The competition director begins the countdown of the final remaining minutes. Competitors breathe a sigh of relief after 90 minutes filled with tension and excitement. While packing up their supplies, the competitors begin a self-evaluation. Some of the veteran technicians may be displeased with their overall performance or perhaps a particular weakness in application technique. Even more disappointed are many novice competitors who have misjudged their time and were not able to complete the nails. Behind the curtain, the judges prepare to evaluate the great work they are about to see. Whether a competitor ultimately walks away dissatisfied or pleased. She feels the thrill and anticipation of the next challenge.

Know what you’re getting into. Once you decided to compare, there are necessary steps to yourself for the big day. Since competition vary slightly in their requirements, one of the first things you will need is a copy of the rules and regulations. This will let you know exactly what the judges are looking for in each competition. Make sure you are clear on what the requirements are. Contact the competition director regarding any questions or concern you may have.

Practice and time yourself. Choose a model who is accessible are cooperative. Besides having nice hands, beautiful nail beds, and great cuticles, your model must be willing to work with you and help keep you on time. Lysa Comfort, educational and artistic director for INM, recommends practicing every night for at least a week prior to the competition, timing your mock competitions. Set aside enough time to perfect your technique and timing with your model. Break application and finishing work into separate time periods. Do each step on all ten nails to keep your work consistent and save on time.

Prepare your model: Manicure your model in the week before the competition. Set her up with a maintenance routine for home. Her hands and cuticles should look as beautiful as possible for the competition. On the day of the competition, your model should be prepped and manicured before the event begins. Removed the entire free edge of her natural nail to create a sharper smile line and eliminate any of her nail showing through the enhancement. Preparing ahead of time avoids wasting precious minutes doing prep work.

Get a good night’s sleep. Make sure you are well rested and have eaten a healthy breakfast. Allow ample time to set up you area and relax before the competition starts.

Be prepared. Always carry back-up supplies just in case. Be sure you have a lamp, extension cords, extra light bulbs, extra abrasives, and extra application brushes or tool. Bring a heating pad to place on the table to keep your model’s hand warm. Cold hands can interfere with product application. Comfort also advises technicians to bring a container of warm soapy water. Dust fillings left on or under the nails will cause you to lose points from the judges.

Stay focused. Follow your practiced application techniques and be aware of your time. Allow your model to encourage you keep you on schedule. The judges will look for things such as clarity, color and application consistency, C-curves, arches, cuticle area, air bubbles, and lengths. Measure the length of each nail against the other hand. Inconsistent length is too often a reason for lost points and can easily be avoided. Focus on making sure that all nails are consistent by looking at each nail from every angle.

Set goals. Amy Becker, a top competitor, suggest that you set at least one or two personal goals per competition. The most important goal new competitors should strive to achieve is simply to complete the competition and finish the nails. Another rewarding goal Becker recommends is to try to meet at least one new person at each competition. You will learn and grow from the shared wisdom of veteran competitors.

At first competitions may seem a bit different from what you were originally expecting. However, it must never be about winning the competition; instead focus on what you have learned from competing. It is important to pick up your score sheets from the judges after the competition. Study and learn from them. The job of a judge is to inspire to grow and improve on your technical   skills. Use their constructive criticism as a tool to advance your techniques, as well as improve your salon work. Treat each competition as a personal challenge whether you win or lose. Strive to better your work and timing with each competition. With hard work and dedication, who knows, one day you may even rank on NAILS’ Top 25 Competitors list.

A nail tech for 19 years, Patricia Yankee Williams is the owner of Pattie’s Place in Baldwin, N.Y., and a frequent nail competition judge.



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