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This post reviews the differences between acrylic vs press on nails and what is best for you!

acrylics vs press on nails

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Oh, the classic acrylic vs press on nails debate!

Fake nails have been around forever! There are pictures of my mom at her wedding in 1986 with the longest Morticia Addams red press on nails I’ve ever seen! I have dabbled in both acrylic nails and press-on nails.

Press on Nails has come far in the nearly 40 years since my parent’s wedding and has garnered a lot of traction and popularity lately.

With press-on nails looking more realistic and mimicking the looks of acrylics, many of us wonder what their biggest differences are.

Both options offer many designs, styles, and lengths to suit individual preferences. However, beneath their captivating appearances lie distinct characteristics that set them apart.

We will explore the fascinating world of acrylic and press-on nails, exploring their unique features, application processes, durability, maintenance requirements, and overall suitability.

By understanding the differences between these artificial nails, you can make an informed choice that best aligns with your desired look and lifestyle.

Let’s get into it! 

This post looks at acrylic vs press on nails.

acrylic vs press on nails

Acrylic vs Press On Nails

There is no right or wrong, but a matter of preference. Let’s look into what these types of nails actually are.

What are Acrylic Nails?

acrylic nail set

Acrylic nails, also known as artificial or sculptured nails, have gained immense popularity for their durability and versatility.

Generally done at a nail salon, Acrylic nails are created by combining a liquid monomer (ethyl methacrylate or EMA) with a dip powder polymer (methyl methacrylate or MMA).

This mixture forms a paste-like substance that can be shaped and molded onto natural nails or nail extensions.

The application process begins with preparing the natural nails, which involves cleaning, shaping, and buffing the nails to create an ideal surface for the acrylic to adhere to. Next, a primer is applied to the nails to promote better adhesion.

A nail technician then dips a brush into the liquid monomer and gently taps it into the acrylic powder, creating a small acrylic bead.

This bead is placed onto the nail surface and carefully sculpted and shaped using the brush. The process is repeated for each nail until the desired length and shape are achieved.

The Pros: 

One of the key advantages of acrylic nails is their durability. They are known to be long-lasting and resistant to everyday wear and tear, making them an excellent option for individuals who work with their hands. Moreover, acrylic nails can be customized with various nail art designs, colors, and embellishments, allowing for endless creativity and personalization.

You can get an incredibly unique acrylic set with various shapes and sizes. It creates a durable nail that’s gorgeous and strong! They have a more natural look, and you don’t have to worry about finding the right fit for your nail since it’s made right on it. 

The Cons:

However, it is important to note that acrylic nails require professional maintenance. They typically must be filled or refilled every two to three weeks as the natural nails grow. Acrylic nails go a long way! They last a long time, but the removal process can be laborious.

Also, you will likely damage your nails the longer you have acrylics. The durability of acrylic long nails is great, but it takes a toll on your real nails.

Whenever I took a break from my acrylics, my real nails became weak, brittle, and broke easily. It took two months of no acrylics to get them back to normal.

Unfortunately, acrylics ruin the base of your natural nail. The acrylic resin can cause significant nail damage depending on how long you wear them.

Also, I often find my fingers and nails sore because the nail techs need to work so hard on the shape, filing, and design! They would be tender for almost four days after getting the set done. Acrylic manicures can be painful!

It’s also expensive and requires a lot of maintenance to keep them looking fresh and not grown out.

Not only that, they can take a long time to do, anywhere between 2-6 hours, depending on the design you choose and the skill set of your nail tech. 

What are Press On Nails?

simple in sage nails
Photo Credit: Etsy Hot Press Nail co in Sage and Gold

Press on Nails has garnered a TON of popularity as of late. With artists on Etsy and other online stores, press-ons look just as dazzling as their expensive acrylic salon manicure counterparts. I’m not going to lie; I have dabbled into more Press On Nail ASMR on Youtube than ever!

The Lockdowns incentivized many of us to figure out our beauty needs at home. One of these, press on nails! Press On Nails has become easy for us to have salon esq nails without leaving home!

No need for a nail salon appointment or the hassle of waiting for the polish to dry. These guys are ready to go with adhesive already applied and pressed onto your natural nails.

Each press-on nail typically has a small adhesive tab or a layer already applied to the back. All you have to do is peel off the backing, align the press-on nail with your natural nail, and firmly press it down, ensuring a snug fit.

Press-on nails offer various designs, colors, patterns, and lengths to suit every taste and occasion.

Whether you’re into vibrant and bold nail art or prefer a more natural and subtle look, there’s a press-on nail to satisfy your style cravings.

Some sets even include accent nails or intricate designs that instantly elevate your nail game. They are great starters for people exploring first-time fake nails.

You also have a variety of designs to choose from!

The Pros:

Less damage and easy to use, stick-on nails are highly convenient and cute! Not to mention the easy removal involved, and you won’t ruin your own nails. You can still get nails with a gel base or different shapes that suit your taste.

They provide an instant manicure solution for those on the go or for special events when you need a quick nail fix. Unlike traditional nail enhancements, press-on nails don’t require any drying time, and you can skip the hassle of shaping and polishing your natural nails.

Also, they are SO much cheaper than acrylics, and the maintenance isn’t nearly as laborious. Quick, affordable, and still cute, it makes sense why press-on nails are garnering the traction they are! You can do them at home and don’t need to be a nail connoisseur to do them well.

The Cons:

Less durability. You can imagine press-on nails won’t have the strength of dried and sealed acrylic. They can fall off easier, and the quality of the design and nails isn’t always consistent. If you lift or are active, these guys can fall off pretty easily.

Not only that, but the sizing of nails varies VASTLY. You need to measure your nail and have the correct measurements to ensure your nail looks natural.

If not, they can give themselves away pretty quickly if you have the wrong sizes; i.e., they look fake. Ensuring you have the correct-sized press-on set makes a big difference in the quality of the look. 

Related Reading: 65 Gorg Pink Nails That Will Give You Life

Appearance and Design

Press On Nails

comic brown french tip nails
Photo Credit: Etsy The Nail Art Studios Press On Nails in Comic Brown French

Press-On Nails/Glue-on Nails can look great!

There are loads of designs and shapes available for press-on nails. As they have gotten more popular, in a way, the market has become more competitive, and lucky for us, that means even higher quality nail designs and nail quality for us to choose from!

They can be highly detailed and unique depending on where you buy them.

You can get them custom-made, in different lengths, nail shapes, and all different types of nails that are pressed on to choose from.

They aren’t nearly as cheap or fake looking anymore, and you have nearly just as many designs to choose from as if you were getting an acrylic set done.

You know exactly how the design looks before you buy it. They are an excellent option for those sensitive to acrylic or allergic. Some of the best press-on nails will leave you guessing about their authenticity!


Taupe and Gold Gems NAils
Photo Credit: Instagram @riyathai87

Acrylic nails are a much more personalized experience. The design is done on your finger by the nail tech in-house.

You have a bigger choice of design, color, or beads.

When you get a new set of nails, they will look fresh and seamless if your technician is talented and careful with their work.

They can have a heartier look, and you can tell how much time and care went into acrylics.

They will last long and look great much longer than press on nails.

Overall, acrylics are more customized, intimate, and made for you in front of you and can look higher quality than press-on nails. 


Press on Nails

The main difference between press-ons and acrylics is often the lifespan and durability of press-on nails. They aren’t made of acrylic, so they aren’t nearly as strong.

Nail glue and press-on false nails generally aren’t super sticky. That seems to be the only complaint for many people.

They can fall off and break, and the wear and tear become obvious much quicker, which obviously makes them not look nearly as nice or seamless. 


If durability is necessary, acrylics are the way to go.

They are SO strong. So much so, I remember when I was much younger, I had a fresh set of acrylics with a nice top coat and thought I would play volleyball with my friends (idiot move, but I was like 14, lol). I accidentally jammed my finger right into the ball when attempting to smack it.

No, my nail didn’t break; the opposite! Because the acrylic was so strong, my nail didn’t break, but I jammed my finger so hard that I needed a little splint for a few days.

Not cute! I was left with a super sore and bruised finger. That is a testament to how damn acrylic solid nails can be! If you like the sound of that, then acrylics are your best choice!

Nail Damage

Press on Nails

Unless you Lara Croft aggressively rip your fake nail off, your nails will be fine.

Since the glue and sticky resin is so much gentler, it doesn’t have the strength to damage your nails as acrylics can.

This means you can easily wear press-on nails long term and have no nail damage. You can still have pretty and healthy fingernails underneath and go fake nail free in between without your nail looking brittle AF and ready to fall off! 


So this is the biggest culprit for some people: the amount of damage Acrylics can cause. I have had acrylics on and off my whole life, and they do hella damage your nails. The acrylic is super strong and hard on our nails.

If we routinely get them done long-term, it can weaken our nails substantially.

My nails never recovered until I stopped getting them done altogether. It works the same way as hair extensions.

It gives you the illusion of full hair, but it’s damaging your real hair, making them wear the extensions more and subjecting the scalp to further damage.

Being mindful of the state of your nails when wearing acrylics and taking a supplement to keep them strong can help. 
So, which one is right for you? It all depends on your taste and lifestyle. If you prefer something quick, cheap, and convenient with the least amount of nail damage, press-on nail sets are the way to go! In recent years, press-on nails have gotten super cute and high quality, especially with the increased demand after the lockdowns. Get the perfect fit by measuring your fingers to ensure the finished look is seamless.

Acrylics vs Press On Nails

minimal rectangle french tip nails

There you go, the battle of Acrylics vs press on nails!

If you prefer high quality and long lasting durability and you enjoy the experience of getting your nails done, acrylics all the way!

If you’re new to fake nails, try press-on nails to see if you even like having them on. If you do, try getting an acrylic set done and see how you like it.

You can get long or short nails. If you want to try gel nails, you can buy your own or paint your press-on nails!

Get a quality gel nail polish and give yourself a gel manicure at home without using fake ones.

Ultimately, the choice between acrylic nails and press-on nails depends on your personal preferences, lifestyle, and desired level of commitment.

Whichever option you choose, embrace the power of nail artistry and let your fingertips become a canvas for self-expression and style.

This post covered acrylics vs press on nails.

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