Crystallized acrylic product and brittle nails usually move into your salon with the winter’s first cold front. As the outside thermostat dips to 60° F and below, acrylic products tend to set up slower, crystallize, and break more easily. However, a few simple tricks of the trade should eliminate most problems.


Crystallized product is the number one winter complaint for salons, especially those in the Midwest, where temperatures often dip below freezing. Liquid monomers have a “self-timer” ingredient that dictates how fast the monomer will saturate the powder polymers, explains Joey Brown, OPI Products western regional manager. In cold weather, the powder can dry more quickly than the liquid and not be completely saturated. This is crystallization.

Crystallized acrylic looks grainy, almost as if sugar was mixed with the powder and liquid. Sculptured nails that crystallize are very weak and likely to crumble when you file them, or they break soon after the appointment. If acrylic crystallizes, file down the product, re-prime the nail, and apply fresh product, recommends Barbara Griggs, a Creative Nail Design educator and owner of Nail Visions salon in Pasadena, Md. But a better way to deal with crystallization is to prevent it before it starts.


You have to keep the salon, clients’ hands, and your product warm. Also, all three conditions must be controlled: If the product and salon are warm but the client’s hands are cold, the product will still crystallize.

Keep the salon warm. Set the salon thermostat between 68° and 74°F during business hours. If you turn off the heat at night and on weekends, be sure to get to the salon a half-hour before the first client arrives so you can warm up the salon and the product.

Drafts of cold air from open doors can also cause product crystallization. Make sure windows are well sealed and that your station is as far from the door as possible. Every time a client leaves the salon, she can let in just enough cold air to chill wet product on the nail and make it crystallize.

Susan Strickland, co-owner of Nails, Etc. in Waycross, Ga., counteracts the blast of cold air she gets every time the salon door opens by using a high-wattage bulb in her table lamp and keeping the lamp close to the clients hands while she works. “The high-wattage light bulb keeps it warm around my work area. That helps glues and acrylics set and also guards against cold blasts when the door opens,” she explains.

Cindy Gold, owner of A Touch of Gold in Creve Coeur, Mo., does nails in a tanning salon that is always cold. She solved her crystallization problem by plugging in a portable room heater next to her station.

Never use cold monomer. Whoever opens the salon and turns on the heat should also make sure the bottles of liquid monomer and primer get warmed up as well. Primer is sensitive to cold and will freeze at about 40°F. It will quickly warm to room temperature on its own, or you can set it under your table lamp so it warms more quickly. Whatever you do, however, don’t allow product to get warmer than room temperature.

Technicians and educators offer many unique tips for warming liquid monomer. Brown suggests putting the bottle in warm water or setting it on a heating pad. Beth Hickey, national sales manager for Origi-Nails, warms her product by rolling the bottle briskly between her hands.

Debbie Mielke, an educator for Alpha 9 and owner of Nails Unique in Aurora, Ill., puts her bottle of liquid in an electric mitt each morning for 10 to 15 minutes, and she sometimes warms powder by putting the dappen dish on a mug warmer for about two minutes to bring it to room temperature. Mielke also switches to a plastic acrylic liquid dispenser in winter because, she says, ceramic dispensers retain the cold.

Educators warn technicians never to put nail products in the microwave. Microwave ovens can break down the chemicals in your product and potentially cause the container to explode.

Keep clients’ hands warm. No matter how warm your salon or product is, product will crystallize if the client’s hands are cold. Many technicians simply rub the client’s hands or run her hands under warm water. You can provide electric mitts to warm their hands, or try using a heating pad under your towel.

Mielke has a sign in her salon that asks clients to wear gloves to their appointments. Wearing gloves ensures that a client arrives with warm hands but will also protect her nails over the long term.


Brittle nails are another common winter complaint. To some extent, brittleness is to be expected because of the temperature extremes that nails are subjected to in winter. “Acrylic does not have the capability to contract or expand with the hot or cold climates,” explains Hickey. “Clients go in and out, from hot to cold, and acrylic cannot handle that quick temperature change.”

Advise clients to wear gloves whenever they leave the house. Gloves protect hands from extreme cold and protect hands and nails during sudden drastic temperature changes, which can be just as damaging. “When clients do break nails in the winter, nine times out of 10 it’s because they went out without gloves,” says Mielke.

The cold, dry air in winter is harsh on skin and nails. Paying extra attention to warming clients during their salon visits will strengthen their loyalty as well as their nails.


  • Use heated hand mitts.
  • Put a heating pad under your towel.
  • Put liquid product in warm water for 5-10 minutes before using.
  • Rub bottle between your hands.
  • Have the client shake out her hands for 2-3 minutes.
  • Put client’s hands under a hair dryer on a low setting for a few minutes.
  • Use a portable space heater to keep the area around your table warm.
  • Use a 70-watt bulb in your table lamp to keep client’s hands warm.



For reprint and licensing requests for this article, Click here.