Why Do Press-On Nails Hurt Sometimes?

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Giving your fingers a fresh at-home manicure is a great way to feel beautiful, flawless, and confident. Press-on nails, once a tacky also-ran, are now back in style, big time!

With them, you can achieve salon-quality fingernails in a matter of seconds. They just don’t usually last as long.

Press-ons usually are pretty easy, but sometimes things go wrong.

Why do Press-On nails hurt, sometimes?

Although press-on nails are the safest artificial nails, they may cause irritation and pain. Some of the reasons press-on nails hurt include:

  • Improper filing
  • Problems with the glue
  • Failure to prepare real nails

If you’ve run into issues with your nails hurting after applying press-ons, you’re not alone. In this article, we’ll discuss the common issues that can lead to pain, and what to do to fix your nails.


Why Do Press-On Nails Hurt?

Press on nails

Although press-on nails are the least invasive fake nails and are relatively inexpensive to maintain, some factors can make using them unpleasant.

Knowing why your press-on nails hurt is important, and proper technique can prevent it from happening again.

So, here are the reasons your find your press-on nails irritating, discomforting, and painful:

1. Press-On Nail Glue Problems

Press on nail Glue

Since press-on nails are fake, you need adhesive tabs or glue to make them stick to your real nails. You will need to apply enough glue to keep your press-on nails on for at least two weeks.

If your nails keep hurting, the glue may be the problem. In fact, this is a common problem for those with acrylic nails, too.

The reasons for this are:

Expired Glue

Using expired glue on your nails can cause aches, pains, and general discomfort. Identifying expired glue is relatively easy. It most definitely shouldn’t be used on your nails if it has a funky texture or smell. Moreover, expired glue will not give you a long-term result.

Your press-on nails may only last for about three to seven days.

Expired glue can weaken the nails and infect the sidewall and cuticles. It’s also possible to have an allergic reaction to an ingredient in the glue, so check the constituents of any adhesive you use.

Harsh Ingredients

Another issue is that you may be allergic to one of the ingredients in the glue, such as ethyl methacrylate, ethanol, and others. Allergic reactions include irritation, redness, inflammation, and other symptoms.

Glue may also contain harsh chemicals that can damage your nails and skin, especially if you’re sensitive to them and use the glue frequently.

To avoid reacting to ingredients and chemicals in a glue, use press-on nails with an adhesive lining.

Excess Glue

You may be applying too much glue while fixing your press-on nails. Using the glue in layers can create an unpleasant coating that applies pressure to the nails. When using press-on nails, it’s crucial to use the right amount of adhesive.

If the adhesive is insufficient, the nail may break off, and you may have to add another layer of glue. Glue accumulation leaves a strange residue that puts pressure on your nails. And when your nails can’t handle the pressure, you feel pain and discomfort.

Inappropriate Glue

You should only be using nail glue for press ons (if you’re really stuck, you could use eyelash glue). Do not use household glues like Krazy Glue or Superglue on your nails. They are definitely not designed for nails, and can lead to significant nail damage!

2. Skipping Prepping 

It is common to overlook prepping our real nails in the excitement of applying press-on nails.

For the press-on nails to last, you need a prepped and strong base. The nails will hurt and fall off quicker without a protective layer.

However, the wrong nail routine can cause pain and discomfort when the nails are applied. 

It is common to overlook prepping our real nails in the excitement of applying press-on nails.

3. Improper Filing

Filing your nails is a crucial step when applying press-on nails. You want to ensure you have a smooth and even base for the glue to stick to. Your nails should also be short and well-kept so they don’t disturb the falsies. 

Aggressively filing your nail plate can cause it to be tender. When you apply a press-on nail on that with glue, the experience will surely not be a fun one.

Filing should be done gently and in one direction to keep your nails strong.

4. Ignoring Your Cuticles

Caring for your cuticles is vital when applying press-on nails. Use cuticle oil! A well-kept cuticle will result in a healthy and protected nail plate.

Also, avoid trimming your cuticles to prevent cuts and infections. Applying glue with press-on nails on a bleeding cuticle would be quite uncomfortable.

5. Skipping the Base Coat

A layer of base coat will provide a layer of protection for your nails.

Before applying your press-on nails, use a thin layer of base coat and let it dry. The base layer will be a barrier between the glue and your nails, reducing pain and discomfort.

6. Incorrect Application or Removal

Your nails may hurt due to the incorrect way you removed or applied the nails. Applying too much pressure may cause the press-on nails to have a shaky foundation and damage your real nails. 

When removing them, don’t rip, pop, or peel your artificial nails off your nail base. Removing your press-ons this way will risk peeling off the topmost layer of your natural nail. Before removing your nails, soak them in nail polish remover, acetone, or warm soapy water.

Follow the instructions provided to ensure proper removal.

Follow the instructions provided to ensure proper removal.

7. Injuries or Infections

Your nails may be hurting if they’ve been through some recent trauma. Carelessly ripping off fake nails can injure your nail beds and cause infection. Sometimes, you may not even realize you have a cut on your hands before applying an adhesive that infects your fingers.

Consequently, always check your hands before applying glue. 

Infected nail beds may be caused by expired products, damaged cuticles, or contact with a strong external factor. Injuring your nails can happen in different ways. For instance, you may suddenly break a nail, or your fingers may get caught somewhere.

If your nail beds are infected or injured, wait and nurture them back to health before applying or removing your press-on nails.

Infected nail beds may be caused by expired products, damaged cuticles, or contact with a strong external factor.

How to Avoid Damaging Your Nails When Applying Press-On Nail

Applying Press On Nails

To avoid damaging your nails when applying press-on nails, follow this step-by-step guide:

1. Prep Your Nails

  • Start by soaking your nails in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes. Soaking helps soften your cuticles. Next, push your cuticles back using a cuticle-pushing stick, and gently trim the excesses using a nail clipper. 
  • File your nail short to your desired length. Use nail polish to remove excess oils or unwanted colors from your nails. 
  • Once you’re done, you’re all set to be styled.

2. Choose the Size of Your Press-On Nails 

  • There are various press-on nails in your kit to fit various nail beds. Avoid oversized press-on nails, as they’ll ultimately damage your nails and skin. 
  • Choose nails with the same size as your natural nails, or go for nails one size below. They’ll fit perfectly without causing any discomfort.

3. Apply Your Press-On Nails

  • The next thing to do is apply your press-on nails to your nail bed. Your press-on nails may have an adhesive lining. If they don’t, you may use the glue that comes with your press-on nails kit. The former can be applied without using glue.
  • If you’re using the former, apply a base coat on your nail bed and let it dry. Next, apply a drop of glue on your natural nail and another on the back of the artificial nail. Place the press-on nail on your nail bed, just above the cuticle line.
  • Once it’s properly placed, gently press it with your fingers for about 15 seconds. 
  • Repeat this procedure for all your fingers.

4. Cleaning Up 

  • Clean any excess glue on the skin surrounding your nails and the backside. 
  • You may also file the nails to achieve your desired shape.

Common Problems Associated with Press-On Nails

Besides the issues discussed earlier, other nail-related problems can pop up. Knowing these problems can help you prevent them.

Shrinking of your artificial nails

Your artificial nails may shrink on the first day after applying them. They may tighten and shrink, and this may be uncomfortable. However, this isn’t a significant concern. The shrinking stops once the nails adjust to your nail plate, and the pain and discomfort will vanish.

Applying press-on nails to naturally thin and weak nails

Naturally, thin nails have more exposed nerves. And applying glue and press-on nails would irritate the skin and further weaken the nail. So, instead of glue and acrylics, use a nail strengthener on your nails to get them back to their regular thickness. You may use artificial nails once they are strong enough.

Thick artificial nails

You may experience discomfort if your press-on nails are thick, as they’ll put pressure on your natural nails. We recommend using thin falsies, as they’ll give your nails a more natural look while being easy on your nail plates.

It would be best if you avoid long falsies. Accidentally hitting your long acrylic nails can cause great pain. To prevent this, file your falsies short to a convenient and safe length.

Pointy press-on nails

Acrylic nails with a pointed end may hurt you if you’re accidentally hit. They may also get hooked on different materials. However, filing them down, as stated earlier, will solve this problem and make them safer to use.


Several factors can lead to your press-on nails causing pain and discomfort. However, avoiding the pain is easy by taking adequate care of your natural nails, using an adhesive that suits you, and correctly applying and removing the press-on nails.

Your nails do not have to hurt for them to be beautiful. Take care of them and go for that flawless look!

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).