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Acrylic Nail
Preparation

The term 'artificial nail enhancement' incorporates any procedure that lengthens, thickens or otherwise alters the appearance of the natural nail by artificial means.  These procedures include the application of tips, acrylic liquid and powder systems, gel systems, sculpting on a form, any type of fabric wrap or the application of a full pre-formed artificial nail.

On these pages, we will cover the procedures for the various types of products, beginning with the most common type: Liquid and Powder Acrylic.  Please keep in mind that these procedures are non-product specific and are only meant as a generic guideline -- always read, understand and follow the preparation, application and finishing  instructions included with your product purchase.  For more detailed hands-on instruction, contact your professional distributor for a listing of continuing education workshops in your area.  

Preparation Guidelines

Ask the client to wash her hands with a mild soap and warm water prior to seating herself at your table.  Supply the client with a clean, sanitized nailbrush or soft toothbrush to scrub around and under the nail plate.  Take this time to disinfect your tabletop, sanitize and arrange all your tools and implements, and to scrub your hand and nails.  The simple act of hand washing will remove 99% of surface pathogens.  Remember, always wash your implements with soap and water prior to immersion in the sanitizing solution to remove any debris, dusts or nail clippings.  Leave the implements in the sanitizing solution for the recommended length of time - usually 10 minutes.  Rinse well, then store in a clean, dry container.  Always replace your table towels between clients and remove any existing nail dust or monomer saturated towels as well.  Good housekeeping is a must!

If your customer is a first-time client, ask her to fill out the Client Profile Card while you finish your housekeeping.  Assess your clients nail needs according to: Lifestyle, activity level, nail plate shape/configuration and fashion preference.  Never sculpt a nail that is 'too long' for a first time client, a nail biter, clients with small children, or a very active/sporty client.  Nails that are too long will repeatedly crack and break resulting in unnecessary natural nail damage and valuable replacement time.  The length of the nail bed needs to properly and structurally support the extension edge.  If the edge is too long or improperly designed to the nail plate shape, service breakdown will occur.  Discuss shape, length, maintenance appointments, home care and cost prior to beginning the service.  You will need to assess the nail plate shape and length to prescribe the most flattering, long-lasting and complimentary service.  The ideal free edge design will be a mirror image of the natural cuticle shape; i.e., an oval cuticle line = an oval free edge.

 

Incorrectly Designed and Balanced
Drawings by Marti Preuss

 


Correctly Designed and Balanced
Drawings by Marti Preuss

 

Sanitize your hands and the hands of your client with an instant hand-sanitizing agent designed to remove surface pathogens on skin.
Perform a Manicure

File the free edge of the nail to a uniform length and shape according to your choice of application:  Tip with overlay or sculpt on a form.  Tips are designed to be slightly thicker at the stop point for added strength.  If you are applying a tip, it is always recommended to begin with a very short free edge line.

 

How to file natural nails

Photo by Marti Preuss

Using a 240-grit soft file, gently remove the natural nail shine in the direction of the nail growth.  Filing from side-to-side may disrupt the nail plate layers which can result in air or contaminates being trapped in the layers and then sealed with acrylic

Buff the nails to remove ridges or splitting

Photo by Marti Preuss

Soak the nails in warm water and a mild detergent or an anti-bacterial, anti-microbial scrub for no more than 3 minutes to soften the cuticle.  You may wish to perform a 'dry' manicure using a cuticle remover cream, and that is fine as well. Scrub the nail surface and underneath the nail plate with a soft nail brush or toothbrush to remove all traces of dust, then rinse the nails with a gentle spray of water.  If you prefer, the client may go to a basin to rinse the scrub from her hands and nails.  Gently towel dry.

Water Soak to soften cuticles

Photo by Marti Preuss

Gently push back the cuticle and remove all translucent skin from the nail plate surface.  Skin contains oils and moisture which prevent proper adhesion.

Push back cuticle - translucnet skin from nail palte

Photo by Marti Preuss

Prep the Nail Plate

Apply nail prep to the natural nail surface in a 'scrubbing' motion.  Prep will temporarily remove moisture and some of the oils from the nail plate layers.  Temporary dehydration of the nail plate layers will last for up to 30 minutes.

 

Tip Application

Choose a tip with the best fit to the natural nail shape, making note that the 'C' curve of the tip is a perfect fit to the 'C' curve of the natural nail.  The stop point of the tip should fit snugly against the free edge with the sides perfectly parallel.  If the tip is slightly too small use the next largest size -- if it is slightly too big or overhangs the sidewall, refine the sidelines with a file for a customized fit.  

Apply a line of adhesive across the free edge of the natural nail.  If using a thin adhesive, apply a drop into the well of the tip and spread evenly with the applicator nozzle.  If you prefer a gel-type adhesive, draw a line across the center of the well from side to side.  You do not need to 'spread' the gel adhesive.

Apply a line of adhesive

Courtesy Creative Nail Design Systems

Hold the tip at a 45° angle to the nail plate, then slide the tip forward until the natural free edge butts snugly against the stop point of the tip.  

Slide tip onto nail and rock back nto place

Courtesy Creative Nail Design Systems

Roll the tip down onto the nail plate, press and hold for 5 seconds or until an airtight  bond occurs.  NOTE:  Do not involve your whole body in this action as the stop point may over-ride the free edge and result in an incomplete bond. Apply all 10 tips in the manner.  Use a tip slicer or cutter to reduce the length to your prescription.

 

Hold for several seconds to assure proper bond

Courtesy Creative Nail Design Systems

Applying Tips with Acrylic

After prepping and applying primer to all 10 nails, allow the primer to dry to a chalky white.  Begin by placing a small, medium wet bead to the natural nail free edge, then press the bead to flatten and blend to the sidewalls.  Be sure the bead is large enough to cover the first 1/3rd of the nail plate.  Immediately slide the tip onto the surface, butt the stop point to the free edge, then roll the tip onto the nail plate.  Press and hold until a secure bond occurs.  This may take a few seconds longer than adhesive to cure, so do not release the pressure too early or proper adhesion will not occur.

Tip Perfecting and Blending

Perfect the free edge and taper the sidewalls to the desired form.  Remember, if the extension edge looks wide now, it will look even wider after the overlay is applied.

 

Using a 180 or 240 grit file, remove the shine from the tip surface beginning at the extension edge.  Work back over the stress area to blend the tip into the natural nail and remove all tip shadow.  Wet the surface to check for a proper blend -- what you see now you will see after the product is applied.  If further perfecting is needed, use a 240 grit wet buffer to further blend the tip and remove scratches.

Scrub the surface and underside of the finished tips to remove all dusts and contaminates.  Rinse well, then thoroughly dry the hands and nails.

Reapply Nail Prep to the natural nail only on all 10 fingers.

Apply Primer

Apply primer sparingly to the natural nail plate only, and allow to dry to a chalky white.  Primer will penetrate the surface layer of the nail plate and deposit tiny chemical magnets that promote product retention.  

Using too much primer can flood the nail plate and may result in a chemical burn to the nail bed.  Remove excess primer from the brush by touching the brush to a lint free nail wipe. The remaining primer in the brush is enough to prime from 7 - 10 nails.  Never sculpt over wet primer unless recommended by the manufacturer.  Wet primer may inhibit adhesion, compromise the integrity or coloration of the sculpting material, and could contribute to product cross-contamination.

The Bitten Nail

Even though we all wish we had clients with perfect nails and cuticles, lets not forget about the nail biter client.  While the biter is on a quest for order, the consistent 'chewing' perpetuates the cycle.  Properly applied nail enhancements can help break that cycle.  

 

We have all been witness to clients, friends, co-workers and/or family members whose fingernails look very much like this drawing.  The free edge has been bitten to the point that the 'smile' line has become a frown.  I suppose I'd frown too if I looked like this. 

Bitten Nails - Front View

Drawings by Marti Preuss

Looking at this type of bitten nail from a side view, one can see that there is a skin 'bulb' at the free edge that has 'puffed up' in a feeble attempt to protect what is left of the free edge from further biting.  This skin can be tough and calloused from the trauma of biting

Bitten Nails - Side View

Drawings by Marti Preuss

When we attempt to apply a tip to this type of nail problem, pressure is applied to this skin 'bulb'.  In an attempt to return to its normal shape, the skin can apply such force as to cause the enhancement to lift, crack or break.  Some of us may even witness the enhancement 'pop off' with very little hand usage.

We can eliminate this problem by customizing the tip for a perfect fit not only to the nail plate length, but to the skin as well.  By carving out the sidewall of the tip, it eliminates the area of pressure and the tip will ride over the skin much like a saddle on a horse.  When customizing the tip, reduce the length of the contact area as well, so no more than 1/2 the length of the nail bed is covered with the tip.  It is advisable to use a gel adhesive for air-tight retention of the tip to the nail plate.

 

Custom Fit the tip

Courtesy Creative Nail Design Systems

After the tip is applied, shortened, blended; the natural nail should be cleansed, dehydrated and primed according to the instructions printed above.  As you can see by these two illustrations, the finished look of the design is much more appealing if the white tip powder is used to create an illusion of nail bed length, rather than placing the smile line at the natural nail free edge.  Many technicians prefer to apply product on the skin and to form a free edge before either applying a tip or sculpting.  It is preferable to apply a tip to prevent needless skin overexposure to a potentially sensitizing chemical.  Remember, we become overexposed from repeated and prolonged skin contact.  It's safer not to take that chance!

Shape the tip

Drawings by Marti Preuss


Many thanks to all my friends at Creative for  their contribution of drawings for these pages.