All That Glitters The Best Way to Apply Nail Jewelry

Is gel polish, nail glue or something else the best way to apply nail jewelry, rhinestones, nails charms and studs? We “nailed” the answer so your manicures and pedicures will stay glamorous for as long as possible.

Nothing would kill the glitz and glamour of the Las Vegas Strip like a power outage, just like losing your nail jewelry, nail charms, rhinestones, and studs kills the glam factor of your manicures and pedicures. So how do you keep those fun, sparkly nail embellishments in place? The key is learning the best ways to apply nail jewelry, because properly attaching the jewels, crystals and other fun accessories will keep them firmly sticking to your nails — rather than on the floor of your bedroom. 

When applying any rhinestones, diamonds or other accessories to your nails, it’s important to begin by choosing your embellishments and placing them right side up on your workspace. Also gather any other materials you might need (orangewood sticks, tweezers, polish, etc), many of which depend on the application method you choose. 

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You also need to decide how you prefer to pick up and transfer the embellishments to your nail. You can use tweezers, a store bought “rhinestone picker,” or a small, sharp tool (such as the handle end of a nail brush) dipped in clear nail polish that acts as a short-term adhesive during transfer. This is a personal choice and depends on your patience and stability during dotting.

There are many DIY methods one can use to apply nail embellishments. Here are the most popular methods in tutorial style along with the pros and cons of each:

Bejeweled Method #1: Nail Glue or Resin

Start out by applying your base coat as well as two thin layers of the nail polish of your choice. Carefully apply a small dot of glue or resin to your nail with an orangewood stick, toothpick or other small, sharp object. Apply your rhinestone, stud, diamond or other accessory on top of the glue dot and gently hold it in place with your orangewood stick or other tool so it stays in place while you wait for the glue to dry. Try to hold each rhinestone or charm in place for at least 20 to 30 seconds before letting go. After you’ve applied all of your embellishments, apply a clear top coat to give the jewels extra staying power.

Plus Side: This is one of the best ways to give your nail embellishments long lasting holding power. 

Negative Side: This method is the most time consuming method, so it takes a great deal of patience. Also, many glues begin to lose their adhesive power shortly after the tube is opened, so it’s best to always use fairly fresh glue.


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Bejeweled Method #2: Clear Base Coat

Start out by applying your base coat as well as two thin layers of the nail polish of your choice. Paint over that with a thick layer of clear top coat and then quickly begin applying the studs, jewels or diamonds of your choice. Be sure to work fast, as you need the embellishments to stick before the top coat dries. (Helpful hint: Do not use a quick-drying top coat polish, otherwise you’ll have to work at lightning speed.) Once finished, follow up with an additional layer of clear top coat to keep the rhinestones in place. 

Plus Side: This is perhaps the quickest and easiest way to apply nail embellishments. It’s a great choice for nail newbies who’d like to experiment with the nail jewel trend.

Negative Side: The proof is in the pudding, so to speak. It’s the fastest way to apply nail studs and jewels, but it’s also the least permanent. You could begin to lose the applications in as little as one day.

Bejeweled Method #3: Gel Polish

Gel polish has gotten a bad rap for being quite destroying to your nails, but many nail-a-holics still use it, despite. If you don’t mind the drying and nasty side effects that can come along with using acetone nail polish remover necessary for getting rid of the magic lacquer, then this method may work for you.

After prepping your nails with a cuticle stick and buffer, follow the application directions for the brand of gel polish you decide to use. After curing your second coat of gel polish, attach each of your embellishments to your fingernail or toenail and quickly follow up with a gel top coat. Cure the nail and then apply one more layer of gel top coat for added measure.

Plus Side: This is the number one way to get rhinestones, glitter, gems and other embellishments to stick to your nails for long periods of time. It works well for all nail accessories whether small or large and even works for nail chains. 

Negative Side: As we mentioned above, gel polish is quite damaging for you nails. In addition, the at-home polishes aren’t as powerful as salon and spa formulas, so you may not get the lasting power you get from a professional manicure or pedicure.


Bejeweled Method #4: Tacky Polish Dots

Start out by applying your base coat as well as two thin layers of the nail polish of your choice. Next, use your tool to apply a small dot of old, slightly tacky clear or colored nail polish in the place you’d like the embellishment to stick. Wait a few second for the polish to become sticky and then place the jewel, rhinestone or piece of glitter on the dot of polish. Follow up by applying a layer of clear top coat for added protection. 

Plus Side: This method seems to work well for many who have tried it, and it’s a great way to “recycle” old polish you otherwise would throw away. 

Negative Side: The staying power is a few days, which is more than the Clear Base Coat method, but not as long as the Gel Polish method. 

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Kambra Clifford