What Are Acrylic Nail Tips?

Hillary Flynn
Hillary Flynn

Many people like the look of long fingernails, but not everyone can grow long fingernails on their own. When nails are weak or brittle, acrylic nail tips can be attached to the natural nail to create the illusion of longer natural fingernails. Acrylic is a durable plastic that can be formed and molded into different shapes, and the acrylic used for nail tips comes in a couple of different forms.

Acrylic nail tips must be filled in as the acrylic nails grow.
Acrylic nail tips must be filled in as the acrylic nails grow.

Acrylic nail tips, or fake nail tips, are applied by professionals at nail salons or at home. When they are applied by professionals, the acrylic used is a combination of a liquid and powder resin. These substances are mixed together to form a paste and after a nail tip has been glued to the natural nail, the paste is applied on top. The nail technician then smooths the paste and forms it into the most natural looking nail possible. As the acrylic dries, the powder and liquid react by hardening. By the time the resin is completely dry, the tips are strong and durable.

Once the tips have dried they are shaped using a nail file.
Once the tips have dried they are shaped using a nail file.

At one time, the acrylic resin used for nail tips was of the same substance as false teeth. This type is no longer used, however, because many people were found to be allergic to it. Technology has advanced such that several different types of acrylic are now available. After the acrylic nail tips have dried, the nail technician uses a file and buffer to shape the nails even more, and eventually nail polish will be applied with either a regular nail polish brush or an airbrush. Airbrushing is often used to create the look of French tips or to apply a design.

Acrylic tips may be used to create the illusion of longer nails.
Acrylic tips may be used to create the illusion of longer nails.

For those who do not wish to spend the money on a professional tip application, there are also home versions of the acrylic nail tips. Applying the powder and liquid resin mix requires skill, but can still be performed at home. However, most just purchase glue-on nails. These differ from the tips in that they cover the entire nail and are often pre-polished. A strong glue is used to permanently adhere the fake nail to the natural nail, and several sizes come in the kits so that the appropriate size can be used for each person's nail.

Acrylic nail tips must be filled in as the natural nail grows. A new set of tips needn't be applied every time, but every two to three weeks, more of the resin mix will need to be applied to fill in the gaps that will show near the cuticle. At this time, most also get a fresh coat of polish.

The natural nails should be cleaned and prepped prior to adding acrylic nail tips.
The natural nails should be cleaned and prepped prior to adding acrylic nail tips.
Hillary Flynn
Hillary Flynn

Joining the wiseGEEK team has helped to satisfy Hillary’s insatiable curiosity for knowledge. She also manages an electronic publishing business that allows her to develop her skills in technical writing, graphic design, and business development. Hillary has a passion for satirical writing and enjoys traveling, especially to places of historical importance.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


I used to get gel nails instead of acrylic, but they broke off way too easily. Acrylic nail tips are much stronger, and even though they only rest on the ends of my nails, they last a long time.

I’ve never had one break off. I have to handle and lift a lot of boxes at work, and at first, I was reluctant to try acrylic nail tips. I felt certain that they would snag on a box and rip clean off.

Now, acrylic tips are the only kind of artificial nail product I use. I keep getting the cuticle area filled in as they grow, and I keep the tips for as long as possible before having new ones put on.


@StarJo - It would look cool, but I think it looks even cooler to sport tips only. This is especially true if they are wild looking!

I like to have my manicurist apply glitter acrylic nail tips. I tried to paint my tips at home with glitter polish, but it was meant to be used as a frost over another color, so it wasn’t bold enough.

My manicurist mixed some loose glitter with the acrylic resin and painted it on for me. The resin was transparent, so all I could see once it dried was the glitter.


I have seen a lot of people wearing colored acrylic nail tips. They keep the rest of their nails a natural color, so I suppose that there must be clear polish involved.

Many cashiers at stores in the mall are getting creative with their nail tips. I saw one lady with black and white diagonal striped nail tips and another with red and black lady bug spotted tips.

While this is a cool trend, I think that it would look even better when paired with a solid color polish on the rest of the nail. For example, wouldn’t lady bug tips look much cooler at the end of a white nail than at the edge of a flesh-colored one?


My best friend works as a nail technician, and I have seen her apply artificial nail tips to customers nails before. I was fascinated by the process, and I had always been curious about how they were applied.

The mixtures she used smelled very strong and a bit unpleasant, but my curiosity prompted me to remain in the room. When she first stuck the tips onto the nails, I began to wonder how she would ever be able to make them look like they belonged there. They looked so fake!

She painted right over the nail and the tip, and as the process progressed, the tips began to look like they really grew out of this person’s fingernails. This is a pretty cool solution for people who have trouble growing long nails.

Post your comments
Forgot password?