If you've read the title, you should already know what you're getting into, and you only get one warning. I am going to spend a lot of time talking about nail art and there are no apologies.
Still with me? OK!
Like a lot of girls, I enjoy manicures and pedicures, whether I have them done professionally or do them myself at home. Either way, having my nails done well means spending precious time or money. As a stay-at-home-parent, I can't afford much of either, especially when my daily routine is full of housework that quickly chips or breaks nails.
When I found out there were all these great stick-on nail polish wraps that promise to last longer than polish, I fell hard for the marketing. They sound so quick and easy, and the designs are so much cuter than plain polish.
I've used three different popular brands of nail wraps, and discovered they all have their pros and cons. So I decided to document a week with each one for a unscientific comparison.
Before applying each kind of nail wrap, I cleaned my nails, pushed back the cuticles, and did one final swipe with nail polish remover because any oils left on nails can affect how the wraps stick.
Every one of the wraps had to be trimmed to fit my nails. I'm assuming most people would have to do this, as no one has the same size and shape nails. My thumbs are especially hard to fit (you'll see in the pictures) because of a genetic thing that runs on my mom's side. Funny story: in the delivery room after having both kids, The Mister, right after confirming the gender, made sure they had "normal" thumbs. I'm sure the nurses had witnessed just about everything, but I bet they hadn't heard a new dad exclaim about good thumbs before.
I didn't "baby" my nails with any of the nail wraps. I cooked, did dishes and laundry, poked around my garden, gave kids baths, picked up Legos, used lotion; all normal activities.
Essie Sleek Sticks (about $10-10.50 per set)
These were moderately easy to apply. The set of stickers comes on a sheet and I matched up the sizes to my nails. When applied, there's an overhang on the top edge that needs to be filed, and this was hard to get right.
On the first day, the Essie nail wraps started out strong. The particular style I used had a cool texture and were pretty shiny.
After washing and cutting a lot of produce, with my hands in and out of the kitchen sink, I could already see where the edges were starting to pull away.
I'm the type of person who gets bothered by jagged nail edges, and couldn't stop running my thumb over them.
By Day Five, enough was enough. I had quite a bit of chipping and damage to the wraps.
I tried to soak the wraps with nail polish remover to loosen the adhesive.
I ended up just peeling them to get them off, which left a sticky residue.
My nails seemed a little yellowed and damaged after that.
Sally Hanson Salon Effects Real Nail Polish Strips (about $8.50-12.00 per set)
Unlike the other nail wraps, these come in a little sealed packet. There's a reason for this. The Sally Hanson wraps claim to be "real" nail polish. Once the packet is opened, you have maybe a day to use the wraps before they start to dry and become brittle. You can't save the unused portions for another application like you can with the other brands.
These were by far the easiest and fastest to apply. The nail stickers are thin and pliable and seemed to meld right onto my nails. Filing off the excess edge was simple because they are so soft.
I loved how shiny and dark the black ones were. I could never get black polish to look right, so I was happy to get the look I was after.
By Day Two, I was already seeing some chipping. Because they are soft like real polish, they do have a tendency to get nicked and marred easily.
One nice thing was that these nail wraps are so thin, there was no jagged edge, even when it started chipping. I felt like I had nothing on my nails at all.
I had done my toes as well, because the excess wraps couldn't be saved. I was really happy with how well they held up on my toes, and stayed shiny even after continual rubbing on the insides of my shoes.
By Day Four, I was done with these. I'm sure a lighter color would have been more forgiving with the chipping. Taking these off can be done with nail polish remover and a lot of hard rubbing, or you can pick away at them like I ended up doing.
Jamberry Nails ($15 per set)
I resisted these for a long time because I hate any company where there's a party and then you order the product from another person. Also, Jamberry? Am I supposed to want to eat this? But I had to know how these worked, and there was a deal to buy 3 sets, get the 4th free, so I went for it. The best thing about Jamberry Nails is that there are hundreds of designs to choose from, while the other brands have only around 20 at a time, so it was really fun to look at the website and make my order.
The first thing I noticed about these wraps is that they felt thick and plastic-y.
The application process is a lengthy ordeal involving heat. I used my hairdryer to get the nail wrap soft enough to put on my nail.
My weird thumbs gave me a lot of trouble. I could not get the wrap to curve the way my nail curves so there was always a crease at the top edge.
It took a lot more heat, and more pressure, to get that crease smoothed out.
Filing down the excess was tough because the plastic wraps are nearly indestructible. That's a great quality for protecting from chips but it makes application tedious.
Here's Day One of my Jamberry wraps. I loved how gorgeously shiny they were. But you can see how all that creasing at the nail edges came back after I stopped working on it with the hairdryer. It drove me crazy because I couldn't stop touching it.
By Day Five I was done. I filed and re-filed the annoying raised plastic edges that pulled up from each nail. The feel of them on my nails was horrible-- they would snag on on hair and my clothes and made me feel like an outer layer of my real nail was being ripped off. It took a little heat and some slow peeling to get these off. Ironically, another time I tried using these on my toes, several of them fell off by themselves from rubbing inside my shoes.
After this three-week experiment, I don't have a clear favorite. All three brands were relatively close in price. All three showed wear and tear in different ways, but generally needed removing after four or five days. The Sally Hanson wraps definitely felt the most natural on my nails and were the easiest to apply. The Jamberry wraps were uncomfortable and difficult to apply, and I can't see myself ordering more when they other two brands can be bought at any drug store. In fact, I've often found the Sally Hanson and Essie wraps on clearance in drug stores and at Target when they discontinue old styles to make room for new ones.
All three brands left my nails looking brittle and weak. I don't know if that was from the wraps themselves, or picking at them to remove them. I'd be interested in knowing how healthy for your nails these wrap things really are. I can see how they might act as a protective shield from things that normally damage nails, but what's the point if they end up stripping a top layer when they come off.
My final summary: if it's wild and wacky nail art you're after, you probably want Jamberry. If you want something easy and economical, it's best to find a sale on Essie or Sally Hanson in a style or color that is forgiving of flaws.