Acrylic Nails

Making the Product Switch

Ease the transition to a new product by knowing what you want, learning how to get it, and testing your results.

You’ve perfected your technique and increased your speed over the years, but you’re noticing that the nails you create still leave something to be desired. You may not have trouble with lifting but find that your acrylic French manicures turn yellow. Maybe you love the consistency of your product, but can’t stand the odor. Or perhaps you need a product that won’t give clients a burning sensation on the nail.

Reading over ads that promise easy-to-apply, trouble-free products, you begin to wonder if you could do better by using a different product.

Why Switch?

Many veteran nail technicians report that they have changed products, at least temporarily, during their careers. The reasons for switching differ from technician to technician. “I’ve switched products several times in the past 17 years,” says Donna Kohl, a nail technician at Hairmasters in Scottsdale, Ariz. “A lot of times the reason I switched was because, listening to the product salesman, I thought the new product sounded better than the one I was using.”

Sama Ballou, president of Alexandria Nail Products in Yuba City, Calif., adds, “The majority of nail technicians switch because they’re not happy with the products they’re using. It may be they don’t like the way the product goes on, or that the client can purchase the product, or they don’t like the manufacturer. Some switch because they’re not applying the product properly and they blame the problem on the product.”

It’s important to know the specific reasons for wanting to change products. According to Gloria Philips, owner and instructor at the Academy of Beauty Care and Nail Technology in Lauderhill, Fla., “The same reasons you want to switch are the very things you need to look for in a new product. The nail technician may want a product that blends well, smells better, goes on easily, doesn’t turn yellow, is consistent in application, and doesn’t crack or lift. We used to use one acrylic product, but the smell was so intense it was making us ill. We switched and we’ve been using a new product for three years without any problems.”

Give It One More Chance

Before tossing out your current product, talk to the manufacturer about the problems you’re having with it. Many manufacturers will guarantee their products, but only if they’re used correctly. “I feel if the technician is using a product from a decent sized manufacturer, the manufacturer will not change the chemical makeup of the product,” says Kym Lee of Galaxy Nail Products in Huntington Beach, Calif. “Sometimes we change the way we do nails very gradually and we don’t notice it. The technician should, rather than change products, first contact the manufacturer and ask for a demonstration or phone advice.”

When You’re Ready to Change

If a technique refresher course doesn’t improve the product’s (or your) performance, it’s time to find a product that works better for you and your clients. Nail technicians and educators alike strongly recommend that before making a complete switch, you educate yourself about the new product and test it over time to evaluate its performance.

“You have to be educated on how to use a new product,” says Gloria Ramirez, an educator for Alexandria. “It will take nail technicians about three weeks to get used to the new product. They have to retrain themselves and get to know its personality.”

Make sure the manufacturer provides education on the use of the products, says Kohl. Monica Wegrzyn (pronounced Vangshan), a Milford, Conn.-based consultant for Amber Products, says, “You have to ask what the manufacturer will do for you. Do they have education, special promotions, ongoing research, product development, and a history of success?” The reputation of the manufacturer is an important consideration.

Evaluate the products by testing them on friends or clients. “The best way to make the change is to buy a small quantity, the smallest you can buy, and practice with it on a friend to see how it lasts.” says Philips. “Or you could put a set of nails on a client. You won’t know the quality of the product until the client comes back for the second fill. The product may crystallize, or you may have to use more liquid than powder or more powder than liquid. Different products have to be applied differently.”

Compare the performance of the new product with the old. “Do two or three clients who have different professions,” says Kohl, “and see how easy the product is to work with and its durability.”

A Comfortable Transition

How you make the change to a new product is as important as your decision to change. The transition, which should be comfortable for both of you and your client, can be made in several ways. You can use the product on all clients or gradually change clients over. With some acrylic products, you can start by using the product during the fills, but with others you will have to apply new sets on all clients.

“My recommendation is to do it all at once,” says Lee. “If you’re switching to a new acrylic product, find out from the manufacturer of both products whether their polymer is soft or hard. If the two products are different, they will not bond. You need to start with new sets if you’re going from a soft to a hard polymer or a hard to a soft. Or, you need to file the old product very thin and apply a coat of the new product over the entire nail.”

Ballou, on the other hand, recommends a more gradual change. “When switching clients over, don’t do them all at one time,” she says. “Do it gradually, start with one or two clients a week and build up. If you find you don’t care for the new product, then you don’t have too many clients to switch back.”

If you’re switching to a new acrylic, Ballou advises, start with fills and watch for problems at the stress area. “If one product is more flexible and the other is more rigid, the two may fight each other, and cracking may occur,” she says. “If that happens, either take the set completely off and go with a whole new set, or struggle through that phase.”

If you’re switching to a new wrap or gel system, it’s acceptable to apply the new product over the old. “You can use any wrapping over wrapping, and any gel over a gel,” says Philips.

Informing the Client

Should you let the client know that you’re switching products?

“Make sure you tell the client,” says Kohl. “After all, they’re paying for your service. It’s like any other profession.”

Philips says, “Unless the change is drastic, most people don’t know what the technician is using anyway. If the technician likes a product and has no problems, the customers won’t know the difference. The nail technician has her own personal reasons for switching. I would never tell a customer unless she asks.”

Should you charge a customer for a new set of acrylics if you’re changing products?

“If the nail technician is changing her own products, she shouldn’t charge her clients for a new set,” says Ballou. “If a woman comes in from another salon, then I’d give her the option of a new set or leaving the old product on and possibly having problems when the products meet at the stress area. Then the client knows in advance that she’s paying for a new set.”

Wegrzyn says, “Whether a client has had problems with her nails or not, if she is coming to you from another salon, I’d recommend thinning out as much of the acrylic as you can so the new product not only fills the nail, but is extended over the entire nail. The client would need to be informed that there is additional labor involved [on her initial visit to your salon] and she would have to be charged accordingly. Putting the new acrylic over the old protects the nail technician and lets her guarantee her work.”

Out With the Old

Once you’ve made the change for good, you’ll probably find you have some of the old product left over. While it may seem convenient or cost-effective to mix the products to use up the old supply, manufacturers and experienced technicians advise against this practice.

“Mix products? Absolutely not,” says Lee. “Mixing products is unprofessional and unsafe.”

“Never mix products,” adds Kohl. “As soon as you mix them, you lose the manufacturer’s liability.”

Fibreglass systems, like acrylic systems, should never be mixed. “You would not want to use one manufacturer’s bonder and another’s activator,” says Wegrzyn. “In order to assure you don’t have burning of the nail, you need to follow manufacturer’s directions properly and not mix products.”

Philips cautions against using one type of treatment over another. “I don’t recommend putting a gel over acrylic or gel over a wrapping,” she says. “If you have a good wrap, why do you need a gel over it? You don’t need two treatments.”

When it comes to natural nail treatments, using different products from different manufacturers is considered acceptable. “Nails can’t really absorb treatments,” says Wegrzyn. “All you’re trying to do is keep the nail from drying out and protect it from damage. Most of the professional products are equal in quality; the difference is that some manufacturers will have additional treatments to offer clients.”

What you offer your client is as important as what the product manufacturer offers you. If it’s time to switch products, put the clients’ needs over such considerations as potential cost savings. “Rather than think about how much money you save with a specific product or technique, think about what’s best for the clients,” says Wegrzyn. “This will always translate into dollars for you.”


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A volatile, fragrant, flammable liquid used chiefly as a solvent, often found in polish remover; can be used to soak off acrylic nails.
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