Acrylic Nails

[Un] Natural BEAUTY

Clients with common nail problems such as short nail beds, ski jump nails, and flat nails may never enjoy beautiful natural nails. But with the help of a little acrylic and the proper application you can create the illusion of flawless nails. Here we show you some techniques for camouflaging nail imperfections.

Generally speaking, women with naturally stunning nails don’t seek nail enhancements. Theirs is the realm of natural manicures and easy compliments. It is the everyday client---the one with flat, discoloured, short, wide, misshapen, spoon, or ski jump nails---who stands to benefit aesthetically from acrylic nail enhancements. However, the danger in applying such enhancements to imperfect nails is, if not done correctly, they can magnify the problem. With some practice and the proper technique, acrylic enhancements can create the illusion of beautiful nails.

“The possibilities are endless when using acrylic to fix nails,” says Anna Lajourdie, a nail technician from Ontario Canada. “You can always make a not-so-pretty nail look so much better.” By switching the focus of your acrylic application from adding length to camouflaging imperfections, you can add a new level of service to your repertoire---and change the way clients view acrylic enhancements.

“You have lots of options when dealing with imperfect nails,” says Lysa Comfort, artistic and education team director at inm in Anaheim, Calif. “Sometimes it just takes some creative problem-solving.”

Flat as a Board: CREATING A C-CURVE

There are two schools of thought when it comes to creating C-curves on flat nails. One school believes in building a new C-curve out of acrylic, the other believes in a more traditional application with a healthy dose of pinching, whether the nail is sculpted or built on a form. Both arguments have their strong suits. Decide for yourself which approach is right for your clients.

Either way, make sure your smile lines “smile” deeply as it creates an illusion of a more balanced, curved nail, recommends Lajourdie.

The Pinchers

“Apply acrylic like normal; don’t overly build the arch,” counsels Comfort. “Then, as the acrylic sets, apply even pressure to each side of the nail at the sidewall.” You can use either jewel tongs or your thumbs to apply pressure.

The Builders

To create a C-curve, make the acrylic thicker down the center of the nail. Check your work by looking down the barrel of the nail, from the tip to the cuticle. To build an arch, build the center of the nail---check your work by looking at the side view of the nail.

Use only as much acrylic as necessary to build high spots in the appropriate areas. Acrylic at the free edge, cuticle area, and sidewalls should be kept as thin as possible. 


“Short nail beds are a common problem and there are many options when dealing with them,” says Comfort. Here are three different techniques for achieving a more balanced nail.

Bring Down the Smile Line

  1. Prep the natural nail. Shape the free edge. Apply a form.
  2. Use enhanced pink to elongate the nail plate on the form, making the free edge look like a smile line. Remove the form and clean up the shape of the smile line. [photo 1]
  3. Apply a new form and apply white, abutted to the pink. Apply clear acrylic over the entire nail. Shape and finish the nail.

Build the Free Edge First

  1. Prep the natural nail. Shape the free edge. Apply a form.
  2. Using white, create the free edge, leaving a half moon void in the center of the form. [photo 2]
  3. Using enhanced pink acrylic, fill in the rest of the nail and the gap from the cuticle down.
  4. Apply clear acrylic over the entire nail. Shape and finish the nail.

Use a tip

  1. Prep the natural nail. Shape the free edge. Apply a tip. Some techs prefer clear tips, others natural white tips.
  2. Blend the tip and cut to desired length.
  3. Using the same techniques as detailed above, either bring down the smile line as on a form, or build the free edge first, leaving room for an extended pink area.
  4. Finish the nail depending on your chosen method.

Your Biggest Fan: TAMING FAN NAILS

Fan nails are difficult to work with, but it is possible to enhance their appearance. Here Angie Gross, a nail tech at Soge Hair and Body Care in Atlanta shares her technique.

  1. Prep the nail, keeping the natural nail short. Apply full well tips using gel glue to accommodate the flat nail, making sure that no air pockets form under the tip. Use a tip as wide as the free edge.
  2. Blend the center of the well that overlaps the nail, leaving the area closest to the cuticle the thickest.
  3. Keep the free edge relatively short. Apply product, reinforcing the arch and C-curve. You may wish to pinch the C-curve.
  4. Shape and finish the nail.


When camouflaging a short nail bed, a straight natural smile line, a discoloured nail plate, and the like, it is important to use an enhanced opaque pink acrylic for added coverage. This is easy enough to create yourself using tools already at your disposal. “To create an enhanced pink add about 20% pink colored acrylic to your traditional pink. This makes the acrylic more opaque and hides the nail plate better,” advises Comfort. Adding a little orange, cream, or beige colored acrylic may make sense if you want to try to further customize the color to your client’s skin tone.

Some manufacturers have developed pink acrylic powders designed specifically for camouflaging nail imperfections. These may be an easier option for techs who are turned off by the prospect of mixing acrylic themselves.

Finally, subtlety is key when using acrylic to camouflage an imperfection. So avoid using bright pinks or whites. “For short nail beds or wide nails, I recommend using a natural white powder instead of a crisp white. When the nail is more uniform in color it seems longer,” recommends Lajourdie.


Making crooked nail beds look straight is a challenge. Kelvin St. Pham of St. K Nail Salon in Gardena, Calif, suggests gauging how much you can fudge a crooked nail. “Place a file over the crooked finger and then re-angle it straight and place your form or tip over it.” (Keep the length of the enhancement to minimum to keep from drawing attention to the abnormality.)

Whether you use a form or a tip, application is going to be thicker on one side than the other, so don’t be afraid to use more acrylic on the crooked side of the finger.

If the nail is veering off to one side, you will have to re-create an arch for that client that is not where her natural occurring arch or stress area is.

When working with crooked nails, it will be the case that you will have to build the nail with more product than you need, and use the file to sculpt out your finished shape. While shaping the nail, use the straight (normal) sidewall as a guide to dictate how you will shape the abnormal sidewall. When the nail is complete the crooked side of the nail should be thicker to give the illusion of evenness.


Enhancing the smile line with an opaque pink will help to elongate the appearance of the nail.

“Try giving the free edge a more rounded appearance to help wide nails appear narrower,” suggests Janeen Jesse, a nail technician at Dilliards Hair and Nail Salon in Colorado Springs, Colo. As with a flat nail, you may choose to pinch or build a C-curve to keep the nail balanced.

If you’re using tips make sure to size them properly. Tips should extend all the way into the corners of her nails. You may need to cut a “V” into the well to allow the tip to spread out on a flat nail.


Sculpting is a good option when dealing with hooked nails, says Lajourdie.

  1. Prep the natural nail.
  2. Apply a form, making sure it fits snugly underneath the nail.
  3. Apply white acrylic just to the extension. Create a smile line and refine the free edge.
  4. Apply enhanced pink acrylic to the stress area.
  5. Apply a thin layer of acrylic up to the cuticle. Shape and refine the entire nail.
  6. Finish the nail and buff to a high shine.


According to Lajourdie, tips are most suitable for ski jump nails. Here is her technique.

  1. Prep the natural nail. Shorten and shape the free edge.
  2. Prepare the tip. Remove most of the well and pre-blend the contact area. Apply the tip.
  3. Take down the length and blend the tip using a 180-grit file. Be careful not to file the natural nail. Thin the entire tip, allowing room for more product.
  4. Make sure the tip fits properly from side to side.
  5. Apply white powder to the free edge. Apply an enhanced pink to the nail bed. Build up zone two of the nail.
  6. Apply less product to zone three so that it will blend with the natural nail as it grows out. File the nail. Smooth and apply a sealant.

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