What Is An Acrylic Fill?

Your nails require a fill-in every 2-3 weeks, depending on how fast they grow. That’s the rule. 

But do you know how to fill acrylic nails? Do you know the required tools and materials? Can you do it yourself at home? This guide explains everything you need to know about false nail fills, so you’re well prepared.

Acrylic fills, also known as in-fills or fill-ins, are overgrowth treatments applied at the base of the nail to cover the gap left in the cuticle area as the natural nail grows. It involves prepping the exposed area and applying a fresh layer of acrylics, including powder and liquid monomers.

How does a Fill Work for Acrylic Nails? 

Acrylic filling involves bridging the gap between the cuticle and the back of the acrylic nail. It’s critical because the growing natural nail pulls the artificial nail away from the cuticle area, leaving an unpleasant gap at the base of the nail. A fill-in procedure closes this gap, ensuring an even nail surface.

But more importantly, overgrown acrylic nails lift and chip at the base more than regular acrylics because they’re more exposed. For instance, water easily erodes the bond between artificial and natural nails as the gap widens. Then the two gradually separate, resulting in lifting.

Filling the gap prevents this problem. It closes the avenues for water penetration, preventing nail lifting.

Finally, filling is an opportunity to strengthen the entire nail. That’s why the best salons prep and apply a new layer of acrylics over the entire nail, including the existing acrylic nail.

Acrylic Fill-In vs. Full Set 

Replacing old nails with a new set is another way to deal with overgrown nails besides filling. So, how do the two compare?

Acrylic Fills

Acrylic filling involves bridging the gap formed in the cuticle area as the natural nail grows. It’s a quick process because you don’t need to remove the existing acrylics. Moreover, it’s cost-effective because it consumes less material and doesn’t involve much work.

Unfortunately, filling doesn’t match the bragging rights of a full set. Moreover, the nail tech cannot fix critical nail damage or issues during a fill-in.


  • Easy to apply
  • Cost-effective
  • It takes a short time


  • Matching the fill-in area to the rest of the nail is challenging 
  • You may be unable to fix nail damage during the fill-in

Acrylic Full Set

New acrylic nails are more appealing than fill-ins. For instance, you can fix nail dents and cracks before applying the new nails for healthy, uniform nails.

In addition, a new set is more durable. Whereas a fill-in is a stop-gap measure, a new set of nails breathes new life into your nails and lasts longer with less maintenance.

The main stumbling block is the cost. A new set of acrylic nails costs up to $30, whereas a refill costs under $10 in many nail salons. Also, installing a new set of acrylic nails takes longer.


  • Guarantees a more uniform nail
  • It’s more durable than fill-ins
  • It provides the opportunity to fix nail issues


  • It is more expensive.
  • It’s more time-consuming.

What Happens During an Acrylic Fill? 

An acrylic filling process is similar to installing a new set of acrylic nails. The main difference is that a new set covers the entire nail, while fill-ins focus on the tiny gap at the base of the nail.

Therefore, as with a new set of acrylics, filling begins with prepping the exposed nail area. The nail technician cleans, files, and buffs the area to remove dust. They may also rinse it with rubbing alcohol to remove oil and grease.

Then they prime the nail or apply a base coat for gel nails. From there, they apply acrylic powder + monomer in the exposed area, shape it, and allow it to harden.

Finally, the tech goes through finishing touches, including shaping the nail and applying nail polish or gel polish in the case of gel nails. You can use gel nail polish for acrylic nails too. But it’s best to use acrylic nail polish.

How to Prepare Nails for Acrylic Fill? 

Your nail technician will tell you how to prepare for an acrylic refill appointment. For instance, they may ask you to clean the nails thoroughly. You may also need to trim the nails to the desired length.

However, don’t fret, as most establishments handle the prep work at the salon. The prepping process involves four critical steps;

  1. Cuticle prepping: This step includes gently pushing back the cuticles (optional) and applying cuticle oil to hydrate and soothe the surrounding skin.
  2. Buffing the nails: Buffing rids the nail surface of dust, debris, moisture, and oils. It also leaves a smooth surface for an even top coat. Use a specialized nail buffer.
  3. Cleansing the nails: Using a lint-free cloth removes dust and other particles from the nail surface.
  4. PH prepping: Many nail salons use PH prep products to remove moisture, providing the perfect surface for acrylic application.

Acrylic Nail Fill-In Procedure 

Again, you don’t have to worry about the nitty-gritty of acrylic filling, as most nail techs are highly experienced in this area.

However, if you wish to refill your acrylic nails at home, below is the step-by-step guide.


  • Dust brush
  • Acrylic nail brush
  • Pre-primer and nail primer
  • Acrylic liquid
  • Acrylic powder

Acrylic Nail In-Fills: A Step-by-Step Guide

The following is a step-by-step guide to filling acrylic nails. Always speak to a professional manicurist if you need help.

Step 1: Remove Nail Polish

Before anything else, remove the old nail polish from the acrylic nail. Nail polish remover does the job perfectly. Soak the nail polish remover in cotton balls and gently wipe the nails to remove the old nail polish.

Failure to remove nail polish can result in a weak in-fill because acrylics don’t stick strongly to nail polish.

Step 2: Prep the Cuticle Area

This stage includes three important steps. First, use a nail or electric file to trim the overgrown acrylic nails to the desired length.

Trimming it slightly longer than desired is best, as filing brings it down a few millimeters. Next, push back the cuticles with a cuticle pusher.

Finally, buff the entire nail using a nail buffer, ensuring the back end of the existing acrylics blends with the natural nail in the cuticle area.

Step 3: Priming the Nails

Priming provides the perfect conditions for acrylic application. Begin by applying a pre-primer dehydrator. It removes excess oil from the nail, leaving it clean and dry. Allow it to set for a few minutes.

Next, apply nail primer or bonder. A thin nail primer or bonder layer ensures maximum acrylic adhesion for durable, long-lasting nails. Acrylic primers cure in under ten minutes.

Step 4: Apply the Acrylics

Again, the process is similar to installing new acrylic nails. Dip your acrylic brush into the liquid monomer and remove the excess liquid. Then dip it into the acrylic powder. It forms a bead-like substance.

Apply the acrylic mixture to the exposed natural nail and gently spread it to blend with the existing acrylic, creating a uniform, even surface. Then allow it to air-dry for 15-20 minutes. Acrylic nails are extra-hard when completely cured.

Note that acrylic nails are the thinnest at the cuticle area. Also, remember that false nails begin at the cuticle, not below or over it.

Step 5: Finish Up

Once the nail is completely dry, remove excess with a super-fine nail file, such as a 220-400 grit file. Then use a nail buffer to remove the dust. Next, apply nail polish for protection and nail art for decoration. 

How Often should you Get Acrylics Filled? 

We recommend filling acrylic nails every two to three weeks. However, depending on personal needs and preferences, you can do it sooner or later.

For instance, you don’t need to fill the overgrowth if you intend to replace the acrylics at the end of the month. In that case, fixing everything when replacing the nails is more sensible.

Similarly, you only need to book an in-fill every two weeks if the cuticle area has a visible gap. Otherwise, you can wait a little longer. 

On the other hand, if your nails grow fast, you may need a refill every weekend to avoid the embarrassment of half-empty acrylics.

The type of nails is another major factor. For instance, some nail styles look gorgeous with the cuticle gap. In that case, you can wait longer to book an in-fill.

How Long does an Acrylic Nail Fill Take? 

An acrylic refill takes 25-40 minutes, depending on the work needed and the nail salon or tech’s experience and methods.

The amount of work mainly depends on whether the natural and acrylic nails are in good shape. If not, then repairs are needed. For instance, cracks in the existing acrylics call for repairs. Similarly, the nail tech must repair chips during the in-fill procedure.

The condition of the cuticles is also important. For example, dried cuticles must be rehabilitated to avoid nail bed damage and promote healthy nail growth.

Of course, the duration of the in-fill process also depends on the types of nail polish removers and acrylic products. For instance, how fast do they dry? If the product dries fast, you’ll leave the nail salon quickly.

What’s the Cost of Acrylic Fills? 

Acrylic nails cost $15 to $30 to fill. The cost comes down to whether you book a salon appointment or go the DIY route. Most salons charge $20 to $30 to fill in a set of acrylics.

Meanwhile, DIYers only need to budget for nail polish remover, acrylic powder, and liquid monomer. So, you can do it completely free if you have leftover products.

But visiting the salon is more advantageous because you’re guaranteed professional-looking nails and a reduced risk of injuries or nail damage.

Other factors affecting the cost of acrylic in-fills include;

  • The shape and size of the nail
  • The desire for nail art and design
  • The condition of the acrylic nails

Acrylic fills vs. Full Set Acrylic Nails Price

Acrylic nail fills are more cost-effective than full sets. While in-fills cost as little as $10 per set, a full set costs as much as $50. The difference is minimal if you do your nails a home.

In that case, you only need a little more material (nail polish, acrylic powder, and liquid monomer), which costs $10 more.

When you Get Your Nails Filled, Can You Change the Color? 

Yes, you can change the color of your nails when filling the acrylics if the existing acrylics are clear. Unfortunately, you cannot change the nail color if the base color of the existing acrylics is dark. In that case, you must get a new set to change your nail color.

Note that art paint is not the same as acrylic color. For instance, suppose the acrylics are colorless, but you applied red nail polish to decorate the nails.

You can easily file away red-colored nail polish, revealing the clear acrylic underneath. Then you can change the nails to a new color.

Fortunately, most nail technicians use a clear base anticipating that the customer may wish to change the nail color along the way. Moreover, many acrylic nail manufacturers only make clear bases.

Changing the nail color during fill-in is easy if you have a clear base. Use a clear base for the in-fills to match the rest of the acrylics. Then apply colored nail polish.


An acrylic refill involves bridging the gap left at the nail base when the acrylic nails overgrow. It ensures uniform, even, and more appealing nails.

It also provides the opportunity to fix lifting and acrylic nail damage. Consider getting an in-fill every 2-3 weeks for professional-looking nails.

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