Nail Extensions: Celebrity Nail Artists Explain Nail Extension

Nail Extensions: Celebrity Nail Artists Explain Nail Extension featured image
This article first appeared in the Winter 2022 issue of New Beauty. Click here to subscribe

Celebrity nail artists sound off on the best of the best in today’s world of trending nail extensions. This is everything you need to know about extensions, including the latest in nail techniques, how to achieve length and the trending shapes. Learn how to shape your nail extensions, keep your nail bed healthy and how to perfect all types of nail extensions.

Acrylic Nail Extensions

If you’re looking for strong, long-lasting nails, acrylic nail extensions are crying your name. While it’s possible to do your own acrylics, it’s likely you’ll see a nail tech to get the perfect shape, style and size. Your nail tech should take extra steps to protect your nails and nail bed, as rough treatment or inadequate protection can lead to weak nails prone to breakage.

Instagram: tombachik

What it entails:
According to celebrity manicurist Mar y Sol Inzerillo—her clients include Oprah and Angelina Jolie—acrylic nails are made using a liquid monomer and powder polymer thatare applied to the nail using a Kolinsky brush. “Once combined, small beads are applied on the nail, nail tip or form, and then sculpted into a preferred shape.”

Who it’s for:
Lauren London’s nail artist, Jenny Bui, says acrylic nails stand the test of time. “These nails ensure perfect structure and are resistant against breakage,” she says. If you prefer thick, sturdy nails, these are the ones for you

Artist’s tip:
”Acrylic nails last virtually forever if you get them filled,” says Selena Gomez’s nail guru Tom Bachik.

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Aprés Gel-X Extensions

Essentially the gold standard of at-home soft gel extensions, which can be soaked off with acetone. Durable, but easy to use, aprés gel is a creative entry into nail art you can make at home, as the extension kit comes with everything you need, including its own bonder, primer and LED curing light. A great way to achieve length and form, these gel extensions put the power in your hands.

Instagram: nailsbymarysoul

What it entails:
“Gel-X is also known as soft gel tips,” says Bachik. “The client chooses from a selection of pre-made tips. Generally, a soft gel will be applied to the underside of the nail, pressed to the natural nail and then cured with UV light. This adheres the tip to the natural nail. When cured, the nail is filed into the desired shape and length.”

Who it’s for:
Julie Kandalec, who’s created many looks on Jessica Chastain, says this extension is best for those who want shape and strength in one step. “These tips come in many lengths and sizes, like long, square, short, and even intricate cutouts.”

Artist’s tip:
“This method cuts nail service time in half,” says Megan Fox’s manicurist Brittney Boyce.

Plexigel Extensions

Made to shape and lengthen nails without damage, Plexigel is a semi-hard, long lasting gel extension that can also be used to fix cracks and repair broken nails. Established as a good-for-your-nails option, these extensions are best handled by professional nail technicians, including for removal. Another kind of nail gel, Plexigel last around three weeks and tend to be more durable than soft gel nails.

Instagram: julieknailsnyc

What it entails:
“CND Plexigel consists of two gel products called Shaper and Builder,” says Kandalec. “Shaper repairs cracks while Builder sculpts and builds. Both are brushed onto the nail, and then another bead of product is dropped onto the center of the nail to create a stronger shape. It settles before curing for a glossy extension.”

Who it’s for:
Best for those who struggle keeping nail enhancements on and want more strength than a gel manicure, “Plexigel nails apply clear, so they’re great for nail art,” Kandalec says. “Plus, they’re ideal for anyone who dislikes the smell of acrylic.”

Artist’s tip:
Kandalec says Plexigel should only be removed by a nail professional to avoid excess damage.

Builder Gel Nail Extensions

Less glossy that gel polish, builder gel is a thick gel extension made to create length and thickness to natural nails or extensions. Designed to protect the nails from breakage, this is another long lasting option known for its relatively fast application and natural finish. The curing process is quick, a minimum of 60 seconds for an LED lamp, and the nail extension can be removed by soaking with acetone. Gel nail extensions are clearly currently reigning supreme, and builder gel sets itself apart by offering a much stronger barrier to your nail, helping your nails and nail beds thrive.

Instagram: nails_of_la

What it entails:
“ORLY Builder Gel is a sculpting gel that’s easy to apply,” says Boyce, adding that these extensions are her favorite to use. “The formula comes in both a clear and concealer shade and applies like a soft gel, but wears like a hard gel. It also has a self-leveling formula that’s not sticky or messy and can be easily removed by soaking in acetone.”

Who it’s for:
There are two versions of this extension: clear and concealer. Boyce says, “Use the clear version to make the perfect set of glass nails or the new concealer for a flawless set of milky coverage that looks amazing on any skin tone, light or dark.”

Artist’s tip:
According to Boyce, these extensions can be built out with help from perfect forms or fast forms.

Press On Nails

Cheap and easy to do at home, press-on nails are your quick fix for gorgeous nails. Where they’re light on the durability side, these nail extensions are quick to apply and easy accomplish yourself. Ubiquitous nail art makes these extensions easily attainable and fun, with a variety of every size, shape and form you can imagine. Nail art products are inexpensive, so if you’re unbothered by the shorter lifespan, this is definitely the way to go for your nails.

Instagram: chillhouse

What it entails:
“Press-on nail tips come pre-painted and ready to be shaped with a nail file to attain a perfect fit to the cuticle,” says Kandelac. Unlike the flimsy, low-quality press-ons popular in the ‘80s, “today’s are durable and can be applied with either double-stick tape for temporary wear—one to four days—or nail glue for up to two weeks.”

Who it’s for:
If you’re short on time or don’t have the patience for a manicure, press-ons may be your best bet. “Today, press-ons are very comparable to gel extensions, but at a fraction of the cost, and they only take 10 minutes to apply,” explains Boyce.

Artist’s tip:
“Press-on nails that are made with a hard gel may last longer than others,” says Inzerillo.

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