Beauty

ManiMe’s stick-on gel nails replaced my professional manicure

There’s no going back now.

On the left: The author's hand with the Es-cape Verde Mani-Me set applied to the nails. On the right: Two sets of ManiMe nails lay on a wooden table with a hand lotion and sanitizer from the brand on either side of them. Credit: Reviewed / Stephanie Kaloi

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Like many others, I had to let go of my weekly manicure habit when the pandemic began. I understood why it was no longer safe to spend 45 minutes inside my neighborhood salon to have my nails attended to by someone who knows what they’re doing, but I was still disappointed to see one of my favorite weekly rituals end.

My manicures were pretty standard. I’m a fan of gel polish, and I like to try bright colors on my nails—fiery reds, deep fuchsias, ocean-blue teals—that I don’t typically wear in my clothing. My nails have become a way to express a brighter side of myself without being overwhelming. So with my fingers being a style point for me, I was eager to try ManiMe and contacted the brand about trying out its press-on gel nails, that are supposedly custom-fit to your fingernails. As ManiMe’s designs look absolutely gorgeous online, I couldn't wait to get my hands on (under?) them.

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Why did I try ManiMe?

ManiMeKit
Credit: Reviewed / Stephanie Kaloi

ManiMe sets include your custom-fit gel nails.

I started looking into grooming my own nails last year when I realized my cuticles were overgrown and I wasn’t sure how to shape my fingernails on my own. I tried a couple at-home press-on nails from drugstore brand Kiss—the Acrylic French Nude set and the Gel Fantasy set—but both popped off my fingers with very little if any stress. I experimented with Rave Nailz and loved its Celestial Nails set, but found it difficult to type while wearing them. Then, I learned more about nail glue and was aghast to find out how damaging it can be on your nails.

So when I had the opportunity to try on ManiMe’s stick-on gel nails, I went for it. After my trials and tribulations with glue and acrylics, I thought stick-on nails may give my damaged fingernails a break and that I may even enjoy the application and wear experience more.

What does ManiMe claim?

Nails
Credit: Reviewed / Stephanie Kaloi

Even after several swims in the pool, the ManiMe nails lasted seven full days.

ManiMe claims that its stick-on nails are better than the falsies of yesteryear because its designs are custom-fit, using "3D technology" that allows customers to scan photos of their own nails. The ManiMe nails can last up to 14 days, which is much longer than regular polish and about the same longevity of a salon gel manicure. ManiMe is not reusable, as the product applies like flexible stickers rather than firm pieces of plastic like other fake nails. The company says you can have your fresh mani in only a few minutes and without the need for a UV light to set them.

ManiMe says that the gels are "cruelty-free" (backed by the Leaping Bunny Certified seal) and free of 10 controversial ingredients: formaldehyde, DBP (dibutyl phthalate), toluene, camphor, formaldehyde resin, xylene, fragrances, parabens, ethyl tosylamide, and phthalates.

How does ManiMe work?

BerryCompote
Credit: Reviewed / Stephanie Kaloi

Application only takes a few minutes with ManiMe's stick-on nails.

Sizing my nails seemed daunting at first—I was skeptical that a few photos of my nails sent over the internet would be effective for creating a custom fit. But lo and behold, it was. After setting up my account, I took a quiz and followed the prompts for each photo requested. You only need to snap a few photos of your hands from above and your fingernails from in front while holding a standard-sized plastic credit card. From there, you pick out your nail designs. In this case, customized means that the sticker will overlay your natural nails, in terms of size and shape—ManiMe doesn't add length, like acrylic nails do, though there will be some excess to fold over and file off at the tips.

ManiMe offered to send me two sets, and I spent a long time exploring my options. I settled on Es-cape Verde and Berry Compote. I knew I wanted to try the part-translucent-part-colorful Es-cape Verde set as soon as I laid eyes on it. I then chose Berry Compote because I wanted to try a set that offered more opaque coverage—the design only has a small translucent strip running through the bold pink pattern.

What is it like to apply ManiMe nails?

Application
Credit: Reviewed / Stephanie Kaloi

ManiMe offers custom-fit nails, but you'll need to trim the ends.

I’ll be honest: When I first received my shipment, I was so excited that I opened up the Berry Compote nails, hastily read through the instructions printed on the box, and applied them straight away with minimal prep. I recommend you avoid making this mistake and take time to read ManiMe’s How To Apply section on its site. I did the intuitive steps correctly, like wiping my nails with the prep pad and folding over the excess gel material before filing them down to fit the length of my nail. But there are other recommendations I skipped. As a result, my nails looked amazing… for about a day. I was disappointed and almost wrote off the entire experience before I decided to look at ManiMe’s site and make sure I didn’t miss something. In short: I did.

I waited a few weeks before applying my Es-cape Verde set, as most of this set’s design is transparent and my nails were still recovering from an experiment with at-home acrylics prior to ManiMe. It was a little torturous to wait because I was (and still am) so in love with the look it offers. I adore a sheer matte layer on the nails, and the colorful design at the cuticles delighted me. This time, I knew better than to rush the application process, and I made sure to follow each step as laid out by ManiMe.

To apply your manicure, you first need to prep your nails, first by washing and drying them, and gently pushing back your cuticles with a wooden orange stick or metal cuticle pusher. ManiMe nail kits include a pad that you swipe over each nail to buff and smooth the surface. From there, you peel off your gel stick-ons one at a time and line each one up with your nail bed. You’ll want to make sure you leave a small gap between your stick-on and your cuticle, or you risk the nail curling up at the lower edge after application.

Once the stick-on gel is on your nail, you smooth it out with your fingers, fold the excess over the tip of your nail, and then wait at least 30 seconds before you file it off. The ManiMe kits also include a small file that helps with this, but I found it useful to trim the excess with scissors or nail clippers before filing. Apply a top coat (not included, though ManiMe sells one), and you’re done!

Did ManiMe do what it claims?

Mani
Credit: Reviewed / Stephanie Kaloi

ManiMe offers dozens of designs and colors.

After following the instructions, my manicure looked significantly better and lasted much longer. I went swimming multiple times, showered every day, and lived my life the way I always do (read: not easy on my hands) without the nail stickers showing any damage for about a week before the corners began peeling. This may seem like a short amount of time if you’re used to gel manicures that stay on the nails for two to three weeks. However, I was swimming laps twice a day while wearing the nails and showering after each swim, so it’s a win in my book.

While I didn’t get to enjoy my manicure for the full 14 days that ManiMe claims is possible, I was completely thrilled by it each and every one of those seven days that they looked great.

Is ManiMe worth it?

Es-capeVerde
Credit: Reviewed / Stephanie Kaloi

ManiMe sets come with a prep pad and nail file for application.

When I go to a nail salon, I spend between $20 and $40 on the experience, depending on what kind of manicure I’m getting and what salon I’m getting it at. ManiMe’s stick-on gel nail sets cost $15 to $25 depending on the design, with solid colors on the less expensive side and intricate designs costing more. You can apply them in the comfort of your own home around your own schedule. If you love nail designs and changing your nails to match your style, ManiMe is a dream come true.

ManiMe is 100% worth it, especially if you’re willing to be patient and take your time during application. To say I was thrilled with my sets is an understatement. In fact, I may have made it a point to flash my nails at any and every available opportunity—using my debit card to buy something, picking up my phone, and pressing the button on the elevator in my building, to name a few. In fact, I don’t see myself rushing back to a nail salon any time soon—I’m already on ManiMe’s site looking for my next set right now.

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