Acrylic Nails

The Help Desk: Can I Mix and Match Products?

Nail techs ask our panelists about mixing products, using pennies in hot lotion warmers, and how to get the under-nail really clean. 

Q: Do you have to use the same product for fills that was used for the original set?

Jaime Schrabeck, Precision Nails, Pacific Grove, Calif.: No, you don’t have to use the same product for fills, but it helps to know what type of acrylic was used for the original set If the original product is excessively hard and the new product is formulated to be more flexible, your client’s nails will be vulnerable to lifting or breaking.

Tracey Stadamire, Tracey’s Un-4-gettable Nails, Portland, Ore.: When a new client comes to me for a fill after having a full set applied poorly, I let her know that I cannot guarantee the results. If lifting occurs after the fill, when she returns, I remove the original product and start over, guaranteeing my acrylic system and service.

Sue Roberts, My Nails of Westerville, Westerville, Ohio: I have a lot of clients who are traveling through the area and request a fill over their original set. Usually, they don’t know the product name or type, but I’ve found it really doesn’t matter because I’ve never had a problem working on top of other brands of acrylic.

Marti Preuss, Hair Spa, Houston: Products will normally adhere to one another as long as proper steps are taken during the preparation and application of a new product.

Q: I have heard that it is a good idea to keep pennies at the bottom of lotion or hot oil warmers. What does this do?

Preuss: It is believed that because copper conducts and holds heat, the pennies will speed up the heating process and keep solutions warmer for longer periods of time. The lotion or oil you use for soaking hands needs to be “jacuzzi” temperature (110 degrees and no higher) to allow the liquid to soften and condition the cuticles. Pennies would have to be baked at temperatures higher than attainable in a salon setting, immersed in an EPA-registered, hospital-grade disinfectant, and then coated to prevent oxidants in the copper from causing allergic reactions. I do not feel that this practice is a very viable consideration for salon use.

Stadamire: Pennies are used to prevent lotions and oils from sticking to the container. I have found that marbles work just as well and look better than the coins.

Q: How do you clean out the dirt and debris that accumulates underneath the free edge of nail enhancements?

Roberts: If scrubbing with soap and a nail brush isn’t enough, try using an electric drill with a football bit under the nails. Always be careful not to touch the end of the finger or the hyponychium with this method.

Stadamire: I advise clients to use either a brush, a Q-tip with bleach, or a non-acetone remover.

Preuss: There are many implements designed to aid the nail technician in properly cleaning the nails prior to the application of a full set or maintenance fill. It might help to soak the client’s hands in warm soapy water to soften and loosen the debris. Once softened, scrub the surface and underside of the nails with a soft toothbrush. Use one of the many implements designed to clean under the free edge to completely remove any debris.

If the debris is between the nail plate and the overlay because the nail plate is curling away from the product, try this: Soak the nails in soapy water to rehydrate the natural nail plate. Thoroughly scrub the nails with a soft toothbrush. Using a 180-grit file, file from the center of the nail overlay into the area of curling until all the lifted material is removed and flush with the natural nail. Do not over-file. Remove about one-third of the remaining overlay. Replace the product from the free edge back into the cuticle area. Wrap the product around the sidewall by stroking with the brush. This will act as a “C” clamp to hold the natural nail in place.

Michele Martinez, Chele’s Frills, Austin, Texas: Remove the dirt with an orangewood stick dipped in alcohol. If this doesn’t work, try gently filing with a drill, using the appropriate drill bit.

Q: What do you do about frequent breaks on clients who wear their nails really long?

Roberts: First, you should suggest the nails are too long for her lifestyle. If that doesn’t work, strengthen the stress point (the area where the natural free edge begins) with some sort of overlay, especially at the sides.

Stadamire: I always advise my clients that their nails do not have to be a mile long to be pretty or decorated, and I suggest that they trim them down just a little to see if they have better luck.

Martinez: Let them know that if they want the tip longer than their natural nail bed, that they take the risk of breaks.

Q: Whenever I fill in nails and have to nip back loose acrylic, more acrylic comes off than I want and I get what I call a “very narrow lift line.” How do I prevent this little lift line from showing up on the nail?

Stadamire: Instead of nipping, try filing back with a 100-grit file or use a little nail glue. Normally, I add more primer, and that, with a little more filing, takes care of the problem.

Preuss: Primer is designed to penetrate the nail plate and act as an anchor to hold the product lightly to the nail plate surface. Lifting occurs when the product is applied either too wet or too close to the cuticle or because of improper preparation. A ridge or bump of product at the cuticle maybe a source of irritation to the client. She may pick at it and cause lifting to occur. Nipping lifted material tears up good, tight acrylic, which in turn tears up layers of the nail plate. The very narrow lift line you are seeing is more lifted material and quite possibly lifted nail plate. If you feel there is enough lifting present to instigate nipping, try soaking the enhancement off instead. Removing and reapplying the overlay will prevent damage to the nail plate from the mechanical forcing. Leaving a tiny margin all around the cuticle and sidewall line free of product will allow the acrylic to properly shrink when cured, creating an airtight seal. Apply the product very thin at the cuticle and blend with the natural nail. You should not be able to feel a ridge or bump at the cuticle line.

Martinez: Start with a 100-grit file, then graduate to finer files until this line disappears. Also, make sure you are using the amount of monomer recommended by the manufacturer before applying the acrylic ball.

Q: What is the best file grit to use on the surface of natural nails to prep for extensions?

Schrabeck: The coarseness of the file is determined by the strength of the natural nail. I never use any file coarser than an 180-grit After the initial shaping, I follow up with a very fine-grit (400 or more) file.

Martinez: The cosmetology board in my state recommends using an emery board which may not be reused on other clients.

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