Acrylic Nails

The Help Desk Answers Your Technical and Business Questions

This month, readers ask about sculpting, the difference between cuticle products, and the effect of medications on nails. 

I am a newly licensed nail tech and am trying to teach myself sculptured nails. My problem is with nail forms. I can’t seem to apply them properly. Do you have any tips for me?

Jessica Zastoupil: Applying forms correctly can be a challenge. Unfortunately, the best way to learn is to be shown. Is there another nail tech you could sit with and learn? You could also check with your local distributor to see if they have any manufacturer representatives visiting from time to time and ask if you could meet with them. Shows and classes are other excellent ways to meet with people who could help you. You could also invest in a video from the manufacturer of your product. Barring that, my best advice to you is don’t try to jam the form under the free edge-it should just be lightly placed there. Also, if you are using a disposable form don’t try to stick the sides down until you have it under the free edge correctly. I see lots of students who put the form on, stick down the sides, and then try to adjust the form under the free edge. It doesn’t work. As with any new skill, practice helps. Sit down and put them on and take them off, over and over. Eventually you will get the hang of it.

What is the difference between cuticle removers and cuticle oils or creams?

Doug Schoon: The poor cuticle it’s the most misused term in our industry. Even state regulations use this word in conflicting and confusing ways. Here are the facts: the “cuticle” is a thin layer of dead tissue adhering to the nail plate. This, thin, transparent tissue is removed during a manicure. Besides looking unsightly, the cuticle can cause artificial nails to lift. So it needs to be removed-carefully. The living skin bordering the base of the nail plate is called the “eponychium.” This is not the cuticle. The main difference is the eponychium is living tissue and the cuticle is dead tissue. As the name suggests, cuticle removers dissolve dead skin from the nail plate, so their function is easy to understand. Cuticle oils and creams, by contrast, are designed to treat the living tissue of the eponychium and not the cuticle.

How do anti-inflammatory medications affect clients with enhancements? I have a client who is taking large doses of this type of medication and she is the only one of my clients who is experiencing difficulty. Could this be the problem? Can this type of medication also affect natural nail clients?

Dr. Rich: Some medications, such as anticancer drugs, tetracycline, and antimalarials can affect the nails in a variety of different ways. I don’t know which anti-inflammatory your client is taking, but most non-steroidal anti-inflammatories are not a big problem with nails, If your client takes prednisone, a strong anti-inflammatory medication, she might be at increased risk of developing yeast around her nails. Maybe the problem is not the medication but rather the underlying condition that she is treating with medication. For example, if she is taking anti-inflammatory medications for psoriatic arthritis, both of which can could possibly impact her ability to wear enhancements.

Can I apply prep, bonder, and activator to natural nails without then applying a tip? My goal is a little added strength and no need for fills.

Zastoupil: To add strength to a natural nail, you can apply any product without a tip. A bonder and activator without a wrap is extremely fragile and tends to no last too long or provide a lot of strength. I would suggest using the fabric along with the bonder and activator to give additional support. Another option would be to apply a thin layer of acrylic or gel. Unfortunately, no matter what you choose, eventually you would need to fill. Without a fill, the tip of the nail gets heavy and breakage and lifting start to occur. Even if you use a bonder and activator alone, without maintenance, it will start to look bad.

When using a non-yellowing acrylic product line, do you need to apply a UV top coat on pink-and-whites?

Schoon: Regardless of whether a product is labeled “non-yellowing,” every nail enhancement product ever made can discolor under some circumstances. It’s the nature of the chemistry and physical properties of the artificial nails. Discoloration of nail enhancements can be caused by many different things, including using cleaners/disinfectants, smoking, brush or product contamination, improper ratio of liquid to powder, contact with acid primer and non-acid primer, staining by nail polish, top coats, and nail treatments, certain high SPF sunscreen agents, tanning beds, and natural sunlight. A UV top coat can only help protect against the damaging effects of UV light in tanning beds and natural sunlight. If your discoloration problems are related to UV, then these top coats can help.

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A condition in which the nail turns a variety of colors including yellow, blue-gray, green, red, and purple; discoloration can be caused by poor...
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