How to Do Acrylic Nails: Everything You Need to Know

Standard polish manicures are fun and all, but there’s something super mesmerizing about getting an acrylic nail treatment done by a true professional.

Each nail is sculpted to perfection, then painted with colors that shine like nothing else!

The thing is, acrylic nails are not cheap, and to maintain your look, you need to spend a good amount of time and money at the salon every month.

For those of us without baller bank accounts, we need a faster, easier acrylic solution that we can pull off at home (without ruining our furniture and clothes).

Today we’re going to discuss the magic of acrylic nails, and give you a step-by-step guide to an at-home acrylic manicure that anyone can follow. Let’s get into it!

How Acrylic Nails Work

When we said acrylic nails were magic, we were only slightly exaggerating. The science behind acrylics is amazing, and it’s a joy to watch it in action.

Harper’s Bazaar tells us that acrylic nails are composed of two distinct chemicals: liquid monomer and powder polymer.

Only a tiny bit of each one needs to be combined to form a super-gelatinous glob of acrylic sculpting gel, which can be formed into any shape imaginable.

The instant that ball of acrylic gel is formed, time begins to run out. The stuff hardens very quickly especially if you’re in a room with a lot of UV light coming in.

That means you don’t have a lot of time before the acrylic gel reaches its final form! You need to work fast and make sure you don’t misshape the new nail, or else you have bigger problems on your hands!

Of course, the world’s best nail techs are masters of the craft and are capable of some beautiful acrylic creations without any molds, forms, or guidance.

Here are a few upsides to acrylic nails:

  • The tough, resilient coating on your natural nails that can protect and maintain.
  • You can wear them for months at a time, with occasional touch-ups.
  • Limitless options for shapes, lengths, and designs.
  • A natural look that can make nails appear younger and stronger.
  • Can help to prevent nail biting and encourage good hygiene.

With all these benefits, it’s no wonder why acrylic nails are so popular these days. They can be customized for pretty much anyone, young and old, and made to match your style.

There are a few things to keep in mind about acrylics, however.

First of all, they aren’t cheap, especially if you make monthly trips to the salon to keep them looking fresh. The cost of the first application averages out to about $50, while touch up appointments can be another $20 a pop.

Next, it’s a time commitment. That initial session will take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half, depending on where you go. Plus, you can expect to be back in the salon at least once a month for maintenance.

Finally, some nail experts say that the acrylic removal process is not the healthiest thing for our skin and nails. It often requires a long soak in acetone solution, which has been known to dehydrate cells and lead to long term damage if overused.

There are certainly some pros and cons with acrylic nails, but for most of us long nail lovers, it’s worth dealing with the drawbacks to attain perfect nails every time.

Doing it Yourself

To maneuver around the steep prices and time spent at the salons, many acrylic nail aficionados are bringing the art and science of acrylics to the home.

Walk into any store’s beauty section and you’ll see a ton of different DIY acrylic kits, as well as individual pieces like brushes, polymers, monomers, nail forms, and more. 

There is a learning curve to acrylic manicures, however, which is why the at-home process can be scary for some.

We realize that jumping right into freestyle acrylic sculpting is intimidating, even if you have an artistic streak and plenty of experience with other home manicure methods.

The truth is that it takes a long time to master the art of forming and shaping acrylic gel, which is why pro nail techs practice for months before ever trying it out on a real person.

The last thing you want to do is start “winging it” with super sticky chemicals. The only result you’re going to get is ruined clothes or stained furniture. 

That’s why we are huge fans of acrylic nail kits and press-on nails, which allow you to harness the power of acrylic materials without taking any crazy risks.

DIY Acrylic Nails in 10 Steps

According to an article from Byrdie, you should look for an acrylic nail kit that is marketed for beginners. Don’t get ahead of yourselves here!

If you’ve selected a basic kit and have everything you need in place, you can expect to follow a set of instructions that will read something like this:

  • Clean, trim, buff and prepare your natural nails. Make sure any remnants of polish or glue from previous treatments are removed.
  • Have all of your acrylic materials and tools ready to rock. Have the powders, gels, nail forms, brushes, and files within arms reach.
  • Apply the acrylic tips with a tiny dab of nail glue. These should be placed about a third of the way down from the edge of your nail.
  • Shape each of the tips to your liking with a nail file. Get that perfect oval, square, or stiletto tip by filing down the plastic tips.
  • Coat every nail with a bit of dehydrating bond primer. This will provide a smooth adhesive surface for the acrylic material.
  • Create the perfect portion of the acrylic mixture in the shape of a bead. Only a small dip into the gel and then the powder is necessary.
  • Spread and sculpt the acrylic material across the nail. Stick to the outline provided by the plastic tip you’ve previously shaped.
  • Allow the acrylic to dry out completely. This may take 20 to 30 minutes and is accelerated by exposure to UV rays.
  • Add a final protective coat to seal the deal. One swipe on each finger will keep the color and texture of the acrylic on point for longer.
  • Do some last-minute shaping and filing. The finishing touches!

  • Some nail bloggers such as MomsKoop like to use nail forms to help perfect the acrylic shape in a mold before placing it on the nail, then taking off the plastic part.

    At the end of the day, no two acrylic nail kits are going to be exactly alike, which is why you may need to try a few different ones out and see what best fits your comfort and ability level.

    Foolproof Acrylic Nails at Home

    While it’s a treat to get an hour-long acrylic manicure at the salon, and certain nail-form kits can make the process a bit easier for us DIYers, there are still a few drawbacks to the manual acrylic process that can’t be ignored.

    First of all, it can get messy - and smelly - to deal with the polymer materials for more than an hour straight, especially if you’re in a place without excellent ventilation.

    The next factor is time, which for some of us, is at a major premium between work, family, relationships, and everything else life presents.

    Finally, it can still be pricey to buy all of the extra tools and instruments you need to make acrylic happen at home, and the overall investment may not be worth it if you are just dabbling.

    Even those amateur acrylic kits can be a bit tricky to figure out at first, and if you are trying to save time and money, a cool set of press-on nails is the solution for you.

    Not only are press-on nails just as sleek and stylish as authentic acrylics, but you can apply them with way less hassle and virtually no mess at all.

    They last up to two weeks if you take care of them correctly, and they’re way healthier for your natural nails than real acrylic or gel treatments.

    Plus, you can even reuse these press-on nails once you’ve taken them off, which only adds to their value. Find the brand that fits you best and enjoy these many benefits!


    We get super excited about acrylic nails, whether we go to the salon, make the mixture at home, or use press-on nails for a quicker process.

    If you haven’t tried all three of these acrylic techniques, we encourage you to give them a shot! With the DIY approach, you gain a sense of appreciation for the craftsmanship.

    But for those weeks when life is happening at 1000 miles an hour, it’s understandable to opt for some press-on nails and keep things moving!

    With easy application and so many amazing styles, you may be reaching for the press-ons more often than you expect.





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