes with solid, glitter, and a glass pattern that can be reused over and over again because they don't dry out.

To buy: $8; ulta.com.

Scratch Monochrome Nail Wraps

Scratch monochrome geometric line pattern nail wraps
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If you're into minimalist nail art, you'll be a fan of this monochromatic geometric line pattern. Wear it on bare nails for a subtle manicure, or add one on your ring finger as an accent nail.

To buy: $10; ulta.com.

Color Street Perfect Confection Nail Strips

Color Street perfect confection nail strips

What sets Color Street's strips apart is the fact that they're made with actual nail polish. This multi-colored marble finish is perfect for an eye-catching look.

To buy: $14; colorstreet.com.

Olive & June All Eyes On You Nail Stickers

Olive & June All Eyes On You nail stickers
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All eyes will be on your manicure with these decals. Inspired by one of LA salon Olive & June's most-requested nail art designs, these stickers are made with printable ink that doesn't smudge or fade. Customize your nail art by mixing and matching the decals in whatever way inspires you.

To buy: $8; target.com.

Color Street Wanna Peace of Me? Nail Strips

Color Street Wanna Peace of Me tie dye nail strips
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Maybe tie-dye sweatsuits aren't your thing but you still want to lean into the throwback fashion trend. Enter these tie-dye nail strips.

To buy: $24; amazon.com.

This is Winging It, where we're helping you master your favorite salon treatments and looks without having to leave the house.

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