4 Alternatives To Nail Glue For Your Press-On Mani

Press-on nails, or press-ons, are pre-designed artificial nails you can apply right on top of your natural nails and are usually made of acrylic resin. During the pandemic in 2020, press-on nails saw a heavy boom in use due to movement restrictions leading to the closure of several nail salons (per Axios). Now, press-on nails are still popular in the world of nail care for their convenience and versatility. And they're pretty cost-effective, too.


For many people, nail glue is their go-to adhesive for applying press-on nails. But for some, nail glue can trigger allergies, can be harsh on nails and hard to remove, or are simply messy and difficult to use, especially for beginners (per DermNet). The downsides of nail glue led to the need for alternatives during press-on applications. From nail tabs to a trick that requires nail polish, here are four substitutes to nail glue that are readily available and keep your press-on nails secure on your nail plates.

Nail adhesive tabs are great for your nails

Nail adhesive tabs, or just nail tabs, are essentially double-sided tape that attaches the press-on nails to your natural nails. They usually come in the same pack as your press-on nails but can be bought separately, and they come pre-cut into various nail sizes for your fingers. Nail tabs are gentle on your natural nail and unlike nail glue, you can easily remove them by soaking them in warm soapy water for five minutes (per The Nailest). Because they are easy to remove and separate your actual nail from the press-on, nail tabs ensure your press-on nails can be used several times.


However, nail tabs are nowhere near as strong as nail glue and do not last very long. Most people use nail tabs short-term, maybe for events where you need to get your nails done and will be popping them off a few hours later. To apply nail tabs, you need to prep your nails by filing them and pushing your cuticles back. Buff your nails to allow the nail tab to stick on better, wipe with acetone, and apply one side of the tab to your nail. Peel off the film covering the other side of the tape off the tab, and apply the press-on on top (per Lilium nails).

Use gel polish as nail glue

A DIY manicure trick you may not have known? You can use gel polish as a substitute for nail glue! Gel polish when cured hardens to become an adhesive for your press-on nails on your nail plate. Unlike nail adhesive tabs, gel polish can be just as strong as nail glue and lasts long if properly cured and taken care of. Gel polish however can be tricky and using it as an adhesive depends on the opacity of the press-on used on top of it (per Easy Nail Tech). This is because gel polish needs UV light to cure and harden properly, UV light that cannot penetrate opaque or dark-colored press-ons quite easily. For a well-done press-on manicure, use gel polish only with translucent or transparent press-on nails.


To apply gel polish as a nail adhesive, prep and buff the nail before wiping it with acetone to clean it up (per Traction Beauty). Apply the gel polish onto the nail and cure for 30 seconds, just enough for it to get sticky. Place your press-on nail on the sticky gel polish and cure again for 60 seconds.

Acrylic mixture for a long lasting manicure

Just like gel polish, acrylic mixtures can also be used as a substitute for nail glue. Acrylic mixtures are a mix of liquid acrylic and acrylic powder, which is used to form nails but can be used to adhere press-on nails to natural nails.


The acrylic mixture is similar to gel polish in terms of longevity, as it can last as long as three weeks when the manicure is properly made and maintained. However, it's just as harsh on your nails as nail glue as it can be difficult to remove (per Easy Nail Tech). The acrylic mixture is also not very beginner-friendly and could cost more than the other alternatives, as you need both liquid and powder acrylic to make it work. It can also be quite messy or difficult to apply when you're just starting out. Overall, it's a sturdy alternative for anyone who is allergic to nail glue, but experience with it is definitely a plus.

Make your own nail glue

So, maybe you don't have any options left: your nails are too dark for the gel polish method, you can't find your nail adhesive tabs, and you're not experienced enough to handle the acrylic method. A great alternative is to make your own nail glue. This method is quick and easy, and all you need is a mix of white glue and clear nail polish.


To make your very own bottle of nail glue, get a clean container and fill it up halfway with white PVA glue and then the rest of the way with clear nail polish. To apply to your nails, Salon Quick Fix says to use the trimmed-off end of a cotton swab stick. This alternative does not last long, though; it can come off in less than a day if you're not careful. So, be sure to not use this with the expectation that it won't last as long as the other methods but that it can be great in a pinch.