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Acrylic Nails: Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know

Acrylic nails are the definition of glamour in the beauty world, and pretty much anyone with eyes can see that. But are fake nails safe? Do acrylic nails hurt? How much do acrylic nails cost? And what are acrylic nails even made of, anyway? If you’re curious about acrylics and have never tried them before, it’s totally understandable if you have some reservations about the beauty treatment. Find out if acrylic nails are right for you after reading our answers to all your questions about the unique manicure below, and then get inspired by some of the prettiest acrylic nails on the internet today.

Acrylic nails are nail enhancements made by combining a liquid acrylic product with a powdered acrylic product, according to Nails magazine. The two products (known as a monomer and a polymer, respectively) together form a soft ball that can be fashioned into a nail shape. Once a nail technician applies this acrylic to a client’s nails, the material hardens and becomes much stronger. And then it can be buffed and filed to the customer’s liking.

But wait: Who invented acrylic nails? You might be surprised to learn that acrylics as we know them today were first developed in 1934 by a dentist named Maxwell Lappe. He created these artificial nails in order to help nail-biters curb their habit. Who would’ve guessed that they’d become such a huge fashion statement in the decades following? Considering the fact that chemists have developed much better techniques to make acrylic nails look more natural, it’s no surprise that this beauty treatment still has such an enormous staying power to this day.

How to Remove Acrylic Nails at Home 

It is highly recommended to go back to the nail technician or salon where you got your long coffin fake nails done to have them removed. After all, the professionals are the ones that are most experienced in knowing exactly how to soak off acrylic nails and file them down in an efficient manner. However, sometimes going to the salon right away isn’t possible and you absolutely need to know how to remove acrylic nails at home for one reason or another. (Hey, life happens!) If you must learn how to take off acrylic nails at home, you want to be sure you do it safely: Beauty experts at say your best move is to soak your nails into acetone until they’re totally soft and then file the acrylics off one by one. As you can imagine, these instructions about how to get acrylic nails off can take quite a bit of time to complete in real life. But it’s a much better method of removing acrylic nails than trying to pull them off manually. Overall, trying to learn how to remove acrylic nails without acetone or a file is a pretty bad idea. If you try to do that — especially while your acrylics are still hard — you can say hello to some seriously brittle and weak natural nails in the future. No one wants that!

How are acrylic nails applied?

After you choose your preferred nail shape, length, and color, your technician should begin your acrylics appointment by cleaning, soaking, and filing your natural nails. If you requested length to be added to your nails, they’ll add artificial tips after that. (If you requested very short acrylic nails, they will skip this step.) Next, nail techs will apply an adhesive before attaching the acrylic nails to all your nail beds. Then, they sand down and shape the acrylics. Finally, they add any additional polish, accessories, or nail art that you asked for at the beginning of the appointment.

If you’re wondering how to apply acrylic nails at home, this can vary depending on what type you’re using. Luckily most kits, such as Kiss Products Salon Acrylic French Nail Kit ($6.49, Amazon), include instructions about how to do acrylic nails safely and effectively on your own.

Gel Nails vs. Acrylic Nails: Should I get acrylic nails?

If you’re considering getting acrylic nails, you’ve probably heard some folks suggest that you try gel nails instead. Considering that gel nails are often grouped in the same type of beauty treatment as acrylic nails, it’s easy to confuse the two, or even mistake them as terms that could be used interchangeably. In reality, they’re quite a bit different — and they both have pros and cons.

While acrylics are nail enhancements made by combining a liquid acrylic product with a powdered acrylic product, gel nails are part of a more homogenous gel product that needs to be “cured” or “sealed” onto the nail with the use of a UV light between each layer. According to Nails, a helpful way to understand the difference between gel and medium coffin fake nails is to think of gel as premixed acrylic.

While acrylic nails are more strong and durable than gel nails, gel can actually be used to strengthen the natural nail and helps protect it as it grows. That said, acrylic nails are a bit easier for you to maintain at home, because you can both fix them soak them off without the help of a nail technician, unlike most gel nails. However, gel nails may be a more practical choice for people who use their hands quite a bit; they are far more flexible than acrylics. Gel is generally pretty odorless, and the same cannot be said for acrylics. 

Wondering, “Should I get acrylic nails or gels?” When it comes to the debate about gel nails vs acrylic nails, there’s not really a way to say which one is the actual “winner.” At the end of the day, it’s totally up to you whether you want to opt for acrylic nails or gel nails — it’s all personal preference about which method works best for you and your lifestyle. Goodness knows that both beauty treatments boast a wide variety of fans, and either group would be more than happy to have you join them for the fun.

How much do acrylic nails cost?

The price of acrylic nails varies widely between nail technicians. According to Cost Helper Health, the typical cost for a mid-range acrylic manicure at a spa or salon ranges from $35 to $45 for a standard set. For colors like pink or white, that price can increase to $50 or $60. But how much are acrylic nails that feature an elaborate design? Don’t be shocked when you see that especially creative acrylic nails can cost up to $100 or even $120. For example, if you’re getting fancy coffin acrylic nails or holiday-themed acrylic nails, you can expect to pay a premium price. Remember: It might be tempting to pay a low price for acrylics, especially since there are “deals” of prices as low as $10 floating around out there. But when it comes to your nails — and everywhere else on your body — your health comes first. And there’s a much higher risk of your nails suffering in the long run from a low-quality acrylic set. Not worth it!

How long do acrylic nails last?

The lifespan of acrylic nails varies widely from person to person. For example, if someone uses his or her hands for work quite a bit — especially for manual labor — that person might learn pretty quickly that acrylic nails won’t last too long compared to someone who uses their hands for little more than typing. But how long do acrylic nails last in a general sense? Experts say you need to return to the salon every two to three weeks to fill in the gaps that appear as your natural nails grow. So that’s a good rule of thumb (and all the rest of your fingers!) to follow for how long you can expect your short coffin fake nails to look fabulous. But how often should acrylic nails be replaced? If you love wearing acrylic nails often, it might be worth considering removing them every two to three months to let them “breathe” in between sets.

Are acrylic nails safe? 

In a piece for Mayo Clinic, dermatologist Lawrence E. Gibson, MD, says that artificial nails are unlikely to harm natural nails — as long as they’re healthy. That said, it is possible to encounter some problems if you’re not careful while maintaining them. If your artificial nail is damaged or if you let your nails grow too long, a gap can develop between your acrylic and your actual nail. The warm and moist environment there is basically a breeding ground for an icky infection. An infection might also happen if you request very long or rigid acrylics. Of course, if your technician uses unsanitary tools, this will put you more at risk for an adverse reactions (as is the case with just about every beauty treatment out there).

Luckily, there are ways for fans of acrylic nails to keep themselves as safe as possible. Other than making sure that your nail technician properly sterilizes all tools used during the treatment, it’s also a good idea to select salons that display a current license and technicians who are licensed by the state board. For optimum safety, request a new nail file or bring your own (nail files cannot be sterilized like other nail tools). If you spot signs of a nail infection — such as redness, swelling, and pus — talk to a trusted medical professional about the best treatment for you.

Why do acrylic nails hurt the first day?

According to licensed nail technicians, there are a few possible reasons why your acrylic nails might be hurting right after you get them done. For instance, the nail technician might have applied a tip that was too small for your nails. Maybe they accidentally pinched the nail during the application. Or perhaps your nail might have been over-filed. Although this can happen every now and then, it’s not a good sign if your acrylic nails hurt every single time you get them done. If you’re still wondering, “Why do acrylic nails hurt?” a day after your appointment, it might be time to find a different technician for the job.

Are acrylic nails vegan?

If you’re a strict vegan, acrylic nails might not be the best choice for you. According to The Beauty Academy, the brushes often used for stiletto fake nails are typically made from “kolinsky,” which is sometimes called sable hair. This kolinsky is real hair gathered from an animal — a type of weasel found in particularly cold places in Russia and China, to be specific. This natural hair from the weasel is the preferred brush option for many technicians because it has a certain thickness to it that helps it hold the acrylic liquid effectively. It’s also quite strong and flexible.

That said, it’s worth noting that some technicians are starting to use synthetic bristles in their brushes for acrylics. As with technology in general, this “vegan” method is improving. But many nail technicians still prefer the brushes made with natural hair instead. If you’re not sure which type of brush — or which type of nail products in general — that your technician uses, always ask first. You might be surprised!

Do acrylic nails damage your nails?

According to Thomas Knackstedt, MD, of Cleveland Clinic, most folks can use acrylic nails without it affecting the overall health of the natural nails. However, it is possible that some people can develop a contact allergy to dyes or glues used during the appointment. But if you don’t get a reaction after the treatment, do acrylic nails damage your nails after you get them removed? As is the case with many beauty treatments, the part of the process that can actually be the most irritating is the removal of acrylic nails. If you take good care of your nails and keep them in generally good health, the irritation should be fairly minimal. That said, a few people might notice that their nails are particularly sensitive afterward and visibly brittle or discolored. If you’re part of that population, you may want to consider alternate options for your next manicure. But if not, feel free to get those bad boys glued on — especially if you have a special occasion coming up where it’s time to impress.

Scroll below to see some of the most stunning types of acrylic nails out there, then click on a circular button below your favorite image to share it instantly with family and friends on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest!

Coffin nails are a great way to add some edge to your mani when go-to shapes like square and almond just aren't cutting it. Coffin fall nails are even better when spooky season hits. Don't let the eerie name put you off—this shape is fierce and fun.

If you're into the technical stuff, let's start off with the basics: What are coffin nails? “Traditionally coffin shaped nails are longer nails that have a square or straight top and often taper slight towards the tip," explains Emily Rudman, founder of Emilie Heathe. “Another popular shape is the ballerina which is a longer coffin shape—often the two are used interchangeably.” 

For those who want to give their fingers a more elongated shape as the leaves start to fall, coffin fall nail designs are a great option. The length is guaranteed to make a beauty statement, and the right autumn nail designs won't leave you feeling like you're cosplaying a pumpkin spice latte. 

And for years, longer nails have been used as a tool for creative expression and personal style, explains Rudman. “The longer the almond fake nails, the more of a canvas one has to work with. From a cultural standpoint, many of the trends we see in nails comes from Black, Asian, and Latinx cultures. And with those cultures in America making more of a statement while taking ownership of their contributions to society, those styles have also become more popularized.”

Artists like Cardi B have been adorning their hands with extensions way before the fame and have continued to showcase new styles, while also helping put the people behind their eye-catching work on the map. Jenny Bui, the long-time nail artist responsible for many of Cardi and sister Hennessy's  blinged-out manis is known for dazzling extensions drenched in technicolor Swarovski crystals. 

But while long nails seem to be everywhere, as seen on celebrities from Kylie Jenner to Dua Lipa, that wasn't always the case. In fact, not too long ago “claws” weren't a compliment. “There is also always appropriation, in this case, traditionally longer nails were viewed as ‘inappropriate’ or 'not classy,” says Rudman. "But as the world has shifted and as white cultures have accepted these beauty trends, it has lead to wider acceptance amongst the majority. It’s neither OK or fair, but it often happens this way." As beauty continues to evolve it's important to keep in mind the history of how the latest trends came to be to give credit where it's due. 

A marker for showcasing your personality while also adorning yourself, coffin nails are here to stay. If you've decided to swap out your go-to shape to give it a spin but are looking for some fall acrylic nails inspiration, read on. From jeweled tips to a classic french with a tropical twist, we've rounded up 10 of the cutest coffin fall nails to bookmark for your next salon visit. 

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