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What Are Artificial Toenails?

By Andrea Cross
Updated May 21, 2024
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Artificial toenails are the foot equivalent of false fingernails in that they are fake nails that are applied over the top of real ones. Both women and men use fake toenails for a number of reasons. His or her natural nails may be damaged, misshapen, or missing altogether. While this may not be a concern when the person has socks or shoes on, unsightly nails can be embarrassing when exposed. As toes are commonly uncovered in the warmer months, artificial toenails provide a relatively quick, easy, and even fashionable way to resolve the issue.

Like fingernails, artificial toenails are usually composed of either acrylic or gel. They can be applied at a salon but are also available in home kits that can be readily purchased at the drugstore. The nails can be colored naturally, especially if only one or two are used to supplement the person's own nails, or can be painted and decorated in the same way as fingernails. Many kits even feature nails already painted and decorated.

People adhere acrylic, artificial toenails to the nail or skin with a specially designed glue. Gel nails are usually built up using a liquid gel formula. Both types have to be periodically replaced or filled in because the natural nail underneath continues to grow and creates gaps.

Fungus can often become an issue with artificial toenails. The placement of the nail over the natural one prevents adequate circulation of air. Water can also get underneath gaps in the glue, especially after a few days, allowing mold to grow. Subsequently, acrylic nails should be changed every seven days and left on for ten at the most.

To apply the false nails, the nail technician first removes any nail polish from the natural nails. He or she then softens and pushes back the cuticles as necessary. Once the nails are clean and dry, he or she paints glue onto the natural nail and applies the artificial one by pressing it snugly against the cuticle and down onto the nail surface. The glue is allowed to dry, and then the technician files and shapes the nail before painting it. This process is the same for applying nails from home kits.

To remove artificial toenails, the nail technician trims the nail short then soaks it in a nail remover to soften it and dissolve the glue. He or she then removes the nail and any residue left from the glue. Most home nail kits do not come with a remover included, but one can be purchased at the same time as the nails. Fake toenails should never be peeled or picked off without prior softening as this can damage the natural nail.

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Discussion Comments
By candyquilt — On Mar 27, 2014

I advise everyone to only use artificial toenails in the summer and only if you are wearing open shoes every day.

I had artificial toenails applied during winter for a special event. After the event was over, my feet stayed in closed shoes and the toenails got infected. A terrible odor developed and I realized that it was the artificial nails. It's okay to use artificial toenails in the summer because the toes are always open and getting plenty of air. So bacteria and fungi don't find the opportunity to grow.

By ysmina — On Mar 26, 2014

@bluedolphin-- Unfortunately the self-applied artificial toenails usually don't look natural. There are some better brands out there with artificial nails shaped more closely to natural nails. But if you get the self-stick ones, they never last. You have to buy and apply nail glue in addition.

If you want natural looking artificial toenails, then visit a salon for acrylic or gel nails. If you can just have tips applied instead of the whole nail, those look much more natural. The only downside to this is that it costs much more than self-applied artificial nails and you have to have them refilled after several weeks because a gap forms when the nails grow.

By bluedolphin — On Mar 26, 2014

I used artificial toenail once. I got a set from a beauty store and applied them myself. Unfortunately, they did not look natural at all and fell off very quickly. It was a waste of money.

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