Magnetic fingernails


A few weeks ago I went and got my nails done to try to rid myself of a life-long habit of biting my nails.  Some time later, I realized that the goop they put on my nails would be plenty to hold a small magnet and give me a sixth sense, as several others have done via subdermal magnetic implants.

ObDisclaimer before I go into the technical details: consult with a doctor/lawyer before doing this.  Consider carrying some kind of documentation (and a nail file) in case you have a medical emergency and need to be stuck in an MRI.  You may break things / lose data / get contact dermatitis from nail goo / kill kittens with your new magnet superpowers.  Don’t blame me :p

The basics of nail enhancements (the industry term; they are better known as fake nails 🙂 ) are as follows: your natural nails get filed down, and acrylic or gel is applied in a multi-stage process.  With gel, the nails need less filing, and each layer gets cured under a UV light.  If the technician uses a combination of powder and liquid, you’re getting acrylics.  Even if there’s a UV light involved – powder means acrylics.  Some crappy salons will just put a UV topcoat on and call it “gel” – be warned.  Also, many nail techs are used to working with biters, so even if you have sad stubby nails, don’t despair – they have a whole bag of tricks involving plastic forms, more substantial gel, etc. to make your fingertips looks unbitten.


Pablos, [redacted] and I had our magnetic manicures done by Aiden at the Gene Juarez salon in downtown Seattle. You can reach them at 206.326.6000, and ask for her specifically.  She did a fantastic job and didn’t even blink at our weird request.  Expect to spend just under $100 with tip – it’s a fancy salon.  Bring your own magnets – we used the ones Nate recommended, tiny parylene-encases magnetic stirrers from here.  They are a buck a piece and come in a minimum quantity of 100, so find some friends who want to do this too.  Pablos’ and [redacted]’s are clear gel with white tips; mine are all clear gel, with pink polish over top, because I like pink.  One of the benefits of the gel we used – as acetone doesn’t dissolve it, I can take the polish off and change it.  It was fairly thick, with a noticeable bump, seen here in profile.  The gel is lightweight though, and overall my nails feel less heavy than when I had acrylics (with no magnets) on.  The magnets in mine are visible through two layers of polish; I expect another layer or a darker colour would address that, if you care.

During Saturday evening’s [redacted], a bunch of folks also had them stuck on with acrylics, using one of the cheap kits (made by Kiss Nails, I think)  one can get at the local pharmacy / big box / beauty supply etc.  Clamoring and Willow from Jigsaw Renaissance lead the way on that part of the project.


I can feel ferrous materials strongly and easily with the backs of my fingers.  It’s a very gentle pull, and is totally fascinating.  I can’t feel much of anything through the pads of my fingers.  I feel a very light buzz near things with strong magnetic fields, but it’s really subtle to the point where I’m not yet convinced it’s real – I expect I’ll get more attuned to it in the next little bit.  For now it just tickles.zomg magnetfingers

I can pick up pretty substantial objects, like the magnet from inside an old hard drive.  I’m bad with weights but it’s probably 50 grams.

Aiden was a pro at getting the polarities all lined up, but you’ll want to think about how to arrange them.  Fingers sticking together or repelling?  I went with sticking together.  Hours of entertainment, I tell you.

So far I haven’t managed to erase any credit cards or hard drives with them, and I’ve been told by others that these magnets just don’t have enough power to do either.

Oh and as for nailbiting – while I haven’t gone back to natural nails yet, the enhancements I’ve tried – gels without magnets, acrylics without magnets, and now gels with magnets – have all made my fingers completely incompatible with my teeth.  I simply have no desire to bite on them due to the foreign texture, and the general neatness of the nails.  I don’t know for sure that I’ve broken the habit, but it seems to be a damn effective temporary measure.


Nails with enhancements need to be “filled” about every 2-3 weeks as they grow out from the cuticle, and breaks need to be fixed promptly or they will get worse and you may end up in pain.  You’ll pay about 1/2 to 2/3 the cost to have a fill done compared to the original work, and a few bucks per nail if they break.  I do not yet know how these will grow out.  I expect to be filing them down until the magnet is a half millimetre from the “free edge” (outward edge), then letting them grow out a bit so I can clip the magnets off.  I’ll probably have a fill done right at week 2, and add a second set of magnets at week 4.  YMMV depending on the size of your fingernails and how fast they grow.

Product reference

Aiden used CND‘s Brisa gel system on us.  If you’re into colours, look for a salon that does Calgel’s coloured gels, or Opi Axxium.  Those come in both file-off and soak-off varieties – the latter soak off with acetone, but are a bit softer from what I’ve read.  CND has a new product called Shellac which is more like a UV cured polish, but which may also be strong enough to retain the magnets.  YMMV; please let me know what works for you!  There are also plenty of products I didn’t list – these are the brands that seemed to have decent reputations on the intertubes and Amazon reviews.

17 thoughts on “Magnetic fingernails

  1. As I already said, this is awesome! (The implant method is a little disturbing to think about… health risks, too.)

    There have been reports that some people with implants can feel magnetic fields after they get removed/in hands that don’t have the implants. (Magnetoception has been reported in electricians, too.) It may just be phantom sensations, but I wonder if maybe the constant awareness of magnetic fields leads to your mind associating subtle queues (that it would normally discard) with magnetic fields… Blood does contain iron, after all.

    Any luck with detecting electric currents? It would be awesome if you could feel the Earth’s magnetic field… Then it wouldn’t matter if you messed up your android’s compass!

    It seems expensive though. Especially the upkeep. And time consuming…. I’m thinking of making something to wear on the middle segment of my finger, like a cloth ring with magnets in it or maybe a full glove…

    1. Not sure about currents yet. There are definitely cheaper ways to do this – the acrylic kits folks used at HBL on saturday are only about $10 at the pharmacies, and will do ~40 nails. They just don’t look quite so snazzy 🙂

      1. So how are you feeling about this a few weeks on?

        I superglued a 4mm x 1mm N50 to my fingertip after reading this, and I was pretty disappointed. The magnet just isn’t strong enough to tell whether a metal is magnetic from further than ~3mm, and there is absolutely no way I could detect the field around a live wire. Knowing which way is north is just fantasy land.

        It’s made me very sceptical about the things people with the implants say they can feel. While it’s possible having the magnet under your skin could make you more sensitive to movements, it’s pretty clear it simply isn’t moving.

  2. I love how you wrote this in case-study like format. “Background,” “Implementation,” “Results.” Magnifique!

  3. Leigh,

    Thanks for the writeup and inspiration. A few friends and I are quite excited about doing this.

    I’d love to hear more of the pros and cons, in your experience, of the fancy salon gel-job, vs the home kits, vs something very basic, like superglue. Clearly the aesthetics are going to be an obvious difference. I’m wondering more about your thoughts on durability, etc.

    Thanks, Noah

  4. I like the concept. I’m actually as curious about the potential unforseen mishaps arising from the implants as the usefulness. I say this principally because, as an artist that works a lot of metal, I would have hairy mounds of metal shavings all over my hands if I tried this, you should see my poor phone.

    I wonder if it would make airport security lose their little minds. Or whether it would
    false postive a metal detector?

  5. I got a single magnet on my left-hand ring-finger-nail with the cheap kit that night thanks to the lovely Clamoring. Same finger I’m planning to get my magnetic implant in.

    I wear a big chunky Neodymium magnetic ring I got from and I super-glued a much larger magnet to my finger about two weeks ago: so I was a little disappointed with strength of just one magnet, especially as small as this one is.

    The strongest thing I’ve noticed with my ring was when using a variac; with the acrylic fingernail magnet, I noticed nothing near the variac.

    The most interesting experience with either of the fingernail mounted magnets was playing with another magnet (like my ring). You can feel the boundaries of the magnetic field pretty strongly.

  6. Did a search on eBay for Neodymium (in Australia) and am having 100 magnets(3mmx1mm) posted to me for $5.95

  7. Too cool! What kind of interesting art could you create with ferro-fluids? Be sure to wear rubber gloves! ( And how about hacking a theremin like instrument controled by these, or for that matter, how would these affect an actual theremin?

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