Once the most requested shape by clients, traditional oval nails have taken a backseat to their square and squoval-shaped counterparts. Still, some diehard fans of the oval nail remain - causing problems for some nail techs who can’t seem to get the same result they would with the square look.
Some nail techs complain that shaping nails into ovals ends up destroying the C-curve they worked so hard to perfect, not to mention making the nails look thick and bulky on the sides.
“Whether it is a new set of nails or you are shortening an existing set it always seems more challenging to perfectly shape oval or pointed nails and maintain the C-curve,” says Linda Champion, co-owner of Golden Shears Salon & Spa in Runnemede, N.J.
Despite the challenge, it can be done. Start by examining the clients’ nail shape. [Photo 1] Make sure you start with the nails squared off so they will end up symmetrical, suggest Karen Hodges, co-owner of All About You in Key West, Fla. It’s also recommended you use a coarse file. Kelvin St. Pham, owner of St. K Nail Salon in Gardena, Calif., likes to use a 100-gift file or higher. He also says it’s important to start off with this nail. “Don’t start off with thick, bulky nails,” he says. Thinner nails means less work for you.
Hold the file across the end of the nail, and then tilt it an angle, tipping the file at a slant so that the bottom of the file is closer to the client’s finger than the top edge of the file. Then, file back and forth in a straight motion. “The more you increase the angle on your file, the more of the corner you will take off,” says Hodges.
As you begin shaping the nail, it will start to look more rounded. That’s when you should start filing the nail off from the sides, says St. Pham. [Photo 2] Avoiding filing too much along the sidewalls, however, as you can cut and bruise the surrounding skin. Always use a light stroke and keep your client’s comfort in mind.
As the nail begins to take shape, take a moment to check the C-curve for thickness. Look at the nails straight on and check the underside. [Photo 3] Champion says that carefully beveling off the sides of the free edge will eliminate and will not affect the C-curve as much.” At this point I check the C-curve and if needed, I’ll use my electric file with either a football or barrel bit and carefully curl it under the edge of the tip,” says Champion. She follows that by slightly thinning the tips “just enough so the client can pick up coins off the counter.”
You’ll also need to do some surface filing, as the nails tend to get thicker when you shorten top and file the sides. [Photo 4] When you start filing the nail surface, position the file so that you can file from sidewall to sidewall across the top surface of the nail in one continuous motion. Be sure to blend the thick part of the nail into the C-curve.
If the nail has some free edge to it at all, you’ll end up with a nail that comes straight off the nail plate, with the sidewalls intact and only the free edge rounded. Hodges considers that a stronger nail. If clients wear their nails an active length, the curvature should start just out from the natural smile line.
“I’ve seen nail techs who file the sidewalls completely away and as the nail grows out, there is a notch in the side,” says Hodges.
Once you’re done shaping the nail, buff it to a high shine and apply cuticle oil. [Photo 5] the buffer can also be used to further define and smooth nail.
Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that one person’s definition of an oval shaped nail may be another person’s idea of an almond shaped one. “I try to make the curve of the free edge echo the cuticle so the nail is a perfect oval rather than over curving the free edge and ending up with almond shaped nails,” says Hodges.
That’s why it’s important to be clear with your clients and make sure they tell you exactly what they want. That’s key to achieving the perfect oval nail.