How to Apply Rhinestones to Nails (4 Steps)

If you’re ready to take your nails to that next level and interested in learning how to apply rhinestones to nails, then you’ve come to the right place. With the right tools, creating your favorite rhinestone nail designs can actually be pretty easy. 

Typically, you only need rhinestones for nails, a rhinestone applicator, and rhinestone adhesive. These tools simplify the application process and make sure your rhinestones look good and stay put for longer.

nail rhinestone kit from kiara sky

Once you have all your tools together, then you can start the application process — which we’ve laid out in 4 simple steps.

A few good tips to remember...

You want the surface to be ready.

Before you layer on the nail adhesive, make sure the nail color is dry. 

If you're applying rhinestones on acrylic nails or dip powder nails, we recommend applying them on the nail before you apply your top coat. The rough surface of the nail will allow for better adhesion and make the rhinestones last longer.

Think about your placement.

orange and red nails with rhinestones

If your stones aren’t specifically meant for one event, then you probably want your stones to stick to your nails for a few weeks. To keep your stones from popping off prematurely, consider your placement — both how and where you place them. (Get some placement inspo with these popular rhinestone nail designs!)

How: Is the stone laid down properly with enough of its base embedded in the adhesive?

Where: Is the stone laid down in a place where it won’t get caught and easily pop off?

Check out our full rhinestone nail kit — perfect for DIY’ers or professionals

You want to use a tool.

rhinestone applicator for nails

Even if you don’t have a rhinestone applicator, it’s a good idea to use some type of tool to pick up and place your stones (a wax pencil or tweezers work). A rhinestone tool is the best way to apply them because it gives you more control and simplifies the application process. 

Rhinestones look really good on nude nails! Check out some of our favorite nude nail designs.

Step 1: Apply your rhinestone adhesive

rhinestone adhesive for nails

Once you’re ready to apply your rhinestones, start by applying a layer of rhinestone adhesive to the area where your rhinestones will be placed. You don’t need to apply it to the entire nail. We recommend applying the adhesive one nail at a time and then curing once you’re happy with your placement. This will help ensure the rhinestones stay in place.

Quick Tip: Some people like to use a thicker substance to apply rhinestones. This usually comes in a jar and has a consistency similar to hot glue or jelly. This can be more difficult to work with and may only be necessary if you’re working with really large, heavy gems. Plus, when you work with thicker adhesives, you may notice that lots of product tends to build up around the stones.

Step 2: Place your rhinestones

Using your rhinestone applicator, pick up a stone with the wax end. Place the rhinestone on your nail, and if necessary, use the tip of your applicator to gently correct the stone’s positioning. 

Quick Tip: If you don’t have a rhinestone applicator or wax pencil, you can use tweezers to pick up the stones and a toothpick to position them.

Step 3: Cure your rhinestones.  

Once the rhinestones are applied, cure the nail under your LED lamp. If you’re working from home and don’t have a lamp, we recommend using a nail polish top coat to apply the rhinestones (but keep in mind, this won’t last as long as the gel adhesive will).

Check out our full nail rhinestone collection — complete with applicator and adhesive.

Step 4: Apply a top coat.

Once your stones are cured, feel free to apply a top coat. You’ll want to apply the top coat around the stones and never on top of the stones (so if your entire nail is covered in stones, skip this part). Applying a top coat on top of your stones will seriously reduce their sparkle and make them look cloudy.

Quick Tip: Even though you don’t want to apply a top coat on the stones, applying the top coat close to and around  the stones can help lock them into place even more.

Final tips to keep in mind

  • Protect your stones: When you wash dishes (or wash your hair), consider wearing gloves to protect your stones from unnecessary water damage. If you take baths or swim often, limit the amount of time your nails spend soaking in the water. This can cause them to pop off sooner.
  • Place your stones: We already said this earlier, but it’s worth mentioning again — If you’re not used to rhinestones on your nails or if you want them to last a really long time, consider placing your stones closer to your cuticle. The closer your stones are to the tips of your nails, the more likely it is that you’ll bump into something and knock them off. This is especially true if you work with your hands a lot at work or at home.

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