I have a client who I use acrylic products on, and it appears as though her nail layers or cuticles underneath are peeling, and her fingernails are very sore. Is this because of the acrylic? What would you recommend that I do to help this client?

There are two potential problems in using acrylic nails. One is if the client is allergic to the acrylic material. If this is the case, then acrylic cannot be used by your client at all or it could result in a very serious allergic reaction affecting the nail unit and giving rise to permanent nail damage. I would suggest that your client see a dermatologist and be tested for an acrylic allergy.

I would recommend that the acrylic nails be removed in order to determine if the problem still persists in the absence of the acrylic. This may alleviate the discomfort and peeling of the cuticles. The peeling of the nail and cuticles is most likely due to dryness or dehydration (loss of moisture) and your client may be better off not using acrylic products on her nails.

I have been doing gels for about three weeks and I’m ready to give up and go back to acrylics. Some of my clients’ nails are a mess after two weeks. I hate having to deal with the forms and it takes a lot longer because I have to put on so many layers, curing each one and then the underside. Any advice?

Lin Halpern: Because gels are light-cured, the lamp’s light must penetrate through the gel to cure it. Colored gels will not let light pass through them, making layering the only way to get them to set. Avoid using these types at first. You can always check to see how they work when you have time to play. Gels are not like acrylics – don’t apply your acrylic techniques to the gels. Begin by using tips, not forms. Tips provide the perfect platform on which to build a beautiful gel nail. Blend the seam properly and you won’t be able to tell your gel nails from a natural one. Shape and shorten before going to the gel application. Be sure the gel you choose is not too thin. Thinner gels run, so look for gels that “stand up” or do not slump quickly. They are easier to handle.

Use the “house” building method. Once the nail surface is prepared according to the manufacturer’s instructions, begin with the bonder or base coat gel. Pretend you are polishing the surface with red nail polish. Do not touch the sidewalls or cuticle area and be sure to wrap around the free edge thickness. Cure in the UV lamp. This is the foundation of your house.

Next, build your walls. Take the builder gel and drag a line from cuticle to free edge like a speed bump you find in a parking lot. Place it directly down the middle starting slightly below the cuticle as not to touch the skin. The base coat is still tacky and will grab the gel off your brush. Just get close and barely touch the gel from the brush to the tacky, cured surface and drag down to the tip. Cure in the UV lamp for 20 seconds. This will freeze the action just enough to put another layer on immediately without disturbing the first builder layer. Now, apply the second layer of the builder just like you did the base coat covering the entire surface and wrapping the edge. Cure for the full time required. When the cure is complete, wipe the nail surface to remove the sticky film layer. If your lamp has a reflective floor there should be no need to turn the hands upside down.

Now, feel the nail. Adjust the surface contour with a 180-grit file – a harsher grit will remove too much. A block buffer will do for most of the surface. When using the 180-grit file be careful not to stroke the extended sidewall and free edge with too heavy a hand as this may remove the gel bond from the tip. Just crisp up your original shape and flatten out the U-shaped cuticle area.

The last step of building your strong house is your roof or top coat. Clean the nail of all dust and apply the top coat. Keep away from the skin and wrap all the edges. Finish curing and wiping according to the directions. If the gel is cured by the correct lamp for your gel and your bulbs are strong and not used up, the bond should stay perfect until the client returns for the refill. With no lifting and therefore no nipping, the refill is just a small area to fill and the free edge requires shortening and re-sealing.

LaCinda Headings: Any time you try a new system, there is going to be an adjustment time. Gels are a great alternative service for your clients who are prone to lifting or allergic to acrylic. Plus they are great for spa atmospheres because they have no harsh odor. Doing a set of gels takes about the same amount of time as doing a set of acrylics once you get used to the different systems. Sculpting gels can be challenging – look for a system where the sculpting gel is thick enough that you can do more than one nail at a time and doesn’t have to be cured underneath as well. If the gels aren’t holding up the way that they should, call the manufacturer to find out what’s going wrong.


I would like to know the best way to get client’s cuticles in good condition. I find that a lot of my clients do not pay enough attention to their cuticles once they leave the salon and as a result I have to remove a lot of hanging skin.

Rima Kitsko: Basically, you need to let the clients know that while you are there for them, they do need to take a hand in the upkeep of their nails at home. Educating the client is the way to start. Let them know that the surrounding tissue needs to look good as well as the actual nail and that it’s important to their nails’ health to not allow those pesky hangnails to get out of control, since that could lead to tears or splits in the cuticle area and possible infection. Then select the right sort of product for them to use. A good nail oil or cuticle cream with an alpha hydroxy acid base used on a daily basis will help to keep those cuticles in great shape. And with a good product, clients should see results within a week of using it faithfully. Start them out with a free sample. Once they see how wonderful their nails and hands start looking they will come back to buy a full-sized bottle.

Debi Waszut: I usually push my clients’ cuticles back using a good pterygium remover/pusher at each fill. I also remove hangnails if necessary. But if you are having a lot of problems with a lot of different clients, it could be that the cuticle area is getting too roughed up at each fill, or, if you are using a drill, you may be getting too close to the cuticle area. Great care needs to be exercised in this area. Routine cuticle care should eliminate this problem. I also recommend that my clients use a cuticle oil daily and use waterproof gloves to do dishes or housekeeping with household chemicals. Work gloves should also be worn for activities like dusting and gardening. Clients have to be instructed that they need to do these things to protect their investment in their beautiful new nails.

What’s the best way to do nails that are worn just for a special occasion then removed – like prom nails? And how would you price them? The wearers are usually teens.

Rima Kitsko: There are a variety of options available for temporary or “party” nails. A common technique is to apply a tip (don’t blend), then very thinly overlay the nail with either a gel coat, an acrylic coat (don’t use primer even if your product company recommends one), or a resin with activator. Then just buff and polish. There is usually no guarantee with this sort of temporary nail but they should last through the night of the event. The nails take about 30-45 minutes from start to polish dry, and average pricing is $25. I also offer free removal so the client won’t damage her natural nails trying to get them off herself.

Debi Waszut: I usually opt for a set of nails using silk wraps and white tips or natural tips with polish. The reason for this is that they can be applied quickly and can be soaked off in 15 minutes. If I opt for acrylic nails because the client’s natural nails need shape correction, I keep my application thinner than usual so that they soak off quickly. Here again I usually use polish because I can sculpt a set in 35 minutes using a natural powder.

Mary Metscaviz: I glue on white tips then apply resin over them. Then I buff the nails and reapply until a smooth surface is achieved. These tips are great for the prom or any special occasion. They can easily be removed with acetone and will not damage the natural nail to the extent that full acrylic coverage of the tips would. They are not for long-term and I only guarantee they will stay on for two days. I usually charge $40 and they take only 30 minutes to apply.

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