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Tips VS. Forms

Updated: Nov 13, 2022

Have you ever walked into a salon and asked for a full set and the first thing the tech does is glue a plastic tip on your nail? Is that what you expect to happen when you ask for a full set of nails? What if you sat down and someone put a form sticker under your nail and put the product on top of that? Which do you think is right? Is one better?

I can tell you right now that I prefer forms and I’ll explain why.

But first, let’s go back and talk about what tips are, how they’re used, and why they’re so common.

All Things Tips

Tips are plastic and are used to add an extension to the nail. They come in a plethora of lengths, curvatures, shapes, colors, and sizes. They are adhered to the tip of the natural nail using cyanoacrylate nail glue. Tips can be cut down and filed to a desired length and shape, then products such as acrylic or hard gel are applied over the tips.

Tips should be measured to fit the widest part of the nail and should match the curvature of the natural nail. Tips that are too small, too wide, too flat, or too curved for the nail could cause pinching, could put too much pressure on the tip, and can lift from the free edge.

This causes a gap between the natural nail and the tip, creating a perfect space for water to get in. When water is trapped between the nail and an enhancement, this creates the perfect environment for bacteria to grow. A bacterial infection can start to fester and eat away at the nail plate, which can cause major problems if not caught right away.

When tips are not correctly fitted to the natural nail, this also can cause the enhancement to prematurely break at the stress point, or the point where the tip meets the natural nail. The glue used to apply tips breaks down faster than acrylic or hard gel, so the longevity of your nails is stunted by the glue alone.

Tips are so widely used in nail salons because they do not require a lot of skill to apply, can be applied quickly, and are relatively inexpensive. Usually, salons will cut down on costs even more by purchasing one length and curvature of tips and use those on everyone, regardless of the curvature of the natural nail. This leads to problems like the above mentioned.

Unfortunately, this is the experience of almost everyone who has reached out to me seeking someone who uses forms. Their experiences receiving a nail service that used tips had been subpar at best, and their nails were breaking or lifting almost immediately.

All Things Forms

Forms, on the other hand, are completely adaptable and customizable to the individual. Usually, they are paper stickers with a slick foil or plastic surface. There is a curved opening that slides under the free edge of the nail and the sticker is wrapped around the finger and stuck together under the finger, holding the form in place. The curve that goes under the free edge can be cut to fit the shape of the individual’s free edge and the form can be molded to match the curvature of the natural nail.

Once the forms are applied, products like acrylic or hard gel can be applied right on top. Any length or shape of the nail can be sculpted to the desire of the client. Once the nails are all sculpted, the forms are removed from beneath the nail and the entire nail is now made of the product, no tip required. Forms also create added strength by forming a C-curve at the free edge. This curvature is extremely strong. A proper C-curve allows you to have thinner nails without compromising the nail's integrity, something you can’t achieve using tips.

Many believe it takes longer to use forms than tips. In my experience, it takes me the same amount of time to use either. There is a small learning curve when you first start using forms. But that goes for any new skill you are learning. Once you get the hang of it, it’s a no-brainer that forms are the obvious choice for nail techs who want to ensure their work is quality and will last.

I’m always curious which one other nail techs use in the salon. Do you use tips, forms, or both and why did you choose that option? Leave your reply in the comments below or send me a DM on Instagram @KouklaMouNails. I talk more about these topics in depth in my stories so keep an eye out for more tech talk!

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