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Your ultimate guide to applying and maintaining acrylic nails at home

Acrylic nails are fun, fearless and allow your manicure to last weeks on end with no signs of chipping or breaking - and when there's nail art involved, longevity is key. And with celebrities like Khloe Kardashian and Kylie Jenner rarely seen without their signature coffin-shaped nails, there's a constant stream of inspiration.

But what exactly are acrylic nails? What are they made of? Does regular wear damage the nail? How much longer do acrylics last compared to a regular nail polish? And most importantly for anyone whose acrylics are starting to grow out and can't get to a salon to have them removed, how do you safely get them off at home?

We grilled Sherrille Riley, founder of Nails & Brows, to answer our questions about all things acrylics...

What are acrylic nails?

Acrylic nails are artificial nail extensions made of acrylic plastic, placed over your natural nails. This can be done to match the nail shape or to extend the nail length. They are perfect for people who want the look of long nails but have trouble growing out their own nails or have weak nails that break easily.

It's easy to get confused between acrylics and hard gels, especially since more and more salons are offering both. The two share a lot in common - both are part of the acrylic family, last for weeks on end and can be used to add length to nails. The difference lies in the type of plastic they're made of.

If you want extra length, the nail technician may glue a "tip" to the end of your nail bed, and apply acrylic gel over the top. Another technique for adding length is to use a "form", which is like a little piece of card that the technician builds the nail tip around, and which is removed after the formula has set.

How do you apply acrylic nails?

A mixture of liquid and powder is used to create a hard protective layer on the natural nails to make them look longer and stronger.

How long you can keep acrylic nails on?

Acrylic can be worn for a long period of time as long as you get infills every 2-3 weeks. "I’d suggest a complete soak off every three months so that natural nails can breathe. Your natural nails can also be treated to a course of repairing IBX treatments," she said. The innovative treatment fuses the top layers of the nail bed together for improved strength.

How you can you make acrylic nails last longer?

Many people get acrylic nails to have stronger natural nails but Sherrille says they actually weaken and damage natural nails long-term (beware picking off your acrylics!). "To maintain them at home, avoid prolonged exposure to water and wear protective gloves for household cleaning and pot washing," she advises. She also recommends using a good cuticle oil for maintaining a healthy nail bed and cuticles.

Are acrylic nails safe?

While acrylic nail application involves a lot of chemicals, if done safely and with proper ventilation, the process shouldn't pose any risks. As with any beauty procedure, make sure the environment is clean and all the tools have been properly sterilised. The removal process, on the other hand, can cause problems if done incorrectly, including injury to the nail bed and even infections. Proper, gentle removal is key, ideally by a professional nail technician.

How do I remove acrylic nails at home?

Obviously, during the pandemic when salons were closed, it wasn't' always possible to get an appointment to have acrylics removed professionally.

Luckily, there are ways of removing acrylic nails safely at home. Check out our step by step guide to safely removing acrylic nails and keep scrolling to make sure you have all the necessary equipment to not only make the most of your acrylic manicure but also to remove it when the time comes...

This originally appeared on Glamour UK

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