How To Not Fail At Nail Wraps (Like I Did)

by Kaitlin Ebersol

Nail polish is pretty much the perfect accessory — there’s a shade to match every outfit, every mood, every season of the year. And for those who like to have a little fun with their style, some funky nail decals may be just the thing to liven up these dreary winter months when it feels like the cold and snow have been here for a million years and you’ll never see sunshine again. That’s where Jamberry Nail Wraps come in. Launched in 2010 by three sisters who wanted a cheap and fun way to keep their nails looking polished, they created a line of DIY nail wraps in hundreds (literally) of colors and patterns. Seriously, you're pretty much guaranteed to find at least ONE style you love on the site.

A nail polish junkie myself, I received two packets of Jamberry Nail Wraps – a teal-and-white chevron pattern and a navy-and-white pinstripe pattern – as a birthday gift several months ago. They've sat untouched on my vanity ever since, but I was feeling a little extra sassy this week, so I decided to try them out and share my experience, just in case you're in the fence about buying them yourself.

The Process

Just like most nail wraps, the Jamberry ones come as oval decals in varying sizes (to accommodate different nail shapes for both the hands and the feet) on a clear, plastic backing, tucked inside a tiny, plastic packet. Because I only needed half of a wrap to cover one nail, and because there were 18 total wraps in the package, I only used a small portion of the stickers to cover all of my fingernails. I like that this isn’t a one-and-done situation; I could potentially use one package to decorate my fingernails on three separate occasions.

The back of the Jamberry packet includes clear instructions for application and removal, which I tried (key word being tried) to follow as closely as possible. How well did I succeed? Well, you be the judge.

Step 1: The packet instructed me to push back my cuticles and clean my nails with a “Nail Prep Wipe” or rubbing alcohol. I soaked my hands for about five minutes in warm, soapy water before gently pushing back my cuticles. Then, since I had no idea what a Nail Prep Wipe is, I swiped some rubbing alcohol over my nails with a cotton ball.

Step 2: Then, I had to match my nails to the nail wraps that most closely fit them. Since I learned this next bit the hard way, I’ll warn you now to save you the frustration: Choose a wrap that is slightly smaller than your nail! Better to have a bit of nail showing on the sides than to have a sticker catching on everything (your hair, your clothes, your dog’s face) for the next week.

Step 3: After peeling a nail wrap off the plastic backing, I used my hairdryer to warm the adhesive side. The packet suggests three to five seconds of heat, but I found that it took about seven seconds for the sticker to become soft and flexible enough to mold to my nail.

Step 4: This next step is tricky because, if you’re not careful, you’ll get wrinkles in your nail decal or glue it on crooked. The instructions say to “press the wrap onto the nail. Apply firm pressure around edges to adhere the wrap to the nail. Use rubber cuticle pusher to seal the wrap around the base of the cuticle.” I found that if I positioned the wrap onto the base first, smoothed it up the center of the nail, and finally pressed the sides down, the sticker went on straight and smooth. But there was definitely a steep learning curve, and I made a few (OK, a lot of) mistakes before mastering my technique.

Step 5: The packet instructs you to trim all excess wrap from the top of your nails with scissors and then file off the remaining material using a downward motion. Sounds easy enough, right? But even with tiny, curved scissors, cutting the sticker close to the nail is near-impossible (especially when using your non-dominant hand). The tips of my nails felt jagged and scratchy and unpleasant despite my most careful efforts.

In the end, I discovered the perfect solution: Cut the entire nail, Jamberry Wrap and all, with nail cutters to create a smooth tip. Next time, I’ll make sure my nails are a bit longer before I apply the wraps so there will be more to cut.

Step 6: Lastly, I blasted the wraps with my hairdryer for several more seconds and pressed them down to bond them fully to my nail.

My Takeaway

Jamberry Nail Wraps are definitely an experience. Granted, this was my first time trying them out, but the whole process took me upwards of an hour and elicited several exasperated sighs and a few words I won’t write here. In other words, this should not be your first option if you’re looking to paint your nails before running out the door, or if you’ve just generally had a bad day.

On the positive side, the wraps I received were simple and sweet, and the colors were pretty. More daring souls might prefer crazier patterns, but I like that Jamberry offers options for every style. That being said, covering all of my fingernails with the same chevron pattern felt like overkill for me personally From now on I’ll use these wraps to create adorable accent nails — on my big toes, thumbs, or ring fingers, for instance.

On the other hand (pun intended ha ha!), I really disliked how the tips of my nails felt scratchy and how the decals felt heavy sitting on my nails. Whereas once nail polish dries you can forget about it and go about your business as usual, I always felt very aware of the Jamberry stickers. I constantly worried they would fall off, and it affected everything I did with my hands, from washing my hair to putting makeup on to opening things with clasps and buttons. Of course, as you can clearly see in the pictures, my application was far from perfect. Maybe if I had managed to shape and glue the decals onto my nails without bumps and wrinkles, they would have felt more comfortable on my hands.

If you like experimenting with your nail color and have an hour or so to spare, Jamberry Nail Wraps are a fun way to switch things up. Just don’t expect them to replace your everyday nail polish routine — at least not at first.

Images: Kaitlin Ebersol