You can get rid of troublesome air pockets by soaking off the client’s extension or filing down her nail.
Air pockets in a finished acrylic nail mar the look of the nail and can be troublesome if it grows because it lifts more product off the nail. Air pockets that form between the client’s natural nail and the artificial extension are usually caused by improper nail preparation or the wrong liquid-to-powder ratio.
To help prevent air pockets from forming, Tim Farquhar, a nail technician at The Nail House in Dayton, Ohio, emphasizes properly preparing the nails before beginning the nail extension service. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the product you are using, he says, and make sure no oil is left on the nail surface.
If you spot a large air pocket (a bubble that covers 10%-15% of the nail surface is considered large) while performing a fiberglass, gel, or acrylic service, Farquhar suggests soaking off the artificial extension instead of trying to repair it by filing it down.
“If you notice a small air pocket during the nail service, use a coarse file or an electric drill to file down to the air pocket,” says Farquhar. Once you reach the air pocket, switch to a medium-grit file. “If you’re using an electric drill, switch to a file right before you get to the air pocket so you don’t damage the natural nail,” he warns.
Using the file, smooth the product into the natural nail, then prepare the nail for the application you are using. Once the air pocket area has been filled in, look at the side of the nail to make sure there are no bumps on top and that the product is flush with the rest of the nail.
If you find that the air pocket is larger than you thought once you file down to it, Farquhar recommends soaking off the artificial product.
Though air pockets can happen even to the most experienced technician, Juli Miller-Chen, a nail technician at Studio One in Canyon Lake, Calif., says they can be prevented if you use the right amount of liquid and powder so you don’t get the lifting that causes air pockets to begin with. “I keep my clients’ fills very thin; that way I don’t have to do any nipping when they come in,” she says.
If her clients’ nails do lift, Miller- Chen files down the area smoothly so the acrylic matches the rest of the nail, then she proceeds with the fill. “With good adhesion between the natural nail and the acrylic product, there is no way that air can get underneath the nail,” she asserts.
On the rare occasion that she does get an air pocket, and it appears on the side of the nail, Miller-Chen nips away the area, then files it down with a coarse file. “Right before I get down to the natural nail, I’ll place a tiny drop of glue on the area to seal it enough so you don’t see the air pocket when I fill in the area,” she explains. Miller- Chen uses glue rather than filing way down so she doesn’t get too close to the natural nail and possibly damage it. She recommends using a light-grit file to even the glue out before applying the artificial product.
If there’s an air pocket in the center of an acrylic nail, Miller- Chen also advises to soak off the extension. “If the client has an air pocket in the center of her nail and she bumps it, chances are the nail will snap off which is likely to be very painful,” she says.
If an air pocket appears in the center of a gel nail, it will start out small and grow out larger on its own, says Miller-Chen. “When the air pocket gets to the outer edge of the nail, it can be easily removed and a new nail put on,” she says.
Though air pockets may be a rare occurrence in your work, always be prepared and know what options you have if the situation arises. But keep in mind that the best way to eliminate air pockets is to prevent them in the first place.