Natural Nails

Wraps Round Out The Salon Service Menu

Despite the growing popularity of wraps, many technicians have avoided trying them.

“Today’s clients want natural, natural, natural,” says Jennifer Tejada, owner of Miracle Nails in Babylon, N.Y. “Wraps offer clients the natural look and added strength they want, with relatively little damage to the natural nail.”

Despite the growing popularity of wraps, many technicians have avoided trying them. Says Terri Tarrico, owner of Polished Perfection in Swansea, Mass, “We never learned how to do wraps in school, and I thought they were a lot of work for a little pay. The entire idea made me nervous. But when some of my clients started asking about wraps, I learned how to do them and found they were as easy to work with as acrylics. Any salon that wants to be competitive today has to offer clients both services.”

As with any new system, success with wraps comes from education and practice. Here, veteran wrap users share the tips for successful wrap application that experience has taught them.


Regardless of the type of wrap system you choose---linen, silk, or fibreglass---creating smooth, natural-looking wrap requires proper nail preparation.

Tejada begins every service by using a gel sanitizer with an alcohol base. “We have clients wash with an antibacterial scrub,” she says. “Then regardless of whether they have polish on, I run a cotton swab dipped in polish remover over each nail to get rid of any oil or residue. After that, I lightly buff the nail with a fine buffer to take the shine off and remove any yellowing that might be left from polish or cigarette smoking. Then, I use a nail prep.”

Some technicians also apply a pH balancer to neutralize the nail surface. “Many of my clients have lifting problems,” says Patricia Stramara, a nail technician in Somerset, N.J. “Their nails are so oily that after a manicure I can actually see oil building up on their nails and cuticles. I find that the pH balancer isn’t harsh or dehydrating, and it leaves the nails with a nice, matte finish.”


The perfect wrap starts with proper fabric application,” Stramara says. “Glue may help the fabric stick, but if you don’t apply the fabric correctly, you won’t get a smooth, natural-looking nail.”

Today’s wrap fabrics are sold in a variety of styles, including rolls, strips, and precut fingers. Many manufacturers now offer wrap mesh with the adhesive already on. Stramara prefers pre-cut, pre-adhesive fingers because they save time. “I also get a better fit,” she says. “I like the sizing on the precut fibreglass I use. It comes in several sizes, for the thumb to the little finger, and fits most clients so well that hardly have to do any trimming.”

Pre-adhesive backing can make application easier. Says Stramara, “I lay one end of the strip as close as possible to one side of the nail wall, then I pull the strip taut, like I’m stretching a bandage over a cut. That way, I don’t get any waves or bubbles trapped underneath. I don’t touch the fabric so I don’t get oil from my hands on the strip, which can make it less adhesive.”

Once the pre-adhesive strip is applied, Stramara runs her fingers over each nail to make sure there are no rough or frayed edges. “It’s important to feel each nail, as well as look at it,” she says. “Otherwise you may not see any problems until you apply polish. If you do have to cut the wrap a little, make sure your scissors are really sharp, or you’ll continue to fray the edges and probably will have to start over.”

While Stramara clearly prefers precut wraps, other technicians, like Taricco, believe they are unnecessary. “It’s more economical to buy a nine-foot roll and cut each piece as you need it,” she says. “After a while you can eye each nail and learn to cut only what you need. Then you simply round the back end of it so it looks like a fingernail---round at one end and square at the other.”

To place the fabric, Taricco advises beginning nail technicians to visualize the nail as an ocean and the wrap as an island. “Hold onto the square end of the fabric and lay it on the nail so it isn’t down to the cuticle or touching any edges,” she says. “You want to leave a perimeter of about 1/8-inch all the way around, except at the free edge. On the free edge, the wrap should hang off the end.”

Your preferred fabric cut and application method may vary depending on the material you use. For example, Galina Bobrov, a technician who specializes in wraps at NAILZ in Scottsdale, Ariz., uses adhesive-backed strips when working with fibreglass, but prefers cutting linen from a roll. She also uses different sizing and fitting methods for each material. For instance, when using linen, she wraps it around the entire fingertip. “With linen, air pockets can appear on the nail and it won’t adhere properly,” she says. “By holding the fabric on the bottom of the finger, I can get a very tight fit. Then I cut the fabric with an emery board. I never use scissors because the fabric pulls away from the side when you cut around the cuticle.”

With any wrap fabric, Deborah Harley, owner of All About Nails in Walkersville, Md., recommends applying an extra strip to the stress area. “This gives added strength,” she says. “It’s especially important for clients who wear their nails long.”


The type of adhesive used and how it’s applied affects how natural-looking and strong a wrap will be. While some technicians argue that quick-drying adhesives are too thin and tend to break down in water, causing lifting and other problems, others disagree. Bobrov uses a quick-drying adhesive on linen wraps with good results. “I think some technicians don’t dry the nail,” she says. “Or maybe they leave air bubbles underneath. Then they blame the adhesive when it doesn’t adhere properly.”

To use adhesive correctly, Bobrov says technicians should apply a small amount on the nail only. “Stay away from the cuticle,” she says. “If you get too close, everything will come off as soon as a client washes her hands.”

When working with fibreglass, Bobrov uses resins, although she isn’t pleased with any of the activators on the market. “I used to use a spray activator, but my clients complained that it burned---even though I was careful not to spray it too close,” she says. “So I started using the resin by itself. Without activators, it takes about 15 minutes to dry, but my clients prefer it that way so I spend the extra time.”

Harley also switched from a spray activator to a brush-on. “When I used the spray, all the skin by my thumb would break out in a rash,” she says. “I guess I had a bad reaction to the chemicals. The spray sometimes left pits in the resin.” When Harley switched to the brush-on activator, she had trouble at first because the brush would get gummy after a few applications. Says Harley, “Then I found a system that included a product that dissolved the adhesive. Now I don’t have any problems. Once you learn how to apply the activator correctly, it goes on nice and smooth. The trick is to brush on several very thin coats.”

After some experimenting, Taricco found that she prefers no-light brush-on gels over wraps instead of the resin-activator systems. “I didn’t like the spray-on activators because they were expensive, the smell bothered me, and they made me cough,” she says. “That’s when I discovered the benefits of a gel system. Adhesives have the thinnest viscosity. Resins are thicker. No-light brush-on gels have the thickest viscosity. They cover better than glues or resins and leave a nice, smooth finish.”

Taricco says thinner adhesives start to lose their ability to adhere, and may become brittle after a few weeks. “Clients don’t get as much wear out of their nails,” she says. “But with gels, my clients can easily go four or five weeks between fills, although I don’t recommend that, of course. Even though gels are a type of glue, it’s like applying 20 coats to one, so wraps last a lot longer.”

Taricco brushes two coats of gel on the nail before she applies the fabric. Then she brushes on two more coats of gel to sandwich the fabric. “I apply an extra coat because if I get a lump or something, I have room to file.”

Like Taricco, Tejada experimented with many different products before finding a system she liked. “I didn’t like working with the thin glues,” she says. “Then I found a brush-on resin that works with silk. It’s easy to apply and gives the nail a nice, strong finish.”

When applying a wrap, Tejada also sandwiches the fabric between two coats of resin. “The system I use is self-leveling,” she says. “But still, I’m careful to look at each nail from all angles to see if there are any thick areas.”


Over-filing and over-buffing can ruin a technician’s hard work. “I’ve seen technicians apply a beautiful wrap,” Stramara says, “then ruin it by buffing so hard that they take off the entire layer of glue. They have to start over.” To avoid over-buffing, Stramara stresses practicing the techniques. “I use a white buffer block,” she says. “I hold it between my index finger and thumb and gently go in one continuous motion, always from the cuticle to the free edge. Once you start doing circles or changing directions, you’re going to mess up the entire contour of the wrap.”

Tejada also sees too many technicians “attacking” the nail with a file, instead of blending and working with the natural shape. “The result is nails with no C-curve or bevel,” she says. “They’re coming up from the front and filing the nail from the tip to the cuticle, instead of coming down from the cuticle, back and forth to the tip, then across the C-curve in an even back-and-forth motion. They have to practice filing in an even motion.”

Polished or unpolished, wraps create remarkably natural-looking overlays. With practice, you’ll develop an application technique that works for you, and someday may even be asked by another technician, “How do you make that look so easy?”


They’re not difficult and they’re not dangerous, but wraps require the same kind of practice as other extension systems.


The most common fabrics used in wrap systems today are linen, silk, and fibreglass. For technicians who haven’t worked with a particular system before, experts recommend attending tradeshows, talking to manufactures and conferring with other technicians.

After consulting with the experts, experiment with different systems to discover which one works best for you and your clients. “You have to experiment with lots of products first-hand,” one technician says. “I always had heard that silk was difficult to work with, for instance, but once I trade it, I found it was easy.”

While most technicians may prefer to use one wrap exclusively, each wrap material has a place on your salon menu.


Galina Bobrov uses all three fabrics, but prefers linen for clients who have weak nails and wear polish. “I use the thickest linen available. If you know how to apply the linen and file it properly, you can create nails as thin and attractive as natural nails. Once my clients see the results, they love them.”

Other technicians claim linen is difficult to work with because the material won’t adhere to dry or oily nail beds. Other complaints center around the thickness of the mesh and the fact that you have to wear polish to cover it. However, when it’s strength you need, linen is up to the task.


While linen is the preferred fabric for weak, brittle nails, most technicians use silk to reinforce or repair natural nails. Says Lisa Akse, “If someone has nice natural nails and just wants them strengthened, I prefer silk. But if I’m doing a whole set, I use fibreglass because it’s thicker and tends to last longer.”

Jennifer Tejada, however, says silk works well for most of her clients. “A lot of technicians’ complaints about silk wraps are unfounded,” she says. “They use five-minute glue and then blame the silk fabric when it pulls right off the nail. They also claim silk wraps dry out the nails and aren’t as durable. But I do both silk and fibreglass, and I find that silk looks better and lasts longer on most of my clients’nails. I do sandwich the silk fabric between layers of resin, instead of thinner glues, for added strength.”


Fibreglass is the most popular wrap fabric , and fibreglass wraps are giving acrylics a run for their money in terms of strength and thinness. When it comes to clients whose hands are often immersed in water, technicians choose fibreglass over all other services. “Linen doesn’t last as long on these clients because the system’s glue tends to break down in hot water,” says Bobrov. “So for certain clients, like nurses, I prefer a fibreglass system that uses resin, which holds a lot better. Another advantage of resin is that it stays on the surface of the nail, so it’s less damaging to the natural nail.”

Patricia Stramara also prefers using fibreglass on her clients who work in hospitals. “Nurses in our area are allowed to wear wraps only if they aren’t visible to the eye,” she says. “It’s a hospital rule, they tell me. Fibreglass is more transparent than linen or silk, so it’s more professional looking.”Deborah Harley says some of her clients have worn fibreglass for four and five years. “When the wrap is removed, their natural nails look untouched,” she says. “You can’t tell they’ve been wearing artificial nails. I still use silk to repair natural nails, but otherwise, I prefer to work with fibreglass exclusively.”


Regardless of the type of adhesive used, experience is the best teacher when it comes to learning how to apply just the right amount of glue. “When creating a wrap, the perfect C-curve depends on how you apply the glue,” Patricia Stramara says. “If you glob it on one side, you’ll see a mountain of glue that distorts the shape. You have to get the feel of the flow of the glue to learn how much to use. I find that using an orangewood stick helps me feel more in control.”

If the adhesive has a nozzle applicator, make sure the hole in the nozzle tip is very small. “You don’t want a hole that lets out too much adhesive at one time,” says Galina Bobrov. “Two of the biggest mistakes I see other technicians make is using too much adhesive or applying it unevenly.”

The fabric mesh transparent, Terri Taricco offers the following advice: “Tip the client’s fingers downward toward the table. Then put a drop of adhesive at the base of the wrap. That way, gravity pulls the adhesive downward so it instantly penetrates the wrap and renders the fabric transparent, while keeping the adhesive away from the cuticle and skin.”

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