Do Nail Polish Strips Damage Nails?

Nail polish strips are wildly popular because they are simple to apply, there's no mess or dry time, and limitless designs. It might sound too good to be true and leave you a bit skeptical. It might even make you wonder if polish strips damage nails? This is a common question and one that we have researched to find an answer.

Quality brands of nail polish strips are real nail polish, so they are as safe as nail color from a bottle. There should be no damage to healthy nails if applied and removed correctly. However, not all products that resemble nail polish strips are the same.  

Keep reading to find out more information about nail polish strips and other similar products. We will also answer further questions about the duration and removal of nail polish strips.

Removing nail polish using acetone and a piece of cotton, Do Nail Polish Strips Damage Nails?

Are nail strips safe to use?

Nail polish color strips are 100% real polish, so they are no different than regular nail polish. If you have no issues using regular polish, you should not have any issues using nail polish strips. Nail polish strips are easier on your nails than having acrylic nails applied.

Nail polish strips have an adhesive backing, but it shouldn't be a concern for most people. Even the adhesive is gentle, safe, and non-toxic. If ethics and chemicals are a concern, there are brands available that are cruelty-free and 10-free.

A woman showing her gorgeous nail polish work from the salon

If you find that manicures or nail polish cause damage to your nails, then nail strips will probably be no different. To avoid nail damage, use a base coat before applying nail polish strips to add a layer of protection to your nail bed.

When using a nails strip product that isn't 100% nail polish, check your packaging for ingredients and the application process to determine if you feel the product is safe for your nails.

They look the same, but what am I really getting?

It is important to discuss some terminology and note some distinctions. When looking for nail polish strips, you may find the following terms: nail polish strips, nail stickers, nail decals, nail wraps, and sometimes nail art stickers. The terms may be inadvertently interchanged, but there are differences.

Nail Polish Strips

Nail polish strips are pre-fabbed nail-sized fragments of genuine nail polish. Each segment has an adhesive backing that sticks directly to the nail bed. Nail strips come in gel polish or regular polish and are just like their counterpart from the bottle. Only the application process is different.

Nail Polish strips are often referred to by their brand name. Popular brands include Color Street and Deck the Nails.

Nail Strips

This product looks and works the same way as nail polish color strips, but the nail polish is missing. The product is commonly made from polyurethane and coated with a gel coating for a shiny look.

A common brand you might find is Dashing Diva.

Nail Decals

Nail decals are similar to a transfer product used years ago to decorate nails. They are designs on special paper that react to water. Once wet, they can be applied to nails, painted or unpainted, to add a touch of artwork.

Nail Stickers

Nail stickers come in two forms. Some are full nail size color strips in either solid colors or colors and designs intermixed. This product is probably vinyl rather than polish. This is another form of nail strips.

Nail stickers are usually less expensive than polish strips and often can be purchased in large variety sets. While this product may last several days, especially with an added layer of topcoat, don't expect to get the same duration as you with nail polish strips.

Nail art stickers are usually decorative appliques in smaller designs that add embellishment and customization to nail color. Nail art stickers usually have dimensional depth rather than a smooth flat surface like nail color.

Art stickers remove easily, allowing you to change the design as often as you desire. Warm water dissolves the adhesive, so the stickers peel off without damaging the nail color underneath.

Nail Wraps

Nail wrap typically refers to reinforcement products added to nails during a manicure for added strength. Wraps can be made from thin materials like paper, linen, fabric, or fiberglass and seal onto the nail with resin.

However, there are gel wraps that are applied to nails

Yes, the many names and options can be confusing, and it might not even matter to you if pretty nails are your only objective. If having authentic nail polish is important to you, be aware that products may look similar but aren't always the same. When purchasing, be sure to read the packaging or item description to know what you are getting.

Is it bad to peel off nail polish strips?

Top view photo of a woman removing nail polish

Yes, anytime you peel nail polish strips or even regular nail polish from your nails, you are removing layers from your nail bed. If you do this too often, you will damage your nails. You may start seeing your nails split and peel, break or become brittle.

If you are already experiencing nail damage, stop using nail strips until the damage grows out. Use a nail strengthener to help repair the damage. Then use a fortified base coat to strengthen and protect your nail when using nail strips again.

How do you remove nail polish strips?

Nail polish strips are the same as what's in the bottle, so remove them the same way you would remove your regular nail polish. The best method is to use a nail polish remover. Avoid an acetone-based product if your nails are damaged. Soak your nails in nail polish remover or apply it directly using a cotton ball or pad, make-up sponge, or towelette.

Hold the saturated material on the nail for a few seconds to loosen the color. Then rub the nailbed applying gentle pressure, and the color should remove easily. A second round might be needed to clean up any color hanging on.

A woman removing nail polish at the table

Another method is to use nail polish remover clips. Nail polish remover and cotton pads are still needed with this method, but you may save some time and effort. All the nails can soak simultaneously without holding the cotton pad in place.

If you are interested in purchasing a set of nail polish remover clips, consider this 12 piece set from Teenitor.

Find it here on Amazon. 

To watch a tutorial check out this YouTube video.

How long do nail polish strips last?

Since nail polish strips are genuine nail color, expect similar results. If you take great care of them, they can last up to 2 weeks. However, most people report 5-7 days.

To get the best results using nail polish strips, prep your nails like you would when doing a full at-home manicure. Skipping the prep work leaves oil residue and an uneven surface on the nail bed that can keep the polish strips from adhering correctly. Even though some products say they have a base coat and top coat built-in, it is good to use them anyway.

If you are using a product that is not 100% nail polish, the results will vary. Some products will last only a few days before strips start peeling at the tips or come off completely. Higher quality strips claim they will last up to 10 days.

What can you use to strengthen nails?

Damaged nails due to unethical practice of nail polish removal

Sometimes your nails need some extra TLC. Nails become soft and brittle when layers of keratin are diminished. Harsh chemicals, overfiling, and peeling off adhesive remove layers from your nailbed. Hiding damaged nails under fake nails, a manicure, or even nail color seems like a good solution, but it's probably only doing more damage.

Occasionally, give your nails a break and let the damage grow out. Then do your best to protect and strengthen them when you return to your normal routine. According to dermatologists, you can take steps to help strengthen nails, like frequently using hand moisturizer, especially if you frequently use hand sanitizer, avoiding acetone for polish removal, and staying hydrated.

There are prescription products that can strengthen and repair damaged nails, but an over-the-counter product will do the job for most people.

Consider this best-selling professional strengthening cream by Onyx.

Find it on Amazon. 

In Conclusion

Removing nail polish using acetone and a piece of cotton

If you are looking for an alternative to expensive manicures or don't like the mess that can come with nail color in the bottle, nail polish strips may be for you. They are just as safe and won't damage your nails any more than a manicure if you follow the proper steps.

For other nail options, check out this article, "Acrylic Nails: Advantages And Disadvantages."

For more information about nail prep, read "What Can I Use As A Base Coat For Nails?"

One comment

  1. You’re absolutely right that if you try to peel off nail polish strips, you will almost always damage your fingernails. One thing that I’ve found that helps reduce the amount of damage caused by nail strips is how long they have been on your nails. The shorter the amount of time, the less they will be damaged. And this can happen whether you use nail wraps, nail stickers, or nail polish strips. Some people’s fingernails can be more prone to damage than others, so you really have to just learn which nail polish strips are best for you.

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