Nail technicians don't like to call them fake nails anymore. Most techs will call them enhancements because all we're really doing is making what you have a little better. Enhancing your nails. We might be making them thicker (so you can't bite), more durable (so they don't break so easily), or disguising a nail condition that embarrasses you. For the most part though, we're building off a foundation of your natural nails, and there's nothing fake about that.
Enhancements come in a few different varieties that can be applied in various ways. Today, I'm going to run you through the different types of enhancements, and some of the things to watch out for when you go to a salon. Why is it important for you to know these things? Because the health of your hands and nails effects the health of your body. Also, the health of your pocket book is pretty important too, and knowing the basics can keep you from spending money on a falsely advertised service.
The first thing you should know is that all enhancement products are made from an acrylic compound. So no matter what type of you're putting on your nails, it's all produced from the same thing, and has the same basic chemical make-up. This is very important if you have sensitivities to enhancement products. Depending on the root of your sensitivity, a gel product may not work any better for you than a liquid and powder. If you want to give it a try anyway, you should be aware that you could still experience an averse reaction. You should also have a nail tech who is aware of your sensitivities, and will be meticulous in their application by making sure none of the product touches your skin which is far more sensitive than your nail plate.
Now, there are three types of enhancement processes: Nail Wraps, Liquid and Powder (often called Acrylic Enhancements), and UV Gels. That's it, that's all there is, anything else is just a new name for one of those three services, created only for the purpose of increasing revenue. I want to emphasize that, because a lot of NSS salons out there have exotic names for expensive enhancement services, and the only thing you're getting for the extra money is a fancy name. So don't be fooled by 'Solar Enhancements' or 'Diamond Nails' because a rose by any other name, is still a rose.
The first type of enhancement we're going to talk about is a Fabric Wrap. Not many people use wraps for enhancements anymore, because overall it's not a very strong or durable product. A fabric wrap is a great way to repair a cracked or split nail until it grows out though.
Fabric wraps get their name from a piece of fabric that's adhered to the nail during application. The fabric used can be fiberglass, silk, or linen, and it's what gives the enhancement strength. Once the fabric is placed on the nail, a resin is applied over it, and sprayed with an activator to help it cure and harden. The resin should be applied two or three times, before being filed and buffed to a smooth finish.
Like I mentioned above, wraps are a great way to repair a cracked or split nail, and work really well to strengthen natural nails that are prone to breaking, but they're not very durable when applied as an enhancement to extend the free edge of the nail. However, if you only plan on wearing your long nails a few days, for a wedding, prom, or other special occasion, it's a great temporary enhancement product that removes easily.
Next up are Liquid and Powder enhancements, or what most people commonly call 'Acrylic Nails.' I love liquid and powder enhancements. They're strong yet flexible, and perfectly suited for any nail type, which make them a personal favorite.
These enhancements are created when a polymer powder and a liquid monomer are combined to create an acrylic compound that is placed on the nail and allowed to cure. After all of the enhancements have hardened, they are filed and buffed to a smooth finish.
Liquid and powder nails are thicker than fabric wraps, but the added thickness is what gives them their superior strength, and prevents them from cracking and breaking. Properly maintained enhancements (apply Solar Oil at least once a day) will stay flexible and resist chipping.
These enhancements can stay on the nail for quite a long time if a quality product is used in the application, home maintenance is performed, and they are rebalanced every two to three weeks. Removal is easily achieved by soaking the nails in product remover, but it can take upwards of an hour to completely soak off the enhancements.
Last on our list are UV Gel enhancements. UV Gels are beautifully clear, shiny enhancements, that mimic the appearance of natural nails, especially when a pink and white (permanent French) application is performed.
However, UV Gels are more rigid, and not as strong as liquid and powder enhancements. This can create some problems if applied to thin or weak nails, and they can often crack (sometimes through the nail plate) if the wearer has unsuitable nails and an active lifestyle. Before applying UV Gel enhancements, your nail tech should talk to you about your nail type and lifestyle habits to ensure that they are a good fit for you, and to prevent possible injury to your nails.
To create these enhancements, your nail tech will brush a thick gel onto your nail plate, and then cure it under a UV light. This is repeated a few times to build the thickness of the enhancement. The UV lamps used for curing are extremely safe for use, as the UV emitted for the entire service is the equivalent of spending less than four minutes in the sun.
With proper maintenance (oil, oil, oil) and regular rebalances, UV Gel enhancements can be worn for an indeterminate amount of time. Removal of the product, however, requires that it be filed and buffed off the nail; which, if done incorrectly can cause significant damage to the nail plate. Please be sure your nail tech is experienced in gel removal before having them taken off.
So those are the three types of enhancements. However, I've seen many salons in my area that charge extra for a gel service, and then apply liquid and powder nails with only a gel top coat. While a gel top coat should be an additional charge in a liquid and powder service, it is not the same as having a full set of UV Gel enhancements applied. To protect your bank account, please know what you're getting before the service starts, and make sure you're getting what you're paying for.
Additionally, there are many things that can be added to these enhancement applications for an additional charge. RockStar nails have glitter added into the product, for a permanent sparkle on your fingers and toes. Fimo canes and other goodies can be encased inside the enhancements for beautiful nail art that lasts for weeks. These add-ins shouldn't be confused with the type of enhancement you're getting though. So be a smart consumer and know what you're getting before you commit to paying for it.