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How do you use nail strips step by step?

Nail strips, also known as nail wraps or manicure stickers, allow you to get a salon-quality manicure at home. They come in a variety of patterns and designs that you simply stick onto your nails for an instant upgrade. Using nail strips is an easy process that anyone can do with some practice. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to properly apply nail strips for beautiful results.

Step 1: Prep Your Nails

The first step when using nail strips is prepping your natural nails. Start by filing and shaping your nails into your desired length and shape. Use a nail file to smooth out any rough edges. Push back and trim any cuticles so they won’t get in the way later.

Use a nail buffer block to gently buff the surface of each nail to remove any shine or oils. This helps the nail strips adhere better. You can also use a dehydrator like alcohol to further remove oils.

Finish prepping by cleaning nails with soap and water or a nail polish remover. Your nails should now have a clean, matte surface for applying the strips.

Step 2: Find Your Nail Strip Size

Nail strips come in a variety of sizes to fit different nail lengths and shapes. You want to find the size that best matches your nail width and length for the most seamless application.

Most kits will include size guide stickers to help you determine the right fit. Place these next to your nails to see which number matches closest. If your nails fall between two sizes, size up for the best coverage.

Another option is to measure your nail width with a ruler or tape measure. Refer to the nail strip brand’s sizing chart online to find your size based on your width. For example, Color Street strips come in these general sizing ranges:

Size Nail Width
XSmall Less than 1.5 cm
Small 1.5 – 1.7 cm
Medium 1.8 – 2 cm
Large 2.1 – 2.2 cm
XLarge 2.3+ cm

Once you know your size, you can select the right nail strips before starting your manicure.

Step 3: Apply Base Coat

Applying a base coat helps the nail strips last longer on your nails. Use a basic nail polish base coat and apply a thin, even layer on each nail. Let the base coat dry completely before moving onto the next step. This usually takes 2-3 minutes.

Step 4: Remove Nail Strip Backing

Nail strips have a clear plastic backing that keeps them adhered to the packaging. Peel this backing off slowly and gently to remove the strip.

Some brands may have two layers of backing – a top plastic layer and a bottom paper layer. Remove both completely before applying the strip.

Be careful not to stretch or warp the strip as you remove the backing. Work slowly and use a gentle touch.

Step 5: Apply Strip to Nail

Once the backing is removed, it’s time to adhere the nail strip to your nail. There are a few techniques you can use:

  • Place one end of the strip on your nail near the cuticle. Gently press down. Then slowly lower the rest of the strip onto your nail, pressing as you go.
  • Pick up the strip with tweezers in the center. Place it in the center of your nail and press down. Smooth the sides towards your cuticles and tip.
  • If the strip is curled, gently peel it off with tweezers as you stick it to your nail. Apply pressure as you smooth to prevent air bubbles.

Make sure to press the strip firmly, especially around the edges near your cuticles. This ensures it adheres properly and prevents lifting or peeling.

If you notice any bubbles or lifted edges, gently press them down again. You can use a smoother tool like a silicone brush or an orangewood stick to help adhere the strips smoothly.

Complete this process on all nails until they are fully covered with your patterned nail strips.

Step 6: File Excess Strip

There will likely be some overhang around the tips and sides of your nails after applying the strips. This is normal.

Use a nail file to gently file off any excess strip hanging off your nails. File in one direction, moving from the side of your nail towards the tip. Avoid sawing back and forth as this can weaken the strip.

Be careful not to file too aggressively and damage the design. Take your time filing for a smooth application.

Step 7: Apply Top Coat

Applying a quality top coat helps seal in your design and creates a smooth, glossy finish. It also helps the strips last longer without peeling or cracking.

Work quickly and carefully when applying top coat over the nail strips. Use thin, even strokes to fully cover each nail from base to tip.

Let the top coat dry completely before moving on. This protects the design while drying. Avoid smudging for 1-2 minutes while it sets.

Step 8: Apply Cuticle Oil

Your final step is applying cuticle oil around the nail and cuticle area. The oil hydrates the skin and nails, preventing hangnails or dryness from the polish. Gently massage in a drop of oil around each nail for healthy results.

Caring for Your Strip Manicure

To make your nail strips last as long as possible:

  • Use a top coat designed for longevity and protection.
  • Avoid picking at the strips, which can cause them to lift or peel.
  • Use nail oil daily to condition the nails and cuticles underneath.
  • Gently file off any tip wear instead of peeling or picking.
  • Keep nails short to prevent excessive pressure and lifting.
  • Go easy on household chemicals and water to prevent damage.

With proper care, a set of nail strips can last up to two weeks without touch-ups. Replace individual strips as needed when they start to lift at the edges.

Removing Nail Strips

When it’s time for removal, do not peel off the strips. This can damage your natural nails.

Instead, use a cotton pad soaked in 100% acetone nail polish remover. Gently hold the cotton pad over each nail for 10-15 seconds until the strip starts to slide off. Then gently roll or push the strip off your nail.

The acetone helps dissolve the adhesive so the strips come off cleanly. Continue until all remaining traces are removed from your nails.

Follow up by applying cuticle oil and hydrating your nails.


With these steps, you can easily apply nail strips for beautiful, salon-worthy nails at home. From proper sizing and application to filing, top coat, and removal, following this technique helps ensure long-lasting, fashionable results.

It does take some practice getting used to manipulating the small stickers. Work slowly and gently to avoid damage. Be patient with yourself as you improve your application technique over time.

With a wide selection of colors, patterns, and designs available, nail strips make it fun and easy to change up your manicure. They are affordable, accessible, and can provide designer nail looks in minutes. Give them a try for your next nail art look!