Acrylic Nails

The Help Desk

This month's expert panel answers reader questions about brush cleaning, the effect of medication on nails, and how whether to shake or stir powders.

I have been having problems keeping my brushes for more than a month or so. I don’t use brush cleaner. I keep my brushes clean by dipping them in monomer and wiping them well on a lint-free towel during the service and right afterwards. The next time I pick up my brush, it’s stiff and stuck with dried acrylic. Sometimes I even have to dip it in acetone to get the bristles loose. How do you recommend I keep my brushes clean?

Melissa Carlini: It is OK to use brush cleaner if the manufacturer recommends it. Acetone tends to dry out the brush hairs so you want to stay away from that method. To remove any dried acrylic from your brush hairs, try saturating them in fresh monomer until the acrylic is softened and then guiding your brush through a lint- free towel until it is free of any acrylic residue. (You may need to repeat this process a few times until it is all removed and may need to change the monomer during the process.)

If you are cleaning your brush according to the manufacturer’s instructions, then the stiffness and dried acrylic might be a result of the way you are storing your brush. You never want to store your brush upright in a cup on your station. This causes the excess monomer to settle down into the ferrule (the metal part that holds the brush hairs) and as it slowly evaporates, it becomes gummy. This will then lead to contamination of the fresh monomer that you use on future clients. The best way to store your brush is to wrap it in a lint-free towel and store it flat in a drawer at your station.

Renee Skrocki: First of all, I am glad to hear you are not using a brush cleaner. I feel that a cleaner enhances cross-contamination and can produce yellowing when the chemicals are mixed. The reason that the brush won’t come clean is that when you soak it for just a short time the acrylic stays in the center and just the bristles on the outside are cleaned. What you have to do is take an orangewood stick and fen the brush completely after each use. After fanning it out, you can dip it in your monomer for a just a moment to recondition it.

I have a client who started taking medication for acne right after her last fill. When I saw her again, she had so much lifting that I had to do a whole new full set. The acrylic was slightly discolored and very brittle. She takes two oral medications (I don’t know what they are, except that she’s not taking Accutane) and she uses Retin-A topically. I gave her gloves to use when applying it and I’m hoping that helps. What should I do?

Rich: It is possible that she could have photo-onycholysis from tetracycline or doxy- cycline, which are very common medications used to treat acne. These medications are photosensitizing, which means when the client is in the sun her nails can become tender and cause the acrylic to lift. I don’t know of anything oral that would cause the acrylics to lift or discolor, although there are many topical products that could cause those effects. (Are the changes only on the dominant hand, which would be the hand that the medications is applied with?) Accutane can cause nail changes also, but they would appear different from what you described.

I have a couple of clients and a coworker with really oily natural nails. They would like to get enhancements, but they can’t even keep polish on their nails. Any suggestions?

Skrocki: That’s right, most nails don’t hold polish for a long period of time due to oily nail beds, but that doesn’t mean enhancements won’t stay on. We have clients with beautiful nails who put on overlays (acrylic, gel, or fiberglass) for the sole purpose of getting the polish to stick. When applying the overlay, you should sculpt a little bit of a free edge beyond the natural nail for additional support. If the overlay is put on the nails properly, you will be amazed at how natural the nails can still look.

Rhonda Taylor: If you want to try artificial nails on a client with oily nails, dehydrate the nails prior to application and use a fast set product that calls for priming twice. Apply your product while the second primer is still wet. This will be give a better balance between strength and retention to the nail. For natural nails, again use a dehy-drator. Sanitize, gently buff, dehydrate, and then apply base coat. After applying color polish, apply an additional layer of base coat and then top coat five minutes later. This should give the client a good 10 days wear. For even longer wear, have the client apply one coat of hardener daily. The use of quality products is essential for optimum results.

Is it necessary to stir or shake your powders before use?

Doug Schoon: To my knowledge, all powders are “sifted” once to get out large clumps. The particles have a size distribution. In other words, there is not one particle size, but a range. There is no need to mix the powders daily or even weekly. They could settle out in shipping due to long hauls in vibrating trucks, but that is the only way. Once they are mixed, nothing short of constant tapping for long periods will cause significant settling.

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