What can I do so my clients’ nail beds aren’t ruined after I remove their acrylic? Is the problem with the application or the removal?

La Cinda Headings: The problem can be caused by both. The product itself doesn’t damage the nail plate. To prevent thinning during application, take care to use fine-grit abrasives when in contact with the natural nail. (That means when filing for rebalances also.) Most damage comes from overfilling the natural nail when filing to remove lifting. As for the removal process, picking the product off can damage the nail. Soaking the product off can dry the nail plate out, but it can be reconditioned.

Lynnette Diaz-Madden: There are a few things that could be the cause of “ruined” nail beds. Make sure when you prep before applying product that your do not over-file. Overfiling is the leading cause of damage to the nail beds. Not being an advocate of acrylic nippers, I prefer to remove enhancements with the tin foil method: Saturate a cotton ball in acetone, apply on the nails, and wrap in tin foil. Make sure to use a cuticle oil on the skin surrounding the nails. If you have access to paraffin, dip the fingers, covering the tinfoil. You can also place the hands in heated mitts. The product should be ready to remove in about 20 minutes.

Because the nails tend to be soften after removal, I would recommend using and retailing a good cuticle oil and a nail strengthener. Keep the nails short until you feel comfortable letting the client let them grow longer. It will not be long before the client’s nail are long again and your former enhancement client will now be a natural nail client!

What is the best nail enhancement system (acrylic, gels, fiberglass, tips vs. sculpts, etc.) for clients who have their hands in water or chemicals a lot?

Doug Schoon: When natural nail plates absorb water, they naturally change shape and size. The opposite occurs when nail plates dry out again. This shape-shifting act affects every type of nail enhancement. None are immune to the powerful effects of water. When the foundation of a home moves, the walls can crack and the floor might lift. It’s the same with nail enhancements. When water is absorbed or lost, the nail plate becomes a moving foundation. It affects both tips and sculpts. It even affects the adhesion of all types of nail polish. The effect of water on nail plates is a natural phenomenon, so we have to live with it. Still, the effects of water can be minimized just by avoiding repeated soaking of the nail plate.

Wrap resins (fiberglass, silk, etc.) and tip adhesive are much more susceptible to water. This is because they do not form cross-linked polymers when they harden, as do other types of nail enhancements. Therefore, they are more affected by any solvents including water and acetone. Wraps and tip adhesives will break down fairly quickly if constantly exposed to water.

David Dyer: The answer depends on the type of chemical that nail is being exposed to and the duration of the exposure. For instance, continued exposure to organic solvents, such as acetone and ethyl or isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol, will disassemble the nail plate quickly. Since this natural nail plate is the foundation to which nail enhancements are attached, losing it means losing the enhancement, too.

The basic concept to keep in mind is that the nail plate is very much like a brick and mortar wall, with the “bricks” being the keratinized, hardened, formerly living cells from the cell matrix and the “mortar” being the material (phospholipids, fatty acids, structural ceramides, and protein links) between the “bricks” that holds it all together. Exposure to organic solvents strips away the “mortar”, and cause the “brick wall” to crumble. (By the way, nail fungus generally spreads through the nail by destroying the mortar also-this leads to a thickened and sometimes crumbling nail plate.)

Exposure to water is not nearly as bed as exposure to organic solvents, but with prolonged contact even water can soften the nail plate and compromise the adhesion of nail enhancements. In general, the type of nail enhancement that provides the closest and most thorough adhesion to the nail plate should be used to get the most wear out of the enhancement. While there are no fast answers, I think that properly applied acrylics meet this adhesion requirement.

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