These Nail Stickers Last Longer Than a Gel Manicure (and are Half the Price)

Photo: The author’s manicure

I used to get a gel manicure every three weeks like clockwork. When salons closed down in March, I left my last manicure on for as long as I could stand it. Not only is UV-treated lacquer difficult to remove at home, but I also dreaded staring at my damaged, bare nails, which I knew would serve as a depressing reminder of how different things are now.

After finally taking off the gels, I attempted to paint them myself for the first time in years. I carefully brushed on a single coat of light pink strengthening nail polish. It smudged immediately. Then a well-timed, targeted Instagram ad reminded me that I had a sample pack of ManiMe’s “stick-on gels” toiling away in my toiletry bag. Late last year, I’d been “fitted” for my manicures by taking five photos of different angles of my fingers against a credit card so they could 3D-print stickers that matched my nail beds exactly. Being a longtime salon loyalist, I had yet to give them a try.

I followed the instructions — peel the stickers off the sheet, apply from the base of the nail and smooth up to the tip, and then trim and file off any excess sticker — and was astounded at how easy it was. In 15 minutes, I had what looked like a salon-painted gel manicure, complete with tiny flowers drawn by nail artist Hang Ngyuen (who goes by The Hang Edit on Instagram). Some of the edges of my nails were a bit more jagged than others, particularly on my dominant hand, but I was able to trim and smooth them down with a nail file. Unlike a salon gel manicure, this one’s nontoxic and requires no drying time at all. And the set cost only $25.

I had very low expectations for how long these nail stickers would actually stick, especially since I cook for my family and develop recipes every day (and therefore do a lot of dishes). But even without a top coat on, the almost-transparent, cream-colored base didn’t chip or peel for two weeks. My pointer finger was the first to go, but the sheet of manicures comes with five backups, so I just peeled off that sticker and replaced it. The flowers’ colors looked a little less vibrant by the time I finally removed them (which you do by soaking in water to help loosen the adhesive, then easily peeling off, leaving no nail damage). In total, they lasted just shy of three weeks.

The second time I tried these nail stickers, I used a top coat and they lasted almost a month. The third time, I wore them while swimming in a lake – and I emerged from the water with a perfectly intact manicure. I would have never tried nail stickers if the circumstances hadn’t called for it, but I plan to continue using them even as businesses begin reopening (when I’m not supporting my favorite salons, of course).

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These $25 Nail Stickers Last Longer Than a Gel Manicure