Nail art stickers, also known as nail wraps or manicure decals, allow you to instantly jazz up your nails with fun patterns and designs. But could these trendy nail overlays actually damage your nails? Let’s take a closer look.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Using nail stickers occasionally is fine, but wearing them for weeks at a time can weaken nails, cause damage, and increase infection risk. Give your nails a break in between sticker manicures.
In this comprehensive article, we’ll cover topics like the pros and cons of nail stickers, their safety for long wear, potential risks and side effects, tips for protecting your nails with stickers, and alternatives for safe nail art.
What Are Nail Stickers and How Do They Work?
Nail Sticker Basics
Nail stickers, also known as nail wraps or nail decals, are pre-designed nail coverings that adhere to the nail for easy application without the need for polish or glue. They come in different shapes, sizes, and designs to fit each nail and can last up to 10-14 days on the nails before needing replacement (1).
Nail stickers are flexible, thin nail coverings made from layers of plastic, fiberglass, or silk woven fabric. The underside is coated with a mild adhesive to stick to the nail surface.
Types of Nail Stickers
There are a few main types of nail stickers (2):
- Full Nail Covers: These cover the entire nail in a solid design or color.
- Accent Nail Stickers: Smaller stickers meant for one feature nail.
- French Manicure Stickers: Transparent stickers with white French tips.
- Patterned and Detailed Stickers: Unique prints, shapes, glitter, rhinestones, etc.
- Gel-Like Stickers: Thicker, more durable stickers that mimic a gel manicure.
Nail stickers come in different finishes like glossy, matte, or textured. There are endless design possibilities, like floral patterns, abstract shapes, scenic depictions, sparkles, marble, and more. Many brands also offer limited edition collections based on trends, seasons, or collaborations with celebrities or brands (3).
Application and Removal Process
Applying nail stickers involves a few simple steps (4):
- Prepare nails by cleaning and buffing to create a smooth surface.
- Size and place stickers on each nail, removing any excess material.
- Press stickers firmly onto the nail plate to secure adhesion.
- File edges smooth and use a top coat sealant to lock them in place.
Nail stickers can be easily removed by soaking fingers in warm water or oil for 5-10 minutes. Slowly peel or roll stickers off from the edge. Use acetone or nail polish remover to clean any remaining adhesive. Gentle buffing can also help remove residue.
It’s important not to pull stickers off forcefully to avoid nail damage.
Compared to polish, nail stickers are mess-free and easy to apply for flawless nails in minutes. Their designs remove the need for skilled nail art abilities. Just stick, file, and seal for picture-perfect nails!
With proper application and removal, stickers shouldn’t damage the nails or cause peeling and can allow them to naturally grow out (5).
The Pros and Cons of Using Nail Stickers
Benefits of Nail Stickers
Nail stickers offer several advantages over traditional nail polish (😍). Here are some of the main benefits of using nail stickers:
- They are very easy and quick to apply. Just peel off the sticker backing and place it on your nail. No need for multiple coats of polish or waiting for it to dry!
- Nail stickers come in endless fun patterns, designs, and colors. You can find stickers with sparkles, glitter, flowers, abstract prints, and more. Way more variety than regular nail polish options.
- The designs last longer without chipping or peeling compared to regular nail polish. Most nail stickers can last up to 10-14 days on the nails.
- There’s no mess involved! No smudges or spills like with regular nail polish. Just stick them on cleanly.
- Nail stickers are inexpensive, usually only a few dollars for a whole set. Much cheaper than getting regular manicures.
Downsides of Nail Stickers
While nail stickers have their benefits, there are some potential downsides to consider as well:
- The stickers don’t always adhere well, especially if you have oily nail beds. They may peel off quickly.
- They can damage the nail bed if you remove them improperly, pulling off layers of your actual nail.
- The stickers are not customizable for shape and size. You have to file your nails to fit the stickers rather than vice versa.
- Some people find that nail stickers feel thicker and more fake looking on the nails compared to real polish.
- You still have to prep and file your nails beforehand to apply stickers smoothly.
- The glue from the stickers can be difficult to fully remove from nails.
Are Nail Stickers Safe for Long-Term Wear?
Risk of Damage to Nails and Cuticles
Prolonged use of nail stickers can pose some risks to the health of your natural nails and cuticles. The adhesives used on nail stickers, especially cheaper varieties, can be harsh chemicals that may strip the natural oils from your nails and cuticles.
This leaves them dry, brittle, and prone to peeling, cracking, and breakage over time with repeated use according to dermatologists from the prestigious American Academy of Dermatology.
If you want to wear nail stickers frequently or for weeks at a time, experts recommend using gentle, non-toxic adhesives and allowing your nails some sticker-free days here and there. Take the stickers off gently without pulling to avoid ripping the nail layers underneath.
Apply nourishing cuticle oil daily while giving your nails intermittent breaks from adhesives.
Infection Risk from Trapped Bacteria and Moisture
Since nail stickers fully seal off the nail plate, they can create a warm, moist environment underneath that allows microbes to thrive. Bacteria and fungus can build up under stickers, increasing infection risks substantially according to a study in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology.
Using stickers too long without letting nails breathe may lead to conditions like paronychia (acute nail fold infection).
|Fungal nail infections from artificial nails after 6 months
|22% to 32%
|Bacterial nail infections from artificial nails after 3 weeks
|Up to 81%
That is why experts caution against keeping any type of artificial nails, stickers, tips, acrylics or gels on for more than 2-4 weeks at a time without a break. Allow nails to breathe overnight or for a few days to prevent microbial buildup before reapplying stickers.
Impact on Nail Growth and Health
The adhesives and occlusion from nail stickers may also impact the rate at which your natural nails grow. A study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that acrylic nails reduced natural nail growth by nearly 50%!
Although less dramatic, the effects of stickers sealing the nail plate may impede healthy nail growth to some degree as well over time.
Plus, you cannot properly monitor nail health with stickers covering them. Subtle changes in nail color, thickness, or texture indicating problems may be obscured. As such, the American Academy of Dermatology suggests removing stickers and all artificial nails routinely every few weeks for examination of your natural nails underneath.
Tips for Protecting Your Nails with Stickers
Let Your Nails Breathe In Between Manicures
Giving your nails a break between manicures is crucial for nail health. Nail experts recommend allowing 1-2 weeks between manicures to allow the nails to recover from repeated filing, buffing, and exposure to polish and removers.
This “breathing period” enables moisture and oils to return to the nail plate. Skipping this vital rejuvenation time can lead to dry, brittle nails that peel and break easily.
If you simply must have polished nails at all times, consider using nail stickers or wraps during your nail “vacation.” These allow the nails to be bare underneath, while still providing a polished look on top. Look for nail stickers made of breathable materials like vinyl.
Avoid wearing the stickers for more than 3-4 days at a time, and never apply them on already damaged nails.
Apply and Remove Properly to Avoid Damage
Nail stickers can damage the nails if applied and removed improperly. To avoid peeling and breakage:
- Always file and buff the nails first to create a smooth surface.
- Avoid pulling stickers off forcefully – the tugging can rip layers of nail plate off.
- Use an oil-based remover to gently melt the adhesive before slowly peeling off.
- Never pick at lifting edges, which can lead to splits and cracks.
Soaking fingers in oil-infused water can make the stickers slide right off. Rubbing the stickers with an oil-soaked cotton ball is another easy remover trick. Take your time removing stickers to keep the nail plate intact.
Don’t Pick at Lifting Edges
Once applied, the edges of nail stickers may sometimes lift or peel up on their own. The temptation is to pick and peel at them, but this should always be avoided. Picking causes additional lifting, splits and chips in the nail plate underneath.
Plus, it exposes more nail area to air and moisture loss.
If a sticker edge lifts, try this first:
- Wash and thoroughly dry your hands.
- Apply a tiny drop of clear nail glue or top coat under the lifted edge, then hold it down for 30 seconds.
If the lifting persists, carefully trim the sticker edge with cuticle scissors. Finish by sealing the exposed edge with a top coat. This avoids having to peel off the entire sticker before it’s time. Skipping the temptation to pick preserves your beautiful nails!
Nail Sticker Alternatives for Safe Nail Art
Nail polish is often considered one of the safest options for decorating nails. Traditional nail polishes are made from relatively harmless ingredients like nitrocellulose, toluene, and formaldehyde resin. Using regular nail polish allows you to frequently change colors without damaging the nails.
However, certain polishes like gel polish require some caution. According to WebMD, gel polish can weaken nails if not properly removed. Overall, nail polish lets you explore your creativity safely!
Pre-designed nail wraps offer effortless nail art minus the mess of gluing on tiny decals. Nail wraps stick to nails temporarily without any harsh chemicals. Not only are they mess-free, but also last longer than regular polish. However, nail wraps should not be worn for more than a week at a time.
According to nail care experts, the adhesive can weaken nails if left on too long. When used properly, wraps make stunning manicures a breeze!
Gel manicures have exploded in popularity for their extended wear and ultra-glossy finish. However, concerns over UV lamp safety and potential nail damage has many searching for alternatives. Indeed, gels require meticulous removal to avoid taking layers of natural nails with them.
According to Nails Magazine, gels also increase the risk of fungal infections if water gets trapped under lifts or cracks in the polish. Still, occasional gel manicures pose little risk for most people when applied and removed properly.
Nail Art Pens and Decals
For quick, creative touches without chemicals, nail art pens and reusable decals offer a flexible DIY approach. Pens allow you to hand-paint intricate designs for a customizable manicure that takes minutes.
Meanwhile, decals like stick-on swarovski crystals, charms, and shapes offer sparkly embellishments without drilling into nails. As Dr. Adigun notes, occasional use of nail pens and decals is low risk.
Just listen to your nails and avoid overuse if they start to feel thin or show other signs of damage.
|Nail Art Type
|Things to Watch For
|Avoid gel polish without proper removal
|Don’t overwear wraps
|Risk of infection if applied/removed improperly
|Nail Art Pens & Decals
|Potential damage if overused
While the occasional use of nail stickers is fine, keeping them on for extended periods can increase the risk of damage, infection, and other nail health issues. Give your natural nails a break in between sticker manicures.
And when you do use stickers, let the adhesive fully dry, avoid picking at lifting edges, and gently roll back the stickers during removal.
With smart use and proper nail care, it’s possible to balance trendy nail sticker looks with healthy, strong nails. But if you find stickers too high-maintenance for regular use, safer DIY nail art options like polish, pens, and wraps can allow for creative expression without compromising the health of your natural nails.