Nail Capping: Gel Specialty Lures Natural Nail Client

“Capping” the natural nail by applying a coat of gel is a great way to get these women into the salon and provide them with the attractive, natural-looking nails they desire.

The trend of nail fashion in the ‘90s is a more natural, but still well-manicured look. Many women want to wear their nails natural, but their nails lack the strength or flexibility for them to do so. “Capping” the natural nail by applying a coat of gel is a great way to get these women into the salon and provide them with the attractive, natural-looking nails they desire.

Because the gel protects the natural nail, it makes it possible for women who have resigned themselves to short, chipped, or constantly breaking nails to grow longer, more attractive nails. It’s also a great way to ease the transition between artificial nail extensions and natural nails.

Capping is also an ideal service for men who want more attractive nails. The smooth surface discourages biting and picking, and the gel nail looks completely natural.

Nail capping takes approximately 25 to 30 minutes and can generate a profit of up to $70 to $100 per hour, depending on the going rate in your area, provided that you also retail home maintenance items.

To perform a basic nail capping service, you will need the following:

  • A UV light unit designed specifically for use with a gel system
  • Nail gel formulated for natural nail capping
  • Synthetic fiber brush for gel application
  • Natural nail cleanser or sterilizer
  • Natural nail primer
  • Buffer
  • File
  • Cuticle stick
  • Cleanser designed for use with a gel system
  • Cotton

1) Prepare nails. Carefully scrutinize your client’s nails. Gently push cuticles back as needed. File nails to a natural shape. Do not use oils or creams, as they will interfere with the bonding of the gel to the nail.

2) Buff nails. Using the coarse side of your buffer, buff the shine from the nail. Be sure to remove the shine from the entire nail, as this will ensure better adhesion of the gel.

3) Remove filings. Brush all filing and buffing dust from the nail.

4) Sterilize the nail plate. Different manufacturers recommend different sterilizers and cleansers, ranging from cleansing scrubs to isopropyl alcohol, but the goal is the same to prevent fungus growth. Sterilization is a mandatory step in every nail service.

5) Prime the nail. Apply primer sparingly and only once, taking care not to get primer on skin or cuticles. Allow the primer to dry thoroughly. Using too much primer, or not allowing it to dry before applying the gel, will cause lifting. Once the nail has been sterilized and primed, do not touch the nail surface.

6) Apply first coat of gel. Brush a thin coat of gel over the entire nail, beginning at the free edge and working toward the cuticle area in a zigzag, horizontal pattern. Gel is self-leveling and will flow slightly toward the cuticle area. Do not overwork gel, as this will cause bubbling. Extra gel should be applied to the sides of the nail and the free edge, as gel will shrink slightly during the curing process. Round off the free edge by applying gel to the underside of the nail as well. If you get any gel on your client’s skin or cuticle, remove it immediately with an alcohol saturated cotton ball. Gel on the skin may trigger an allergic reaction.

7) Place the nails under the light and cure for one minute. (Curing time under a six-watt UV bulb. For other wattages, consult the manufacturer’s instructions.) Depending on the design of your light, you may be able to cure all the nails of one hand at the same time, or all four fingers of one hand and the thumb of the other hand together. See manufacturer’s instructions for the proper curing system with your light.

8) Apply a second coat. Brush a generous second coat of gel on the nail. This coat can be applied in much the same fashion as you apply polish. Draw the brush over the tip of the free edge to give added strength. Clean around cuticle area with a plastic cuticle pusher or a polish corrector pen.

9) Cure the nails. Put the nails under the light for one minute.

10) Clean the nails. Gently pat the nails with a cotton ball dampened with alcohol. This will remove the sticky top layer of the gel nail. Do not rub or scrub the nail. Allow the nails to dry for 30 seconds.

11) Check nails. Inspect the nails for any bare spots. Pay special attention to the free edge and sides. If any bare spots exist, apply primer, let dry, apply gel, and cure.


12) Finish nails. Wash hands with soap and water and dry thoroughly. Apply polish if desired.


If you want to add even greater strength to the client’s natural nail, you can incorporate wrap fabrics into the gel application. The procedure is as follows:

1) Prepare nails. Follow steps 1 through 6 above, but do not cure gel.

2) Apply fabric. Trim fabric to desired width and length, leaving 1/16-inch between fabric and all sides of the nail. Place fabric on uncured nail and make sure it is saturated with gel.

3) Cure the gel. Place the nails under the light for three minutes.

4) Proceed with gel application. Follow steps 8 through 12 above.


Schedule your nail capping clients for routine maintenance appointments every two to three weeks. Maintenance consists of filling in the new growth area with gel. Be sure to blend well to avoid demarcation between new and older product.

Nail capping is not meant to replace other salon services. It is, however, an ideal way to bring the non-extension client into your salon, thereby increasing your income as well as your service menu.


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