Updated: May 9
In the next two week’s episodes of A Deep Dive, we are going over Acrylic and Hard Gel enhancements. Today we will focus on Acrylic.
I’m going to go ahead and guess that most people have heard of acrylic nails before. But, from my experience, most people aren’t familiar with hard gel. I can count on one hand how many people have come to me asking for hard gel specifically over the last three years. I always find that so fascinating, considering hard gel has been in existence almost as long as acrylic!
For some reason, acrylic really took off, and that’s what most people associate with when someone says they’re going to get their nails done. Don’t worry though, I’ll break down what each of them is, when and why I would choose one over the other and how I go through the process of applying acrylic and hard gel enhancements.
Let’s start with the infamous acrylic. What even IS acrylic? I think it’s super important to know what products are going on your nails. So I wholeheartedly recommend reading my descriptions here and making sure what you’re getting in the salon matches your knowledge about these services.
Acrylic is made up of a 2-part system. There is the LIQUID monomer and the polymer POWDER. The two are combined and together they create these incredibly long and strong chains of polymers that harden and become what we know as acrylic nails. This 2-part system is difficult to master because it requires the perfect ratio of liquid to powder. This ratio varies among brands, and even between certain lines within one brand. There are quick setting powders, slow setting powders, and the temperature of the room the product is in will need to be factored into the process as well.
The one factor that should ALWAYS stay the same is the type of monomer that is being used. The only LEGAL form of monomer allowed to be used on clients in the United States as approved by the FDA is EMA. EMA stands for ethyl methacrylate. It is a low odor acrylic liquid that is safe to use on the nails and does not require over filing of the nail plate to adhere.
There is a form of monomer that has been banned for use on the nails by the FDA called MMA or methyl methacrylate. It is extremely important to know if a salon is using the legal EMA monomer on you or not. If you’re not sure, you can and should ask the technician to show you the bottle of the product they’re using on you. MMA is incredibly damaging to your natural nails and can even cause permanent disfigurement. If a salon is using MMA on you, LEAVE. It is not worth risking your nail health. Read more about the dangers of MMA here.
Now that you know what acrylic is, let’s get into how I apply it.
When I use the word ‘enhancement’ I am referring to adding length to your nails. But where I differ in my technique for adding length is that I sculpt the extension onto a form. A form is a paper or plastic sticker that is fitted under the nail plate and wrapped around the tip of the finger. It acts as a guide for the product to be laid upon and also reduces the need for plastic tips and nail glue.
Nail forms are fitted to each individual finger, allowing me to sculpt a perfect nail that fits your exact finger's shape. Forms also allow for a C-curve, which is the way a nail curves from side to side (kind of like how an egg curves). A strong C-curve is where your strength comes from (along with the apex, but we can talk about that later). A proper C-curve can only be achieved with forms.
Once the product is applied and hardened, the forms are removed and what is left is your enhancement, sans any plastic tip or nail glue. If applied correctly, the enhancements can look very natural, and not like an enhancement at all.
The steps I use for sculpting acrylic enhancements are as follows:
Prep the nail using the Dry Prep technique
Apply forms to nails on one hand only
Apply dehydrator and primer to nails with forms
Extend nails with acrylic to the desired length, working on one hand at a time
After acrylic is applied and hardened, remove nail forms
Repeat steps 2-5 on the other hand
File and shape nails with a hand file and electric file
Apply gel color and/or designs of your choice
Top coat, cure and finish with handmade cuticle oil
Then I do a photoshoot and take a million pictures of your badass nails!
I hope this clarified the infamous acrylic nail service process for you and be sure to check back next Monday where I'll explain the hard gel nail enhancement process. If you're looking for nail art inspiration and examples of my work, follow me on Instagram and Facebook: @KouklaMouNails