Acrylic Nails 101: What You Need to Know Before Your First Set (2024)

Have you ever checked out someone's nails and wondered how they look so strong and healthy? While they could be wearing high-quality press-ons, they could also be rocking an acrylic manicure. Often utilized for longer shapes, such as almond, coffin, and stiletto nails, acrylic manicures help add structure and longevity to any nail look.

While most acrylic manicures are performed in salons, you can also try DIY acrylic nails at home. Of course, before booking an appointment or stocking up on acrylic nail supplies, you might want to brush up on acrylic manicures in general. We're here to help. Ahead, find everything you need to know about acrylic manis, straight from nail pros Morgan Dixon and Mazz Hanna.

Meet the Expert

What Are Acrylic Manicures?

Acrylic nails are lengthening enhancements sculpted with a mix of powder and liquid monomer, Hanna tells us. (Hence why they are also known as L+P.) "We take a brush and dip it into an acrylic liquid—we use this to make a moldable acrylic bead by dipping the wet brush into our acrylic powder," Bellacures nail artist Hayley Dang told us previously. "Once we have our bead, we place it into the nail bed, spreading it until it is even across the length of [the] natural nail and the plastic tip."

Once applied, the acrylic is cured and ready for polish. Depending on how long you want your nail look to last, you can choose from regular polish or gel applications. The technique strengthens and often lengthens the natural nail. While most acrylic manicures feature exaggerated lengths, Dixon says acrylic can be used on any. "It is a great service for people who need extra durability," she explains.

How Long Do Acrylic Manicures Last?

Acrylic manicures typically last between two to five weeks, according to both Dixon and Hannah. As with most manicures, it ultimately depends on how hard you are on your nails. "Acrylic manicures are extremely durable and will last a long time when applied and cared for properly," Hannah says.

The Cost

Nail professionals typically charge around $25 on top of their base gel manicure rate for acrylics, Dixon says. The cost of an acrylic manicure ultimately depends on where you live and the skill level of the artist performing your manicure. Generally, salons in major metropolitan areas get away with charging more. FWIF: When we reported on the seven types of manicures, artists shared that the average acrylic manicure is between $50 and $95, though it will cost more to incorporate detailed nail art.

Safety Considerations

Acrylic manicures are safe so long as they're applied and removed properly. That said, Hanna points out that nowadays, less toxic options—such as Gel X by Apres Nails—can help you achieve similar results.

Still, if you're set on acrylic, she says there are a couple of things you'll want to keep in mind. "When getting acrylic, it's extremely important to make sure that the salon you are going to has proper ventilation for both your and your nail artist's safety," she tells us. "All nail products have chemicals that can be harmful [without] proper ventilation." Additionally, she points out that she wouldn't recommend acrylic nails to people with sensitive skin or allergies, as some people have adverse reactions to L+P.

Does Acrylic Damage Your Nails?

Acrylic nails can absolutely damage your nails if you don't remove them with care—but that goes with pretty much any type of nail enhancement. If you don't take the time to soak your acrylics and gently roll them off your nails (or head to the salon so a professional can remove them properly), you risk peeling off layers of your natural nail. This can make them thin and brittle in the long run. "Professionals know when to stop and what to look out for [when removing acrylic nails]," Dixon says. "If you notice your nails thinning or feeling weak, they are not doing the service correctly."

It's important to note that purposefully peeling or scraping off your acrylic isn't the only thing that can damage your nails—being rough on them can, too. "The natural nail can be damaged from lifting or peeling acrylic," Hanna says. Because of this, she suggests giving your hands a little TLC when going about daily life. "When [performing] tasks that would typically ruin your nails, such as gardening or doing the dishes, be sure to wear gloves to protect your nails," she insists.

5 Ways To Strengthen Your Nails After Acrylics, From The Pros

How Do You Remove Acrylic Nails?

The best way to remove acrylic nails is by soaking them off, says Dixon."You can do this by using a nail file to remove the top layer (the top coat and sometimes the top layer of color applied)," she explains. You don't want to file too excessively, though: Dixon says you'll know you've removed enough of the top layer when your nails lack shine and look dull. "From there, soak [your nails] in about half an inch of acetone in a glass bowl or apply nail clips with 100 percent acetone and cotton," she instructs.

Regardless of the method you choose, you'll need to be patient. "I tell my clients it can take about 15 minutes to an hour, depending on how much acrylic is on the nail and how much they were dulled down," Dixon says, noting that the longer you allow them to soak, the easier they'll push off the nail so that no excessive pressure is required.

The Final Takeaway

Acrylic nails are a great option for those looking to strengthen and lengthen their nails. The L+P technique makes all nail looks more durable, so you can look forward to a longer-lasting manicure—which is ideal if you’re investing in your nail art.

The biggest thing to remember when getting acrylics is that proper removal is crucial. If you remove acrylic nails improperly, they can damage your natural nails in the long run—thus rendering the strengthening nail enhancement less beneficial overall.

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Acrylic Nails 101: What You Need to Know Before Your First Set (2024)
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