Traveling always destroys my nails. I never fail to trip over something in an airport, have someone’s rollerbag run over my foot in a train station, snag my nail trying to wrangle my suitcase — you get the picture.
There was so much to do before I left for vacation that I didn’t have time for my usual basecoat-color-two-topcoats of protection. I also didn’t want to cram that many bottles into my ziplock bag. So I decided this was the perfect time to road-test (literally!) Sally Hansen’s new Salon Effects “nail stickers.”
Correct me if you’ve heard differently, but my understanding is that the nail sticker trend started with a company called Minx. They created a thin, heat-set nail appliqué, and the new technology opened the door to all kinds of looks that hadn’t been possible before: truly foil-finish metallics, intricate designs, printed graphics. The word on the street, though, is that Minx is not especially long-lasting. Because it needs heat to set, warmth (like hot water from washing your hair) also causes it to peel.
Minx also attracted a host of do-it-yourself competitors: Incoco (which uses heat from friction to set), Inque (which requires a hairdryer to set; the company also allows you to print your own custom images onto stickers), Sephora-by-OPI’s produced-by-Minx house brand of nail stickers (which also use heat from friction to set). But Sally Hansen’s Salon Effects (a) is available in the drugstore, and (b) doesn’t require any heat at all.
The $8 box contains two foil-sealed packets (each containing 8 nail stickers of various sizes), a nail file with three different grades of grit, a wooden cuticle-pushing stick, and a set of instructions. You will also need a small set of scissors (the smaller/sharper/more precise they are, the better). I also employed my own glass nail file.
- Start with clean, dry nails. The instructions say to buff your nails using the white side of the nail file (to smooth the nail surface), then swab with nail polish remover to remove the nail dust. I skipped both these steps.
- Open one foil package (the stickers start to go bad once they’re exposed to air, so if you don’t use all the stickers, you’ll end up throwing away the extras). Not only are the stickers different sizes, but the free end is narrower than the end attached to the tab.
- Remove the plastic film from the top side of each nail sticker. I strongly recommend doing this first. It’s harder to get the film off after you remove the tab, and if you don’t get it off, the nail sticker won’t curve enough to properly adhere to your nail.
- Trim the stickers to fit your nail. The stickers are long. Long enough that I was easily able to use one sticker for two nails (same nail of the left and right hand). Anything that hangs over the edge of your nail is going to be discarded as waste, so you might as well make the most of each sticker.I also have fairly narrow nails, so the second widest sticker was a good fit for my thumb, and the narrowest was a good fit for my pinky, but the sizes in between were too wide for my other fingers. It’s easy enough to trim the stickers down to the correct width (just make sure the curved part fits the curve of your cuticle). I recommend cutting the sticker in half first, then trimming it to the width of your nail (in case your nails get broader toward the tips).
- Remove the backing of the sticker, and apply to your nail.
- Fold the excess over the edge of your nail, and gently file at the fold in a downward direction. I used my glass nail file for this (not wanting to take too much off the edge of my nails).
All in all, application was fairly easy and the results were quite professional (I only ruined one sticker, my first). The busy pattern was forgiving of my imperfect, cut-using-kitchen-scissors first application attempt, and I had enough material to cover all ten fingers and 5 toes (the widest sticker was such a good match for my big toenail, I decided to go for it) – naturally, results will vary according to your nail size.
The application was entirely dry, though I’d still recommend sitting at a table. The process produced a fair amount waste (pieces of clear film, the backs of the stickers, and the ribbons of excess sticker that I trimmed off).
Because I was using kitchen scissors, my cutting job was far from perfect. On one or two nails, the sticker was too wide, and I ended up with some sticker extending onto my cuticle. I was worried that this excess would cause the sticker to peel up, but it actually behaved a lot like nail polish. Overnight it dried and hardened slightly, so the next day I could fold and break off the offending extra piece for a more perfect looking manicure.
I’ll report back on wear time and the removal process, but so far I’m very impressed with this product. I definitely see myself buying more.
Wear time update: This product lasted 10 days without breaking a sweat (I have two tiny, imperceptible chips, but no one but me knows they’re there). When these stickers start to chip, they seem to chip at the sides, not at the tips like regular nail polish. And with this busy pattern, it’s really imperceptible. Top coat is really not necessary (but — obviously — you can’t pick at your nails).
I took the appliques off my fingers because I’m ready to wear something else, and removal (with an acetone-soaked square of felt) was easy. Given the long wear-time of this product, I’ll probably save it for occasions like travel, when I NEED that indestructibility.