How Thick Should Acrylic Nails Be?

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Acrylics are a fantastic way to enhance your natural nails and add some flair and dimension to your hands. The choice of styles is limitless, and there’s really nothing you can’t do with a good set of acrylic nails. 

But sometimes it may feel like you end up with really thick acrylic nails that look unnatural.

If you’re new to acrylics, you’ve probably found yourself asking, “How thick should acrylic nails be?” Finding the right thickness can be a tricky challenge, particularly if you’re going the DIY acrylic nail route

Generally speaking, an acrylic nail should be about the same thickness as that of a credit card, so about 0.3 inches.

But let’s take a more in-depth look at the thickness of acrylic nails.


Experimenting With Nail Shapes

Acrylic nail kit

The key to perfect acrylic nails look starts off with the right shape.

Rounded, square, coffin, almond, and oval shapes are some of the most popular options and are generally considered to be the most flattering for a wide range of hand and nail types. 

There are, however, some newer trendy styles, such as mountain  and lipstick  styles.

Of course, the best nail shape for you might not be the best shape for someone else. So take all the time you need to experiment with your style and express yourself through your nails. 

The shape of your nails can also determine how thick your nails end up being.

For instance, square, rounded, and oval shapes tend to be slightly thinner than almond and coffin shapes.

So consider one of the former options if you’re looking for something a little more lightweight.

If you don’t mind a more dramatic weight, the latter two styles could be perfect for you. 

How Thick Should Acrylic Nails Be? Is There a ‘Right’ Thickness?

Acrylic Nails Hearts

While acrylic nails are designed to enhance your natural nail and serve as an extension, the goal is still to build a beautiful nail that is as thin and natural-looking as possible… while still having some good longevity. 

How thick are acrylic nails supposed to be?

If your acrylic comes out too thick, you’ll not only have more stress on your natural nail, but the acrylic ends up being more fragile and prone to breakdowns like lifting and potentially infection.

Unfortunately, a lot of nail techs apply too much product across the whole surface of the nail as a safety blanket, then rely on their file to remove the excess. You end up with thick acrylic nails.

This is a waste of both time and product since you’re applying excess and immediately removing it. 

And you’ll need to take a break more often to give your nails a chance to rejuvenate.

Even Distribution is Key

The apex of the nail is the area where the acrylic should be its thickest. If the apex can’t be seen over the bulk of the nail, or the nail is higher somewhere else, then there is too much product on your nail.

Fixing Thick Acrylic Nails

The thickness of your nail should be distributed evenly throughout the entirety of the acrylic, and any technician who has mastered control over the filing technique will be able to do this with ease.

As we mentioned earlier, it’s best for your casual, everyday acrylic to be about as thick as a credit card. 

It’s best for your casual, everyday acrylic to be about as thick as a credit card.

If your acrylics are much thicker than that, you’ll need to file them down, or have your nail technician file them for you. As you do it more and more often, you’ll improve your technique and balance. And eventually, you’ll nail the perfect acrylic nail thickness!

Gel vs Acrylic – Which is Better?

Red and black art design on nails. Isolated.

There’s a great deal of discussion over this one!

As with anything, there are benefits and drawbacks to both acrylic and gel nails.

If you’re looking for a more natural look, then gel nails will be your best friend, as they blend into your natural nail better. 

On the other hand, acrylics allow for more flexibility when it comes to finding your ideal shape and length – something that gel nails don’t really facilitate.

Acrylics also lend themselves nicely to a wide range of nail art options. And while they might be more challenging to remove, they are far less likely to peel.

Are Acrylics Bad For Your Nails?

When applied correctly and with the proper preparation steps taken for your nails (no Krazy glue, please!), acrylics are no worse for your natural nails than any other artificial extensions.

Your nail health is not going to be at the level it was prior to the application, of course, and the removal process can slightly weaken the natural state of your nails.

But acrylics do not cause permanent damage. 

So why then, do acrylics have such a bad reputation?

It’s due to the simple fact that gel extensions are newer and just look more natural.

Because of the obviously artificial appearance of acrylic nails, in combination with their intense look, many people just assume that they are damaging to your nails. 

This, as you might already know, is not true.

Gel nails are not better for your natural nails, and acrylics aren’t worse for them.

Acrylics and Longevity

Acrylics can last you a good month before they need touching up or removal. Be sure to return to your favorite salon for fills to take care of your new nail growth and make sure that the edges remain sealed and perfect.

This will prevent water from leaking in and encouraging bacterial growth – yuck. 

We recommend that you perform at least one fill before you decide to remove the entire set and get a new one. What’s more, acrylics have a poor reputation for popping off, which tends to happen when you hit them against a hard surface (accidentally or otherwise). 

They can also go flying if you are always using your hands – which typing counts for – if you have shorter nail beds, or your nail was not prepared correctly. 

If you’re very unlucky, you may run into an issue where you break your nail under the acrylic. Ouch.

The Importance of Nail Prep

Any problem that you might experience with thick acrylic nails can be traced back to how your nail was prepared before application.

Your nail needs to be filed adequately, sanitized, and the top layer should be sanded down to remove oils. 

What’s more, if your tech is using the plastic tip method, then those tips must be aligned perfectly with your nail.

Remember that acrylic nails should not be painful at all. And if you find your nails hurting the next day, then it might be time to find a new technician. 

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Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).