Decadent, glamorous, and so captivatingly shiny, crystal-embellished nails are trendier (and easier to achieve) than ever before. With the rise in at-home nail art and manicures, nail aficionados of all skill levels can whip up crystal nails with a bit of practice and creativity – and it wasn’t too long ago that the style required a booked-in-advance professional and quite a bit of money. Though tiny, colorful manicure-friendly rhinestones are often interchangeably called Swarovski nail crystals, they’re not exactly the same thing.
Swarovski has been making their signature brand of high-caliber crystals – used to adorn everything from watches to giant novelty purses shaped like lipstick. Reaching a commercial popularity peak in the early 2000s (you may remember every starlet in L.A. covering her Sidekick in Swarovski), the brand has become synonymous with high-quality crystal bedazzling of all sorts – nails included. Just like Kleenex and Dumpsters, Swarovski nail crystals are basically shorthand for knockout nail crystals in general.
But regardless of if you’re looking to upgrade your mani with actual Swarovski crystals or some cool-colored rhinestones from your local beauty supply, the application method is the same – and so are the tips and tricks necessary to get your nails as perfect as possible. Below, the best crystal nail application tips straight from industry pros.
How To Apply Nail Crystals
Before laying down a single jewel, you’ll first want to figure out the look you’re going for so you can make sure you’ve got the right materials. According to Emily H. Rudman, CEO and founder of Emilie Heathe, the possibilities are pretty much endless. She points to delicate, minimalist work along with monochrome moments and more over-the-top looks as just a few rhinestone-studded options. “I also love the look of a full-coverage crystal manicure, from cuticle to tip!” she says.
Corey Weber, owner and creator of TheNailBox.Inc in Sola Salons, agrees that the possibilities are truly limitless when working with nail crystals. “I personally love using a crystal in place of the center of a 3-D sculpted flower or as an alternative to a shape that might already be part of the design. For example, crystals can be put together in clusters to create stars or snowflakes,” she says.
After manicure prep to ensure clean, even, polish-ready nails, lay down your lacquer as usual. Rudman says applying the tiny crystals while the polish is still wet will help secure them in place and last longer, though you’ll still need a bit of glue to help it stick. Rudman suggests using a gem-grabbing tool like The Crystal Katana for ultra-precise application, but even more rudimentary versions – think some Play-Doh on a pen cap – can do the trick. If you’re working with gel polish, Rudman adds, be sure to lay your nail crystals down before curing the gel so as to not diminish the crystals’ shine.
“The natural nail is a resilient and flexible surface that expands and contracts with water exposure, changes to climate, and with pressure from daily activities,” Weber explains. “Because of this, I do find that it is more effective to place crystals on a nail that has an enhancement for long-lasting wear. Crystals vary in weight and size, and this can heavily determine whether or not the crystal stays in place as well as how it is secured to the nail,” she adds.
How To Make Nail Crystals Last
With so much concentration and precision required, you naturally want to make your crystal manicure last as long as possible. “For added security,” Rudman tells Bustle, “carefully apply the top coat around the base of the crystals.” If at all possible, avoid using your nails as tools to open, slice, tap, or dig anything – Rudman suggests wearing gloves while doing the dishes and a soft touch when washing your hair, too.
Just like with skin prep and makeup application, taking the time to give yourself a proper manicure before polish or crystal embellishments can make a big difference in the longevity of your look. Applying nail polish on completely dry nails not only helps it glide right on, but prevents moisture from getting trapped under the polish which can lead to infections, Rudman says. General nail-friendly practices like swapping out harsh metal pushies for soft silicone versions can help prevent accidental injuries and, Rudman says, makes your nails look longer in the process.
A full-fledged encapsulation process is also a wise choice for maximum crystal retention. “Encapsulation is the key to getting your crystals to last,” Weber advises. “When you are preparing to place your crystal, place a drop of the appropriate size of builder gel and then use your pickup tool to push your crystal into the gel followed by a full cure in the LED lamp.”
How To Buy Real Swarovski Nail Crystals
There’s no doubt that real Swarovski crystals and their impossible shine are appealing. While they run more expensive than their easily-accessible counterparts, the quality is undeniable. To get your hands on real Swarovski nail crystals, the simplest way is through an authorized reseller online. There, you’ll find a wide variety of shapes, styles, colors, and sizes to choose from, all available for public purchase. Otherwise, to buy them through Swarovski, you’ll have to contact the brand directly – though they primarily work with professionals rather than one-off customers. But for crystals that flawless, who would mind jumping through a few hoops?