What Are Nail Overlays?

Nail overlays are products applied on top of fingernails or toenails to make the nails stronger and less prone to breaking or splitting. Overlays are made of gel, acrylic or fiber wraps, which are made of fiberglass or silk. Unlike other nail applications, overlays do not include lengthening the nail.

Acrylic is the most popular and most durable type of overlay. It is put on top of the tip, which is a piece of plastic attached to the nail. After drying, it is filed and polished. Once dry, acrylic overlays look like hard plastic.

Gel overlays are also applied over the tip. They are more expensive and more natural looking than acrylic, but are not as strong or durable. Gel overlays must be cured under a UV light, by soaking the nails in water or by spraying the nails with gel activator.

Fiber wrap overlays are also more natural looking, but may include a print or pattern. Instead of a tip, a piece of mesh or fabric is put on the nail. It is treated with liquid resin to make it clear and then sprayed with an activator to get a hard finish. Fiber wraps are the most economical overlay.