Accessories: Nail Stickers vs. Polish Strips

decorative nails
Nail strips allow you to have a little bit more fun than your solid polish.

Remember when painting all 10 fingers and toes in black nail polish was the hot thing? Trends in nail fashions have come a long way, baby. The expected reds, pinks and taupes have been replaced by all shades of blue, green and yellow, sometimes even worn all at once on alternating fingers. And then there are the designs -- intricate works of art created on a tiny nail scale to add pattern and color. But getting this done at a nail salon can be costly and there's no guarantee it will last very long. Fortunately, manufacturers of nail products have figured out a way to get the same results at home.

No longer do you have to pay upwards of $20 to have your nails perfectly manicured at the nail salon, only to chip one the minute you stick your key in the ignition to head home. Welcome to the new world of DIY manicures, where nail polish comes in prefab sheets and designs arrive on easy-to-apply stickers. Nail stickers have been around for a while, mostly as nail art to apply over your regular polish. Nowadays you can also get them for your whole nail, typically in a fun array of patterns. Polish strips are a newer product on the market that is actually made of real nail polish, and they come in solids and patterns. Read on to learn more about both methods as we explore the pros and cons of each.


Nail Sticker Pros and Cons

Nail stickers mainly function as nail art. You typically buy them in pre-cut sizes that cover your entire nail, or as decals or appliqués that add pattern and design to your existing nail look. One of the great things about nail stickers is that you can achieve intricate and artful details on your nails without paying a nail artist a lot of money to create them. This savings also means that you can afford to change it up more often. Unlike polish strips, some nail stickers have a little dimension to them so the patterns often look like they've been painted on. The decals usually come on clear sheets that let you look at different placements on your nails before peeling them off. The stickers are supposed to be easy to remove, usually just by soaking in warm water and peeling them off -- and the big bonus is they don't damage your nails. They're water resistant and if you use clear polish over them, they'll last a lot longer.

One of the big cons is the sizing and application process. The stickers come in one size fits most and the proportions don't always match up with your nail dimensions, so you may have gaps on the sides. Decals can be tricky to get on just right, especially when working with your non-dominant hand. If you apply stickers near the tips of your nails, they'll chip along with your nail polish, so it's best to keep them on the nail bed. One of the biggest pros is that they're quick and easy, but if you want to add shine that nail polish typically provides, at minimum you'll still have to apply a clear base coat. And while the stickers do come with an adhesive back, it's not meant to be permanent, so if you want them to stay on for a while, you'll also need to add a clear top coat. Neither of these are deal breakers, but they do add a little more time and effort.


Polish Strip Pros and Cons

nail polsih
You may never buy nail polish again.
Polka Dot/Thinkstock

Polish strips are revolutionary products that are designed to make DIY manicures fast and easy. These products boast that they offer a base coat, a color coat and a top coat in one fell swoop. They're made of actual nail polish, so they have the look and shine that we're used to, but they don't have the drying time, chance of smudges and smears, or Q-tip clean up that wet polish requires, and they're just as easy to remove with nail polish remover. Polish strips come in nail shaped appliqués that are different sizes on each end to accommodate different sized nails. Unlike nail stickers, which are fixed widths, polish strips stretch length and width-wise to achieve a better fit. And if you don't get it on the first time, you can remove and reapply them without messing them up. They come in solids as well as patterns so you have lots of color options and are supposed to be durable enough to last up to 10 days.

But what goes up must come down, so as expected, there are some cons to these exciting products, which is mainly the price. They're only about 10 dollars a set, but this is considerably more costly than a bottle of nail polish and you get a lot more than a single application out of that. And just like nail polish, if they're not stored properly, they'll dry out. While they have more give in size than nail stickers, if you have oddly shaped or overly large nails, you may still have a tough time making them fit perfectly. And while they're easy to remove, they may leave your nails feeling a little brittle and rough, much like after you've had polish on for a while. The quality of the product varies among different manufacturers, so you may have to try a few different kinds to find the ones you like best. And beware -- because of their stretchy nature, the patterned designs may not remain consistent within a single nail or from nail to nail.


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