Nails by Tracey Lee 

Nails by Tracey Lee

Something magical happens when you make the transition from nail customer to nail technician. During your first few classes when you’re learning how to manipulate the product and get just the right mix ratio, it’s challenging. But ultimately it’s satisfying when you complete your first set in five-to-seven hours! It’s pure euphoria...until you get a text message not long after saying that the nails are either lifting or have fallen off completely.

I remember the days shortly after my initial training — seeing the nails of returning clients was an education. I could identify so many mistakes in my work because the nails told me. Lifting around the cuticle area, tears at the corners of the smile line, nails that just popped off. In hindsight I realize that these were not “mistakes,” they were warnings that something was not done correctly and I had an opportunity to correct them during the rebalancing service.

Too many nail technicians feel frustrated before they master the technical side of doing nails — some even give up — but with some simple tips and tricks, these challenges can be easily addressed and the euphoric feeling will return.

Here’s how to identify mix ratio issue:

Dry Bead   -

Dry Bead 

Working Too Dry

When picking up a bead of polymer/powder on your brush, the fact that it is too dry is immediately apparent by the dry powder particles. This means that either there was less monomer in your brush than you needed to create the desired bead, or that you picked up a bigger bead than you intended when immersing your brush in the monomer.

Problems that result from working too dry:

• Less strength

• Cracks easily

• Lifting due to lack of adhesion

Wet Bead   -

Wet Bead 

Working Too Wet

If you’re picking up a bead of polymer on your brush and it falls off the brush into the polymer jar or onto the table, it is generally a sign that there was more monomer in your brush than needed to create the desired bead or that you picked up a smaller bead than was intended when immersing your brush in monomer.

Problems that result from working too wet:

• Reduced durability

• Reduced color stability

• More prone to breakage

• Longer set and cure time

• Pocket lifting. Working too wet is not the only cause of pocket lifting, but it has been proven to be one of the causes. Working too wet increases shrinkage during polymerization and this may cause pressure on the nail plate, causing the product to separate from the nail plate.

• Overexposure. Working too wet can lead to skin irritation and ultimately to allergic reactions to the product. Working too wet forces you to chase your product instead of you being in control of the product. This may lead to you touching the surrounding skin with your application brush excessively and unnecessarily. With an improved mixed ratio you will be able to guide your product properly.

Pocket lifting   -

Pocket lifting 

Learn to look at each and every bead. If you see excessive powder or that the bead is too wet, don’t use it. Clean off the bead and pick up a new one.

If you just can’t seem to get it right, take some time when you don’t have clients and practice picking up beads. I use a sheet with various sized circles on it for my students. Place this in a plastic sleeve and try picking up beads to fit into these circles. If the bead runs out of the circle, it’s too wet. If you see excess powder, it’s too dry. If it maintains a smooth dome shape and stays within the circle, then you are on the right track.

Read Tracey Lee’s advice on C-curves and form placement here.

Read Tracey Lee’s advice on brush control here.


Mix ratio practice sheet   -

Mix ratio practice sheet 

Try the following to create smaller beads:

• Use less liquid. After immersing your brush in monomer, press against the side of the dappen dish to remove excess monomer. Apply pressure from the ferrule to the tip of the brush, leaving a small amount of monomer for a small bead.

• Use a smaller brush.

• Immerse only the tip of the brush into the monomer.

• If you still can’t pick up a decent bead, consider these questions:

Cloudy monomer versus clear  -

Cloudy monomer versus clear

Does Your Monomer Look Cloudy?

If your monomer looks cloudy, it means that there are too many powder particles in the monomer. It also means that you are either working too wet or are not regularly cleaning your application brush before going into your monomer. If your monomer is cloudy, don’t even consider it wasting when you throw it out because using incorrect beads will cause service breakdown and will end up being more expensive for you in the long run when your client comes back unhappy.

Compact powder   -

Compact powder 

Have you been travelling?

For mobile techs, your powder may become compact during travel. Think about all the small vibrations of the car; this can cause the polymer particles to pack very tightly together. Picking up a decent-size bead becomes a challenge. Use a clean spatula and gently glide it through your polymer to loosen the particles before use.


Tracey Lee   -

Tracey Lee 






Nail artist and independent international nail educator Tracey Lee was the winner of NAILS Next Top Nail Artist Season 4. Follow her on Instagram @traceyleenails. Check out her site, for more nail education.

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