The Science of Nails

Extreme Nailing

Depending on conditions, clients’ hands and feet may be puffy, moist, and sweaty or cold, dry, and numb. A tech needs to know how to compensate for these changes so she can apply product to a consistent, stable nail surface each time.

The chemical reaction that causes acrylic to set is sensitive to heat. The higher the temperature of the liquid, the faster the reaction, and the quicker the set time. Techs may find the product difficult to work with when it sets up too fast. Conversely, on colder mornings, techs may find the product runs more easily into the cuticle wells, takes longer to dry, and generally is more disagreeable.

To compensate for cool weather, make sure the liquid monomer is up to a working temperature before applying acrylic on the first client. If acrylic liquid has been in a salon where the overnight temperature was lowered to save energy, it needs to come up to a more pleasant 68°-72° to work well, says Fred Slack, co-founder and director of R&D at NSI. If the liquid is cold and clients have cold hands, it will be almost pointless to begin application. In this situation, try using a warming mat to raise the temperature of the liquid, which should take only a few minutes if you heat only the monomer in the liquid dispenser. Another handy source of heat that can help with the drying rate when the liquid is chilly? The bulb in your desk lamp. Place monomer under the lamp while you prep the client’s nails and it should be ready to go by the time you’re ready to apply.

For hot climates, techs may find success when they switch to an acrylic system with a slower-set time, instead of opting for a fast-setting system. In a slow-set system, explains McConnell, slower reacting monomers are used. Because of this, the monomer takes longer to find the peroxide and set, giving techs more time to work.

Hot and cold temperatures also play a critical role in UV gel, not in the product’s effectiveness, but in the ease-of-use during the application. “Every degree, whether lower or higher, will change the viscosity of gel,” explains Slack. “If it becomes too hot, the gel becomes water-like and is totally unmanageable.”  Slack compares the change in viscosity to what happens to honey. “If the temperature of the room is cool, the movement of the honey will be slower,” says Slack. “When the room warms up, the honey flows smoother and easier; it’s more fluid. In gels, we’re able to measure the chemistry and control it to some extent, but techs let us know they notice this reality in the salon.”

On cold winter days, Laura Merzetti sometimes needs to warm up products like builder white gels and soak-off gels so they aren’t so stiff.
<p>On cold winter days, Laura Merzetti sometimes needs to warm up products like builder white gels and soak-off gels so they aren&rsquo;t so stiff.</p>

Laura Merzetti understands. As the owner of Scratch My Back Nail Studio in Ajax, Ontario, Canada, Merzetti has experienced the changes in a gel’s viscosity, and she knows how to handle them. “In the winter months, on extremely cold days, I sometimes need to warm up products like my builder white gels and my soak-off gels so they aren’t so stiff. I use a small candle/cup warmer at my station and am mindful of how quickly it works, only a minute or two is all that is needed. Then I give them a good stir or shake, and they are ready to go,” says Merzetti.

While techs do attest to fluctuation in the viscosity of gel because of temperatures, gel product is the least likely among the commonly used enhancement products to give techs trouble. One reason for this is, regardless of temperature, gel is able to “interface between the base material and the enhancement material before it bonds together,” explains McConnell.  When we add the powder and liquid together in an acrylic enhancement, the bonding process begins immediately. The acrylic may not have a chance to interact with the base material (the nail) before it begins to set up. In a gel, the “setting up” doesn’t happen until it’s under the light, so it’s had plenty of time to make a connection with the nail.  

Gel-polish will give you the least amount of trouble, which is one reason techs suggest clients opt for gel-polish over traditional polish. A few reminders for best results: Roll the bottle between your hands before each use and apply only a thin coat. Heat is released during the setting process under the light, so be aware of the temperature of your clients’ hands. If her internal temperature is already elevated, she may experience discomfort under the light as the product cures.


Next page: Working in the Elements

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