Question: How do you keep sculptured acrylic nails looking clean and neat under the free edge? My clients like to let their natural nails grow out with the acrylic so I just use a drill bit to file it smooth and remove any stains. Unfortunately, this makes the nail more porous and it absorbs dirt more easily. I have tried applying glue or using a clear sealer, but these eventually just flake off.

Nancy King: There are several options:

1)      I have had some success with wrapping the wet acrylic around the free edge and underneath it, then thinning out the acrylic underneath (but not filing into the nail itself) using an electric file. For home care, the client can dip her nails in an effervescent denture cleaner and scrub them with a nail brush or toothbrush once or twice a week.

2)      You can do what is called an “underfill” with white acrylic. This is where you add a thin layer of white acrylic under the free edge and shine it as you would the top of a pink and white overlay. If you use an electric file to get a great shine and very smooth surface, it will stay clean underneath. These must be “backfilled,” so to speak, when they grow out.

3)      You can have the client use nail bleach or peroxide and a nail brush or toothbrush several times a week under the nails to keep them clean. Since some clients want maintenance-free nails, you need to know your client before suggesting this one. Remember that natural nails tend to curl under each time they get wet and then begin to dry out. Have your clients apply oil to the undersides of their nails daily (whether they wear acrylic or not) to help minimize this.

I have a client who wears tips with a gel overlay. Both of her thumb nails have three ridges in them that never seem to grow out. She is in the habit of biting down on her thumbs starting at the cuticle and working down to the free edge. Could this habit have caused permanent damage to the nail matrix? How can I, as a nail tech, hide these flaws?

Dr. Rich: She should stop that habit immediately! If the nail is still growing she has probably not irreversibly damaged the nail matrix, but continued trauma to that area could cause eventual permanent nail loss. The ridges that occur in the nail plate (I assume you mean horizontal ridges) are due to trauma to the new tail as it is being formed in the area under the nail fold and cuticle. If she stops the biting of her nail, there is a good chance that the nail will grow in normally.

Mary Metscaviz: You can cover this flaw by using a “natural” colored acrylic, or mix your own combination of white and pink powders to create a slightly opaque color that hides flaws. Of course, always use the same brand of product when mixing shades of powders.

One of my clients was just diagnosed with hepatitis B. I know it’s not contagious unless there’s contact with body fluids. What else do I need to know about protecting myself while doing her nails?

Doug Schoon: The chance of your client giving you hepatitis B during the service is so close to zero, we might as well call it zero. It isn’t going to happen. Salon services do not spread life-threatening diseases. Still, we live in an age of medical paranoia and clients expect us to take all reasonable precautions. With that in mind, you can see why I recommend that nail techs avoid contact with blood, no matter who the client. Any professional salon disinfection system is fine for disinfecting salon implements, but I suggest you throw away any abrasive that comes in contact with blood.

Rich: Blood is the major source of contamination for hepatitis B. Protecting yourself by wearing gloves is prudent. It is even more important to protect your other clients by making sure all instruments are thoroughly disinfected. If you accidentally nick the skin of the client with hepatitis B, you run the risk of spreading the virus to others (if you don’t use a scrupulous technique). Hand-washing is important.

When I am giving a pedicure and my client has callused skin, I use a credo blade and/or a rasp and then I use a pumice stone followed by a sloughing lotion. But sometimes the bottom of my clients’ feet are still rough. Is there anything else I can do to try and help this situation? I also tell them use a pumice stone at home and to use lotion every day.

Dr.Roth: I have had the same difficulty with my patients. After debriding [paring down] calluses, the skin is sometimes still rough. I like to use a Dremel cordless rotary tool to smooth the rough areas. You can use a sandpaper-type attachment, or because you can get a burn from sandpaper, you can use a diamond-coated, steel umbrella attachment that will the smooth the skin very nicely. I also recommend that you use an electric filing tool with a low/high switch so you can adjust the setting. Make sure to use some kind of protection such as a mask so you do not inhale the skin particles that become airborne. You will get fast results and the skin will be nicely smoothed.

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