Acrylic Nails Thickness: How Thick Should Acrylic Nails Be?

Acrylic nail thickness is a common dilemma. Extra thick nails are heavy and uncomfortable. On the other extreme, thin artificial nails are easily damaged.

So, what’s the middle ground, and how do you know when you hit the sweet spot? Unfortunately, it’s a difficult question. Below we explain everything you need to know to achieve the “right” thickness.

How thick should acrylic nails be?

The perfect acrylic nail thickness is 0.03 inches, approximately the thickness of a credit card (0.0299). This translates to 0.762 mm. That’s the regular thickness offered at the nail salon.

However, competition nails are often thinner, ranging from 0.01 to 0.03 inches. That said, most people have thicker or thinner acrylic nails.

Thick vs. Thin Acrylic Nails: Pros and Cons 

Personal preferences rule regarding acrylic nail thickness (provided you don’t go overboard). Nevertheless, it helps to understand the advantages and disadvantages of each option to make the best decision for every occasion.

Thick Acrylic Nails Pros and Cons

The main advantage of thick nails is durability. They last longer and are less likely to break under minor pressure. Therefore, thick nails are great for long nails that are naturally weaker.

In addition, they give the nails added strength for increased longevity. Additionally, thick nails are great for nail art and moldings.

Unfortunately, thick nails get stuck in different places more easily. Also, they crack more readily due to limited flexibility. Above all, thick nails might look unnatural. So, you must find the right balance to maintain a natural appearance.


  • Thick nails strengthen the nail
  • They are durable and long-lasting
  • Ideal for nail art
  • Perfect for longer nails


  • They might look unnatural
  • Consume a lot of product
  • Put extra strain on the natural nail plate

Thin Acrylic Nails Pros and Cons

A thin layer of acrylic works wonders for short nails. This is especially true if you maintain a thin cuticle area. It allows the acrylic nails to blend with your natural nails seamlessly. Of course, thin nails are easier to apply and consume less material. They also take shorter to apply.

However, they can be disastrous, especially extra-thin acrylic nails. First, thin nails almost always break under pressure, particularly at the apex.

For instance, the nails will break if washing clothes or mixing dough. Also, thin nails scratch easily and are difficult to repair.


  • Thin nails look good naturally
  • They’re perfect for thick fingers
  • They’re great for short nails


  • The nails break easily
  • They’re ill-suited for long nails
  • Easily scratched and broken

What Determines the Thickness of Acrylic Nails 

The actual and ideal acrylic nail thickness depends on many factors, from nail shape and size to the properties of the apex area. Let’s consider some of the most critical factors;

Nail Shape, Size, and Length

The nail’s natural properties are the most important factor when deciding acrylic thickness. Specifically, we consider the nail shape, size, and length.

First, different people have different nail shapes. Though round nails are the most common, other shapes include square, almond, and oval. The shape doesn’t directly impact acrylic thickness.

However, it determines the types of acrylic nails you can wear, affecting the thickness. For instance, coffin nails are typically thicker, while round nails are thinner.

The nail dimensions are just as important. For instance, you need longer acrylics for wider nails, meaning you’ll end up with thicker nails (to ensure maximum strength and durability).

Similarly, you need longer acrylics to retain longer natural nails. So, again, you’ll end up with thicker nails.

Thickness of the Matrix

The matrix is the back end of the nail where the nail begins to grow. It generates the skin cells that push out the old, dead cells to form new nails. The cells harden as they grow from the nail root to the nail plate to generate new nails.

So, you can already see why it’s critical for acrylic nail thickness. The matrix’s shape, size, and thickness determine the width and thickness of the natural nail, which impacts acrylic nail thickness.

For instance, a wider nail matrix produces wider nail plates. Wider plates require longer acrylic nails to look natural and must be thicker around the middle to ensure maximum nail strength.

A thicker nail matrix produces thicker natural nails, requiring thinner acrylic layers to look natural.

The Apex Area

The apex is the area where a nail tip meets the natural nail. So, it’s a small area, one or two millimeters at most. However, it’s very important when applying fake nails, including acrylics, as it’s critical to overall nail strength and balance.

Specifically, you must get the apex thickness right. Otherwise, everything else falls apart. The standard thickness is twice the thickness at the free edges. But you should consider a few other factors.

For instance, the nail must form a gradual incline from the cuticle to the apex, with the upper arch forming a straight line to the free edge. 

But that’s not all. For instance, while celebrities can do with thinner apexes, a hands-on mom who does most of the house chores will benefit from a stronger, thicker nail apex. Otherwise, the nails fall off fast.

The Cuticle Area

Finally, we consider the cuticle area when determining the appropriate acrylic nail thickness. If you’re lost, the cuticle area is the bottom edge of the finger (or toe) with a clear, dead skin layer. It’s right above the nail matrix.

Acrylics go down at the cuticles, not below or above, as you want enough room to remove the dead skin. Also, you must not push back on the cuticles too much.

More importantly, the acrylic nail must be flush with the natural nail at the cuticle area – without over-filing the natural nail.

So, you can see how this affects acrylic thickness. First, it must be very thin when it meets the natural nail in the cuticle area.

Additionally, if your cuticles are cracked or broken, you may need to leave a larger room around the nail base to rehydrate and treat the cuticles, forcing you to avoid thicker nails for a while.

Acrylic Nail Thickness at Different Parts of the Nail 

In a nutshell, acrylic nails are thinnest at the cuticle area, where it blends with the rest of the natural nail. Ensure it sits flush with the real nail in this area. Meanwhile, it’s thickest at the apex. The free edge is midway between the two thicknesses.

If the tip extends past the natural nail, ensure it is thicker for greater strength and durability. Regardless, no part of the nail should be thicker than two credit cards.

Salon Nails vs. Competition Nails Thickness

The term “competition nails” can be confusing. It’s the term for nails designed for a short event. For instance, we regularly do our nails for a birthday party or an interview and remove them immediately after the event. If so, they are called competition nails.

On the other hand, salon nails are regular mani-pedi nails designed to take you through a few days or weeks, typically up to two months.

As a result, salon nails are often thicker than competition nails. For example, standard salon nails are as thick as a credit card (0.03 inches). Meanwhile, competition nails are the thickness of a business card, typically 0.01 to 0.03 inches.

What if your Acrylic Nails are Too Thick?

Your acrylic nails are too thick if they’re thicker than two credit cards. Alternatively, they are too thick if you feel the weight on your fingernails or if they appear bulkier than you wish. Most nail salons fix thick acrylic nails in two ways;

  1. Drill the nails: The easiest solution is to drill the nails with a nail drill or e-file. Nail drills are more challenging to use. However, they are extremely effective once you get going. Choose the right attachment and speed for the perfect nails.
  2. Use acetone: Soak the nails in acetone for 20-30 minutes. Alternatively, wipe the nails with a cotton ball soaked in acetone. Then use a cuticle pusher to remove the excess acrylic thickness. Warm acetone dissolves acrylic nails faster.

How to Fix Thick Acrylic Nails at Home

Suppose you’re a DIY enthusiast or unable to see a nail technician immediately. Consider the following alternative ways to fix your bulky nails;

  • The filing technique: The fastest solution remains to file the nails. However, avoid e-files as they can accidentally remove excess material if you incorrectly set the speed. Instead, use a regular nail file. Gently file the whole surface. Then buff away the debris with a nail buffer and apply cuticle oil to moisturize the nails.
  • Remove and reapply: If filing doesn’t work, the next best option is to remove the thick acrylics and install new ones. Use acetone to remove the acrylics completely. Then file down the nail, shape it, and prime it with a nail primer. After that, apply acrylic liquid and acrylic powder, allow it to cure, and seal the acrylic nail with nail polish.

Can Acrylic Nails be Too Thin?

Yes, acrylic nails can be too thin, with a few as thin as 0.2 mm or less. Extra-thin acrylics are great for natural-looking nails without the maintenance needs of traditional acrylics.

But be warned that ultra-thin acrylic nails are weak. They may only last a few days with good maintenance. Also, they require more touch-ups.

How can I Repair Thin Acrylic Nails?

Thin acrylic nails are easier to fix than thicker nails. Begin by filing away the loose edges to ensure an even nail plate. Then apply a thin layer of acrylic powder at the overly thin areas and smooth out with a brush.

The new layer of acrylic dries in a few minutes. Once it dries, file down the surface for an even nail. Then apply cuticle oil to keep the nails moisturized and healthy.

Is it Better to have Thick or Thin Acrylic Nails?

Unfortunately, there’s no one right answer. Instead, it comes down to the occasion and personal preferences. For example, consider thinner nails for a more natural look and thicker ones for a bolder, more dramatic appearance.

Also, consider thinner nails for competitions or events and thicker ones if you wish to wear the nails for a few weeks or months.

Can Thick or Thin Acrylic Nails Cause Nail Damage?

Unfortunately, yes. Thin or thick acrylic nails can damage real nails. Interestingly, acrylic nails themselves are harmless. However, the application and removal processes can make your nails thin, brittle, and weak.

Thick fake nails stress the natural nail and nail bed, potentially causing permanent damage.

Tips for the Perfectly Thick Acrylic Nails

Are you still struggling to find the right acrylic nail thickness? The following are professional tips to ensure the right thickness;

  1. Ensure the right nail preparation: Avoid a lumpy look by filing your nails smoothly with a nail file or e-file. Then remove all the residue.
  2. Start with the length: Use the nail form to attain the perfect length. Also, work along rather than across the nail, starting in the cuticle area and working your way up to the apex. 
  3. Focus on the thickness: We often mess up the thickness because we’re distracted by other issues like the shape of the nail. Forget about these issues, as they’re easier to fix once you attain the right thickness.
  4. File down the acrylics as you finish up: Use a nail file to even down the top layer of acrylics for a professional and beautiful look. Nail techs prefer e-files as they’re faster. But regular nail files are just as effective.
  5. Buy acrylic nails from reputable merchants: Runny and low-quality acrylic nail products make it difficult to attain the right thickness. So, source products from the best manufacturers.
  6. Consider alternative artificial nails: Gel extensions are naturally thinner and more professional-looking than acrylic nails. Gel nails are also prettier. The only downside is gel polish is comparably weaker and less durable.


Acrylic nails are beautiful, durable, and long-lasting if applied correctly to the right length and thickness.

Thankfully, you now know how to ensure the right thickness for a balanced nail that doesn’t stress your fingers. 

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