Tough As

And now, some thoughts on the newest item in my bag of little costuming tricks. Fake nails.

I recently tried out my first set of fake nails. As it turns out, they’re quite easy and a really nice option for a LARPer who wants to include painted nails in their costume but doesn’t want to spend time actually painting their nails or letting them dry. Or don’t know how to.

Male LARPers who get cross-cast, I’m looking at you.

I suspect with a little time and effort, one could probably even trim long acrylic nails into points for claws, which is probably a more universally applicable costuming desire. (I’m sure costuming stores and Halloween stores sell glue-on claws, but I suspect acrylic fashion nails are cheaper and easier to find, most of the year. I bought mine at a grocery store.)

I plan to use fake French nails for my Cottington Woods character. I’ve been getting real French manicures to reflect her artificial nature as a doll. I very much like the visual effect, even though it’s a very subtle aspect of the costume. But I really dislike getting my nails done, for various reasons, including cost and time. I think the worst part might actually be having to sit still and not touch anything while the polish sets.

Which is why I looked into a different option — glue-on nails. Despite doing a little bit of research online, I had no idea which brand and size to get when I saw them at the grocery store. Too many options, and I didn’t know what the difference was. (Wound up with Broadway Nails Real Life in the Real Short size, if anyone is curious.)

Not only are they really easy to put on,  they come with 24 nails in one pack. Despite having fairly small hands, I was able to pick ones that more or less fit. Out of the package, the nails are quite long and square, which I dislike (and doesn’t look at all doll-like) but you can cut them and file them like real nails (who knew?) With a little time with some nail clippers and the little file that comes in the pack, I got them down to more reasonable lengths and rounder shapes.

Here’s a shot of my hands with the fake French nails:

Compare with a real French manicure:

Not too far off, huh? (The fake nails look slightly more matte, but that’s probably because of the lighting.)

The cost is literally a quarter of that of a real manicure. I can put them on any time before the LARP without working around a salon’s business hours, and it takes very little time to glue them on. Trimming them took a bit more time, especially if you’re trying to make them as even as possible, but no where near as long as it takes to wait for a real manicure to set.

They felt a bit odd on my hands at first, but that sensation quickly went away. (Except for typing. Typing with them on always felt a little odd, especially when hitting the space bar with my thumb.) And they stayed on pretty well. One popped off about three days after I first applied them, and I simply re-glued it. After maybe five or six days, one or two more nails popped off, but to be fair, I’d been playing with them and pushing on them and testing their limits. After about a week, I started pressing on the tips and the bottom edge over the nail bed, and they all came off. (I must say, having them pop off in front of people felt distinctly embarrassing.) I didn’t even need nail polish remover like the box suggested, though it’s good to know they can be removed as soon as you like.

At a glance, the acrylic nails look pretty real to me. Up close, at the right angle, you can see they’re a bit thicker than real nails, but honestly, the artificiality works quite well with my character concept of a porcelain doll.  By the end of the week, they looked ever so slightly more fake, possibly because as my nail grew, a tiny gap was visible if one squinted closely at the cuticle.

Ultimately, what I’m saving in time and money makes the fake nails well worth it. They’re cheap and easy to use even if you have no experience with nail beauty. I can see them really coming in handy if someone wanted to just pop them on between LARPs at  a convention. (Another bonus — if you’re sharing a hotel room, the smell of the glue is no where near as powerful as the smell of wet nail polish, so you’ll bother other people less.) Definitely worth trying for adding a little extra to a costume.


About Fair Escape

I've been LARPing for years in all different styles, including both boffer and theater. I love classic LARP but I'm always happy to try something new. I have a sort of "gotta catch 'em all" attitude towards experiencing LARPs. I'm currently serve as a board member of NEIL, a member of proposal com for Intercon, the largest all LARP convention in the US, and as en editor for Game Wrap, a publication about the art and craft of LARP. I was also con chair of Festival of the LARPs 2017, and I'm on staff for NELCO, the first all LARP conference in the US. I'm
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10 Responses to Tough As

  1. Ivan Zalac says:

    The acrylic material for making them is awesome for various purposes. We used it to make vampire fangs.

  2. eurveinofair says:

    As my blue skinned air elemantally aligned character, I paint my nails blue and put a layer of glitter polish on top for every Madrigal. I do this right before game with the help of one of my friends. It’s good bonding time.

    My wife got me some fake nails over a year ago and I’ve had them in my makeup case, reluctant to try them out. I guess I should give them a fair chance after this. Thanks for the review and commentary.

    • Fair Escape says:

      I love the idea of using nail polish and glitter as part of an inhuman costume like an air elemental. I think in the case of including nails in a costume, men have something of an advantage. If a girl shows up with polish on, people mentally gloss over it because it’s common and who knows, maybe she just happened to have this polish on and didn’t bother to remove it before the LARP. If a guy does it, it catches attention and seems deliberate.

      Let me know what you think of the fake nails if you do! I know fake nails are probably really mundane to everyone, but they’re still new and shiny to me.

      • eurveinofair says:

        I also use makeup to make my entire hands all the way to the wrist blue as well, so it’s pretty clearly deliberate. It’s shiny and new to me as well, so I’ll let you know. I have a Madrigal event in just a couple of weeks. 🙂

    • Alon Levy says:

      I would put blue makeup on my face. When I played a ninja lizard, I used greenface plus impractical green claws. When I NPCed at Cottington, they didn’t bother doing our nails ever – they painted our faces to resemble rats, wolves, demons, or what have you. I may not be a representative example since I’m fashion-unconscious, but I don’t think I’d even notice anyone’s nails, whereas the coloring on the face is more obvious.

      • eurveinofair says:

        From my observations there’s a huge perception/expectation difference between PC and NPC characters as far as makeup goes.

        NPCs get a huge pass all the way around because in general you see them fairly quickly in a fighting situation so there isn’t time to notice the finer details of a makeup job. Most players understand the time constraints NPCs have because of having to do so many roles in rapid succession.

        What I notice about makeup jobs in general is that the longer I’m roleplaying with someone (vs. fighting), the more the details of their makeup attract my notice. I suspect this is because as people talk they move their hands around, bringing our attention to them. We watch their faces more closely when they talk. This is far more likely to happen with PCs, who also have all the time in the world to do their makeup to the fullest.

        What I have found is that characters who have “fur” or different colored/textured skin do one of three things; put makeup on hands/arms, wear gloves or go uncolored. The first two don’t usually attract my attention because it fits in with the rest of their makeup. The third one tends to pull me just a little out of game because it’s different from the rest of them.

        It’s not a huge deal. I don’t condemn anyone for not doing it. From a lot of experience as a lion, a dog and an air elemental I know what a pain in the… neck makeup and gloves can be on the hands for a whole weekend. However, I do notice it and based on the comments I get on my makeup jobs, I’m pretty sure a lot of other people do too.

        As a good example, I NPCd Cottington for their one-day. (I did *not* do makeup on my hands as a nightmare in a mod, for the record.) You know what one character makeup job really jumped out at me, even though her face was a mask? The cat lady. She was wearing the most awesome, impractical claws I could imagine… and she played the harp while wearing them. I wouldn’t expect that from an NPC, but as a PC, it totally rounded out the character look.


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