What is the best nail enhancement system (acrylic, gels, fiberglass, tips vs. sculpts, etc.) for clients who have their hands in water or chemicals a lot?
Doug Schoon: When natural nail plates absorb water, they naturally change shape and size. The opposite occurs when nail plates dry out again. This shape-shifting act affects every type of nail enhancement. None are immune to the powerful effects of water. When the foundation of a home moves, the walls can crack and the floor might lift. It’s the same with nail enhancements. When water is absorbed or lost, the nail plate becomes a moving foundation. It affects both tips and sculpts. It even affects the adhesion of all types of nail polish. The effect of water on nail plates is a natural phenomenon, so we have to live with it. Still, the effects of water can be minimized just by avoiding repeated soaking of the nail plate.
Wrap resins (fiberglass, silk, etc.) and tip adhesive are much more susceptible to water. This is because they do not form cross-linked polymers when they harden, as do other types of nail enhancements. Therefore, they are more affected by any solvents including water and acetone. Wraps and tip adhesives will break down fairly quickly if constantly exposed to water.
David Dyer: The answer depends on the type of chemical that nail is being exposed to and the duration of the exposure. For instance, continued exposure to organic solvents, such as acetone and ethyl or isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol, will disassemble the nail plate quickly. Since this natural nail plate is the foundation to which nail enhancements are attached, losing it means losing the enhancement, too.
The basic concept to keep in mind is that the nail plate is very much like a brick and mortar wall, with the “bricks” being the keratinized, hardened, formerly living cells from the cell matrix and the “mortar” being the material (phospholipids, fatty acids, structural ceramides, and protein links) between the “bricks” that holds it all together. Exposure to organic solvents strips away the “mortar”, and cause the “brick wall” to crumble. (By the way, nail fungus generally spreads through the nail by destroying the mortar also-this leads to a thickened and sometimes crumbling nail plate.)
Exposure to water is not nearly as bed as exposure to organic solvents, but with prolonged contact even water can soften the nail plate and compromise the adhesion of nail enhancements. In general, the type of nail enhancement that provides the closest and most thorough adhesion to the nail plate should be used to get the most wear out of the enhancement. While there are no fast answers, I think that properly applied acrylics meet this adhesion requirement.