When fiberglass wraps were first introduced in the early 1980’s, they enable technicians to create extensions that were thinner and lighter than acrylics, but acrylics made stronger extensions. Technicians had to choose which was more important to them, thinness or strength. Today, technicians no longer have to sacrifice one to get the other because advances in technology have allowed manufacturers to create thinner acrylics and stronger fiberglass wraps. Technicians can now base their direction on which system to use on their preferences and their client’s needs. Many technicians favor acrylics simply because it’s the system they’ve always used. For many years, acrylics were the only system available for extending nails. Even after wraps were introduce, sculpting with acrylic was the only technique taught in schools. But today, fiberglass is often favored, especially overseas. Carolyn Sears, owner of the nails only SuperNail of London salon in London, England, says fiberglass and acrylics are equally popular with her clients because fiberglass were widely available by the time nail services took off in England.

Acrylics would not have remained popular if they didn’t make strong, beautiful nails, and fiberglass wouldn’t have gained its share of the market if it wasn’t thin and durable. MAILS asked two nail technicians – fiberglass champion Anita Lime, who ranked second in NAILS’ 1993 Top 25 Competitors, and acrylic proponent Connie Ortiz, who ranked fifth in the Top 25 which system they prefer and why.

Ortiz: Acrylic systems are durable. Acrylics are made so much better now than they were before. The copolymer resins are durable but are softer and more flexible and adhere better to the nails. You don’t have as many problems with lifting as you used to. I like the colors they are sheerer and the whites are whites.

I like the natural look of acrylic. The thinness of a fiberglass nail is nice but you can make an acrylic prettier because you don’t see lines or mesh. Clients with fiberglass nails have to wear polish because, I think, no matter how the fiberglass is applied, you can always see the mesh. Most of my clients don’t wear polish so they need the nails to look like their own. With acrylics you can do a very natural looking pink and white nail.

Lime: I can guarantee to my clients that when I take the fiberglass off, their nails are going to be in the same condition as they were when we started out. With acrylics, on the other hand, it takes a while for the nails to return to normal. What I dislike about acrylics is that the primer dehydrates the nail. If I didn’t have to dehydrate the natural nails, I would like acrylics better.

Some of my clients have worn acrylics before and didn’t like the results. The average technician applies too thick. When I first moved here I found women were fed up with acrylics and there wasn’t anyone doing fiberglass so I had a captive audience.

Ortiz:  There’s nothing I don’t like about acrylics. Fiberglass is easier on the natural nail because you don’t have to do heavy etching on the nail. You just take off the shine with a zebra brush. I also like that fiberglass nails are so thin.

Lime: I don’t like the fact that fiberglass doesn’t work 100% of my clients. But no product does that’s why there are so many systems available. I always start out with fiberglass and see what happens. Eight percent of the time, fiberglass works.

Ortiz: I use fiberglass for women who are not really hard on their nails and who like an active length. I also use fiberglass on my clients who are nurses.

LIME: I use acrylics when my clients has lifting due to her body chemistry or her occupation. I look at the shape of her nails to determine what she needs. For example, nail biters can’t wear tips because they bite them off; so they can wear fiberglass. Clients who have really short nail beds can’t wear fiberglass. Women who use chalk a lot, like teachers, can’t wear fiberglass because chalks dries out fiberglass.

Sometimes clients get tired of wearing the same thing. Sometimes a client who has never had a problem wearing fiberglass sees me doing gels or pink and white acrylics and wants to give it a try. I’m glad there are other systems out there because I would lose that 20% of my clientele who can’t wear fiberglass. At one point that happen to me. Clients were starting to say, “She doesn’t do acrylics,” and I realized I couldn’t have that. I was doing every trick I knew to make fiberglass work for all my clients.  I realized that I had to reintroduce acrylics.

Choosing a favorite system depends less on technological superiority and more on personal preference. Before you can judge the system fairly, you have to master both applications. You can’t try fiberglass once and say that you get a weak nail or that it’s too thick. What student could apply a set of durable, attractive acrylics on the first try?

Even after you’ve decided which system works best for you; don’t use it to the exclusion of the others. As Lime points out, favorite system over all others can damage your business by driving away clients who can’t wear what you use or who just want to try something different. Even Ortiz, who is a self-admitted acrylic hardliner, discusses with clients their lifestyle before deciding which system will work best on their nails.

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