What do you do when you break a nail? For me, because my nails are natural, the shortest nail dictates the length of the rest — regardless of whether I’m emotionally prepared to part with my long nails or not. If the middle finger on my left hand breaks or splits into a hairline fracture, I grab the nail clippers and enter an involuntary short nail era.
But a recent TikTok trend is bringing back an alternative method we might have been missing out on: repairing a broken nail instead of cutting it short. Like a bandage for your nails, a silk wrap is used to cover the break and keep it from fracturing further, thus allowing for the nails to keep on keeping on. The technique has actually been around for decades, but it’s seeing renewed attention now that nail artists are posting TikToks using what looks like gauze or a tea-bag-like fabric as something of a reinforcement for brittle nails, as well as a nail extension to add length. Here's how it works.
What is a silk wrap?
"Silk wraps were originally developed in the 1980s and became hugely popular in the '90s and '00s," says session manicurist Ami Streets. "A thin woven strip of natural silk or artificial fabric is applied to a natural nail as an overlay to add strength and repair splits and tears.” According to Ami, back then (in a pre-gel polish world), people with weak or brittle natural nails would apply silk wraps to their nails to make them more durable.
Some of the videos on TikTok show silk wraps being used to create extensions in conjunction with an additional bond-building gel (to hold the piece of fabric in place and give it structure). If you'd rather lay off the acrylics, which can be damaging to nails, this can be done. But manicurists only recommend the technique in the case of nail repair.
"I’ve only used the silk wrap method to repair damage — usually in cases where the nail is torn or split and needs to be structurally reinforced to allow it to grow out without having to lose any length or cut the nail," says Ami. For adding length to every single nail, she prefers a gel extension or bond builder. "In my opinion, there are better [options] available to extend nails, including Gel X and builder gel,” also known as BIAB.
@unhasperfeitasdesign Silk wrap nail extension 💅💅 #silkwrapnails #nailextension #alongamentodeunhas #unhaperfeita #unhadegel #nail ♬ som original - BR Nation - 8D
How are silk wraps applied?
The process of repairing a broken nail or reinforcing a weak nail using a silk wrap starts with buffing or filing the offending nail so it's smooth and dry. Then the fabric wrap will be sized and placed directly over the broken area. "I use tweezers for extra precision," Ami notes. To bind the wrap in place, an adhesive is applied over top. "Nail glue, resin [a liquified plastic that bonds to the nail], or even a top coat nail polish can work," says Ami. The adhesive will turn the fabric transparent and harden it flush to the nail. Once that’s all dried and set, the nail is buffed, shaped, and filed. Ami says that the bonding will be "imperceptible to the eye," making it a great option for a quick repair job.
@jaynicolemua #question from @jaynicolemua Try silk wraps if you would like to give your natural nails a break from acrylic #FlexEveryAngle #silkwrapnails #nails #nailtech #jacksonvilleflorida #jaxnailtech #fy #fyp ♬ Love You So - The King Khan & BBQ Show
How much do silk nail wraps cost?
Because a silk wrap is a quick-fix service, it might not be advertised on your nail salon menu the same way you’d see “gel manicure” or “full set” for acrylics. But most experts agree that you can ask for it — or just show your broken nail — and your salon will likely know exactly what to do. Prices will vary from salon to salon. In most cases, only one or two nails will need reinforcing, but the average cost of a full set of silk wrap nail extensions is roughly between £25 to £45.
Alternatively, for zero dollars, you could give a similar technique a shot by using a tea bag at home. "Tea bags work well as a similarly thin but strong woven fabric that can easily be adhered to the nail with [nail] glue or polish and buffed down to create a smooth and repaired nail surface ready to paint," says Ami.
Natalie Minerva, the lead nail artist on Euphoria, uses this trick, too. "If there is a mild tear in the free edge of the nail, I’ll grab a tea bag and cut it to the length of the rip," she says. "Next, I’ll grab some nail glue and lay that down over the tear, then place the cut tea bag material on top. I’ll add more nail glue on top of that, let it dry, then buff it so it’s flush with the natural curve of the nail. Consider it a nail Band-Aid!"