Tutorial: Glass Nails (Without Gel)

There hasn't been a really good and innovative nail trend in a while, so when glass nails emerged out of Korea people naturally tried to join in as fast as possible. I've seen many hits and misses as well as misinformation about how to achieve this look.

So, let's break this look down:
  • They're called glass nails because the cellophane or holographic nail foil used is cut up to look like pieces of broken glass. Remember, real glass is transparent so you shouldn't be using anything that's opaque in nature. If you're using something like shimmery silver paper or gold leaf you won't get the same effect.
  • Also, with this look, the finished nails should be smooth to the touch. Glass pieces shouldn't be sticking off the nail. It doesn't look great and it's scratchy and uncomfortable for the wearer, so the goal is to avoid roughness. When the nails are smooth on the surface the top coat gives it another layer of shine--kind of like how pools sparkle in the sunlight. Remember, this look isn't about glitter, it's about shine!
  • I've also seen people say that you can only use the "glass" pieces with gel nails--FALSE. I haven't used gel for any of my looks. It's not easy, but you can create good looking glass nails without gel.

  1. Cut up your pieces first. Lately I've been using BornPrettyStore.com's Holographic Nail Foil #4 (see bottom of post for a coupon!). Small pieces work best because long pieces have a hard time sitting flat against your curved nail. Most cellophane/holographic foil isn't very flexible either, so err on the side of caution.
  2. Plan on applying the pieces one nail at a time. I knew that I wanted my second coat of polish to be my last before the glass was put on, so I applied one coat to all of my nails at once then started painting my second coat just before I put on the glass pieces. Remember, a thicker coat of polish will be better for holding the pieces.
  3. Right after I paint my final coat of base polish, I start sinking the glass pieces into the polish one-by-one. I use a dotting tool to apply the pieces (wet the end to pick them up) and to push the edges down into the polish. Don't push too hard. Just tap on them until they sink a bit. I would avoid overlapping the pieces.
  4. After adequate drying time, apply a top coat. A thicker one like Seche Vite is better. Now wait.
  5. Your top coat should flatten out a bit and leave some rough edges around the glass. So, add another top coat. It might flatten out again, and that's okay! You may want to wait overnight and add another top coat (or maybe more) until the nails are 98% smooth on top.
  6. Finally, after all of your top coating is done, there may be the occasional sharp point sticking out from the top coat. Use a cuticle cutter stick lightly along the surface of the polish to shave those sharp tips off. Remember, the nails should be 100% dry when you do this or you risk pulling the polish. If you accidentally take a huge chunk off, just add another layer of top coat.
  7. If everything was done correctly, you should have smooth, glossy-looking glass nails!

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