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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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