A lot of nail technicians pride themselves on doing it all—acrylics, wraps, gels, and manicures. But do they do every kind of wrap service? If that’s your bag, don’t limit yourself to just fibreglass. The other two wrap fabrics—silk and linen—ought to be in every nail technician toolbox, too.

Silk and linen wraps were the artificial nails of choice years before fiberglass or lightweight acrylic products were introduced. These nail systems have endured because of their versatility and effectiveness. There isn’t much you can’t do to a nail with silk and linen. You can extend without tips, repair cracked natural nails, overlay with silk for strength, or use silk to help an acrylic client move to natural nail manicures. You can even do a permanent French manicure with silk and linen.

What’s the Difference?

Technically speaking, silk, fiberglass, and linen are all applied in a similar fashion. Sunny Stinchcombe, vice president of Gena Laboratories (Duncanville, Texas), explains that silk can become more transparent on the nail because it soaks up more resin, but fiberglass is generally considered a stronger fabric.

Silk mesh that is tightly woven will become invisible when saturated with resin, as opposed to fiberglass, which only becomes transparent.

Silk mesh that is tightly woven will become invisible when saturated with resin, as opposed to fiberglass, which only becomes transparent. 

Linen, on the other hand, isn’t completely transparent because the fibers are fatter, says Stinchcombe. Alison Brooks, director of sales and education for European Touch Co. (Butler, Wis.), says that the difference between silk and linen is obvious “Linen is almost as thick as a bandage,” she says. Linen is not used as extensively as it once was because stronger and finer alternatives are available.

Linda Elmore, director of education for Triumph Fiberbond Systems (Van Nuys, Calif.), explains that linen is good for extending. “Sculpting with linen is perfect for the client who can’t or won’t wear tips.”

To do a two-tone silk and linen “sculpt,” modify a basic mesh with tip overlay application at the point where you apply the stress strip. Instead of a tip, apply a strip of linen with a smile line cut out on one end and the other end extending behold the natural free edge. Elmore explains, “Cut a strip of linen approximately the width of the natural nail. On the side that will be attached to the free edge of the natural nail, cut a smooth smile line with fabric scissors. This line should be a precise cut, as the linen will remain opaque, producing the line between the ‘white’ free edge and the ‘pink’ nail bed.”

The fabric will hold its shape because of its thickness. “Linen, because it is thick, is rigid enough to stay out on the nail without bending or wrinkling. When you apply the resin over the linen and accelerate, it’ll be hard enough that you can touch it. It is the combination of the thickness of the linen and the layering of the resin that makes a rigid nail,” Elmore says. Rotate the client’s hand so her palm is facing up; place a layer of resin on the underside of die extension and cure it with activator.

The tricky part of this technique is laying the resin and activator, then pressing the C-curve into the fabric before the resin is completely cured. Brooks uses a technique with two layers of mesh on the free edge. After placing the second layer of fabric on the free edge, you lay the resin, activate it, then shape the C-curve by squeezing together the sides of the extension with your fingers, not unlike creating a C-curve with a form. You have just a few seconds to pinch the C-curve into shape before the resin hardens.

Complete the service by laying another full strip of silk over the nail, says Elmore. The silk will disappear after you saturate it with resin and activate it. You will then have a natural-looking permanent French manicure. When your client comes in for maintenance, you’ll be able to do a fill and even a backfill on the linen, says Elmore. “You can fill with linen to whiten the free edge, but usually the first fill service is just to touch up the cuticle area with resin and catalyst. The shade of the linen is subtle enough that you shouldn’t have to backfill until your client’s third or even her fourth fill service,” she says. To perform a linen backfill Elmore explains that you must first thin the nail at the free edge all the way back to the new smile line. “Take down the thickness to replace the entire free edge, or take down just enough near the new smile line to place a small strip of linen to fill the gap between the old smile line and the new one. If you use a small strip, extend it up to meet the old piece of linen so you have no colorless gaps on the free edge. It’s OK if it overlaps the old linen a bit because you can file down any bumps after you activate the resin,” Elmore explains.

In for Repairs

You can repair cracks in natural nails or nails already overlaid or extended with silk or linen. Fill with the fabric that’s already on the nail. “A lot of nail technicians use linen to repair broken natural nails on clients who wear polish. With a standard tear, place a layer of adhesive and accelerator on the torn area, then a piece of linen over the break, then another layer of adhesive and accelerator and finish the service,” says Elmore.

Sometimes a broken nail might be so damaged that you should soak off any artificial product off the nail and overlay the nail with silk or linen. Christina Jahn, director of marketing for Star Nail Products (Valencia, Calif.), says that you should start over if the damage is so ex­tensive that you can’t buff it flush with the undamaged portion of the nail or if there is a chip out of the nail.

Switching Product

A silk overlay can be done on clients who no longer want to wear acrylics, whether they remove them or use fabric to fill as the acrylic grows out. Says Becky Lynn, CEO and president of Becky Lynn Co. Inc. (Diamond Springs, Calif.), “I’d say that 95% of clients who have acrylic nails soaked off find that their natural nail plates are weakened and sore.” She recommends that instead of going off acrylic nails “cold turkey.” The nail tech­nician should perform what she calls a product conversion.

A product conversion protects the nail plates while the extensions grow off the nail by acting as a bridge between the old product and the new nail plate material. This is slightly different from the basic wrap service in that you already have some product on the nail. What you do is prepare the nail by buffing down the old product somewhat, says Lynn, then cleaning the nail plates. Overlay the nails with silk and finish the nails as in the basic service. Have your client come in for fill services as she did before the conversion, only now you are filling with resin and activator instead of acrylic or gel.

One of the most important factors in determining the quality of the finished nails is the quality of the fabric you purchase. Stinchcombe recommends purchasing silk with a very tight weave and fine threads. “Tightly woven silk mesh is least likely to fray, which causes service breakdown,” she says. Because the weave is tighter on higher quality silk, you need to use the thinnest resin you can find. Brooks says, “You need a thinner resin with more tightly woven silk so it will thoroughly penetrate the fibers. A thicker resin will sit on top of the silk, and the silk won’t be clear when you activate the resin.” Choosing your fabric wisely, whether it be silk or linen, and using sound techniques to apply it will ensure a good-quality finish on your client’s nails.

Even though silk and linen are some of the oldest products used to create artificial nails and extensions without tips, they haven’t gone by the wayside. When you’ve mastered the techniques to apply these fabrics, you’ll have two more took to fit the bill when your other nail sys­tems aren’t quite the perfect match for your clients.

Down to the Bare Nails

Most wrap systems include the same essential components: resin (some systems use two resins of different viscosities), catalyst (also called activator or accelerator) to cure the resin, and of course the fabric.

Sheila Gardner, western regional manager of Backscratchers Salon Systems (Sacramento, Calif.), explains the basic silk wrap application on natural nails:

  1. Sanitize the nails, remove the polish, and cleanse the client’s hands.
  2. Remove excess cuticle material. Smooth the surface of the nail with a fine-grit file. Don’t etch or prime the nails.
  3. Place a thin layer of resin on the nails, activate it then repeat with another layer of resin and activator.
  4. Remove the shine on the nails with a tine-grit file.
  5. Place a stress-area-sized piece of silk on the nail plate at the natural smile line with half the silk on the nail bed and the other half on the free edge, keeping the mesh ½ -inch away from the sidewalls.
  6. Lay one bead of resin on the nail, spreading it from side to side with an extender tip on the resin bottle. The mesh should be completely saturated with resin. This step is crucial to the way the finished nails will look .The fabric must be saturated with enough resin to make the mesh almost invisible. Cure it with activator.
  7. Place a full piece of silk on the nail; again, keep it at least 1/15-inch from the cuticle and sidewalls. You’ll need that 1/15-inch later to seal the silk with resin, a process that prevents lifting.
  8. Lay one bead of resin in the center of the nail. Spread it across the nail to seal the mesh at the sidewalls, cuticle area, and free edge, then activate it. Again, make sure the silk is completely clear before you use the accelerator Apply another coat of resin to the entire nail and activate it. You can apply a third coat if necessary to fill in any highs and lows on the nail. Buff the nail to a high-gloss shine.

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