How to apply fake nails without glue

When you buy a set of press-on nails, they usually come with nail glue. Often, you don’t question if there are alternatives to it because why would you? When the big companies say it works, they are mostly right about it. 

But being fond of press-ons and having them frequently means you also recognize that nail glue may not be as gentle to your nails, especially when you are not as patient in removing your fake nails.

It isn’t goodbye yet though. Today you will learn that one step off the big companies’ choice is various other options. More importantly, gentler ones. 

So off you go. There are treasures to find beyond that little Shire of nail glue you have.

How can you stick fake nails on without nail glue

How can you stick fake nails on without nail glue

Working without nail glue shouldn’t frustrate you. There are ways you can manage without one. And in fact, you can easily make a DIY nail glue for your nails. Further below, there’s an instruction on how to make one, but if you are not up for some creativity, here are other ways to ensure your press-ons don’t see the trash yet. 

You can either use: nail tabs, acrylic mixture, gel nail polish, or homemade nail glue. 

CHECK OUT: Can you reuse press-on nails

How do you apply fake nails with tape

Adhesive tabs or nail tabs are the cream of the crop—the elite. When you don’t have or don’t want nail glues, this is what you want to buy. 

Adhesive tabs are pre-cut double-sided tapes explicitly designed to fit the nails. They are gentler for your nails, and they allow easy removal. The latter is important because this also ensures that you can reuse your press-ons later. 

1. Wash your hands with soap and water, so any greasy remnants from your pizza last night are totally gone. Kidding aside, removing oil will get the adhesive to work better. 

2. Push back your cuticles. You don’t want dead skin to interfere with your tabs. You can also choose to buff your nails. Roughing them up like that allows for a better surface for the glue. 

3. Alcohol wipe is the king to any nail prep time. It removes moisture and oils altogether.

4. Remove the cover of the nail tab, then press it on the nail firmly for 20 seconds. You can alternatively stick it on the nail tab and not your nails. However, sticking it on your nails means you know everything is mainly covered. 

5. Remove any bubbles or close gaps by flattening the nail tab.

It isn’t too much work at all. Plus, it is also affordable. The bad news is it only lasts for about 1-2 days. But adhesive tabs come aplenty, so when it pops off, you can redo it!

Fun fact: Did you know that fashion tapes can replace nail tabs?  They come in a lengthy roll, so you must cut them to fit an individual nail. A bit of hassle, but desperate times call for long measures!

Pro tip: if you have brittle nails, it’s a wise call to apply a nail strengthener first or a base coat so the sticky part can adhere there instead and not directly to your nail bed. Prevention is better than cure!

How to apply fake nails with an acrylic mixture

How to apply fake nails with an acrylic mixture

If you are onto press-ons because you specifically dislike how cruel acrylics mani have been to your nails, then you are free to skip this. Albeit used as a nail glue here, removing it would still be as hard and harsh. 

If you are here to stay, let’s say this acrylic mixture is also there to stay for you. 

1. Do the entire prep for your nails

2. If you have a nail primer, you can apply it to make the mixture stronger. 

3. Soak your brush into the acrylic liquid, then dip it into acrylic powder to make a semi-small bead.

4. You can apply it to your nails then cover it with your press-on. Hold it firmly for 10-15 seconds until the acrylic fully dries. 

The great thing about acrylics is their durability. This will last you for 2-3 weeks. So if you are looking for a lasting time with your press-ons, this is how you do it!

CHECK OUT: How to take off acrylic nails with hot water

How to put on fake nails with clear nail polish

Can you use nail polish as glue? Well, the short answer is yes.

A regular nail polish, by itself, can hardly be called an alternative to nail glue. Some say it does not work, while some successfully pull it off. 


Well, it’s time to leave the dark side and choose the optimistic option then. After all, we never knew Captain America could wield mjölnir until he actually did. 

Forewarning: It is best to choose this, knowing it is strong enough to hold for a night. (This might not even hold with you flailing your arms in the club while dancing.)

So with expectations set, here is how you do it.

1. Again, prep time is crucial. Do it religiously. 

2. Evenly apply clear nail polish at the back of your press-on. Wait for a while until it gets tacky. Wet nail polish adheres much weakly, so you would have to air-dry it for a bit.

3. Press the fake nail firmly to your nails and check if they fit snugly. You might see some polish getting squished out as you press. This is precisely the reason why you need to choose a clear polish so that you can remove the polish on the side of your nails without a noticeable trace. 

Aside from regular polish, there is one more strong alternative: gel polish. It’s more potent because of the curing process. 

There is one tiny catch, though. You would have to choose a press-on that is light-colored or transparent.

A bit of science here: Darker colors absorb more UV rays than lighter ones. This means it will take time for the UV to reach the gel polish, aka glue, and cure it. 

So if you have the correct shade over there, grab a gel polish too. 

What you need to do is pretty simple. You have to apply a gel coat to your nails then fit your press-ons. Cure it under the lamp for about 30 seconds.

Tip: You can use a gel base coat for the glue and then a no-wipe top coat to get that glossy effect. 


DIY Nail Glue

DIY Nail Glue

“Fine, I’ll do it myself,” said Thanos in 2015.

And says you in 2022, apparently. 

Everything HAS a DIY option these days. It’s no wonder nail glue has its set of Instructables. 

What you will need is in every school project you had as a kid— yes, Elmer’s glue or a white PVA glue. You will also need to grab a clear nail polish, a small container, and a cotton swab. 

It’s time to release your inner Thanos and step up to the challenge here! Get ready!

This section will teach you the following:

  • How to make homemade glue
  • Application
  • Proper storage

How to make homemade glue

Before starting, make sure your supplies are clean or well maintained. It is vital to always be hygienic with your hands and your trinkets. 

Clean the small container well because you may infect your nails due to nail fungus. They can cause persistent pain and may even lead to more severe symptoms. So yes, be a responsible DIY-er!

Place 1 cup of PVA glue into the container— clear or white glue; it doesn’t matter much. Then add onto it approximately half of a standard-sized bottle of clear polish. That’s 7.4 mL of polish btw, Hermione Granger. 

Take your little potion aside for now. 

The next you want to make is a DIY stirrer. And for that, you will need a Q-tip or a cotton swab. Cut one end of the cotton swab. The cut end will be your stirrer, while the cotton end will be your handle. 

And now Hermione, you would need to stir it for 2-3 minutes. No spells nor much patience are required here. And voila! Professor Snape would be very proud of you!

Fun fact: Did you know you can make glue using flour and water? You are on the rabbit hole of DIY now. If you want to go crazy about it, try it out too!


This part should be familiar to you already, so here are some bits of reminders that you would want to know for this DIY session.

1. The stirrer is also the applicator. Just a dollop of glue will get you through it, and make sure they are evenly applied. Always use the cut end, so you don’t end up dragging cotton everywhere on your nail bed— totally not the purpose of your expedition. 

2. Press down firmly as you would in nail glue when putting your fake nails. A DIY nail glue will not be as durable as the actual one, so every step that sticks firmly needs to be executed well. 

3. If you have any split nails, hold them together with your DIY nail glue. It’s not healed, but it will look like it. Fake it till you make it, as they say!

Proper storage

Now, DIYs often have this reputation of being a temporary aid to your troubles. Use it once? Discard. 

But it’s time to be economically sound and environmentally friendly in 2022. Using it only once will cost you more money and more time later, so to save some nail glue money, you can make sure that your DIY is stored correctly.

Grab an empty nail polish, then soak it first with nail polish remover. Afterward, rinse it with water until you are satisfied.

If you can’t be bothered for a DIY session, some replacements may do it for you. If it’s just a one-time event, then holding power shouldn’t be a deciding factor. That said, you can use your eyelash extension glue. But really, don’t expect a lot from it. 

The real talk here is that there is no quality better than nail glue. But that should not stop you from trying your hand at DIY. The odds are actually in your favor in this one.

CHECK OUT: How to make press-on nails look real


Nail glue alternatives are generally suitable for less than a week’s use. They are not as durable, but they are indeed gentler options. So if you do not have nail glue, don’t let your press-ons sit there. Try one of the options above and see what works. 

Who knows, you might find a permanent and more affordable replacement for your nail glue.

CHECK OUT: What are solar nails

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