For people who prefer the look of artificial nails to their own natural nails, there are several types of artificial fingernails available, most at your neighborhood nail salon. The four most common types of artificial fingernails are acrylic, gel, sculptured, and wrap nails.
Acrylic nails are one of the most popular type of artificial fingernail and is used as either a nail tip, or a whole nail overlay. These artificial fingernails are created by combining a powdered acrylic product, called a polymer, with a liquid acrylic product, called a monomer. An acrylic brush is used to apply the mixture to the natural fingernail, where it hardens within a few minutes. Acrylic nails are typically the strongest, thickest, and most durable of the artificial fingernails. While acrylic nails are not known for their natural look, acrylic nails that are incorrectly applied can look even less natural.
Gel nails are made with a light cured or UV gel consisting of pre-mixed polymers and monomers. This special gel is first brushed onto the surface of the natural nail, then is set, or cured, under an ultraviolet light. No-light gels, an alternative to the light cured gel, are slowly gaining in popularity. These gel nails are cured by brushing or spraying a gel activator onto the nails or by dipping the fingernails into water. Gel nails can be used over the entire nail and can also be used to fix split or broken nails. Artificial fingernails made from gel tend to look more natural than acrylic nails, but are not as strong or durable. Additionally, if they are not applied by a qualified professional, they may be hard to remove, resulting in damage to your natural nails.
Sculptured nails are another popular type of artificial fingernail. These are applied to the natural fingernail with an acrylic or a fiberglass gel, and lengthened and sculpted over a metal or foil form to produce the desired shape and length. Sculptured nails generally last longer than other types of artificial fingernails, but must be filled in on a regular basis in order to maintain a natural appearance.
Wrap nails are small, thin pieces of silk, fiberglass, paper or linen that have been cut to a desired shape and glued or bonded to the surface of the natural fingernail. Because wraps are the softest of the artificial fingernails, they are also the least durable. However, because they are so thin, smooth, and lightweight, wraps are usually considered to be the most natural looking of all the artificial fingernails.
Although artificial nails tend to look and wear better than natural nails, they require a lot of maintenance. It is preferable to use trained and licensed professionals to ensure that they are using safe products, and sanitized tools to avoid damage to your natural nails and fungal or bacterial infections. The chemicals and materials used to make and adhere artificial nails can cause allergic reactions in some, so be sure to check if you have any allergies before getting your nails done.