Monday, 4 July 2011

More General Gel Nail Information..

FAQ's, Hints, Tips, Tricks, Q&A about GEL NAILS; a lot of the information in this section is ADVANCED (but not all), so do not attempt advanced techniques (such as fiber w/ gel) if you are a newbie to gels, go to the lessons above FIRST, play with the gels a bit, and then come back to advanced techniques and troubleshooting ideas. The info will make a lot more sense once you have first-hand working knowledge of gels!

Desperate for more info. on gel nails now? Check back issues of Nails and Nail Pro Magazines (links to their web sites are on my links page), or watch a few generic gel nail videos available from me here in my store at (or the store link from the main menu here at ) and/or the offerings from several different manufacturers to get some generic ideas. And of course, follow your gel nail manufacturers instructions (and their video if available) for specifics on using whatever brand of gel you choose to work with.

What Brand Of Gel (and Other Nail Products) Does Barb@nailsplash Use???
Currently I only use U-V cured gel acrylics. As a "generic" nail technology educator I try (as best I can) not to recommend any specific brands of nail products as I feel that almost ALL of our professional nail products are truly GREAT and high quality.

I do believe the oft quoted adage that our biz (and many others) follows the 80/20 rule: 80% of our business is about us as nail techs as people, and only 20% is about our technical skill or products. (Also quoted is 20% of the workers do 80% of the work! How true!)

The reason I don't like to mention what brand gel I use specifically, is that as a generic educator I don't want to influence nail techs too much in one direction or another, because so much is really personal preference. I am always willing to share my opinions as to whether I consider some brands "good" or not, as in if I find one specific product or brand especially superior or inferior. I do give ‘hints’ however as to what brands I personally use in MY SALON in my online store at I only sell products that I PERSONALLY USE and recommend and fully endorse. I won’t sell it if I don’t personally use it; so that’s a BIG hint as far as what products I personally use and recommend to other techs based on my 12 years experience with gels :)

With "hard" supplies, like drills (Kupa) or exhaust systems (WTAC), or U-V Lights (LE, Avante), I will come right out here and make actual brand name suggestions based on what I use and am happy with. The reason for this is that these are expensive ONE TIME purchases, and most techs cannot afford to make a mistake and "experiment" with different brands. So while there may well be other good brands of these items as well, I have not had the opportunity to use them in a salon setting for years and years to be able to form an opinion, as I have been able to with the brands I currently use.

When it comes to gels and acrylic liquids and powders, so much is personal preference, and there really are very few "inferior" products left on the market. These products depend on the tech to repurchase constantly. If techs don't like it they won't re-buy it. Without continuous purchasing by techs, a brand just will not make it and will die out. That’s why I like brands that have been around awhile and have withstood the test of time.

Also, consider this: playing with different gel or acrylic brands is part of the learning experience. Trial kits are inexpensive enough to allow techs to make their own informed decisions through their own hands-on experimentation. Many times it is whatever brand a tech tries when she/he finally really "gets" it, that the tech assumes is superior and so she sticks with that brand. When really it wasn't the products superior ability at all! It was the techs newly found superior ability.

We as nail techs generally give too much credit and discredit to the products we use rather than ourselves. For example, when a tech is having a lot of lifting problems she/he blames it on her product, and so goes on a 6-month search for a new one. One day her/his lifting problems have vanished, and so she/he credits the new product she just started using with her success(come on folks, give me a break, I can only be politically correct for so long, I’m sticking with the ‘she’ version from now on since almost all techs are “she’s”; so no offense meant to the “he’s”, it’s just a matter of economizing on time typing and time reading and space…. Something most of us “she’s” have gotten used to eons ago when seeing almost everything else in the world of mankind referred to in male terms--- we really need one generic non-sex based term/noun for ‘people’ in our language, don’t you agree--- OK, I’m off track again here as usual, back to the conversation at hand :). In reality what most likely happened, is that this "search" for the perfect product made her really concentrate on her techniques, using proper product ratios, doing really good prep, etc. So in reality what has happened is she has gotten better as a nail tech skill-wise, and now, just as before she "blamed" her previous product for her lifting woes, now she "credits" the new product for solving her problems. When really, most likely, it was and IS her skill level has finally evolved and it has nothing to do with the product at all!

Techs need to give credit to themselves rather than the product, and conversely look to themselves first (rather than the product) when they are having problems. So trying new products is just part of the learning curve for most technicians. There is no ONE ultimate perfect product.

I choose what I use because I am comfortable with it (at least currently). I can work quickly and efficiently and I don't at the moment see anything "better" that would give me that much more "benefit" for the (usually higher) price, and the extra time it would take to "re-learn" with a new product (as in extra time per fill appt for "X" amount of time until it comes naturally---which can be a learning curve of 1-3 months for a full-time tech, and 6-12 months for a part-timer)

This doesn’t mean the ‘new’ product will not give stellar results ultimately (e.g. the Avante Systems Gel I recently switched to for more than half my clients---after 2 years of playing with it before now--I’m a bit stubborn; wish I had switched more sooner, but it was the TIME thing--, and the other half remain on LE or Star gels); contrary, the GREAT results for the client can usually be seen immediately (they just RAVE about the Avante Systems Gel and can SEE the benefits to their nails and nail health almost immediately). For me personal as a working nail tech on a tight schedule: It’s the extra TIME involved per fill temporarily to RETRAIN for a new product. The VERY experienced tech on a very tight schedule (someone running 40-45 minutes back to back to back for 10 hour days) may see the extra temporary 5-10 extra minutes per fill become a nightmare in her schedule until she adjusts to the new product and it’s intrinsic ‘personality’ so to speak. Then, the new product will eventually actually SAVE her time on fills and repairs in the long-run.

Believe me, I know. I try every single new product that comes my way on my own hands (LITERALLY)! Anyone who has seen my hands can testify to the fact that they look HORRIBLE, due partially to the fact that at least a zillion products have been on them (OK, maybe I exaggerate here). It’s the ‘new’ products that are ‘hot’ for the moment and then disappear quickly---because they don’t live up-- that take the worst toll on my pitiful fingers). I either try them at shows or try them personally myself at my salon. I get 10 new nails put on by 10 separate booths (companies) at every show I go to. That’s at least 12 shows a year---usually more like 20---… so believe me, I know! My nails know :)

So when you see me in person, that’s why my nails look pitiful. MY quest for knowledge and education and being on the cutting edge is greater than my ‘need’ for perfect looking nails of my own. MY love of nails and the Nail/Beauty industry goes deeper than my love of my OWN nails. I have a love for the technology and the science of it all, because that’s what goes into the making of the beauty of it all in the end result. I am a rarity; I love the industry more than I love the vanity of it all that originally got me started. Such a strange circle my life has taken…

So if you are new to gels in particular, then play with several different brands and consistencies to get a feel for what you like. Then play around more with those brands you initially like the most, until you narrow it down, based on price and performance and ease of use for you personally.

So in answer to the unspoken question; No, I don't have any plans in the near future to market my own brand of gels, I prefer to educate than "sell" for now. Also, because so much of what we do is US and not our product, advertising what brand we use to clients can sometimes give clients the impression that they could get the "same" service from any other tech who uses the "same" product line. Sometimes this works to a salons advantage if the product line has mass name recognition to clients. I use only gel nail products, and currently gels do not have a lot of name recognition (most nail clients, and techs for that matter, have not been exposed to gels) so promoting the "brand name" Vs promoting my service "philosophy" would not be of benefit to me.


When A client is wearing acrylics and I am going to change her over to Gel Nails, or when the client is wearing Gel Nails from another salon; I call this initial procedure a "transfer" (See full-set lesson above for procedure). I am going to transfer the client to my style and type of nails. This generally involves removing the old nails and applying the new. Occasionally the old product can just be filed thin and the new gel applied over it, as in a fill, but this is generally not good practice, for reasons I will outline below.

Generally I charge the same price (or more) for a transfer as for a new Full-Set even if (especially if) they are wearing nails from another salon, because those nails usually have to be removed and replaced. Otherwise, the acrylic left underneath may start to lift at some point in the future and take the gel on top of it with it. This makes it look as if the GEL has lifted, when that isn't the case!

In the beginning, in order to entice clients to change to gel, you can offer to do transfers for a Fill-In price. Just be sure to a lot a Full-Set amount of time though. Later on you can raise the price to match your Full-Set price, and eventually charge for a removal(of the old nails) AND a new full-set!


I am so sure that clients will be happy with gel nails that I am able to guarantee my work! Read on for more info. about how and why and other benefits!

First off though, if I am going to be able to GUARANTEE my work, it needs to ALL be my work, from top to bottom. That is why I prefer to do a removal and new full-set rather than a "transfer" via a fill.

In the very beginning a policy such as mine can be a real headache, especially for newer techs. There are complainers who see imaginary faults and have nothing better than to come into the shop daily for these repairs. At that point you have to take a hard-line policy of "structural only" repairs, not aesthetic repairs; those beauty (as in personal preference) and "imaginary" repairs, which do pay off in good will, can be taken care of at the next scheduled appointment.

That said, then consider the BENEFITS to you the tech in giving away FREE REPAIRS! Really! In the long term a free repair policy can pay off:

1) It gives us all a chance to see where we may have any technical problems while there is still a problem to be fixed (and the whole nails not gone, leaving us nothing to analyze). Even after years of experience there can be problems: either general that could affect all your clientele, or mostly case specific for each individual client. Individual client record cars are invaluable; I track all repairs, which finger, what the problem is, etc, and what I did to rectify. I have codes for all this that make it quick, and of course down the road there is nowhere near as much to write down anymore. After a while I can even tell them what color they wore "2 times before Easter last year" without looking at the card. . . Ok, I'm exaggerating a little here now, but you get my point.

2) It makes for a happier client who is satisfied and trusts me.

3) It leads to fewer and fewer repairs and service breakdowns down the road, which makes everyone happier!

I feel that there is MORE to be gained from doing free repairs than there is to loose if the policy is explained and handled properly!

QUESTION (posted to message boards): If gels are as great as you say they are (and they indeed sound great) why are acrylics so much more popular?

ANSWER: VERY GOOD QUESTION!!! Many , many reasons.... read on!

A)I'll start with initial start-up costs...a good light is EXPENSIVE, and each station should have 2 for the comfort of the client...(one for each hand)...and to maximize speed of the tech.

B) Retraining nail techs takes an investment of time (which means $$$)....doing gels means re-learning nail technology from the ground up! And gel is "easy to learn, but hard to master" many figure why bother changing?

C) Many Nail Techs do nails in BEAUTY SALONS that are primarily "HAIR", and the owner knows little if anything about nails....hence many salon owners see nails as a profit center only(ie they don't want to spend any money on the nail section), or only as a convenience add-on for their hair clients...that is why many of us refer to nails as "the step-child of the beauty industry"

D) GELS ARE HARD TO MASTER! Many of our manufacturers refuse to acknowledge that gels require almost complete retraining to master (versus the acrylics they already know), and advertise them as "as easy as applying polish" many techs buy a system, and when it doesn't work out w/in the first few weeks, they give up and stash it in the closet, and go back to what they already know.

E) There are many "gimmicky" gel nail companies out there who come and go in the blink of an eye....they appear at a show w/ a flashy booth and sales gimmick and go for the one time sale....w/ no education or continuing support gel nails have gotten a bad name in America because of these sales tactics such as pyramid scams, etc.... They take advantage of the fact that we are all looking for the EASY solution (just as many weight loss products do)...but always remember, if it's that easy, then why would the customer even need us to begin with!

F) Techs or salons buy "cheap" gel nail lights and gels...and then are frustrated by the lack of quality...and so give up on gels altogether....rather than buying QUALITY from the start...if you can't afford the best, then wait and save up, .....don't buy cheap stuff, because it won't work, and you have only wasted your money!

G) Because of the costs of the U-V LIGHTS schools are hesitant to install them for tech training (the same is true in schools for DRILL education!).... Unfortunately many things disappear in the classroom setting (sad but true).... I know of Gel Nail Manufacturer teachers who have tried to tap that market (the soon to be graduates) and come in to teach gel nails (or anything else for that matter) as an expert educator for a 1/2 day or so in a school (and worse yet in an advanced course for CEU's for experienced nail techs).... and they leave w/ only half of what they brought w/ them. This is a very sad commentary on the professionalism of our industry...actually the entire beauty industry....This area of PROFESSIONALISM is one that needs a major re-haul....unfortunately, we all know that the type of techs who do this sort of thing are NOT the ones seeking education and advice, or spending time reading professional forums such as this anyway.....

H) And the rest is a mystery as to WHY....Gel Nails account for 90% of artificial nail services in all of Europe! Usually Americans LOVE European trends......but the good news is that forecasts of industry trends say that America too will be 90% gel w/in 10 years! So the time to learn and profit from gels is NOW! I could not possibly charge what I do if my customers could come even close in Gel Nails wear-ability for less money anywhere! They cannot get my service anywhere else...even if a nail salon opened up next door that offered gel nails at 1/2 the price, they would not be a threat to me, BECAUSE they cannot offer 8 years of gel nail experience....and my clients know first hand (from scheduling appts w/ my employees who have less exp. than I do) that EXPERIENCE w/ GELS is crucial....SO DON'T WAIT....GET YOUR GEL NAILS EXPERIENCE NOW!!!!!!! Once you are (very) experienced w/ gels your service time will be less than it is for acrylics, your clients will be able to go longer between appts (you charge extra for that!), and repairs and breaks become almost non-existent compared to acrylics!
QUESTION: Gel split on the tips....I had a client come into the salon on Sat, her son was getting a haircut. She showed me her nails which I just put on 1 week ago, they are gels. Three on the tips were split lengthwise right down the middle, but the gel was not cracked. I asked her if she had been chewing them, she said no. What do you think, was it something I did or is she biting them?

ANSWER: Sounds like tips were too small, or gel was applied too thinly or not cured properly.
When undersized tips are applied they have to be flattened out to fit the nail bed arch.....this pressure on the tip can cause it to pop off or crack vertically down the middle as you describe.....just as most women in the world wear their shoes 1/2 to 1 full size too small....most techs undersize tips that same range or more....if you had been doing acrylics previously, the strength and non-flexible nature of the acrylic was holding the tip in line......but that does not mean acrylic is better!!! Under-sizing tips w/ acrylic leads to problems of sidewalls pulling away and nail separating from the tip and the acrylic at the free edge and on the sidewalls

I'm curious as to why you suspect biting? Has she been a client before? long did you make this full-set? With any biter and w/gels in general I recommend that full-sets be no more than 25% (to 50% maximum)....gel nails are not meant to be "fake nails" they should be an enhancement and the goal is for the client to get her own nails grown out underneath, so that the gel becomes a protective overlay for her own nails underneath....for this reason Gels should not be applied w/ the same "mind-set" as acrylics.....I also keep in mind how long I would want this clients nails to be naturally.....gels are not a quick fix like acrylics, so cannot be applied as long initially....but the client can be allowed to grow out her natural nails slowly, after all of the artificial length has been grown out and clipped or filed away....

I recommend starting w/ a moderate length, and then shortening nails back to this length at each 2 week visit....after nails are grown out and doing well then the client has to choices. She can either switch to 3 week visits, or if she wants to start adding length she needs to stay at 2 weeks, and each time I let her "keep" 1/2 of what she grew out (the other 1/2 is shortened away), until she reaches the length she is going to maintain (record this as a % of nail bed vs free edge on her client card) when she can maintain this length for 2-3 visits consecutively w/ no breaks or repairs then she can change to 3 week visits.....this is how I do it and still be able to guarantee my work....if at any point she develops problems I tell her we either have to shorten them a bit or change back to 2 weeks (or change back to 3 weeks if she was a 4 weeker)....

So yes, there are several possibilities for your cracks, the most likely culprits are undersized tips and/or in conjunction w/ too long of length. Or it might be that she bit them, but then that still points to undersized tips (or the brand of tips?) or too long of a length for her to begin with....Barb!

Broken nails: generally you can trace problems all the way back to the FULL-SET application! If the nail was not applied perfectly (and application tailored to that clients individual needs)then problems can, and usually will show up around the 2nd or 3rd fill (they generally APPEAR to still look OK at the 1st fill after the full-set, and shortly thereafter start to show problems, sometimes only a few days after the 1st fill---so if you do the fill after someone else does the full-set, then you will get the blame for doing a poor job, when the fault most likely belongs to the tech who did the initial full-set application!)

ANOTHER scenario for this situation happens when you take over a client from another tech and that tech has been doing "FLUFF" fill-ins for the last 1-2-3 appts.....meaning she didn't rebalance or do any PREVENTATIVE maintenance (hint: she's been finishing in 20 minutes! and running out the salon door before everybody else at the end of the night!)

So, before you dissect your fill procedure, go back and look at your FULL-SET procedure to be sure the nails have been applied perfectly (no cutting corners!), to give you a good foundation to build on with your fills. Then when problems appear you can decide if they relate back to the full-set


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