Acrylic Nails

Making a U-Turn

Create a more natural-looking nail with a U-shaped free edge and sharper-looking C-curve.

In the beginning, there was the pointed dagger nail. Later the point was softened and the oval was popularized. Next, nails became rounded. Then came the shape most acrylic nail clients wear — the square nail. I have developed a new shape for artificial nails — the U-shaped nail.

I was working on a client who had more product on the free edge than I could take down with a file, so I used my drill on it. Instead of drilling the top of the free edge, I drilled underneath (I would have created a huge slope otherwise). Before I realized what effect this would have, I had drilled so much that the free edge was U-shaped instead of square. And yet my client couldn’t believe how natural her nails looked.

Although anyone can wear them, clients with disfigured nails, extremely flat nail beds, or ski-jump nails are good candidates for U-shaped nails. This technique makes problem nails look more natural and keeps them perfectly squared for up to two weeks.

Executing a Perfect U-Shape

What I’ve come to realize after 10 years of practice is that the nail tip serves only as a guideline for applying acrylic, not as a guarantee for stronger nails. It’s the acrylic that makes a nail strong, not the tip. Some technicians apply the tip high on the nail bed to keep the nail from breaking. Actually, the more tip material that is glued to the nail surface, the less acrylic is on the natural nail. An exception is when you have bitten nails with no free edge. In two or three days when the glue under the tip loosens, the client will start complaining of breakage with those words we all hear: “I didn’t do anything; it just popped off”

Following is a step-by- step application of tips with overlays, incorporating my U-shaped filing technique.

Step 1: Size all 10 nails accordingly. When sizing normal nails, corner to corner is fine. When sizing abnormal nails (e.g., fan-shaped or extra-wide nails), select a size that makes the nail look the same width as the base of the nail, whether it fits corner to corner or not. (The acrylic does that job for you.) Place the tip on the very end of the free edge, angling the tip downward so you have a natural arch. If you apply the tip the same way you would on someone with normal nails, you’ll build pitcher’s mounds on the nails. Instead, once the tip is set into the glue, pinch each side of the nail simultaneously to seal the gap where the tip was angled to create a tubular nail [photo 4].

Step 2: Cut each tip to the desired length. Holding the finger vertically, file the free edge straight across. The nail will appear square, but when looking at it in a normal position, you’ll see a tubular edge on your side and a squared one on your client’s. Pull out debris from the free edge, then buff the edge. This creates one dimension of the U shape [photo 3].

Step 3: Apply acrylic but keep the underside of the nail clean from over flow. This means less work when filing the U shape, Make sure the acrylic covers the edge of the tip from corner to corner, making the nail strong.

Altering the nail shape by modifying the tip application may compromise the integrity of the nail. Compensate for this by building a sidewall with acrylic from the free edge of the natural nail to the end of the nail tip; this will cover any exposed nail underneath. If you let the acrylic set on the brush for a few seconds, you can easily place the product.

Step 4: Turn the client’s hand on its side so her palms are away and shape the nails so the free edge and the base of the nail are the same width [photo 2]. File the top of the nail, then the free edge. Use a boomerang file and file from center to corner, carving an upside-down U into the tubular portion of the nail [photo 1]. You can also do this with a drill. Buff the nails. (Be careful; too much buffing could distort the free edge, creating a heart shape instead. Run a file across the edge to correct it.)

Step 5: Polish the nails. Now the center of the nails won’t touch flat surfaces because the free edge is slightly arched; the corners protect the polish from wear and tear.

Triscia Du Benion has done nails for 11 years. She has done the nails of many celebrities.

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