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Everything You Need To Know About Acrylic Nails


What do Saweetie, Billie Eilish and Kylie Jenner all have in common? They’re outright stans of acrylic nails. Though they’re not a new concept, acrylic nails have been gaining popularity in recent years with celebs, Instagram and talented nail-fluencers serving up crazy-bold designs that make a major impact.

They offer longevity and allow your manicure to last weeks on end with no signs of chipping or breaking. Plus they offer extra length and a larger canvas – and when nail art is involved, longevity and length is key.

But what exactly are acrylic nails? Does regular wear damage the nail? How long do they last compared to a regular polish? And how can we remove them without ruining our nails?

We asked Sherrille Riley, founder of Nails & Brows, to answer our questions about all things acrylics…

Where do acrylic nails originate from?

Depending on who you ask, acrylic nails originate from ancient Egypt where women wore extensions made from bone, ivory and gold, or 19th century Greece where women wore pistachios on their nails. Acrylics as we know them today were created accidentally in the 1950s when a dentist broke his nail and used chemicals and dental acrylics to fashion a new one.

What are acrylic nails?

Acrylic nails are artificial nail extensions made of acrylic plastic, placed over your natural nails. This can be done to match the nail shape or to extend the nail length. They are perfect for people who want the look of long nails but have trouble growing out their own nails or have weak nails that break easily.

If you want extra length, the nail technician may glue a “tip” to the end of your nail bed, and apply acrylic gel over the top. Another technique for adding length is to use a “form”, which is like a little piece of card that the technician builds the nail tip around, and which is removed after the formula has set.

How do you apply acrylic nails?

A mixture of liquid and powder is used to create a hard protective layer on the natural nails to make them look longer and stronger.

How long do acrylic nails last?

Acrylic can be worn for a long period of time as long as you get infills every 2-3 weeks. “I’d suggest a complete soak-off every three months so that natural nails can breathe,” says Sherrille. “Your natural nails can also be treated to a course of repairing IBX treatments,” she adds. The innovative treatment fuses the top layers of the nail bed together for improved strength.

How you can you make acrylic nails last longer?

“To maintain them at home, avoid prolonged exposure to water and wear protective gloves for household cleaning and pot washing,” Sherrille advises. She also recommends using a good cuticle oil for maintaining a healthy nail bed and cuticles.

Do acrylics ruin your nails?

Many people get acrylic nails to have stronger, natural nails but Sherrille says they actually weaken and damage natural nails long-term (beware of picking off your acrylics). But, done correctly and with breaks in between you can limit the damage and ensure nail health.

While acrylic nail application involves a lot of chemicals, if done safely and with proper ventilation, the process shouldn’t pose any risks. As with any beauty procedure, make sure the environment is clean and all the tools have been properly sterilised. The removal process, on the other hand, can cause problems if done incorrectly, including injury to the nail bed and even infections. Proper, gentle removal is key, ideally by a professional nail technician.


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How do you take off acrylics?

Our advice? Get it done professionally by experts who know what they’re doing. Normally, they’ll start by using an electric file to polish off the top layer of acrylic before wrapping nails in acetone-soaked cotton wool and foil for 15 minutes. Then, they’ll use a cuticle pusher to gently ease the acrylic away.

If you have to do it at home, though, check out our step by step guide to safely removing acrylic nails and keep scrolling to make sure you have all the necessary equipment to not only make the most of your acrylic manicure but also to remove it when the time comes. The main thing is do not peel them (say it with us).

Which is better acrylic or gel nails?

It’s easy to get confused between acrylics and hard gels, especially since more and more salons are offering both. The two share a lot in common – both are part of the acrylic family, last for weeks on end and can be used to add length to nails. The difference lies in the type of plastic they’re made of. Acrylics tend to be stronger, and gels require a UV light to set them into place.

How much do acrylic nails cost?

This will depend on your area and whether you have add-ons such as nail art, but a set of acrylics should start from around £25.

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