The salon I work in is extremely busy with acrylics. Does working with chemicals end powders all day harm my lungs? My clients wonder the same for times they stay in the salon for long periods of time. How do I reply to their questions?

Working with “chemicals” is not necessarily dangerous, especially because everything on Earth, except for light and electricity, is a “chemical.” The vast majority of chemicals we encounter every day are completely safe, and it’s incorrect to assume that just because something is a “chemical” that it is dangerous.

With that said, it should be obvious that all salon products can be used safely if used properly and according to manufacturer’s directions. That’s what working safely is all about! The good news is it’s easy to work safely, but it involves taking appropriate steps to lower your product exposures to safe levels. This is called preventing overexposure. Achieving this goal depends entirely upon how you decide to work and use your professional products.

Clients have relatively little exposure to salon products even if they are there for many hours and are unlikely to ever become overexposed. I’d reassure your clients by telling them they have little to worry about because you’re a trained professional who understands how to use your products safely and correctly. Then follow through with your commitment to work safely. For example, always work in a well-ventilated area, empty trash cans often, and wear safety glasses to prevent accidental eye exposure. More information about how to work safely and avoid overexposure can be found in my book Nail Structure & Product Chemistry, Second Edition, Thompson Learning. — Doug Schoon is vice president of science and technology for Creative Nail Design in Vista, Calif.

What exactly is a chelating surfactant?

The simplest way to think of chelating surfactants is as cleaners designed for “hard water.”

Hard water can make many types of surfactants inactive or ineffective. Those designed to work well in hard water are called chelating. A chelating surfactant will work in soft water too, but these special cleaners contain an extra ingredient — one that makes them more effective in hard water. Chelating ingredients are more effective at breaking down “scale” and other types of deposits or films. Films can build up inside the pipes that circulate water in a whirlpool or circulating pedicure unit. If not properly cleaned, these pipe walls can build up a thin film called a biofilm, which harbors bacteria.

Chelating surfactants, when used properly, act like microscopic scrub brushes and remove biofilms from the inside of the tubing. They will also help prevent them from forming in the first place.

To know if a surfactant is “chelating,” look for claims such as “effective in hard water,” “effective against hard water build up,” or “removes scale, stains, or soap scum.” — Doug Schoon

What causes my acrylic to sometimes appear cloudy and/or have white spots in it?

Usually that is caused by the brush going into the liquid with acrylic left in it from the prior ball. Make sure to wipe the brush on a towel that will absorb the excess residue properly. Viva towels or blue Auto shop towels work great. You might also try working a little dryer to prevent the build up in your brush. —Lysa Comfort is president of Charisma Nail Innovations in Encino, Calif.

How do I prevent air bubbles -when putting on nail tips?

First, place a small amount of adhesive in the tip’s well. You’ll get a feel for the amount of adhesive you need; it varies by tip size. It is helpful to tap out the extra onto a paper towel. Then hold your tip at a 45-degree angle with your thumb on top. Place the tip (not the well) against the free edge and slide the tip down until you feel the free edge “click” into the well. Then you can slowly rock the tip forward until all of the adhesive has reached the end of the well. As you do this, watch the adhesive spread as you apply pressure when you are rocking it forward slowly. Hold the edge of the tip so if you see a bubble you can slightly roll your thumb to the right or left. Never place direct pressure on the tip and nail during adhesion. When you let go this can cause a suction effect, and that’s when air bubbles shoot in. When the entire nail well is clear of bubbles and the adhesive has reached the end of the well, stop and hold it. If you roll the tip too far forward air bubbles will seep in the back edge.

If you are using a thicker gel adhesive, place a small amount on the outer edge of the well. Scrape that amount from the well to the free edge of the nail. Then do the rock, stop, and hold method. Also, don’t ever shake any liquid nail products because that’s just asking for bubble trouble. — Sarah Brown is a state licensed instructor at Masterworks Salon and Spa in Mequon, Wis.

Make sure the tip fits the plate properly. If the tip is too big, it will cause a problem. If the tip has a well, make sure to rock the tip on the nail starting from the natural free edge. Remember not to apply extra pressure because that can cause the tip to fan out and that can also lead to bubbles. — Lysa Comfort

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