When it comes to emerging nail trends, we’re often overloaded with choice. From tortoiseshell nails to marble nails, the internet is chock-full of innovative nail art. Sadly, the majority of these master creations require a visit to a seasoned professional, which not everybody may be comfortable with right now. Luckily though, for those in search of nail art that can be done at home and on a budget, there is one new trend doing the rounds that doesn’t require you to be a dab hand at intricate designs. Reintroducing: nail stickers.
Heavily associated with the pre-teen world of Claire’s Accessories, the easy-to-do nail art was likely a staple at your primary school sleepovers. Since the days of Panda Pops and Party Rings, however, the nail sticker game has been revolutionised, going from weighty gems to paper-thin peel-offs. Whether it’s minimalist metallic taping or colourful smiley faces, the trend is appearing on the hands of some of Instagram's coolest nail techs. While the stickers can be integrated into more elaborate designs, the beauty of the '00s-inspired nail art is that it can be used to create a covetable nail look in seconds, without the need for tons of tools.
Some of the most accessible sticker packs on the market come from major beauty brands like Ciaté London and Elegant Touch. In particular, the Ciaté London x Smiley World Stick-On collection has caused quite a stir online, seemingly taking inspiration from Harry Styles' culture-shifting mani as well as early '00s skater girl culture. Unlike hand-drawn designs (which require dotting tools and nail art brushes), the stickers simply need clean nails and a glossy top coat to achieve an effective look. With 288 stickers inside, the pack allows you to create a bespoke manicure each time, offering a range of multicoloured and multi-size acid-inspired smileys.
While it might feel fiddly at first (I gave up using tweezers and just pulled them off the sheet by hand), the stickers are incredibly simple to use and lie perfectly flat against bare nails. I found that applying multiple small stickers to each nail gives the most effective result, creating a design that looks more purposeful than childlike. Issues do arise when it comes to sealing in the design, as the self-adhesive only goes so far. The best trick is to add two layers of top coat to dry on top of your smileys, creating a seal that will stop the stickers from snagging on towels and bedsheets as you go about your day-to-day activities.
If your tastes are a tad more sophisticated, perhaps Elegant Touch’s Metallic Nail Art Tape might be more suitable. Offering five shades of silver and glittering gold, the self-adhesive tape allows you to create a range of patterns across plain or painted nails. Pre-packaged in long strips, it's best to cut the tape in half prior to use; that way you only need to snip off a small amount of excess once the sticker is in place on the nail. If you use a base coat, be sure to let the polish set entirely before adding the adhesive to avoid the tape getting stuck and sinking into the polish. Unlike other stickers, the instructions state that the tape can be worn without a top coat, but trial and error proved it is best to add a thin layer to make the design more long-wearing.
Still, the big beauty brands are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to nail stickers, with tons of indie shops on Etsy leading the movement with a range of Y2K-themed designs. From flames to butterfly motifs, the best offerings are more like transferable tattoos than self-adhesive stickers. Requiring you to cut out the nail decals yourself, the sheets then need to be plunged into water for 30-40 seconds before pressing them down onto the nail and revealing the transferred design. While you may need tweezers (and a bit more patience than pre-glued nail stickers), the process makes the edges of the design almost entirely undetectable on the nail, perfect for those who want to apply details over coloured nail polish.
Overall, the nail sticker revival gets my seal of approval. Needing little more than a top coat to complete the look, it's great if you want to create something simple that still stands out. Having come on leaps and bounds since the days of heart-shaped gems and fiddly nail wraps, the new wave of nail stickers are here to save us all money and time, which is something I can get behind. Plus, the risk of chipping is drastically lowered, meaning they have a better shelf life than most at-home manicures. If you’ve been searching for a nostalgic nail trend that won’t break the bank, look to nail stickers as your next payday purchase.