A close-up photograph capturing a hand with intricately painted nails resembling tiny tattoos, showcasing the fusion of nail art and body art in a single image.

Can You Tattoo Your Nails?

With the rising popularity of nail art, many people wonder if it’s possible to get actual tattoos on their nails. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about nail tattoos.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: While technically possible, nail tattoos are not recommended. The porous surface of nails does not hold tattoo ink well, resulting in poor design quality and longevity.

Read on as we dive deeper into the viability, process, risks and downsides, upkeep, costs, and alternatives for nail tattoos.

Is It Possible to Get Nail Tattoos?

Nail tattoos have become an increasingly popular way to decorate your nails without the permanence of traditional tattoos. Unlike regular tattoos that are injected under the skin, nail tattoos are a form of surface decoration applied on top of the nail.

While they may sometimes be referred to as “nail tattoos,” they are not actually permanent tattoos. Instead, nail tattoos allow you to temporarily decorate your nails with designs that mimic the look of real tattoos.

There are a few different methods for getting nail tattoos:

Nail Stickers

Pre-designed nail sticker tattoos are one of the easiest ways to get the tattoo look. These nail stickers come in a variety of edgy designs, like skulls, anchors, flowers, and more. They are made out of a thin vinyl material that adheres to the surface of the nail when pressed on firmly.

Nail sticker tattoos are very easy to apply on your own and last 1-5 days before starting to peel off.

Nail Decals

Another option is to use nail decals, which work similarly to stickers. The decals feature intricate tattoo-style designs and are applied on top of a base coat. After applying the decal, you then finish it off with a top coat to smooth everything out and seal in the design.

This helps the decals last up to 1-2 weeks on average.

Nail Polish Tattoos

For a more semi-permanent tattoo look, specialty nail polish tattoo kits allow you to paint on designs that resemble ink. These polishes go on opaque, just like a real tattoo, and last through several days of wear.

To use them, you paint on a base polish color, let it dry, then use the thin polish tattoo pen to draw on any design you’d like. Once done, you seal it all in with a top coat. Lasts up to 1 week before needing to be redone as the polish grows out.

Gel Tattoo Nail Polish

Gel nail polish can also be used to create nail tattoos that have an incredibly realistic look. There are special gel polishes that apply glossy and thick, just like real tattoo ink. Many nail techs can freehand tattoo designs right onto your nails using gel polish.

You can also find pre-designed gel tattoo stencils to easily stamp on designs at home. Gel tattoos can last 2-3 weeks or more of wear without chipping or fading.

Temporary Tattoo Paper

For one-off designs, you can use temporary tattoo paper. These work just like any temporary tattoo. You print out a design, wet the paper, and apply it to your clean nail. The ink transfers off the paper and dries on the nail.

Temporary nail tattoo paper lasts around 2-4 days before naturally wearing off. You can find many edgy tattoo designs available online or create your own.

How Are Nail Tattoos Done?

Nail tattoos, also known as nail decals or nail stickers, provide a fun and temporary way to decorate your nails without the permanence of real tattoos. Here’s a look at how they work:

Materials Needed

To apply nail tattoos, you’ll need:

  • Nail tattoo decals or stickers
  • Nail polish remover or alcohol wipes
  • Cuticle stick
  • Top coat/sealer

Prepping Your Nails

Before applying the nail tattoos, you’ll want to start with clean, dry nails. Use nail polish remover or alcohol wipes to remove any traces of oils, lotion or previously worn nail polish from your nails. Push back and tidy up your cuticles gently with a cuticle stick.

Buff the surface of your nails lightly to create a rough, gripping texture for the stickers to adhere to. Avoid buffing too much, which can thin your nails.

Positioning the Tattoos

Nail tattoo kits come with various designs to choose from. Select the tattoos you want and gently peel them off from their backing sheet. Position the tattoo where you want it on your nail. Hold the tattoo sticker gently over the nail for a few seconds while pressing to adhere it and smooth out any bubbles.

Repeat this process until all your nails are decorated with the tattoos you’ve selected.

Sealing the Design

Once your nail tattoos are applied, seal them with a top coat or clear sealer. This helps ensure they stay put for several days. Apply one to two thin layers of top coat over the tattoos and let them dry fully. Your nail tattoos will typically last around 3-7 days before starting to wear off.

Over time the edges may lift and the designs may fade.

Removal and Reapplication

When your nail tattoos begin to wear away, you can gently peel off any remaining bits of the stickers with your fingernails or use nail polish remover to dissolve the adhesive. Avoid pulling too hard, which can damage your natural nails.

Then simply buff your nails again and apply a fresh set of nail tattoo stickers if you wish. Reapply new tattoos as often as you like to keep your nails looking fabulous.

Nail tattoos allow you to switch up your manicure in minutes without harsh chemicals. They offer an easy, non-permanent way to accessorize your nails with super cute designs.

What Are the Risks and Downsides?

Getting a tattoo on your nails certainly comes with some risks and downsides to consider. Here are some of the main ones:


As with any tattoo, there is always a risk of infection when tattooing nails. The tools and equipment used need to be properly sterilized, and the environment needs to be very clean. Any bacteria entering the tattoo site could lead to a nasty infection developing.

Nail Damage

The tattooing process involves repeatedly puncturing the nailbed with tattoo needles, which can naturally weaken the nails and make them more prone to cracking and breaking. This damage is permanent and some people find their nail quality is never the same again after getting a fingernail tattoo.

Fading and Discoloration

While tattoos on skin fade over time, they last much less on fingernails. The average nail tattoo lasts 3-6 weeks before significant fading occurs. There may also be unnatural discolorations that develop in the nail and cuticle. Touch up sessions are often needed.

Not as Durable as Skin Tattoos

Since fingernails grow and shed, the tattoo is not permanent like a regular skin tattoo. The design will grow out with the nail and be gone once that nail is eventually clipped. This can mean more money and effort spent on maintaining it.

Can Limit Nail Options

If you get a nail tattoo, it may restrict other nail treatments you get in the future. For example, certain nail enhancements like acrylics or dip powders may not work as well over the tattooed area.

Pain and Discomfort

Having a tattoo needle repeatedly piercing the nailbed is considered much more painful than getting tattooed on the skin. Some people find the pain too intense to continue with the full nail tattoo. There can also be ongoing sensitivity or discomfort afterward.

What Kind of Upkeep Do Nail Tattoos Require?

Nail tattoos can be a fun and creative way to decorate your nails without the permanence of real tattoos. But like any nail art, they do require some upkeep to keep them looking their best. Here’s what you need to know about caring for nail tattoos:

Regular Touch-Ups

Like regular polish, nail tattoos can chip and fade over time. Typically they’ll last 1-2 weeks before needing a touch up, but results can vary depending on your nail type and activities. To keep them looking fresh, check for any chips or fading every few days and touch them up as needed.

Using a top coat can help them last longer between touch ups.

Nail Care

Caring for your nails is important for any nail art to last. Keep nails clean and filed into the desired shape. Use cuticle oil daily to keep cuticles hydrated and pushed back. Moisturize hands and nails often. All these steps will help the tattoos adhere better and prolong the manicure.

Removal and Reapplication

When the tattoos grow out or you’re ready for a new look, they can be gently removed with nail polish remover. To reuse tattoos, simply stick them back onto the included plastic sheet until ready to reapply. When reapplying, make sure nails are clean and dry for the best adhesion.

Avoid Picking and Peeling

As tempting as it is, avoid peeling or picking at the tattoos as this can cause them to lift or peel off prematurely. The best removal is with nail polish remover. If you notice a tattoo lifting at the edges, gently press it back down and seal with top coat to keep it in place longer.

Avoid Water Exposure

Since nail tattoos are applied using water, it’s best to avoid prolonged water exposure once they’re on. Try to minimize hand washing and wet tasks. When bathing or washing dishes, wear rubber gloves to protect the tattoos. Water can make them lift and peel early.

With proper application and care, nail tattoos can last up to two weeks or more on most nail types. Take care of your nails and touch up the tattoos as needed for the best possible wear. Be gentle with nail cleaning and removal to avoid damage.

Follow these tips and you’ll be able to rock fun nail tattoos for a while!

How Much Do Nail Tattoos Cost?

Nail tattoos have become an increasingly popular alternative to traditional tattoos in recent years. Unlike permanent tattoos on the skin, nail tattoos are a temporary way to express yourself through artistic designs on your fingernails or toenails.

But how much do these stylish embellishments actually cost?

The price of nail tattoos can vary considerably depending on a number of factors. These include:

  • Salon vs. DIY – Getting nail tattoos professionally done at a nail salon is typically more expensive than doing them yourself at home with a nail tattoo kit.
  • Design complexity – More intricate and detailed designs often cost more.
  • Quality of nail tattoos – Higher quality tattoo materials are usually pricier.
  • Number of nails – The more nails you get tattooed, the higher the cost.
  • Nail size – Tattoos on toenails may be cheaper than fingernails.
  • Location – Prices can vary greatly depending on where you live and the average rates in your area.

On average, most salons charge between $5-$15 per nail for professional nail tattoo application. So a full set could cost you anywhere from $50-$150. However, some upscale salons in major cities like New York and Los Angeles can charge upwards of $250 for an entire set of nail tattoos.

Celebrities like Rihanna and Lady Gaga have even paid salons over $1,000 for intricate all-over nail art with hand-painted images or tiny decals applied to each nail.

If you’re looking to save some money, DIY nail tattoo kits offer a more affordable option. These at-home kits provide you with all the supplies you need to apply your own temporary tattoos. They typically range from $10-$25 for enough materials to cover a full set of 10 nails.

However, the designs may not be as broad or as high quality as what a professional salon can offer.

No matter which option you choose, nail tattoos allow you to accessorize your nails in a unique way for a relatively low cost. And since the designs last 1-2 weeks on average, you can switch up your look as often as you like.

So express your personal style with these customizable and temporary tattoos applied directly to your nails!

What Are Some Alternatives to Nail Tattoos?

If you want to decorate your nails with designs but don’t want permanent tattoos, there are several stylish alternatives. These temporary options allow you to change up your nail art whenever you want.

Nail Polish

Nail polish is the most common nail decoration. It comes in every color imaginable, from bright neons to subtle nudes. You can paint your nails a single solid shade or get creative with patterns, such as polka dots, stripes, florals, and more.

The latest polish styles include ombre, chrome, holographic, and cat-eye effects. Best of all, nail polish washes off with acetone-based remover, allowing you to switch up shades whenever you want.

Nail Stickers

Pre-designed nail stickers make nail art easy. These thin vinyl decals come in sheets with various images and motifs. Just peel off the stickers and apply them to your nails wherever you want. You can find stickers with fun themes like fruit, animals, seasonal motifs, and more.

Many nail sticker packs also include shapes like stars, hearts, and circles to accent your manicures.

Nail Wraps

Nail wraps cover the entire nail in a digitally-printed design for a flawless photo-realistic look. Brands like Jamberry and Color Street are popular for their extensive collections of colorful prints. Applying a nail wrap is similar to applying a sticker.

Just size it to your nail, peel off the backing, and smooth it on. Nail wraps can last up to two weeks before starting to lift at the edges.

Gel Manicures

Gel manicures are a step up from regular polish with a glossy, chip-resistant finish. The pigmented gel formula gets cured under UV light, allowing it to harden on the nails for up to three weeks of wear. Gel manicures offer the same wide range of color choices as nail polish.

Plus, most salons have an extensive selection of 3D art add-ons like glitter, foil, gems, lace, flowers, and more to customize your manicure.

Press-On Nails

Pre-shaped press-on nails provide an instant finished look that lasts about a week. Full cover options adhere over the entire natural nail for a seamless effect. Another common style features a small attached tab that sticks to the nail tip while leaving your natural nails exposed underneath.

Press-ons come ready-to-wear in solid colors, French manicure tips, and eye-catching designs from chic to playful themes.

Comparison of Nail Decoration Options

Method Duration Removal
Nail polish 3 to 7 days Acetone
Nail stickers Up to 10 days Peel off
Nail wraps 10 to 14 days Peel off
Gel manicures Up to 21 days File off
Press-on nails 5 to 7 days Peel off


While it is technically possible to get tiny tattoos on your nails, the viability and longevity remain questionable. The nails’ porous surface does not retain ink well. As a result, the design quality is compromised and constant touch ups are needed.

If you want to explore nail art with better outcomes, alternatives like polish, sequins, crystals, stickers, stamps and more can create fun looks without the risks of nail tattoos. But if you still wish to try it, be sure to visit an experienced nail technician and manage expectations regarding the appearance and permanence.

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