Time is money. As any corporate executive will tell you, speed and efficiency are key to profitability. The same holds true for nail technicians. But that doesn’t mean you have to usher clients in and out of the chair in an assembly-line process.

Time also represents opportunity. By trimming excess time from the fill, you can add it back in value- added service enhancements. You could use your time to introduce all your clients to the beauty of pink-and-whites. Or, add a paraffin dip right before the polish. Extend the massage a few extra minutes or incorporate an exfoliating step before the massage. There are any number of ways you can use the time saved on the basics to add value to the overall.

“I’d much rather have one client come for three services than three clients come for a fill,” says Tracey Revis, an OPI educator and owner of Tracey’s Place (Encino, Calif.).

By the same token, feel no shame in tightening up your appointments from, say, every hour to every 45 minutes. Top competitor Alisha Sale does a regular fill in 20 minutes and a backfill in 30. “My clients come in with their polish off and their cuticles pushed back because they appreciate the speed,” she says. “Lots of salons around me are very pampering and spend an hour on a fill, but not all clients want that or have time for it.”

We consulted top competitors and educators for their advice on trimming time from each step of the basic acrylic fill. Learn their timesaving tips for every step of the service, from getting organized to prepping the nails, making repairs, applying product, and finishing up.

Cutting Down the Backfill

“I drill out the smile line with a pencil’ backfill bit, then I thin out the free edge a bit I would never attempt the back­fill without a drill.” — Janene Bushey

For hand-filing aficionados, try simply thinning down the entire nail plate, then building itAnzlovar back up as though you were doing a straight overlay “Apply all the white tips first, then go back and do the pink This keeps the pink from getting cloudy’—Amy Anzlovar.

“If it’s been at least four weeks since the last backfill I take down the acrylic around the cuticle with my electric file on a very low RPM Romano Then I shorten the length and cut in a new smile line. The only filing I do by hand is to level out the fill line and reshape the final nail” —Tina Romano

“I find it faster to just thin out the entire nail and sculpt it like I was doing an overlay’ —Tiffany Greco

“I use a barrel bit to thin out the tip all at once rather than first trenching out the smile line 1 start from the center and work first to the Rush right, then the left” — Rush

“The biggest thing is to know how to use your drill and to feel comfortable. You need to spend less time thinking about it I work right to left to cut out the smile line with a medium double-cut diamond bit, then I use a sanding band to thin out the tips.”—Sale

Get Organized

It’s unanimous: Every tech we interviewed emphasized the importance of being organized. Here they share the little things they’ve found that help keep them on track during each service and throughout the day. Experiment and find what works best for you. The key, they say, is consistency.

  • “I use an organizer tray, which keeps everything I need right at hand, rather than having to take the time to open and close drawers for things.”—Revis
  • “I have all my products arranged on my tabletop so they’re easy to reach. I keep all liquid products on the left, all dry products on the right. I make sure my table is fully stocked each morning with everything I’ll need for the day, and I keep out only those things, so there’s not a lot of clutter.” — Janene Bushey, Nail Elegance, Shelby, Ohio
  • More than one starts the day with at least three sets of clean implements so that one set can be sanitizing while another is in use. The third set serves as a spare in case you squeeze in an emergency repair.
  • “I come in a bit early so I have time to mentally and physically prepare for the day. For example, I organize all my client packs for the day in my drawer. I line them up in order of the appointment so I can just grab them as I need. I have my client wash her hands while I finish setting up.” — Amy Anzlovar, Nails et al, Aurora, Colo
  • “Pre-book your appointments to cut down on phone calls, but train your clients to call if they’ll need repairs. This lets me adjust my schedule if necessary.” — Revis
  • “Have your client wash her hands and start thinking about a polish color while you set up for the service. At the start of each service I make sure everything I need is out except the polish. I use Menda pumps for the dehydrator and polish remover and a dappen dish with a lid for monomer.” — Tina Romano, Signature Salon, Decatur, III.
  • “Get a system. Do the same thing in the same order on every client I think just having a system, no matter what it is, saves time.” — Alisha Sale, Alisha’s Nail Boutique, Latham, N.Y.


Proper Prep Is Everything

These techs agree that how well they prepped the nails at the last appointment decides how long this appointment will take. Prepping the nail should take the longest, but there are ways to cut corners without sacrificing quality.

  • “Do each step on all 10 nails.” — Bushey
  • “I spend more time here than anywhere else. I file the nail real smooth and remove all the ridges in the cuticle area using a 100-grit file. You have to be very careful and work on just the acrylic—you can’t put too much pressure on the nat­ural nail.”—Danny Daulton, Rockin’ Nails in Adrian, Mich.
  • Nine out of 10 techs that we asked name metal scoop-style pushers as their tool of choice for removing cuticle from the nail plate.
  • Ten out of 10 swear by nail dehydrants.
  • “Remove the polish, push back the cuticles, then file down loose or old acrylic. Remove dust with a nail cleanser, then use a dehydrator and primer.” — Revis
  • Keep a small clock where you can see it. “Talk to the nail” rather than attempt­ing to make eye contact each time you talk to your client — Revis and Anzlovar
  • “I use an arbor band on my drill to reduce the length.” — Salina Rush, Studio 10 Hair & Nail Design in Wooster, Mass.
  • “A fast technique to remove lifting is to cut into the lifted product with your 180-grit file at a 45-degree angle, just below the lifted product. The product flakes off before you get to the natural nail, and you don’t have to nip.” —Anzlovar
  • “I buy a new set of nippers every four to six weeks so I always have a real­ly sharp set. I also replace my reusable forms often because they tend to get rough edges and require more and more re-shaping before putting them on the hands.” — Romano
  • “Make sure no skin is on the nail plate. Push back the sidewalls, which tend to hide it.”—Tiffany Greco, C. Spa Salons in Encinitas, Calif.
  • “I use polish remover pads, which cost a bit more but quickly remove all the polish with just one pad.”—Rush

A Few of Your Favorite Things

What tools could you not live without?

Janene Bushey: Pterygium stone and practice sheets

Danny Daulton: Nail dehydrator, #8 brush, a 100-gift file, a white buffer block, a UV top coat, and quick-dary polishes. “No ridge fillers, base coats or drill,” he insists.

Tracey Revis: Organizational tray, 180 –grit and 200-grit silver cushion files, a white buffer block, a medium-weight arbor sander but, 440-grit disc files (for natural nail prep), and the Pusher Plus

Amy Anzlovar: UV gel sealer coat, metal cuticle pusher, nail dehydrant.

Tina Romano: Oval golden kolinsky brushes (# 4 and #7), metal cuticle pusher, sanitizable files, very sharp nippers

Tiffany Greco. High-quality metal implements (including a metal cuticle pusher and a sharp set of nippers), nail cleanser/dehydrator, and a white buffer block.

Alisha Sale: Drill with a medium, titanium double-cut diamond bit and a #8 round brush

Streamline Your Sculpting

The general consensus is to use a smaller ball and to spend less time sculpting. With today’s self-levelling products, these techs say you should be able to set the ball down, let it settle, then stroke it into place with just a few swipes.

  • “Less product really is the key. People put on too much product, too dry, and it just piles up. When you set the ball on the nail it should flow so that you just dab it in the corners and swipe it a few times.” — Daulton
  • “I use a #10 brush. When I’m pressing in the white smile line, the firm, thick belly releases liquid into the bead and presses the white down nice and smooth. I get a smoothness that I would have to work a lot harder for with a smaller brush.” — Greco
  • “Give the product a few seconds to self-level after you set the ball on the nail. You shouldn’t have to do much more than guide it into place. If you have to keep pulling and patting it, you’re working too wet.”—Revis
  • “I prefer to do fills with a #4 or #7 oval brush. The smaller sizes tend to pick up just the right amount of monomer and product for the smaller cuticle area, which saves time on sculpting and filing.” — Romano
  • “I sometimes challenge students to cut their bead in half. I think nail techs use too much product. Train yourself to leave just 1/32 of an inch so that you don’t flood the tissues, which not only creates lifting but also promotes product allergies.” — Greco
  • “I prefer to work with a wetter, smaller ball. They don’t get as many air bub­bles and the product tends to flow where I want, which makes it smoother and re­duces filing time.” — Rush


Timing Is Everything

The easiest way to cut time from your overall service is to know how much time you spend on each particular step and to focus on shortening each in turn. Danny Daulton timed each step of his 30-mmute fill for NAIL5, and says this is how each step should break out:

Prep: 5-7 minutes. Spend no more than 15-20 seconds per nail with a 100-grit file. Save time by doing all 10 nails in turn (Lifting adds time, but he advises making the investment now or you’ll pay with even more time at future fills) Next, clean each nail with a sanitizing/dehydrating scrub, then apply primer.

Product application 5 minutes. Spend no more than 30 seconds per nail laying a small ball of pink. Apply the product, sparingly, and don’t spend a lot of time playing with it.

Shape/shorten/buff: 5-8 minutes. Shorten and shape the free edges with a 100-grit file on all 10 nails. At the same time, lightly shape the cuticle area as needed with the 100-grit file (but practice your application technique in your spare time to eliminate this time-consuming and unnecessary step.) Then switch to the white buffing block to buff all 10 nails.

Polish: 7-10 minutes. A bit more attention on the buffing step will save time on the polishing step by eliminating the base coat. Don’t rush through the two coats of colour and top coat, though, because this is the finished look by which clients will judge your work.


It’s All in the Details

This section is short and sweet, just like nail techs say it should be during the service if you did everything else right.

  • “I follow Tammy Taylor’s five-step filing method where I first file the left side of all 10 nails, then the right, the free edge, the contour, and the cuticle area. The Tammy Taylor Method teaches doing everything in tens. I really had to force myself to follow it at first — it’s a hard habit to form — but I’ve found it allows for greater speed and better uniformity.”—Bushey
  • “I always follow an ‘A’ shape to finish the nail — I file the top, then the sides using a curving motion with a 180-grit silver cushion file.”—Revis
  • “I use Perma-Gloss on clients with pink and whites, which eliminates the need for buffing. I also find it seals the nails and helps to prevent lifting.” — Anzlovar
  • “If you have to do more than a few swipes with a light abrasive, you need a smaller ball.” — Greco
  • “While my client washes her hands before I polish, I sanitize her implements and get the base coat, top coat, and polish ready. While she dries, I put her kit away and get the next client’s ready to go.”—Rush
  • “I use a fine bit on my drill to smooth out the nail. Then I apply polish in three strokes — middle, right, and left.” — Sale
  • “Practice, practice, practice your polish application. Do it in three quick strokes. Pull back the sidewalls so you cover the entire nail, but don’t flood the cuticles with polish.”—Maisie Dunbar, M&M Nails in Silver Spring, Md.

Full Set Timesaver

Nail techs at Studio 10 Hair & Nail Design save up to 20 minutes on a full set simply by cutting out the tip wells. “We hold the tip straight and the slicer at an angle to cut out the smite line,” explains Salina Rush They quickly redefine the edge with a Cylifile.

“We use a deep C-curve tip for everyone, with a shallower cut for nail biters,” she says. “We place it at the edge of the nail; once you overlay it with acrylic it looks like a soft French smile line. It’s so natural-looking that some clients won’t let me polish over it.”

Rush says techs cut out tip wells during slow times. Just in case, they note tip sizes on all client cards so they can double-Check their stock in advance.

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