The following sampling of step-by-steps are only a few of the different gel services and techniques possible. Try your hand at these services and see if there is something you can incorporate into your own repertoire.
Editor’s Note: To help give you an idea of possible gel services we enlisted the help of Kelvin Pham, owner of St. K Nail Salon in Gardena, Calif. Pham, who’s been using gel for 12 years, did all the demos on the following pages. In this instance we used a two-step gel system. Keep in mind that these are only some of the options you have for using gels.
Natural Nail Overlay
Some clients want help growing out or protecting their natural nails. A natural nail overlay will strengthen and protect and help clients achieve their desired results. Note: This service is very similar to doing an overlay with a tip.
Our model has long, healthy nails, but could use a little extra support to help maintain her length.
Begin by prepping the nails thoroughly. Clean up the cuticle, shape the free edge, and remove the shine from the nail bed. Use a fine-grit buffer or file to remove the shine.
Dehydrate the nail bed. Apply one layer of dear builder gel. Hold the brush parallel to the nail and use long, smooth, gliding strokes to pull the gel from the cuticle to the free edge. Remembering that gels shrink during the curing process, try to get the gel as close to the sidewalls as you can and make sure you cap the free edge. Do not overwork the gel as this will lead to lumpy, bubbly nails. Cure according to the manufacturer instructions.
Tip: When you first touch the gel to the nail, place it near the cuticle. Gently push toward the cuticle and then pull the brush to the free edge. This will prevent a ridge from forming at the cuticle.
Depending on the client’s needs, add another layer or two of builder gel in the same manner as the first. Patience and restraint come in handy at this point. Do not try to apply one thick layer of gel instead of two thinner layers as this will make the gel less manageable and may cause burning or discomfort during curing. Do not remove the sticky residue between layers. Cap the final layer of gel and cure.
Tip: If a client has flat nails, you may want to build up the arch during this step. There are various methods for building arches that range from adding additional gel to having clients hold their hands upside down during the curing process.
After the final cure of the builder gel, remove the tacky layer and inspect the nail for imperfections. At this point you may bevel the cuticle area and sidewalls, check the arch for bumps, and remove excess gel. Lightly remove the shine from the entire nail bed and apply a single, extremely thin layer of sealant or finishing gel and cap the free edge. Remove the tacky layer.
Tip: Capping the free edge with every layer of gel may cause a bulb of gel to form. If you are applying multiple layers of thick gel you may want to alternate capping. Always cap the final layer of gel.
Smoothing Bumps and Lumps
Because gel is self-leveling it tends to mirror the A imperfections that lie beneath it — whether on the natural nail or on previous layers of gel. Here we show you how to get a perfect nail every time.
When doing a tip-with-overlay, customize the tip as much as possible Remove as much material from the tip as possible before actually adhering it to the nail to make blending that much easier.
Sometimes even when you blend a tip a bump will develop in the gel. One way to deal with this is to add one more layer of builder gel than is necessary in order to create excess material to remove and achieve the desired shape. If a tip is creating a bump only on the arch, you may want to build up only the arch using a ribbon or tail method. Here we demonstrate the ribbon method. Once the arch is amplified there should be enough extra gel on the nail in order to blend the bump with a file.
Gel Over Acrylic
Some clients just won’t let go of their acrylic enhancements. You don’t need to fight them. Instead, give them the protection and durability of gels with a quick overlay. A gel overlay is also a perfect add-on for techs who prefer the look of acrylic pink-and-whites.
Sculpt a thin pink-and-white acrylic enhancement. Pinch the C-curve, bevel the sidewalls, shape the free edge, and take down any bulkiness — especially around the article. Remove any shine from the nail and dehydrate the nail.
Tip: Leave a slightly larger than normal border between the cuticle and the acrylic product. Gel adheres to the natural nail better than acrylic and this added space will give the complete enhancement better adhesion.
Apply one thin layer of builder gel, making sure to cover all of the acrylic evenly and smoothly. Cap the free edge and cure. For added protection and shine, apply one thin layer of the sealant or finishing gel, cap the free edge, and cure. Remove the tacky residue and apply cuticle oil.
Tip: If you are imprecise with the gel or apply it a bit too close to the cuticle, you may use a tool (as shown) to skim away the excess.