Sure, competing in a nail competition takes skill, but that’s not the only thing that matters. As craftsmen, competitors need the right tools for their trade. For most serious competitors, finding the perfect product to complement their skills is essential in order to win.

Competitors are timed, with most events calling for 10 perfect nails in about two hours. The time limit means competitors need to be able to work quickly and have a product on hand that guarantees great performance. That’s why competition formula powders and liquids were developed to deliver high performance - and in short amount of time.

Traditional acrylics systems are made with hard polymers, which are good for adhesion and strength. Some competition powders, on the other hand, are formulated with soft polymers, which produce more flexible nails a faster setting time, while others, known as co-polymers, contain both hard and soft polymers to allow more time for sculpting than those containing only soft polymers.

A formula that sets fairly quickly gives an advantage to competitors who can sculpt quickly and prefer to spend more time on other areas of the application.

Additionally, most competition formula are self-leveling, allowing the acrylic ball to settle as the competitor sculpts. This reduces any lumps and bumps in the nail, requiring minimal filing. Too much filing may cause uneven surfaces.

Formula isn’t the only thing matter when it comes to competition products, however, a key element to a winning set of nails is pigmentation and colorization. Today’s competition formulas offer brilliant whites and pinks to help create nails with perfect clarity.

The great thing about competition formulas is that they can also be used in the salon. The fact that some are fast setting is just an added benefit for nail techs who prefer a product that works more quickly.

We talked to some of today’s top competitors to get their opinions on what makes for a great competition product. And to make it easier for you would-be competitors, we’ve also put together a list of some competition-worthy powders and monomers. Now get set to win (either in your salon or in actual competition).

What the Pros Like

We all know top nail competitors are skilled with their hands, but the product they use in the nail arena also play a big role in determining who wins. We asked some of our top--ranked competitors from 2002 to give us some insight on what they look for in a product and what they like to use.

#1 John Hauk: “I currently use Odyssey Nail System and creative Nail Design Products. Sometimes you have to pick a certain product for a certain competition. If  I’m focusing on my pink and white application, I like to use Odyssey because the pink is consistent and clear, If I’m competing in a French manicure competition, I like to use Creatives Retention+ because it has a faster set.”

#2: Salina Rush: “I look for powders that are bright white and have lots of clarity I like using Creative’s Retention+b ecause it goes on smooth and has lots of clarity I like the pink powder and the clear powder is very clear. Plus, I like its set-up time because I have some time to work with it.”

#3 Lorena Marquez: “A good competition formula should have strength, good color, and set up quickly. With competition style nails I like using brighter pink and white powders I like the setting time of EZ Flow’s products, I like my white to set up slower so i have more time to place it and my pink to set up faster so I can pinch the entire nail at once.”

#7 Laura Scott: “I like using EZ Flow’s products because they go on nice and don’t run. It goes on clear and doesn’t yellow. When i do a competition nail I want it to be as clear as possible so i can do designs on it I’m looking for a product that will bring out my hand-painted design. If a product sets quickly that’s even better because it leaves less room for mistakes.”

#12 Amy Becker: “I like using Creative Retention+ because it’s clear and natural-looking I get very few air bubbles and almost no lifting I find it’s easy to work with and I like its consistency we use the product in our salon as well.”

#13 Diana Tingle: “the most important things to me are clarity and no bubbling. I like a nice liquid-to-powder ratio - something that doesn’t set too quickly but not too slow either. Some powders can be too cloudy I need something that’s clear and has a good consistency. That’s important. Also, I look for products that do not crystallize. When you’re on a cold show floor, that can happen too often I use Creative’s Retention+ and EZ Flow products. They’re both easy to work with and have a wonderful clarity to them.”

The Great Hand Model Search

So you’re all pumped up about competing and have even practiced a few times. Now the only thing you need to worry about is your hand model. Where will you find one? If you’re #1 nail competitor John Hauk, you have several option to choose from.

“If you’ve competed as long as i have, you get to know peop0le,” says the six-year nail competition veteran Hauk says he already has a list of several people he can count on when he’s competing in Los Angeles or Chicago, for example. “In Los Angeles someone came up to me and i asked her if she’d like to be a model. Now she wants to compete,” he says.

If he doesn’t already have a model lined up, Hauk says he usually finds one while roaming a show or working at a booth “Some people recognize me and sometimes come up to me and ask If I’m looking for a model,” he says “They want to benefit from watching a set of competition nails being done”

If he does bring a model with him to a competition, he pays for all of her amenities. Some models are just content with getting a free sets of nails, however, and don’t ask for more than that.

Being a male nail competitor can have its drawbacks, however.

“Sometimes if I approach people at shows and tell them they have nice nails beds, they turn me down,” he says. “They think I’m using a weird pick-up line I’ve actually had female friends approach them and ask if they’d like to be a model.”

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