If you’ve ever looked at the hands of your fave blogger or celeb, chances are they’re rocking a droolworthy mani that you can’t wait to try. Whether it’s an insane nail art look or a skin-flattering nude there’s never a shortage of nail looks to experiment with. In recent years, acrylic nails have been more popular than ever thanks to crazy nail shapes (I’m a coffin girl myself) that would be nearly impossible to maintain with just your natural nails and the amount of nail art you’re able to cram on a single finger. But before you step into the salon to get your own set of claws, there are some things you should know ahead of time.
Acrylics require regular maintenance.
The acrylic life is a committed life, and if you’re not ready to get to a salon every two to three weeks for a fill then it’s best not to start. Skipping fills can be dangerous for your natural nail because as the nail grows out, the likelihood for moisture to get in between your natural nail and the acrylic increases. When this happens, a fungus could grow — which isn’t fun for anyone involved.
So prepare your bank account.
This is not a cheap beauty indulgence. Much like lash extensions, acrylics can be a costly service to maintain. Prepare to spend about $50 a month keeping up your claws — more if you prefer gel polish for a long-lasting manicure.
Start short and work your way up.
If this is your first time getting acrylics, it’s best to start at a shorter length and gradually work your way up to talon-length nails. This ensures you have time to get used to doing everyday things with them — trust me, pretty much everything feels weird in the beginning. Even though they feel hard, acrylics are delicate and it can take a few fills to get the hang of things like opening soda cans (don’t — ask a friend), typing, working out and showering.
Find someone you trust, and never let them go.
Since I started getting acrylics, I’ve had four people touch my nails — and two of those people were out of desperation. I’m loyal to a fault when it comes to my nail tech, and here’s why: Finding someone who does good work isn’t always easy to come by, and building a rapport is essential to being happy with your nails. The best way to find a good nail tech is to scope out someone whose nails you love and ask who does theirs. You can also look up reviews on Yelp or StyleSeat — when it comes to nails, people are typically super honest and won’t steer you wrong.
Where you get them done matters.
So you’ve done your research and you think you’ve got it all figured out, but once you get there pay close attention to the salon itself. Make sure the nail salon is clean and the nail tech is using sanitized supplies on your hands. Bacteria can spread from unsanitary tools, and fire nails aren’t worth a nail infection or worse.
Don’t be afraid to speak up.
These are your nails after all. If your nail tech is being super rough with the drill, filing your nails into the wrong shape or doing something you’re generally uncomfortable with, don’t be shy about (politely) voicing your opinion. You’re the client and deserve the absolute best after all.
You will probably break a nail at some point.
And it may hurt. After having nails for about a year and a half now, they’ve broken a handful of times, but I am among the lucky ones. Many of my acrylic-wearing friends break a nail every set, if not two or three. To avoid this, be careful with your hands and keep the length reasonable. The longer your nails, the further away they are from your body and the more prone they are to getting caught on things or snapping when you bang a nail (because at some point you will). If you break a nail, try to get it fixed quickly, but also give your nail some time to heal (especially if there’s blood). It might not be the prettiest sight, but nothing hurts more than having tender skin drilled and filed.
Your nails will be weaker once you decide to take them off.
Even if it’s just for a little while, your nails will feel the effects of having acrylics on them 24/7. The length you achieve from acrylics (typically) cannot be sustained on their own and the best way to encourage strong, healthy nails is to clip them as short as possible and let them grow out to your desired length. To safely remove acrylic nails, soak them in acetone until soft and file the acrylic off as you go. This process can take a while but is well worth it in the end. Never pop them off or try to pull them off. Not only does it hurt, it can result in months of weak and brittle nails.
You will be feeling yourself for a few days, so prepare your loved ones for your increased obnoxiousness.
A fresh set is an instant self-esteem boost though scientists aren’t exactly sure why. Symptoms include showing people your hands, staring at them excessively and talking with your hands in the hopes that someone notices and pays you a compliment. Your friends will probably be annoyed with your antics, but if they’re your true friends, they’ll let you live.
About the Author:Tembe Denton-Hurst hails from Brooklyn, NY, but if you ask her, the answer will be much more complicated. She's passionate about YouTube, storytelling and swatching everything she can get her hands on. When the assistant beauty editor isn't brainstorming crazy ideas for makeup.com, she's lurking on Reddit, spending time with her cats Stella and Dakota or asking obvious questions.