Natural Nails

The Help Desk

What’s the fastest way to remove acrylic nails? It seems to take forever.


Rima Kitsko: I prefer to use the “foil method.” This can be done at the salon, or you can teach your clients to do this at home prior to coming in to see you.


1.      Trim the nails back to the client’s free-edge.

2.      Roughen up the acrylic slightly to break any seal. If the acrylics are applied thickly, you may want to thin them down a bit.

3.      Take a piece of cotton and saturate it with pure acetone.

4.      Place the cotton on top of the nail, and then wrap the tip of the finger with a square of aluminium foil. Place the foil under the finger, fold it over the top of the nail, and then twist the edges in for a snug fit.

5.      Add a heat source to speed up the process. This can be done either by pulling down your table lamp or by slipping the hands into heated mitts or a heating pad.

6.      After about 15 minutes, loosen the foil, press down and pull it off along with the cotton pad – the acrylic will pull right off. Any leftover acrylic can be gently scraped off with an orangewood stick. Extra thick nails may require a second treatment.


Lin Halpern: The safest way to remove ethyl methacrylate acrylic nails has always been to soak in acetone, which takes between 30-45 minutes. To speed up this process, use the double-boiler method. Prepare a bowl of boiling or very hot water. Prepare a second smaller bowl for the acetone. Set the acetone bowl into the water bowl, creating a double-boiler effect. This keeps the acetone warm, which in turn makes the removal process go much faster. The trick is not to remove the fingertips from the acetone during the process. As the layers of acrylic soften, use an implement to gently scrape the layers away while still submersed. This method takes about 20 minutes and is entirely safe for the skin.


LaCinda Headings: Using the manufacturer’s product remover is faster than acetone, plus there are usually conditioners and buffers that treat and protect the nail while soaking. Heating the remover helps, but don’t heat in microwave! Run the bottle under hot water to heat, then put the bowl of remover in a larger bowl of hot water to keep the remover warm during soak-off. Adding marbles to the bowl will help to knock off loosened product.


I’m a new technician and it took me over three hours to complete my first full set. Do you have any suggestions on how I can cut down my time?


Halpern: New sets of sculpted nails require a bit of “practice makes perfect” to speed up the end result. To begin with, practice preparing the nails. Give yourself no more than 10 minutes – one minute per nail. Always use a new file for etching so as not to waste time and effort getting nowhere. It’s important to create a system. For example, push all 10 cuticles back first, then etch all 10 nails, then dust all 10, etc. Repetitive actions move more quickly.


Next practice putting on forms, over and over again. You should get the form on right the first try, don’t fuss to place it straight. Get to know the form that suits your needs best. Too stiff or too flimsy can cost you time during placement. Next sanitize and prime the nails.


While the primer is drying, set up your acrylic products. I have always found creating the free edge first and pinching in a “C” curve before it thoroughly hardens gives me the best shot in completing the rest of the sculpt perfectly. Each nail should take about 1½ minutes.


After the free edge is done, do the cuticle area next using a very small bead of product. Cover the cuticle area and sidewalls with a flat layer of acrylic. With both free edge and cuticle area complete, it is as if you are doing a refill. Throw a bead of product at the stress area, adjust it from side to side and while it is still wet, take another, smaller bead of product and float it over the cuticle area slightly below the skin line. Drag it over the stress area to the free edge to join the sections together. This means no fussing with getting the cuticle and sidewall area snug and flat – you have done it already. All you concentrate on is the shape of the dome in the middle. If you practice this method you will find that heavy filing is unnecessary.


Go straight to block buffers and use the files only for free edge shaping and sidewall edge crisping. Filing time should be under two minutes per nail. Pretty soon put it all together and you will have new sets in under one hour.


Kitsko: First off, don’t worry about your time. It’s taken many of us 3-6 hours to do our first sets. Once you get comfortable with your technique and how your product works, things will speed up. Do each step on all 10 nails, not just one nail at a time. When doing a permanent French look, apply the white tip powder to all 10 first, and then go back with your nail bed powder color. To cut time further, make sure that everything you need is on your table in easy reach. Also, talk to the nails – not to the face of the client. It’s amazing how much time you’ll save just by redirecting your line of sight.


I have been having a problem with my tips staying on. I have tried regular adhesives, gel glues, and resins. My question is how much do I put on? Do I fill the well with it or just use a drop? If the well is not full, won’t it leave air bubbles?


Debi Waszut: The problem here is probably improper technique. When applying a tip, proper fit is imperative. I usually file the well of the tip down, leaving it longer at the sidewalls to form a pronounced smile line. I make the center portion of the well the same length as the free edge (Which I have already filed short). This eliminates the need to blend the tip, which can lead to lifting. Then I apply a dot of gel resin into the well. This eliminates air pockets or bubbles. As the gel resin sets up, gently press in the sidewalls of the tip to increase contact and accentuate the C-curve of the tip. If necessary use a little activator spray to speed up the process. Remember, less is more when using gel adhesives to apply tips.


Headings: First check your tip fit. Tips that don’t fit properly will not stay on. Too much adhesive will increase set time, and too little will result in air bubbles. Put one drop of adhesive in the well and use the side of the nozzle to spread it from side to side, making sure the entire well is covered.

Mary Metscaviz: Often when a tip won’t stay on it’s because it wasn’t properly sized to start with, or it wasn’t the correct shape tip to apply. Make sure the tip you choose is wide enough and has the same contour as the natural nail. (I always have at least four kinds of tips in my salon.) I’ve been using a brush-on adhesive and I love it. Gels can go on too heavily and then ooze out under the nail and liquid glues are often hard to control.


Turn the tip upside down and brush the glue over the entire well of the tip, then turn it back over and apply it to the nail using even pressure to prevent any air bubbles. I hold the tip in my right hand in the position that I would put it on, then I turn my hand over and apply the glue, then turn my hand back over and apply the tip. This way I don’t have to transfer the tip back and forth, which can cause the glue to run on my hand. If you do get air bubbles you must remove the tip and start over. Just soak it in a small jelly jar with acetone in it. It only takes a few minutes to soak off a tip, but if it’s not a good fit you’ll have problems later.


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