Silk Wrap Nails – What are they?

Since starting a personal style blog I’ve become a bit obsessed with manicures and pedicures.  It’s the little details that often make a photo really shine and I’ve noticed that my favorite fashion bloggers always seem to have lovely, polished, nails complimenting their chic ensembles.

Although I greatly enjoy having a professional manicure and pedicure at a salon I don’t like painting my own nails. My home manicures often look so awful it makes me want to cry. In addition my nails are soft and tear easily so you can see why most of the time they’re cut very short and left unpolished. This will not do for the blog however so I’ve tried different ways to improve my nails in the hopes that they won’t tear and the polish will stay chip-free longer.

I’d heard about silk wrap nails for years, but I never knew what they were. Last month the nail on my left thumb tore very deeply in the nail bed. I tried gluing it but it didn’t last very long.  My manicurist recommended a silk wrap for that nail, so I tried it and was very happy with the results. The next time I visited the salon I decided to try the silk wrap on all my nails.  It was a long, but interesting, process which I recorded with photos.

My nails before the silk wrap

Here is a photo of my nails before the manicure.  As you can see the nails on my thumb and middle finger are shorter than the other nails.

  Sanding, or filing, the nails

The nails must be sanded down a bit so that the silk adheres to the nail.  The woman at the front desk referred to this as “drilling” which sort of freaked me out.  They use a rotary drill to sand the nails, no doubt this is where the term “drilling” originated.  My manicurist says the drill works best as it’s easier to get around the curves of the nail bed.

Here are how my nails looked after being sanded.  Normally you can see faint ridges on my nails, but now they’re smooth and powdery looking.

Applying the nail tips

One of the nice thing about having your nails wrapped with fabric is that the manicurist can add small tips.  If your nails are very short they can be lengthened a bit. If a few are shorter than others they can be evened out. My manicurist added tips to three of my nails.

Here are the tips in a box.

The manicurist glues the nail tips to my nails.

The nails are then trimmed the correct length.

And now the nail tips are sanded down to remove the bump in the middle of the nail.

Finally they’re ready to put on the silk!

Applying the silk wrap

First the manicurist painted my nails with a special primer. He then applied the silk wrap to the nails. At my salon the “silk” (I don’t know if its real silk or some sort of polyester) comes pre-cut like this.

The manicurist trims the silk to fit to the shape of my nails.

Then two layers of fabric are applied to the nails.

A special glue is applied to the wrap.

They’re almost ready!

Next the extra wrap is trimmed.

Once they’re all the right length the nails are sanded again.

And they’re buffed some more…

Yea!  They’re ready.

Well, almost.  We still need to finish the manicure.

I had no idea just how long it would take to have the silk wrap applied.  It took at least an hour, probably longer.

The Results

My wrapped nails were very hard and strong. The little tips brought the nails out to just about the perfect place.  My hands looked very elegant for a few days.

After a week the polish started to chip.  The fake nail tips on my right index finger came unglued. The ones on my thumbs really drove me nuts.  I couldn’t type!  Well, I could but it wasn’t as easy as usual.  After the first week I trimmed down the fake nails.

The wrap is a pale yellow color. In its natural state on the nails it looks a bit like your nail has a big callous on it. This means I couldn’t just leave the nails un-painted.  I did my best, but my usual sheer pale in-between-manicures color didn’t cover the color of the wrap very well.

The silk wrap nails, four weeks later…

I was supposed to go back to have the silk wrap “refilled” in two weeks but I was too busy to return to the salon. Finally, four weeks after the silk had been applied I had time to deal with my nails, which were a mess.  The wrap was starting to chip off some fingers and my nails had grown out a great deal, leaving me with a big bump in the middle of each nail. Not pretty!

After some back and forth I decided to just have the wrap removed and continue with regular manicure.  At first the manicurist tried to push and clip the old wrap off, but it was uncomfortable, so my nails were soaked in a solution for a few minutes.  This turned the wrap into a goo and it was easy to remove after that.

The nails under the wrap were in good condition though.  None of them had broken or torn since the wrap was applied.  Right now even though I have a regular manicure all the nails are a nice length.

My recommendations

Silk wrap is a great option if you have a special occasion and you want your nails to be the same length. The manicurist can add a few tips to your shorter nails.  The polish will last about a week.

If you have a tear deep in your nail bed a silk wrap will keep it from continuing to tear.  It works better than glue alone.

I wouldn’t invest in a silk wrap procedure just to make my nails stronger. The results are too temporary, lasting only a few weeks.

In the future if I want polish that lasts for two weeks I’ll have a gel manicure instead.  The gel also worked to make my nails stronger for a little while, but the polish doesn’t chip.  Indeed the manicurist said silk wrap was very popular before the advent of gel polish but now he rarely does them.

Update September 2013: I’ve gotten a bit of flak in the comments about this post, so I just want to say that this was my experience with silk wrap nails and I went to a reputable, licensed salon to have my nails done. However, I am not an expert in nail technology nor am I manicurist myself. The issue seems mostly to stem from the electric rotary file that was used on my nails for the silk wrap. Some people say this isn’t necessary. I’ll let you decide for yourselves. 

Have you ever had a silk wrap on your nails?  What did you think of it?

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41 Responses to Silk Wrap Nails – What are they?

  1. Sharon March 3, 2012 at 11:28 am #

    I prefer to ave my nails done professionally but, I haven’t had them done in over a year at a salon. I always wore acrylic nails only so however, I decided to stop wearing them for a while to allow my nails to breathe. I know I could still go to the salon but, I just told my “nail guy” (as I referred to him for yrs), I would be back one day.
    Though, I know acrylic is really unhealthy for nails, I do miss my cat claws and am thinking about going back. Oh, when I did get my nails done, I always wore them pink and white only.
    Sharon recently posted..The Truth: 6 Place Never to Look for LoveMy Profile

    • Heather Fonseca March 3, 2012 at 9:43 pm #

      I’m a red nail polish girl. Other than that I really like nude shades, oranges and recently blue and greens. I’m definitely getting more adventurous in terms of color.
      I’ve never tried acrylic nails but I’m thinking of trying it just for fun, and for my readers of course.

    • Laurel Hicks July 28, 2014 at 9:45 am #

      As an alternative to silk wraps you should check out Jamberry Nails nail wraps!! They can be worn on acrylic, gel or natural nails! They do not damage your natural nails and actually protect them so they have a chance to grow out!! They come in 300+ designs and last 2 weeks on fingernails and 4+ weeks on toes! They are so easy to apply and very affordable! $15 per sheet and each sheet does 2 manicures and 2 pedicures (depending on nail size). They also come in Junior sizes for little girls!! Check out my website or email me your address if you would like a sample!! We also have Nail Lacquer that is free of five of the toxins found in regular nail polish!! Thanks!!

  2. TJ Lubrano
    Twitter:
    March 3, 2012 at 1:26 pm #

    Ah this was very interesting to read! I never heard of silk nails before. Only acrylic nails and Shellac nails. I always do my own nails even though I’m so impatient. But I love polished nails. I try to re-paint them every week, because I can’t stand chipped nail polish hehe. I always paint them in a solid color, my sister creates whole patterns and she has a few vids on Youtube as well.

    Oh! I got a mani just once and that was for my birthday haha.

    Have you ever tried Essie Protein Base Coat? I can’t see it on the main site, but I got mine from Ebay. My nails used to split and chip a lot, but ever since I used this, my nails grew longer and stronger.

    Loved this post!

    • TJ Lubrano
      Twitter:
      March 3, 2012 at 1:27 pm #

      Oh! Forgot to say that I looove your nail color!

    • Heather Fonseca March 3, 2012 at 9:41 pm #

      I will have to check out that Essie stuff! I’ve tried their nail polish before but the don’t last any longer than any other. I’m glad you like my polish!

  3. Sylvia
    Twitter:
    March 3, 2012 at 5:42 pm #

    Interesting. Never heard of this. Looks too cumbersome for me but I should definitely try out the gel nail polish some time…
    Sylvia recently posted..Some 40+ news bites to start the weekend!My Profile

    • Heather Fonseca March 3, 2012 at 9:40 pm #

      Gel nail polish is a lot of fun, especially if you’re going on a little trip and you don’t want to worry about nail polish chipping.

  4. Alexis Grace March 4, 2012 at 11:21 am #

    I’ve never had a silk wrap- but this is super interesting. In the end I think I agree that with all the other options, silk wraps aren’t on my must try list.
    Alexis Grace recently posted..Bright White JewelryMy Profile

    • Heather Fonseca March 4, 2012 at 3:43 pm #

      I agree! I don’t think I’ll be doing another silk wrap unless I get another deep tear in one of my nails. Next I want to try acrylic nails, just for fun!

      • lisbela
        Twitter:
        September 26, 2013 at 11:38 pm #

        Not even for fun, don’t try the acrylic nails, they will damage ur nails so bad: ( that is why i am doing silk wrap nails right now until mine grow healthier again

        • Heather Fonseca October 2, 2013 at 8:15 pm #

          Thanks for stopping by and leaving a commenst Lisbela. It’s funny that you mention acrylics because my manicurist won’t put them on me. I’ve asked! He says they’ll be awful for my nails and suggests gel instead.

  5. A Brit Greek
    Twitter:
    March 5, 2012 at 12:46 am #

    Interesting, I’ve also never heard or have had a silk wrap before! I’ve only had the gel nails, but I found the whole filing down the nail too much – but they looked amazing, lasted ages and kept my nails really strong.

    x.o.x.o

    • Heather Fonseca March 5, 2012 at 9:51 am #

      The gel is pretty amazing. I’m planning on doing it again soon, you just have to wait in between sessions as after too much filing your nails can become thin.

  6. Patricia Streeter
    Twitter:
    March 5, 2012 at 8:07 am #

    My nail beds are thin, but my nails grow really fast. If they get to long they start to chip unevenly, which is very embarrassing. I tried acrylic nails once. It was ok but the guy filed my nail bed down to low. I didn’t realize the hand sanitizer was dissolving the acrylic. So within a week or two they started to rip off. It was very painful. I took them all of and tried to hide my nails for the rest of the summer. Until the end of your post, I was going to try this. Thank you for the tip, you saved me from another nail fiasco.
    Patricia Streeter recently posted..Wear this, Not That: To WorkMy Profile

    • Heather Fonseca March 5, 2012 at 9:50 am #

      I don’t think the silk wrap was a total fiasco, and I think I’d do it again if I had someplace special to go and I wanted to add some small tips to my nails. Sorry about your acrylic nightmare! Yikes! I had no idea hand sanitizer dissolved the acrylic. Eek!

      • Jenn August 10, 2012 at 9:53 am #

        I get acrylics and love them. Because my skin tone is olive, I get “Full Pink” acrylic put on my nails, then a french manicure, with a clear (not clear pink tone) nail polish coat. Keeps my manicure tip white (air brushed), and nail bed pink. Thanks for the Silk wrap info, I’ve always wondered about it.

        • Jenn August 10, 2012 at 9:56 am #

          Oh, and I forgot to say… acrylics can be ruined by sun tan lotion or sun block!! Uuuuhhhg. It seems to melt the top and stain it yellow. So make sure you have a plastic glove on, or your friend rub it in ;)

        • Heather Fonseca August 11, 2012 at 10:01 am #

          Hi Jenn. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I’ve never tried acrylics, but that might be next!

  7. GRIT & GLAMOUR
    Twitter:
    March 6, 2012 at 9:39 am #

    Gel is definitely the way to go! Since your last gel post, I’ve tried Gelish and have found it to be the best of the gel mani brands. I’ts stronger than Shellac, but kinder to your nails than Axxium. Even my mom, who is a pro hairdresser (so her hands are always in water) can keep a Gelish mani, unchipped, for almost four weeks!

    I admire your dedication to trying and sharing, though!

    And hey, tell your manicurist to stay the hell away from your nails with that drill. They just can never control the pressure when they use them and it always digs in. Insist on an old-fashioned file. They’ll gripe (mine have when I refused to let them prep my nails for a gel mani with one), but you do have the option. They are definitely easier and faster for the manicurist, but a dremel is murder on your nails!
    GRIT & GLAMOUR recently posted..My Favorite New Beauty ProductsMy Profile

    • Heather Fonseca March 7, 2012 at 8:52 pm #

      Thank you so much for the advice! It never occurs to me to tell them “don’t do that” unless it hurts. I’ll ask them if they have Gelish, but I think my place only has the new Opi stuff and Shellac. It’s such an exciting new world out there for manicures! I can’t wait for my next gel adventure.

  8. Linda August 8, 2012 at 2:10 am #

    Silk wrapped is easy and convenient especially if you have unexpected party to attend. It does not broke your nails instead make it strong and healthy. If you want to last it long apply gel manicure to last the fragrance of the color of your nails as well. Upon cleaning your nails used lemon juice instead of water and cuticle remover. It helps to preserve the healthy growth of your nails.
    Linda recently posted..How to Remove Skin Tags With Nail PolishMy Profile

    • Heather Fonseca August 8, 2012 at 9:55 am #

      Hi Linda, thanks for stopping by. I found silk wrapped nails to be a rather long process which did not strengthen my nails in the long term. I certainly didn’t find them easy and convenient, but that was just my opinion.

  9. Danielle September 3, 2012 at 12:48 am #

    Very helpful!!! Thanks for sharing!

    • Heather Fonseca September 4, 2012 at 10:06 am #

      You’re welcome Danielle! I’m glad you found the information useful.

  10. Skotti November 26, 2012 at 6:08 pm #

    I have had gel nails and silk wraps done. The silk wraps are easy to do yourself. It only cost about $10 for the silk and the glue. I buy IBD resin glue. It is smooth and dries fast. Almost no buffing. I haven’t a clue as how I would fill a silk wrap. I just soak them off and start over. They have helped my nails to grow a lot. And much thinner than. Gel nails.

    • Heather Fonseca November 28, 2012 at 4:07 pm #

      Hi Skotti. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a note. I didn’t try the silk wrap myself but it looked like a lot of work! I’m not sure I’d ever do it myself, but if you like it then that’s all that matters.

  11. Kim Smith December 21, 2012 at 2:24 am #

    I only ever got silk wraps in late 1990’s. And as mentioned it was always special occasions. Formals, Christmas and weddings. I loved them as the ends are almost as thin as normal nail and not chunky like some acrylics.
    I found this post by accident as I was trying to find someone in Sydney who does them… It seems to be a dying option. I have had acrylics only once which I found way to chunky to look real. Tips have the look of real nails and much more temporary with less damage to your nails. I highly recommend silk wraps or sometimes called “wedding tips”. Thanks for your detailed experience :)

  12. tjael15 April 11, 2013 at 7:27 pm #

    I have to let everyone understand something about silk wrap nails….silk wraps are not designed for artificial nails….there made for the bare natual nails alone. That’s the benefit of obtaining stronger healther nails. The money and time spent to get it done is worth the investment.
    These Asians are doing it wrong with artificial nails because many of them don’t know how to shape the extended part into a nail. Their to lazy or don’t know how to do it. Putting on artificial nail extentions and silk on top defeats the purpose of the silk and the nail bed is extremely weak underneath. This damages the nail growth even more. Also, depends on the condition of your nails. Some people, its successful…but most its not. Trust me….been there done that.
    Silk wrap and gel works best alone! ….Leave the artificial stuff alone!

  13. Mickie May 18, 2013 at 5:14 pm #

    I’ve been getting silk wraps for over 20 years from the same nail technician. Yes, you do have to have them filled every 2 weeks or so (it takes about an hour). ‘Filling’ means adding new silk wraps on each nail and refiling. After several months, your nails can get thick and the wrap needs to be removed. But that is the only way to keep longer nails. I switched to gel nails a few weeks ago, and there are some things I like about them–the manicure lasts several weeks, the nails are thinner, the polish is completely dry when you walk out the door. But you need to keep gel nails short unless you have strong natural nails. They are much thinner and more flexible than the silk wraps. My wraps were very strong–I could do almost anything with them. Gel nails will bend, especially because I have relatively thin nails to begin with. My manicurist suggests keeping gel nails short for that reason. Unfortunately, I like longer nails to balance out my short, stubby fingers, so I think I’ll soon be going back to wraps.

    As mentioned by another person above, DO NOT let a manicurist near you with a Dremmel tool! It is much easier for the manicurist (and lazy), but can wreck your nail beds. Take the extra time to find a tech that does all filing by hand. You may pay a little more, but I am convinced that is why I’ve had absolutely no problems for 20 years of wraps. That is the only way my manicurist will do any nails, but she is considered a dinosaur by many techs. Sure, they can fit in more customers this way, but the potential for damaging nails is much greater.

  14. vanessa September 9, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

    Just came across this fyi a nail drill should never touch your nail plate! Its removing layers of your nails. Also it should hsve never been “chipped” off of your nail , thst causes more damage to the nsil plate! Drilling the nail doesnt make the product adhere better. Silk wraps requires a light buffer to remove shine. Its apparent that you arent going to an educated nail tech so really before you post stuff like this you should do more research.its stuff like this that hurts the nail industry!!!!!

    • Heather Fonseca September 9, 2013 at 5:34 pm #

      Dear Vanessa, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Although I am a manicure enthusiast I am not a professional manicurist myself. I wrote about my experience with silk wrap nails, and I’m very clear about that in my post. I don’t claim to know everything there is to know about silk wrap, but I had always wondered about them and decided to try it out when my nail tore deep into my nail bed. I’m sorry if you’re offended by my decision to share my experience on my blog, and so you know, when I wrote this post two years ago there was very little information online about silk wrap nails. I suggest if you want to set the record strait that you start a blog yourself and spend the time, energy and money to educate everyone about these issues so annoying people like me don’t go and “hurt the nail industry” with our lack of education and general ignorance.

    • Vanessa September 9, 2013 at 6:21 pm #

      At no point did I say you were annoying so that’s interesting and I ment that its issues like what you experienced that hurt the nail industry. But as for your responsiblity as the blogger sharing your experience i do believe you should have gone to s profesdional, educated nail technician. Silk wraps have been around for many years so its hard for me to believe you couldn’t find information. I’ve been snail tech for almost 10 years and they were around years before that. You seem to not be able to take criticism. And if you read my post you would have seen at no point did I say anything insulting about you. I simply pointed out that because of bloggers and media sources there is a lot of misinformation being given to the public about nail services.

      • Heather Fonseca September 10, 2013 at 9:07 am #

        Vanessa, you might not have meant to be critical but your comment seemed critical to me. You made it clear that I had not done enough research on silk wrap nails and that my article was hurting the nail industry. You certainly seemed annoyed, even if it was not intended.

        I go to a professional nail salon. They might not be up to your standards but they are licensed by the state of California and all the manicurists have licenses as well. So I DID go to a professional nail technician to have the silk wrap applied.

        Yes, silk wrap has been around for a long time, but when I looked for information online before writing this post I was not able to find any. Google’s search algorithms are constantly being updated and improved. I promise you, when I looked there was nothing, and that’s one of the reasons I wrote this post. It might be hard for you to believe, but that’s the truth.

        I don’t like criticism. No one does. I know I’m going to get it putting myself out on the web like this, but it doesn’t mean I need to just accept it like it’s nothing. I deal with criticism constantly in my profession, but I write this blog for enjoyment. It’s very, very, easy to criticize. It’s not so easy to create. Just leaving a comment here and there telling people what they should be writing isn’t enough. If you are really concerned about the misinformation being given to the public by bloggers and the media you should start a blog yourself and put the correct information out there. If you don’t have the time for that then send me a link to an article that shows the correct manner of applying silk wrap and I will annotate the post with your link. If you can’t find anything appropriate online write one yourself and submit it to me. I will post it as a guest post.

  15. Vanessa September 9, 2013 at 6:25 pm #

    Typing to fast and reading my response after… I’ve been a nail tech not snail tech lol

  16. Venus October 8, 2013 at 12:07 pm #

    This is interesting way of doing it. I feel if you are going to apply artificial nails, you might as well go with the old style acrylic. I get my nails silk wrapped but the silk is applies directly to my real nail.

    • Heather Fonseca October 11, 2013 at 3:23 pm #

      I was really surprised when my manicurist added the tips! Wasn’t expecting that either.

  17. jojo July 2, 2014 at 10:51 pm #

    Just googled silk wrap nails because I just wrapped a torn thumb nail with some silk that has to be more than 10 yrs old. My first artificial nails back in the early 80’s were silk wrapped with tips. Wore them for years then took a several year break. When I wanted nails again in the 90’s the only option was acrylic. Wore those on and off till just last couple of weeks because as I’ve aged, or from an emerging allergy the skin around my cuticle was dry and tender constantly.
    Which brings me back to my newly naked, thin and abused nails with a split on one of my thumbs.
    I love silk. Much less sanding, fewer chemicals. The one time I tried gels I had a similar problem with a skin reaction around my cuticles and have never tried them since.

  18. Sarah Quincey
    Twitter:
    July 21, 2014 at 5:08 pm #

    You should try Jamberry nail wraps! Much easier, last longer, absolutely adorable, and you can do it at home… No chipping, no mess, no dry time, no smudging, etc. :)

    Let me know if you want to try some out!

    Sarah Q
    squincey@live.com

  19. Carrie w October 21, 2014 at 1:02 pm #

    Sorry to tell you but I think you have been ripped off, looking through the blog and pictures, the first thing I noticed was your technician was using scissors to trim the tips? Well every technician that has been trained correctly will know never to use scissors to trim nails as it can cause the tip and your natural nail damage. Secondly I see that she applied the resin (special glue) but did she use an activator spray to set it? Silk nails should not look like yours did even after four weeks, I have had and applied many sets of silk nails and never had that issue if applied and cared for correctly. I wudnt use her again!

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