Whether you need a few quick tips to catch up when you are running behind schedule or you are trying to whittle down your fill service time to fit more clients in your appointment book, there are a few tricks to doing a fill in less time. The experts who spoke with NAILS gave us some of the shortcuts they have learned over the years that have helped than speed up a fill.

Apply the product more carefully. Experi­enced nail technicians have found that by using a little extra care when lay­ing down the acrylic near the cuticle, the new product requires less filing time later in the service. Debbie Madden, a nail tech­nician at Pazazz Hair Design and More in St. Petersburg, Fla., says, “You can save a lot of time depending on the brush strokes you use during the fill. With a good brush stroke you can fill the area and do it quickly. Use the brush to make the product as smooth as possible on the nail. I do this by using a somewhat wet­ter brush; not so wet that the cuticle is swimming in acrylic, but using a higher liquid-to ­powder ratio than you use for the rest of the application will let you apply the product thinner. Remember to think thin, and think about making the filled area just as smooth as you can. This can reduce filing time and definitely cut 10-1.5 minutes off the service.”

Kim Patterson, owner of Artistic Nail Supply in Fairfax, Va., says that you can take time-saving with prod­uct application one step further by using a time-saving product: “One good way to cut time is to use a self­-leveling product and to take the manufacturer’s classes to learn how to apply it quickly and properly. “Those systems can be applied smoothly and with very little filing; that will cut time. Nail technicians who haven’t been educated proper­ly don’t know the liquid-to-powder ratio that is best for the product.”

Jennifer Coleman, head nail technician at The Cutting Edge in Raleigh, N.C., and educational sales consultant for Creative Nail Design Systems (Vista, Calif.), ac­tively works on decreasing the time she spends on product application. “One of the biggest things we work on in the salon is the laying of the liquid and powder so that in a pinch, we don’t lay the product down thickly when we are stressed for time. We try to go over our technical skills, like this one, at least once a month,” says Coleman.

Prepare the natural nails carefully. The nail plate is what your en­tire extension is based on, not just until the next time your client comes in for a fill but for every service after that. Jill Busler, a Newport Beach, Calif.­ based educational sales consultant for Creative Nail Design Systems, explains, “How you take care of the natural nail plate determines whether or not you will have a strong foundation for your enhancement. The result of poor nail prepa­ration is similar to what happens with poor hair care, especially with over-processing the hair with color and perms. Just as it is difficult to give a good color or perm service if you’ve bleached out the hair and no longer have a nice strand of hair to work on, you can’t ex­pect a nail extension to stay on the nail if it doesn’t have a healthy nail plate under it.”

There are a couple things you can do to prep the nails correctly the first time. Madden uses a coarse Teflon file to take down the sidewalls and all the product so the fill line is essentially erased. Michele Yaksich, co-­owner of The Nail Galle­ria in Pittsburgh, Pa., uses a nail dehydrant during nail preparation. She applies the dehydrant with cotton on an orangewood stick so she can push back the cuti­cles at the same time.

Cut back on buffing. This works well with clients who wear pol­ish. Heather Sweat, nail technician at Talons Nail and Hair Boutique in Oak Ridge, Tenn., says, “Instead of using a three-way shiner at the end of the service, you can use oil and a medium-fine block buffer. This smoothes out the nail enough so that when you polish, you won’t see any scratches.” Brenda Bollard, owner of Bren’s Nails in Conroe, Texas, suggests that if you choose to skip the buffing step, you should use base coat, two coats of polish, and a thick coat of top coat.

Stay on top of repairs.  Cleaning up chipped sidewalls or broken tips can eat up a lot of time during a fill. Just as good nail preparation and proper product application help prevent breakage keeping your clients coming in for fills on a regular schedule will also reduce the need for repair work On thing that helps is to encourage you clients to have standing appointments. Patterson says then you car control breakage and repairs and you don’t have to spend the time to fix them. Eighty percent of her clients are on standing appointments.

Bollard sculpts her repairs rather than applying tips, saying, “This saves time, because I can go right to mending the nail if a sidewall is chipped, rather than having to go through the entire process that applying a tip involves.”

Be efficient with fil­ing. This means both being systematic where you are filing as well as having good, clean files to do the job quickly.

Yaksich concentrates on the fil­ing system she and her nail tech­nicians use. “Do the filing in a panel system. The area from the skin on the sidewall to 1/4-inch in toward the center of the nail is the first panel you work on; inside of that panel are the middle panels, and then do the center panel,” ex­plains Yaksich.

Having a filing system doesn’t mean you have to follow the same procedure for every client, or even for every nail. Coleman sug­gests you file only the nails that need it. “I do filing in sections so I that I have more control, much like splitting a head of hair into imaginary sections to do a cut. If I’ve laid my product well, I can look down the barrel of the nail and fix a couple lumps and bumps instead of having to file each nail completely. This cuts the finish filing and buffing down to five minutes,” says Coleman.

Budget your time for each step of the service. This trick is commonly used by nail competitors, who are on a far less flexible schedule during a competition than in the salon. This “budgeting” involves breaking down the service into steps, and then allotting a maxi­mum amount of time to complete each step. When you add up the time allotted for all the steps, the total should be your target time for a fill service.

Bollard’s time budget allows an hour for a fill. “My fill appoint­ments end on the hour to make scheduling easy,” she says. “I stay on schedule by wearing a wrist­watch on the hand ‘With which I hold the client’s hand. I wear the face of the watch on the inside of my wrist so I can keep an eye on the time.”

Talk to the finger. Although your rap­port with your client is an important part of the service, stopping your work to talk is a big time-waster. “Every moment you look up to make eye contact eventually adds up,” says Patterson. “It used to take me an hour and a half to do a fill, and another nail technician I worked with kept telling me that it was because I stopped so much to talk with my clients. It didn’t seem like I stopped that much, so she ac­tually timed me with a stopwatch. It turned out that I spent 15-25 minutes talking. When I learned to talk to the finger, it took that time light off the service,” Patterson says.

Analyze the job at hand. Not every fill is the same. Sometimes you have cracks to repair, or the client may have tried to apply her own nail charm with an ice pick, leaving you some holes to fill. Take a little bit of time at the beginning of the service to figure out your plan of action. Busler says, “My biggest speed-gain­ing technique is to first analyze the root of the problem. Analyzing what your job is with that fill and figuring out what causes the service break­down is where you will save time.”

Practice good team­work. Sharing the work that needs to be done with other members of your staff will go a long way to cut time off your service. Team up with another technician. One of you can remove polish and ask the client if she wants the free edge shortened or reshaped and take notice of any cracks that need atten­tion. Yaksich also has her reception­ists trained to take clients’ service payments and book their next ap­pointment so the technicians can go on to their next appointments.

Miscellaneous time-­savers that together will save 10 minutes. These simple pointers are easily incorporated in your service routine.

  • Have polish displayed at the table on either polished tips or a color chart. Waiting while your client walks across the room to choose her color wastes time.
  • Learn to polish in three strokes. “You can do polish in 4-6 minutes with a three-stroke tech­nique,” says Patterson.
  • Don’t spend time having clients go to the bathroom to wash their hands. Both Coleman and Pat­terson keep a bottle of water at their stations. Patterson has clients use a nylon brush with it, and she keeps the sanitation solution at the station as well. “Be­sides saving time, I know that the brush always gets sanitized between clients,” she says. There are also several brands of water­less cleansers on the market.
  • Yaksich suggests not using dappen dishes: “We use pump dispensers, and that saves time from having to replace the liquid all the time,” she says.

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