Magical Nail Makeovers

Anyone can make longer nails. It is difficult for skilled nail technicians to create beautiful, strong nails. Clients who have problem hands or nails such as flat nails, ski-jump nails, fan-shaped nails, or bitten nails need to be given more attention than usual. Other tips and methods won’t work. The two most important things a nail technician should know are 1) how these conditions affect the shape and appearance of the finger and 2) how to correct the flaws in a particular nail design.

The Bitten Nail

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The nail biter's nail plate can be as little as one- quarter the size of a normal plate. Another challenge is working around the puffy skin at the tip of the finger. The puffiness can cause a tip to eventually pop off, or may give a sculpted nail a remarkable resemblance to an M&M.
The nail biter’s nail plate can be as little as one- quarter the size of a normal plate. The puffy skin at the tips of your fingers can pose a challenge. The puffiness can cause a tip to eventually pop off, or may give a sculpted nail a remarkable resemblance to an M&M.

Problems with nail biters include the shortening of the nail bed and the puffy skin surrounding it. This client will need a manicure to smoothen and remove the roughened skin from the nails. It may be necessary to use hot oil for a manicure. The cuticle is removed from the nail plate, which can cause lifting. It also leaves nothing for nail biting clients to pick. To prevent lifting, ensure that the manicure is done perfectly. Next, it’s time to do the extension.

You can use a pre-tailored tip to cover the bumpy skin at one end of your finger. Pre-tailoring the tip involves measuring the length of the tip from the sidewall to the sidewall. Note where the pressure is on the skin. Use curved cuticle scissors, or a file to carve the desired area. This will create a saddle or bridge which will cover the puffy skin.

The tip you see on the bottom is untailored, and covers the entire nail. It also puts pressure on, the puffy skin; notice how it's cutting into the skin at the tip of the finger. The top tip has been modified in the contact area so that it covers not more than ore-half of the nail plate. The extension of the tip has been carved out with a file so that it sad-dles the puffy skin without exerting any pressure.
The tip on the bottom of the nail is untailored and covers the entire nail. It puts pressure on the puffy skin. Notice how it cuts into the skin at its tip. The contact area of the top tip has been altered so that it only covers about half the nail plate. The tip extension has been cut out using a file to smoothen the skin.

This reduces pressure that could cause the tip to pop off. The contact area will have to be reduced for the shorter nails (even more so for cannibals). Gel adhesive can be used to fill in any gaps. Then, cut the tip until it reaches the end of your finger. Reyna Traywick from True Exceptions Salon in Schulenburg, Texas bonds the tip using acrylic. “The acrylic doesn’t touch the skin because it is directly applied into the tip’s well,” she says.

Creating too long of an extension is the number-one cause of service break­ down for nail biters. Apply liquid and powder to the tip. Be sure to place the nail’s apex back where the nail biteer is most stressed. This is particularly important if you plan to use white tip powder to give the illusion of a longer plate.

Finish the nail, making sure the cuticle and sidewalls

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This nail biter's finger is transformed. The shape of the finished nail draws attention away from the puffiness, and the length, which goes just to the tip of the finger, is ideal. Any longer than this would probably result in service breakdown
This nail biter’s finger is transformed. The perfect length is just below the tip of your finger. Any longer than this would probably result in service breakdown

are very smooth to discourage biting. It is a good idea not to apply polish. That way, clients won’t be distracted by any lifting. To make sure the nails are soft and smooth, send the client home with some cuticle oil. A biter’s nail bed is smaller, which means it is more difficult to maintain. Traywick states that the nail is trying reattach itself as it grows. Instead of waiting two weeks, this client must return in a week or ten days for a fill.

The Ski-Jump Nail

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Clients with ski-jump nails pose a different kind of challenge. The ski-jump nail features a concave plate and an upside down end.

Create a more natural curve for the ski-jump nail by adjusting the tip slightly downward. You won't have complete contact between nail plate and tip (notice the space between the two); make sure that all of the free edge is encased in the tip since this is the only area where you'll have complete adhesion. The rest of the contact area should be blended away. The curve of this ski-jump nail has gone from concave to convex, which is the shape of a regular natural nail. There's even more good news-the curve of the tip and the liquid and powder overlay actually guide the nail into a more natural curve that will continue as long as the overlay is maintained.
Adjust the tip downward to make the ski-jump nail curve more natural. The tip will not be in contact with the nail plate. You should blend the rest of your contact area. The ski-jump nail’s curve has transformed from concave to convex. This is similar to a normal natural nail. The good news is that the curve of the tip and liquid and powder overlay guide the nail to a natural curve. This curve will last as long as the overlay remains in place.

The greater the jump, and the longer the nail is, the better. This client needs to have the edge removed as soon as possible. It is not a good idea to stretch the curve by sculpting. To counteract the curve, use a tip. Place the tip in the same way as normal, but from the side. For a more natural arch, adjust how far you hold your tip to the nail. Gel adhesive can be used to fill the gap. The tip’s well will not touch the nail. The rest of the contact can be blended away as long as the nail edge remains within the stop point. The liquid and powder overlay are what give strength to the nail.

Traywick explains, “I apply more acrylic to the slope and thin it when it reaches its free edge.” “Putting more product in the middle gives it the appearance of sloping down,” Traywick explains. The side view is important when applying the product. The product is thicker so it is crucial to ensure the right mix ratio of powder and liquid to achieve maximum adhesion.

This client's ski-jump nail was actually caused by improper filing techniques (notice the ridge in the middle of the nail). Start out by removing as much of the free edge as possible and beveling it down to reduce the upturned edge.
The ski-jump nail of this client was caused by incorrect filing techniques. (Notice the ridge at the middle). Begin by removing as much as possible of the free edge and then beveling it down to reduce any upturned edges.

Like any enhancement, it is important to maintain it. A rebalance — or fill — is necessary every two weeks as the thicker nail plate area grows out to the tip. The natural nail’s curve can be altered by this makeover. The enhancement can be worn with overlays to “train” the client’s nail into a natural shape.

The Fan-Shaped Nail

A fan-shaped nail gets wider as the nail grows out. Traywick says that the nail often has no natural grooves, which means it can be flat or fan-shaped. Because of the V shape at its cuticle, and the large free edge, many times it looks like an ice-cream cone.

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The nail technician must file into the sides and corners of the natural nail to create a slimmer, leaner look. This would weaken the natural nail, but again the powder and liquid overlay will make it stronger. You can narrow the free edge by using a 240grit file. Keep it perpendicular and file where the natural sidewalk flares out. Push the cuticle back to expose more of the nailplate during preparation. This will reduce the cuticle’s V shape.

Attach a tip to the new nail plate. Overlay as normal, making sure to strengthen the stress points. As the natural nails grow out, the fan will appear on the sidewalk. This area can become weak if it is not taken care of promptly. If you need to rebalance the fan, do so in the same way as during the initial visit. This will help narrow it down again.

Traywick uses a slightly different approach. She says, “I imagine what the nail should look like and then choose a tip that is slightly smaller than the flare.” “After the tip is applied, gently squeeze the nail until it molds into the C curve. The overlay and tip will hold the curve in place, so it won’t last for very long. Traywick sees his clients every 10 days to fill out their nails.

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The Flat Nail

Giving shape to the flat nail is relatively easy, if you know what works. The flat nail is not a good choice for shaping because it doesn’t have a natural curve. It also won’t be strong enough to sculp. Problem with regular tip application: the flat nail puts pressure along the sides and ends of a curved tips which can cause vertical cracks right down the middle. A tip that is at least one size larger than the nail is best. A larger tip will have a flatter barrel curve so there’s less pressure. To make the tip just right, use curved cuticle scissors and a file. Reduce the length of the tip along its entire length and not just at the contact area to avoid damaging the tip’s arch. To create an arch that looks natural from the side and barrel views, you can apply acrylic to the nail. Regular rebalancing is necessary, as the extra product needed to create the arch can grow out of the tip and cause the nail to become unbalanced.

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Traywick uses fiberglass and gel for clients with flat nails. She says that gel and fiberglass are more flexible. She also uses tips that are one-size larger, then custom fits them to fit.

Work Your Magic

What keeps clients with problematic nails coming back to you is not only the look of the initial service, but the wearability and strength of the nail enhancements. Keep in mind that there are more clients with problematic nails and hands than clients with perfect nails.

Sleight of Hand

Not all problems come from the shape of the nails. Some problems are caused by the shape of the hands. Clients with large knuckles and plump fingers or stubby fingers or crooked nails can find it more difficult than those with flat or flared hands. Balance is key when choosing the right shape and length of a nail for a client. Balance is key for big knuckles. A nail that is too long or too short will cause the eyes to wander. Due to their wideness, it is best to treat plump fingers in the same way.

A long nail can make it difficult to balance short, stubby fingers. Conversely, a short nail can emphasize stubby fingers. A almond-shaped nail gives the illusion of length, but is in balance with the finger.

Illusion balancing is necessary for crooked fingers. The client can discuss with you whether your nail should be straightened with the fingers straight out or with your hands relaxed. Reyna Tracywick actually places the tip on crooked. It matches the direction the finger extends from the closest to the hand. She then builds the tip on the curving side and files the one it’s on. “Our business is cosmetic; creating an illusion.” She said. That is what makes it fun. The best way to create the perfect nail shape for every client is to develop an eye for overall styling.

LaCinda is an instructor in onychology at Xenon International School of Hair Design (Wichita), Kan., a manufacturer’s educator and a NAILS Editorial Advisory Panel member. She was the 1995 NAHA Winner in the nail makeover category.

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