Don’t underestimate the power of a nail brush. They might sometimes be considered an afterthought, but these tools play a big role in a nail tech's job. Read on for tips on getting the most use of your brush, caring for it, and which brush works best for you.
Ask a nail tech what her favorite implement is and you’re likely to get several different responses. Chances are a brush will score high on the list of favourites, and with reason. Next to a nail file, a nail brush does a big part of a nail tech’s job. If a nail tech didn’t have her trusty brush, how would she be able to apply artificial enhancements on all those clients?
Most nail techs go about their day without giving this useful implement so much as a second thought. It’s become second nature to simply pick up the brush, dip it in monomer and acrylic powder or gel and get to work.
However, it wasn’t so long ago that nail techs used small paintbrushes purchased from art stores. They soon realized these brushes weren’t exactly suited for use on nails as the glue used to hold the brush together was often soluble in monomer or acetone, causing the bristles to fall out.
Today, there are a wide variety of brushes available from manufacturers in different shapes, widths, and sizes — from a square, flat brush to a medium, round tapered one.
Since a nail brush is so vital to a nail tech’s job, we thought we’d fill you in on some important information. For instance, do you know how to choose the perfect brush? How often to replace it? How to care for it? We’ll answer these questions and more and help raise your nail brush IQ.
Bristling at the thought
When choosing a brush, use one recommended for the application you are using. Look for a high-quality, smooth-textured brush Stay away from cheap, low-priced styles — they’re likely to fall apart much faster.
Each brush style has a purpose, so not all your needs will be met by one brush, says Eleanor Victor, a supervisor at OPI’s technical support and diversion division. Different brushes work best with certain techniques and products. You wouldn’t use a gel brush for acrylic application, for example. And you wouldn’t use a nail art brush to apply an acrylic bead on a nail If you use a faster-setting product and three to four balls per nail for example, a larger, more oval-shaped brush is ideal for you. Smaller brushes tend to work well when sculpting short nails as they let you control the product better.
Undoubtedly, one of the most popular types of brushes is the round type with a pointed tip Round brushes are typically used in schools to teach beginners how to use acrylic, and they were the basic shape available when acrylics first became popular.
“Choosing the right brush for the job can make the difference between a good nail and a beautiful one,” says Roxanne Valinoti, a Creative Nail Design educator. Valinoti prefers using a medium round tapered brush because it flattens out square and even. For perfect, clean smile lines she likes to use an oval thin brush to perfect any unevenness.
Lysa Comfort, artistic and education team director for inm, points out every nail tech is different, so what works for one person may not work so well for the next. There are no hard or fast rules. It’s a matter of personal preference and your products mix ratio “I use an oval brush shape to do most of my work with acrylic,” she says. “It has a point for sculpting a smile line and a crimped side to press out the product. A pointed brush helps control product near the cuticle.”
Another thing to consider is the weight of the brush Brushes that are lighter in weight tend to offer more control over the brushstrokes. Bristle quality is also important arid you have different options to choose from.
- Kolinsky sable brushes are top of the line; they are by far the most expensive and best. They’re strong, supple, and extremely resilient. They absorb liquid well and easily return to their natural shape. The hair used in these brushes comes from the tail of young male kolinsky sables, a type of mink native to Siberia and northern China.
- Pure sable hair brushes are also high quality, but they are less expensive than kolinsky brushes.
- Mixed hair brushes are fairly inexpensive. These are usually made of pony hair mixed with sable hair and sometimes synthetic bristles.
- Synthetic brushes usually contain no natural bristles. They’re ideal for creating gel nails.
Out with the Old
When do you need to replace your brush? There comes a time When every nail tech must bid adieu to her trusty nail brush. When you start noticing the bristles beginning to flair out, then it’s time to invest in a new brush. Stray hairs leave grooves in the acrylic when you are sculpting, and you will have to do more filing to remove them.
“I like to replace my brushes when they start getting too soft or flexible, which is usually about every six to seven months,” says MaeLing Parrish, a nail tech at Nail Sensation in Columbus, Ohio.
Valinoti says the average shelf life of a brush can vary anywhere from four to six months, depending on how often it is used and cared for “I know people who have had brushes for years, but usually by that time they’ve lost their snap and firmness,” she says. With synthetic gel brushes, Valinoti says it’s time to invest in a new one once the brush hardens.
Nail Brush dos and don’ts
DO choose quality over quantity. Quality brushes produce the best results.
DON’T give your brush a haircut. Bristles are aligned for strength, spring, and balance.
DO start with a smaller brush until you get control of your product before investing in a larger brush.
DONT press product with the belly of the brush. Instead, use the tip to prevent product from getting stuck in the brush. DO wipe your brush with care. Wiping too vigorously when you have too much liquid in your brush or wiping excess acrylic off your brush can break hairs.
DON’T touch your fingers to the brush hairs to prevent overexposure and allergic reactions.
DON’T clean your brush in acetone; it is too harsh on the hairs, may dissolve glue in the ferrule, and can remove paint on the handle.
Comfort says nail techs seem to have a hard time breaking in new brushes properly. Here’s what she suggests to first remove the starch from the bristles by gently separating the hairs with your fingernail.
After the starch is removed, dip the brush in monomer to condition the bristles.
Remove the monomer by rolling the brush on a towel to make a fine point.
Clean as a bristle
The most important thing you can do for your brush is to keep it clean and remove any remaining product. If product is not removed the bristles will begin to flair, rendering the brush virtually useless.
Different opinions abound on the proper way to clean a brush, but the general consensus seems to be that using monomer after every application is the best way to go.
Jill Worswick, a nail tech at Visions in Chico, Calif., cleans her brush with monomer after each use, then hangs it with a cover on upside-down from her lamp so that none of the chemicals seep into the ferrule and handle.
On the other hand, Sayaka Sako, a nail tech based in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, likes to use a brush cleaner to clean her acrylic brushes, then places them in a drawer.
With gel brushes, Patricia Yankee Williams, owner of Pattie’s Place in Baldwin, N.Y., wipes them clean with a dry paper towel or a paper towel saturated with gel cleanser. Then she stores them covered and away from direct sunlight and UV light so any gel on the brush will not harden.
Whatever you do, keep your brushes stored away from dust and other contaminants. When your brush is not in use, store it flat on a table towel in a drawer or closed container. Don’t put it back in its plastic container or try to replace the brush cap after use because acrylic monomer can “melt” the plastic, causing it to stick to the bristles. And never allow excess product to dry in the brush.