6 Different Types of Fake Nails: Everything You Need to Know About Acrylic, Gel, and More!
Fake nails are a great way to express yourself and give your hands an instant makeover. There are many different types of artificial nails available on the market, ranging from pre-glued stick-ons to acrylics, gels, and dip powders. But the terms people throw around can get confusing and can overlap (for example, polygel nails vs gel nails)
In this article, we’re going to go over all of the most common types of fake nails you may encounter at a salon, so that when you show up you’ll know exactly what you’re talking about, and what you want to get!
What Are Artificial Nails?
Fake nails are that are applied on top of the natural nails in order to extend, shape, or otherwise improve the look of the natural nails. They can be made in a few different ways, including acrylic tips that are glued on the natural nail, and silk or fiberglass wraps that are used to form the artificial nail.
Once the fake nails are in place, they can be finished in a variety of ways including lacquer polish, acrylic powder, gel polish, shellac, and more.
There are basically three variables to a fake nail:
- The choice of artificial tip or form
- The way the artificial tip or form is attached to the natural nail
- The way the artificial nail is finished or painted
Different Types Of Fake Nails
1. Acrylic Nails
Acrylic nails are probably the most commonly chosen type of fake nail. They are everywhere, and every salon is familiar with how to do acrylic nails. It’s hard to go wrong with acrylics. They are durable, easy to decorate, and can be worn for months (with regular fill-ins).
Acrylics are almost always done on nail tips or forms, not on the natural nail surface, so there is usually a choice of nail length and shape.
To create acrylic nails, a liquid is mixed with a powdered monomer. This is then transferred to the nail and formed on top of it. The acrylic mixture hardens as when exposed to air and dries up to a solid cover for the nail.
The acrylic technique can be used to simply protect the natural nail and give it some color and design. However, it can also be used to lengthen the nail significantly. That can be done by painting over the attached nail tip or by using a sticker form that supports the acrylic as it dries.
The nail can be lengthened and shaped according to preference. They are strong and long lasting, though there is always a risk of breakage, which can really hurt. Additionally, if water gets between the acrylic and the natural nail, fingernail fungus can occur.
Acrylic nails are well-loved because they offer a lot of possibilities when it comes to nail design. Aside from the length and shape of the nail, many use acrylics to create sculptures and designs to further beautify the nails.
DIY Acrylic Nails
Salons aren’t the only ones who can work with acrylic nails! These can also be done at home as long as you have a complete kit. The Cecelia Acrylic Nail Art Kit is a great example of these kits. It has everything you need to create longer and better-looking nails. The kit will last for a long time because acrylics are very durable, and you don’t need to change them weekly.
Acrylics are more difficult to remove than simple lacquer nails, and are often removed at the manicurist. You can remove them by soaking them in acetone, though this is rough on the skin and nails.
It’s a good idea to take a break from acrylics from time to time to let the nails breathe.
Also, you need to work carefully to prevent the nails from becoming too thick. And lastly, the nails need to be refilled as they grow longer.
See our article on DIY Acrylic Nails for more information.
2. Press On Nails
Press-on nails have come a long way from the 80s when they started coming into fashion. They are now very similar to acrylic nails, however they don’t last as long. Press ons are much easier to apply, though!
Trends come and go, and press-ons are definitely back on trend. You can choose to create your own finish to the press-on, or purchase pre-finished nails, complete with nail art, gemstones, and decoration.
Press on nails are made of ABS plastic, and can be reused multiple times if well cared-for.
They’re typically applied with either nail glue or double-sided adhesive tabs. The adhesive tabs can last a few days, and nail glue maybe a week or so. Some people are now playing around with using other methods like polygel to attach press-on nails.
3. Gel Nails
Gel nails are similar to acrylics, and are a common fake nail type. Like acrylics, they can be formed to the exact length and shape desired, though they are usually thinnger and more flexible. Gel nails are durable and chic, and can be done at home or at a salon.
These can also be used with nail tips or a sticker base to support the extended nail.
The concern many have when using gel nails is that each time a coat of gel is applied, the nails need to be cured under UV or LED light. You need a specialized lamp compatible with your nails, and understand that these UV lights could possibly lead to cancer down the road, as they’re similar to tanning bed bulbs.
Each coat of polish is cured under the light, so it can be a lot of exposure if you frequently do your nails.
There are many gel polishes such as the Gellen Gel Nail Polish Set for a DIY gel manicure. Countless different colors are available choose from and you apply them just like as you would with regular nail polishes… but you need to cure them under UV light.
The UV lamps that cure the gel work great, and the gel hardens in a bout a minute each coat. However, some don’t go for it because of the possible side effects of UV light exposure and the associated skin cancer risks.
It’s no surprise that many prefer gel compared to acrylic because of its durability. This style is not as porous as acrylics and can’t be easily removed by using acetone. The best way to remove it is to file it off, and it’s often best to go to a salon and have a nail technician remove them.
4. PolyGel Nails
Polygel nails are a hybrid of acrylic nails and gel nails. They can be applied directly onto the nail, but are usually applied to a nail form for length and styling needs.
Polygels use a specific kind of gel known as builder gel. It gets applied in a pea sized amount to the nail. Then a slip solution is blended with the polygel, which allows the gel to easily spread over the nail and form to shape.
But like gel nails, each layer of polygel needs to be cured under a UV light.
Polygels are a fun technique, and are getting more and more popular in DIY circles. They’re easy to apply, and pretty easy to fill in at home
As mentioned above, many are experimenting with using PolyGel nails in creative ways, including combining them with press on nails for super convenient home manicures that last a surprisingly long time.
5. Fiberglass or Silk Nail Wraps
Another type of fake nail is the nail wrap technique. There are different nail wraps available, but the most common are silk wraps. Silk wraps are a fairly popular, long-lasting nail manicure that is made by applying fabric to the natural nail, which is then hardened into shape. The technique is common, but less so than other artificial nail types. Some salons and nail techs don’t offer nail wraps.
Silk wraps such as the SuperNail Swiss Silk Wrap, are lightweight and flexible false nails.
They will look and feel like just your actual nails, but can be used as nail extensions as well. They can add strength to the nail and may be used to reinforce damaged, cracked, or split nails. A technique similar to nail wrapping is commonly used when there’s a vertical split in the nail.
There are also nail wraps that are made of linen or fiberglass, like the ASP Fiberglass Nail Wrap.
The nail wraps will typically last for about 2-3 weeks. After that, you’ll need to reapply the wraps.
6. Dip Powder Nails
This type of fake nails is getting popular once again, but it is actually not a new technology. Powder dip nail kits like the Aikker Dipping Powder Kit come with everything you need to achieve powder dip nails.
SNS nails is perhaps the most popular brand of dip powder nail, but there are many many other companies producing these powders.
What’s great about dip nails is that there is no need to cure the nails under a UV lamp. The kit contains the base coat, activator, topcoat, and colored powders. It dries instantly, as the solution is absorbed by the powder on the nail.
Take time before using the next solution because it can cause a burning or stinging sensation on the nails. Also, multiple dips into the powders can lead to build up and weird looking thick fake nail. They’re going to look and feel awkward if you put on too much!
And another note is that the removal of dip powder nails can be a bit complex, so be careful.
Whether you’re looking to extend your natural nail to get new talons, or just make your natural nails look more uniform and beautiful, there are tons fake nail options to choose from.
Each of the types of nail has its pros and cons, and from the descriptions above, you hopefully have some sense as to what you’re looking for next. Maybe you’re headed to the salon for a pro manicure, or maybe you want to play around with DIY or press-ons. Your nails will be looking fresh!
And when it’s time to take off the fake nails, you can choose a different type of fake nail, and try them all!