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Nail Prep - one size does not fit all

Nail Prep, one size does NOT fit all!


There are so many questions along the lines of: I do the same nail prep for all but a couple of my clients keep getting chips or lifting.

The answer to that problem is in the question. That is the same prep for all. This does not work as every ones nails and lifestyle are different.

This starts with a very educated understanding of the nail condition and lifestyle.

Building Strong Foundations for Enhancements and UV Gel Polish

If nails are thin and/or weak from previous damage, over buffing or naturally thin then that client may not be suitable for enhancements or UV gel polish. You cannot build a strong structure on weak foundations.

The client may need a course of treatment that strengthens the nail plate first. Most brands have a nail-strengthening treatment (this is different from a hardener as this will cause a different problem). Those that have keratin in an oil or one that penetrates the nail plate and strengthens from the inside.

It may be that a rubber base can work as it should be flexible enough to move with the weak nail and not against it. But a rubber base will not suit all clients and trying another brand will involve a new lamp so try using it much thinner or applying two thin layers. If you are using all the same brand it can sometimes work by putting a thin rubber base in between the colour layers giving more strength. If doing this beware of the thickness all around the edges of the coating as it can easily look unpleasantly thick.

Many Nail Prep Problems Involve the Need for Extra Adhesion

This has several causes:

  • some nails have cuticle much higher up the nail than expected, even as far as halfway up. Every particle of this must be removed gently for adhesion of any coating. With a cuticle remover tool (with experience) you will be able to feel what is skin and what is nail so start much further up the nail when removing but be careful not to dig into the nail plate and cause a ridge.
  • Every brand should have a cleanser and/or a dehydrator. You may use this on all 10 nails at the same time but sometimes, if the oil is especially oily, the answer is to dehydrate one nail at a time and apply the coating which will be applied to a perfectly dehydrated nail before natural oils and moisture have reached the surface again.

Some brands have additional adhesion enhancers such as a primer. Use this on the lifters but do not be tempted to use a product from another brand as it may not be compatible with the colour and will cause it to lift. Most primers need a minimal application and are allowed to air dry before moving on. Some may need curing. Always follow the instructions.

Nails that are excessively oily pose a challenge. The solution, as previously explained, is to dehydrate them one at a time.

Some nails are too hard especially when they have no surface damage. This type of nail may need extra buffing with a slightly harder grit (lower grit number) than other nails as they need a bit of help with the adhesion as all adhesives penetrate into the top couple of nail layers for a good grip. If this is needed be careful to buff or file any more than necessary as the nail will eventually become thin and weak and cause a different problem.

Using UV gel polish is a skill that is more similar to applying enhancements than using regular nail polish (which many have lost or not learned the skill of applying as it dries too quickly for them)

Perfecting the Nail Apex for Stronger Nails

Every coating needs an apex for strength to avoid breaking or bending (which happens often to weak nails with a free edge and causes lifting) Always create an apex. This is usually over the onychodermal band but maybe a little nearer the base of the nail for a longer nail. If you are not skilled at creating an apex, when you have applied the second colour coat, turn the clients hand over parallel to the desk top which allows gravity to pull the uncured coating from the sides and it into a natural apex over the centre of the nail.

Guiding Clients Towards Nail Length and Health

Some clients want the nails to be longer than is practical for their lifestyle. If they are too long they will break often and need to be shorter. If a client breaks  nail and the nail plate is torn from the nail bed this is because the coating is too thick and strong! The coating must break before the nail does.

If a client insists on nails too long for them remind them you are the professional in this relationship and you are advising them for the health of their nails. Even a crack in the nail plate can let pathogens in and cause long-term problems.

It is your professional duty to make an accurate assessment of every clients nails and provide the best nail prep treatment based on your knowledge and skill and not blame the product.

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