Like plastic dress-up shoes and beaded coin purses, false press-on nails held a special place in my sartorial collection (funded by my parents, of course) while growing up in the '90s. Not only did those chunky French tips totally transform my stubby, bitten fingers into something elegant, but they made me feel like the ultimate grown-up. (Why did we all long to be adults?)
Soon, acrylic, gel and dip-powder nails usurped these flimsy talons as the false nails of choice. While they are a lot more expensive than a packet of press-ons, they stay intact for two or more weeks rather than two minutes. Plus, you can now customise the style (coffin, almond, stiletto...), the design (tortoiseshell, geode, tie-dye) and the colour. But as these salon favourites have grown in popularity, it seems press-on nails have undergone something of an upgrade.
From KISS to Elegant Touch, all manner of false nail brands have upped their game, providing nails to rival the most Instagram-worthy out there. We're talking jelly nails, gel nails, unicorn nails (totally a thing) and more in a multitude of shades, shapes and styles. It isn't all about looks, though. Reviews on Boots, Superdrug and Lookfantastic to name a few false nail retailers show that pretty much everyone is impressed. Not long ago, even Mel B sang the praises of Superdrug's Fantasy Queen of Stars nails, a mere £4.99, for lasting an entire Spice Girls show, proving that they've come a long way since the types that would ping off when you did up your jeans.
Like a lot of people, I don't want to shell out £25 on infills every other week, neither do I have the time, sadly. So I sifted through 22 packets of falsies to find out which semi-permanent nails are worth it. Here are the results.
There has to be some kind of psychology behind long, red nails because these made me feel like a completely different person: confident, sassy and generally just better. Just like gel nails, they were super shiny and I liked the classic almond shape. They came with adhesive tabs but I went for the nail glue as I was wearing a jumpsuit that day, and didn't want to risk them coming off in the loo. They took me no longer than five minutes to apply thanks to the helpful numbers on the underside.
These nails lasted a whole three days, which included washing my hair, opening countless boxes of post and grappling for the pole on a packed Northern Line train at rush hour, before one flew off in a work meeting when I picked up my pen. Gutted, I stuck it back down with more nail glue, but noticed the rest were peeling away slightly, too, so moved on to the next pack. Overall, I'd definitely wear these again, especially when in need of a confidence boost.
I was scared of these glittery, Neapolitan ice cream-esque coffin nails in the packet, but they were incredible on and I couldn't stop Instagramming them. They looked and felt so much more sturdy than any other stick-on nails I've tried (seconded by various colleagues) and fitted to my nail bed perfectly. It was difficult to type in them because of the length but I could do just about everything else, including washing my hair, doing up my jeans and applying liquid eyeliner.
They lasted a total of three days but I think they would have lasted much longer if I didn't pick one loose while worrying about a presentation. If you're the sort of person who has to take their nails off once one comes away, I'd suggest being really gentle. Soak your hands in warm soapy water and use a little acetone to dislodge them, so as not to damage your nails underneath.
These looked amazing in the packet and after our real-life jelly nails trial, I was excited to try them. As soon as I applied them, I noticed that I could see the numbers (which help you determine which nail to put them on) through the nail, as obviously, they are see-through. I have to admit, this bugged me. I could also see my own nail through them, and after having applied two lots of false nails already, they weren't in the best shape or condition, and were peeling a little.
I used the clear glue that came with them, but this dried slightly white, which I could also see. I tried my best to clear glue smudges away with acetone and this helped a little. All in all, they looked fantastic in pictures but they didn't last as long as the others: 2.5 days before the thumb nail started to come away. I would definitely try them again, but I'd go for the glitter version, which might obscure my scraggly natural nails somewhat.
These were the most natural-looking of the bunch. At this point, I was fed up of not being able to type properly so I used the mini nail file provided to whittle these down to a suitable shape. They resemble the shape of my natural nails the most and I often go for the same baby pink polish. Just like the Superdrug version, they adhered to my nail bed seamlessly thanks to the thinner base, so no one could tell they were fake.
A few hours after application, I lost the little nail on my walk to work. Thankfully, the packet includes extra nails, so I reapplied on the train. They stayed on for the whole day but two fell off while I was giving an important presentation the next day, although I put that down to nervous picking. (At least they'll remember me.) I'd purchase these for a special occasion, such as a wedding, when I need my stubby nails to look shipshape fast.