At a photo shoot earlier this month we asked nail tech (and NAILS blogger) Maggie Franklin to create the “perfect” sculptured pink-and-white nail. We intended to run a pictorial article diagramming what a perfect nail looks like and how you can create such a look in the salon. When the editorial and art teams brainstormed the idea, we saw a very natural-looking nail that appeared to be the extension of the model’s actual nail. In our minds, that meant no stark whites, no intense pinks, and an oval shape extending only slightly over the fingertip.

What we found out over the course of putting together the story and taking the photos was that not only was the perfect nail pretty hard to achieve, but “perfect” is certainly in the eye of the beholder.

Not only is the idea of the perfect nail completely subjective, the act of actually creating a perfect nail is easier brainstormed than done. Is it even possible to create a perfectly sculpted pink-and-white? Isn’t this the goal of every nail competitor? So it turns out we kind of put Maggie on the spot and asked her to do something without fully explaining our vision. As she sees it, there are many different types of “perfect” nails. (When I asked her in an e-mail to describe her perfect nail she said, “A perfect nail is sleek and clean with straight lines and no lumps or bumps. No matter what the shape or style you are doing, the finished nail should look like it was done that way on purpose, with care and attention to detail; not sloppy and given up on.”)

On top of all this, we wanted to show the nail blown up to fill an entire page. That meant that every little detail would be showing. How often do you have to worry about that in your everyday set of salon pink-and-whites? Does anyone really do picture perfect nails on a daily basis?

It’s no secret that we use Photoshop to clean up little things in some photographs, although our general philosophy for our cover nails is to do as little work in Photoshop as possible. We’ll correct skin tone, clean up shadows from lighting, and maybe touch up a stray cuticle area or sidewall. But for the most part, we expect our cover techs to do their best to make the nails as close to perfect as possible. Because if we create a beautiful nail for our cover that can’t be replicated in real life, what sense does that make? (Full disclosure: we did have to do some Photoshop work on the “perfect nail” in our story to match up with the tips we are offering.)

Perfection isn’t realistic when you’re trying to get the client in and out of your chair quickly and you’re seeing multiple clients a day. But near perfection should be something you strive for with each client in the salon. It’s better they leave thinking, “Wow, look how amazing my nails look.” Rather than, “These nails are a little thick and the smile line is crooked.”

Our tips for achieving the perfect nail are actually ways you can achieve a “more perfect” looking nail. Because let’s be honest, nobody is perfect. And if they are, I might be a little scared of them.

Click here to read The Perfect Pink-and-White Nail.

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