Everything You Need to Know About Acrylic Nails, Straight From Cardi B’s Manicurist

Getty / Dan MacMedan

For some people, acrylic nails can be very intimidating and cause fears about weakening your natural nails. However, with celebrities like Cardi B, Ariana Grande, and Kylie Jenner wearing them almost religiously, it’s no wonder people are increasingly interested in giving the treatment a try.

The technique is super versatile because you can add length to your nails, which then can be shaped into coffins, squares, stilettos, or almonds to suit your manicure tastes (more on how that’s achieved ahead). They also create extra surface area to show off color, nail art, or crystals, which is great for people with shorter nails. Another benefit to trying the trend is that you can conceal broken or damaged nails or kick your biting habit by covering your natural nails with acrylics. As with all manicures, it’s important to find a salon that follows sanitary guidelines, and it’s never a bad idea to bring your own tools to ensure you avoid infection.

To find out everything you need to know before making the leap, we reached out to Jenny Bui of Nails on 7th in New York City, aka the queen of acrylics (and Cardi B’s go-to manicurist). Trust us, it’s not as scary as it looks.

What Are Acrylic Nails?

Acrylic is a synthetic material made from polymers of acrylic acid or acrylates; in addition to false nails, acrylic can also be used in fabric. According to Bui, “Acrylic nails are a thin layer of acrylic powder mixed with acrylic liquid, applied over a plastic nail tip.” Acrylic nails can add length and thickness to a natural nail. They’re typically more durable than gel nails because the synthetic material they’re made of is much thicker.

How Are Acrylic Nails Applied?

Nails will first be cleaned and buffed, and the cuticles will be trimmed and pushed back. If you have shorter nails and want them lengthened, first your manicurist will adhere a plastic tip to the bottom of the natural nail with glue. The manicurist will then cut it into your desired length, then shape the tip into your favorite shape before applying any acrylic mixture. “Next, the manicurist will dip their brush in acrylic liquid and then dip it into the acrylic powder and let it mix for a second on the brush,” Bui explained. “Then they will place the jelly mixture on the nail and tip, making sure the nail has a slight curve in the very middle.”

The curve is essential to making sure the nail won’t break, because the middle of the nail is a stress point. Once the manicurist has formed the nail, it will take about two minutes to harden.

How Long Does It Take to Get Acrylic Nails Done?

How long acrylic nails takes depends on what you’re getting. If you’re opting for an acrylic set with regular polish, most salons will allot roughly 45 minutes to an hour for completion because you’ll need to dry your nails under a fan. Instead, you can get gel painted over your acrylic nails, which would speed up the process since you wouldn’t need to wait for them to dry, just cure.

How Do You Find a Good Nail Salon For Acrylics?

Eager to finally try out the technique? It’s important to find a salon that’s well-versed in the method. In addition to checking out reviews online, our editor-approved list of salons can be found here, but Bui also advises visiting the salon yourself if possible to see how its acrylic artist applies the nails. She stresses the importance of the curve in the middle of the nail: “It’s important to have a good and strong shape to avoid the nails breaking under stress.”

Are Acrylic Nails More Damaging Than Other Manicures?

Bui says the only manicure that isn’t harmful to the nails is no polish at all, but when applied correctly, she thinks acrylics can be even healthier than gel. Since it’s easier to pick at and try to remove gel by yourself than acrylic, you’re less likely to ruin your natural nail underneath.

How Often Do Acrylic Nails Have to Be Filled?

With an experienced nail artist, Bui says, you’ll be able to get your nails filled every two to three weeks, but hers last even longer. “My nail sets last four weeks to a month. Maybe even more if you are delicate with them.” In order to make your set last as long as possible, be careful with them. If you can, wear gloves when cleaning with harsh chemicals, and moisturize your cuticles and nail beds often.

How Do You Remove Acrylic Nails?

You can find our guide for how to safely remove acrylic nails at home here, but Bui says soaking off your acrylics with 100 percent pure acetone is the best way to remove your nails. If you want to be extra careful, we’d recommend going to a salon to get them removed so you don’t damage your natural nail.

Acrylic Nail Inspiration

Ready to book an appointment? Keep scrolling for some celebrity inspiration you can bring with you to the nail salon.

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