As someone who can't grow out their nails without breaking at least two of them along the way, I'm instantly jealous whenever I notice someone's long, perfect almond- or square-shaped nails.
While some people are blessed with strong natural nails, often the nails I fawn over can often be credited to the magic of acrylics. This faux nail method is ideal for those of us who want long nails, but can't shape or maintain their ideal nail length on their own. However, they're not exactly effortless: Getting acrylic nails comes with a price tag, and the upkeep does, too. Additionally, getting them done incorrectly can actually damage your nails.
All of this considered, it's important to have all the info before you visit the salon, and InStyle has got you covered. Whether you're tired of having nails that are too short for fancy nail art, or you want your nails to look as dramatic as Kylie Jenner's claws do on her Instagram, see what a professional manicurist has to say about the process of getting acrylic nails.
SO, WHAT ARE ACRYLIC NAILS?
To put it most simply, acrylic nails are are a mix of powder and liquid monomer that's combined into a blob of dough, shaped onto your nails with a brush, and then air-dried. "Acrylics do not require a lamp to cure, and they're great for changing the shape or extending your nails," says Ariela Zuniga, director of operations at Vanity Projects, a high-end nail salon with locations in New York and Miami.
According to Zuniga, acrylics are ideal for people looking to change the shape of their nails, or want more length.
HOW ARE ACRYLIC NAILS APPLIED?
When you're getting a full set of acrylics, the nail technician will usually put on tips, or use nail forms to achieve a more natural look. "Each acrylic is then shaped as desired and painted with polish," explains Zuniga.
It's safe to get acrylics as often as you wish, but research nail technicians in your area so that you're sure that you go to someone who is properly trained and experienced in applying them.
WHAT KIND OF NAIL POLISH CAN BE USED ON ACRYLICS?
Whether you're a diehard gel manicure fan, or you usually go with regular old polish, the good news is that you can use whichever formula you prefer.
HOW HIGH-MAINTENANCE ARE ACRYLICS?
The hard truth: Acrylics require a lot of upkeep. Zuniga says that most clients with acrylics generally come in every two to three weeks to get them filled. However, as long as any lifting of the acrylic is filled in, a set can be worn for six to eight weeks before they need to be removed.
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HOW ARE ACRYLIC NAILS REMOVED?
Removing acrylic nails isn't all that different from taking off a gel manicure. "Acrylics should be removed by soaking each nail in acetone until the acrylic is soft enough to remove gently," says Zuniga. "It is best to have a professional remove them to avoid damage to your nail bed."
CAN ACRYLICS DAMAGE YOUR ACTUAL NAILS?
Acrylics aren't anymore damaging than other forms of fake nails—as long as they're properly taken care of. That includes getting them properly removed, regularly filled, and keeping them clean and dry. All of which will prevent bacteria from getting into the them and causing infections.
HOW MUCH DO ACRYLIC NAILS COST, ANYWAY?
If you think the promise of long, perfectly-shaped nails is worth the maintenance, expect to pay more for acrylic nails than you would for a regular polish change. The exact cost of a set of acrylic nails can vary based on where you live and the the nail salon, but expect to pay over $50. At Vanity Projects a full set costs $75, while a fill-in is $55, in addition to the price of gel polish, if that's your manicure of choice.
Now that you have all of the intel on acrylics, if you're willing to put in the extra work to maintain them, Instagram is full of reference material for your own set.