Why do my acrylics always crack on the sides in the stress area? When I file them out, the white comes off in that area, making fills frustrating.

Tanis Darling: There are a few reasons this might be occurring. Firstly, your stress area application may be lack­ing some support. In gener­al, this ball should be firm in texture and not as wet as the cuticle area application, though manufacturers' instructions may vary. Pat or press (depending on the brand) and pull with the tip and then the belly of the brush through the center of the acrylic ball. Then repeat this to the right and left sides of the acrylic ball.

Make sure when filing that you don't remove so much product that the support you've placed there is gone. Secondly, if the white is com­ing off, you should check your preparation of the nat­ural nail to ensure that you eliminate the possibility of lifting. Double prime if nec­essary. Lifting could be an in­dication of pocketing at the center of the nail, so look closely to see if it is occurring in more than just one nail. If it is pocketing, you will have to check that your ratio is not too wet since this can be the cause. Also, find out if your client is banging them around since that can cause the acrylic to release from the nail plate also.

Finally, have a good look at the state of this client's nails. If they are lifting in other places as well, it may be that she needs a more flexible type of enhancement. Acrylic is a more rigid product and some types of nails just don't do well with it. Try one of her nails in a gel enhancement. You'll know when she returns for her next fill which en­hancement product is best for her.

What causes natural nails to be soft when you remove the acrylic?

Doug Schoon: No matter what type of coating you wear on your nails, moisture will build up underneath. The nail plate becomes a reservoir for the extra moisture. Nail plate moisture levels are highest when UV gels and liquid-and-powder enhancements are worn. Both raise the moisture levels about the same amount: on average, about 18%. This does not harm the nail plate; in fact, it's very beneficial for clients with overly dry nail plates. After removal of any type of nail enhancement, the nail plates will retain these high moisture levels for a while and then gradually dry out over a 24-hour period. The high moisture levels in the nails make them more flexible. This increased flexibility is often mistaken for thinning, weakness, or other damage. After 24 hours, they will lose the extra moisture and flexibility, returning to their normally drier and more rigid state.

Ron Lee: The chemical makeup of the acrylic has little to do with the softening of the nail plate. It's simply the lack of exposure to outside elements that results in a change. For example, wrap a section of your skin in an air-and water-tight seal, such as a strong adhesive bandage, for a week then examine the difference in the texture, color, and thickness of your skin. It responds to the cov­ering just like natural nails re­spond to an acrylic covering. Exposure results in tough­ness required for protection.

[Editor's note: The newest addition to our Help Desk panel, Ron Lee is president of Innovative Research Group (IRG), a specialty coatings manufacturer for the cosmet­ic industry based in Phoenix, Ariz. Lee's formal education has been enhanced by his 25 years of experience with a wide spectrum of chemi­cals, coatings, and product development for many dif­ferent industries.]

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