Press On Nails: A Thing I Unexpectedly Love

While I've spent years processing my Lee Press-On Nails trauma and disappointment, a whole customized press-on nail industry has grown up.

Jul 10, 2012 at 4:00pm | Leave a comment

At one point during my nail-biting childhood, I somehow managed to come into the ownership of some Lee Press-On Nails. This was like hitting some kind of jackpot – a thing I often imagined, but which generally took the form of an army of supply trucks pulling up to my house and unloading boxes of markers and drawing paper.

It’s not like I spent all that much time drawing, so I don’t even know why I was so obsessed with owning all the markers. Of course, I loved office supplies in general -- and still do -- so it probably grew out of that like some kind of serious beanstalk of obsessive-compulsive collecting.



But I digress.

The point is that I had these Lee Press-On Nails, and I had my own little stubby fingers, and I figured that it was long past time to get those 10 (20?) crazy kids together. My second clearest memory is that the little glue tabs were a pain in the damn ass. They didn't stick nearly as well as the commercial promised, and that little piece of paper you were supposed to peel off wasn't all that easy to get a grip on, either.

My first clearest memory is that the damned nails popped off whenever I tried to do anything.

And I do mean anything.

Such as wiping my own ass.

As is often the case with beauty experiments made for 8-yea-old girls, the press-on nails didn't last long. In fact, they didn't even leave the house. I valiantly pressed those nails on until my nail beds felt bruised and yet there was no joy in Mudville.

I couldn't help but flash back to all of this during Julie's ultra-long nail experiment. Those Ruffian nails made me swoon, but it wasn't until I found Emily's post on the subject and realized I could find the same brand (imPRESS, which is a cheesey pun that appeals to me) at my local drugstore (on sale even) that I finally plunked down my $7.99 to give this a try for myself. Once more unto the press-on nail, y'all.

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It's like I went and actually got my nails done somewhere.

(Once more unto the nails, once more;
Or close the wall up with our manicures.
In peace, there's nothing so becomes a hand
As active length and abundant glitter;
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the fingers, summon up the claws,
Disguise short nature with acrylic tips;
Then lend the eye a sparkling aspect--

I'm stopping this madness now. Shakespeare doesn't deserve this mistreatment.)

King Henry aside, I put my money on the barrelhead and took my press-on nails home. I took off my nail polish, cleaned my nails with the alcohol prep pad that is included in the kit, and promptly realized that my nails were actually longer than the press-on nails.

Oops. Because I can only swim forward like a shark, I cut my nails short rather than re-evaluate the value of my experiment. Boldly forward and all that. Sorting the nails into different sizes was probably the most time consuming and aggravating part of the process. Then I realized that matching nails have the same pattern on them.

After I spent five minutes feeling like a damned idiot, the rest of the sorting went quite quickly. The sizes of the nails are pretty similar so if you're careful, you can get two full manicures out of each box of nails. I say manicure -- but I'm not sure that's quite the right term. Let's just run with it.

The nails went on easy and looked surprisingly good. I spent another five minutes making Ed look at them. I kept saying "That's just so weird," in part because the nails are shaped so regularly. My natural nails have a very different curvature (which, oddly, hasn't interferred with adhesion at all).

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You can see my natural nails on the underside - almost the same length.

Here is a list of things I have done over the past four days which have not at all been an issue with these press-on nails:

  • Opened 5 cans of soda
  • Washed my hair
  • Scratched the dog's face
  • Given a handy
  • Typed without any more typos than usual
  • Stuck my finger up my nose
  • Pulled cards out of my wallet
  • Stuck my finger in my vag (maybe file edges just to be safe)
  • Touched guns
  • Texted via on-screen keyboard and Swype
  • Braided my hair
  • Eaten with my fingers
  • Wiped my butt


Here is a list of things that felt super weird but didn't mess up my nails:

  • Vigorously scratched a human's back
  • Stuck my finger in my ear
  • Stuck my finger in my eye
  • Picked at a loose thread
  • Put on tights
  • Picked a piece of beef jerky out from between my front teeth


I feel like a failure somehow, because that's a much shorter list. It's like the press-on nails have triumphed over my real-world product testing. It's like they're gotten more advanced since the 1980s. (Which we all know is impossible in the world of fashion.) It's like I actually kind of like these things.

Press-on nails are thicker than natural nails, of course (though even natural nails aren't good toothpicks). That's part of what contributes to the weirdness for some activities. The active length just barely extends past the tips of my fingers, but they are very square -- that also contributes to general weirdness. It's easy to catch the tender membrane of your eyeball with a poky part you didn't expect to be there.

Though that's simple enough to fix -- you can file these things into any shape you want.

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The nail surface is shaped to look less fakity fake.

Ultimately, though, the weirdest thing about these is that they are glued to your finger nails and, if you apply enough force, you can feel it. This isn't enough to put me off of the press-on nails, but it's certainly fascinating in an "I didn't know my finger nails could feel that way" kind of way.

If you are trying not to bite or pick at your nails, I actually think these press-on nails would be a really good way to not do that. Each perfect little nail would be a shield against bad habit. And once your own nails had grown out a little bit, you might be less inclined to chew them back down to nubs. At least, that works for a lot of people.

Of course, my whole experiment backfired, because now I'm gently obsessing over press-on nails. There's this Lolita princess nail trend that came out of Japan -- it's all about super mega ultra over-the-top blinged out decorated nails. And that's way impractical even beyond Julie's pink claws. Press-on nails are potentially the perfect solution. Like this pair. Or this pair. Trust when I say those are restrained and mild in comparison to some of the options out there.

While I've spent years processing my Lee Press-On Nails trauma and disappointment, a whole customized press-on nail industry has grown up. I admit, I find this both fascinating and protentially seriously practical. Because if you're using glue tabs, press-on nails are reusable. And who wouldn't want to reuse boner nails?

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My favorite thing is all the different skin tones.

I'll be ordering these as soon as I can think of any situation where wearing them won't get me a lecture in appropriateness.

As with any sudden change, going from really short to really long nails would be weird. You wouldn't have the slow growth period during which to adjust your habits and your motions. Press-on nails come in a wide variety of lengths and shapes now, though, so if you wear them with any frequency, I think you'd have a chance at learning to get your credit card out of your wallet.

Acrylic nails -- which I've had once in my life -- kind of freak me out because the natural nail has to be sanded. I like how easy these press-on nails are to put on and take off (you can use nail polish remover, apparently, to weaken the glue but I've just carefully peeled them off) -- because you know I can't have the same thing on my nails for more than a few days without getting antsy. There are even press-on toenails (which squick me hard because they LOOK LIKE TOENAILS THAT HAVE FALLEN OFF) if you're craving serious nail art for your toes.

I'm a convert, y'all. Not all the time, certainly, but having another option for awesomeness always fills me with glee. I'm resisting the obvious pun on the brand name (I'm "imPRESSED" -- barf) but there's a certain truth there. Eight-year-old me was on to something. I just had to wait for nail technology to catch up.