It was more than a decade ago when I received horrifying news: My best friend had chosen strappy, open-toe shoes for her bridesmaids' ensembles. At the time, I owned no open-toe shoes — maybe flip-flops for quick dog walks or the few-and-far-between trip to the beach — and for what I deemed good reason. My toenails were impossibly short.
It was my own fault. I'd been an anxiety-driven nail picker my entire life, scratching and peeling my fingernails down to the quick. And when I ran out of fingernails to destroy, I'd seek out my toenails. The outcome wasn't pretty, but closed-toe shoes hid the evidence of my habit. Closed-toe shoes weren't an option for the approaching wedding, however, and I had neither the time nor restraint to grow them out for the event.
My solution at the time was something people scoffed at when I said it out loud but either marveled at or didn't blink an eye when executed: press-on toenails. I found a "French pedicure" set by Kiss, and while I've never really loved the white-tip look, they fully did the job. They made it seem like I had not-ravaged, nicely polished toenails, staying put through not only the wedding but several days after. I've never forgotten them and, in fact, remember them quite fondly.
For reasons I can't even begin to explain, I've moved past my more than 30-year nail-picking habit, and both my finger and toenails have grown out quite nicely. I'm not the most talented polish applier, but that's been OK — I became a nail-salon regular for manicure and pedicures. But once the pandemic made that impossible I found myself at a loss.
See, my fingernails look plenty nice with just a clear coat. But while my toenails are longer now, the damage from my former compulsion is apparent — especially on my left big toenail. While most of the nails look normal-ish, a big ol' chunk of my left big toenail is noticeably yellow. Has been for a couple of years. I'm not sure if it's fungus — it doesn't hurt or smell funky — or if it looks that way because there's literally no quick left under that part of the nail (when I said I'd pick down to the quick, I actually meant I'd pick the quick, too), but it ain't cute. Dermatologist Deanne Mraz Robinson tells me that a yellowness doesn’t necessarily mean it has fungus or is infected — that dark nail polish can stain the color of our nails and make it look yellow — but I want to conceal it either way.
Sure, I could paint them sloppily and call it a day. With what limited socializing I'm doing these days, who would even notice? Well — I would. And now that I live in Florida with many more open-toe shoes than I used to have, I sure would like to be able to look down and not see that bizarre stain looking back at me. So to save myself the stress of painting my nails poorly, I decided to revisit my old friends, the press-on toenails.
The demand for this solution must be high because there are so many more options than when I chose the French pedicure over literally nothing else. Kiss and its sister brand Impress is still the go-to for both adhesive-back and manually glued-on styles, and there truly is something for everyone's tastes: the Impress Press-On Pedicure (just $8) comes in several bold and subtle sets with glitter, nail art, and even different textures.
I decided to give the Tip Toe set a try. It features a holographic, faceted, crystal-esque light blue big toe, while all the others are a solid, matte version of the powdery shade. Like each set in the collection, it comes with 24 toenails — more than you actually need because some of the sizes will work better for your nails than others — a prep pad, file (they can be filed!), and a wood stick (for when you're ready to remove them). You simply peel off the clear backing and press them on; the smaller nails have a break-off tab to make aligning them as easy a possible.
The entire process took me — no lie — less than five minutes. Can you even imagine a hand-painted pedicure this cute and this flawless being accomplished in under five minutes? I wager you cannot.
For those who don't necessarily want to use a pre-designed set but still seek to wear press-on toenails for any number of valid reasons, Kiss also makes an amazing $6 set of 96 full-cover, blank toenails that are ready to be painted as you see fit. Instead of an adhesive back, these toenails come with glue for manual application, making them super durable.
Although press-on toenails may not be something I rely on every week, there's something truly comforting in knowing there's a professional-looking pedicure just waiting for me at the drugstore for less than 10 bucks and promising to take up just a few minutes of my time. Even if my natural toenails ever make a full aesthetic recovery, I can't see why I wouldn't wear these every now and then.
You can find Impress Press-On Pedicures for $8 and the Kiss Full-Cover Toenails Kit for $6 at kissusa.com.
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