Gel Nails

Introduction, step-by-step lessons, and general gel nail information

Table of contents of this page; The following subjects are covered on this page in the following order, click on a subject to go directly to it, then hit back on your browser to return to this menu. You need to scroll down the page in part 2 of section III, as I have not added all the "jumps" or anchors yet, you will also need to click on a link in this section in order to get to Part 2 which had to be moved to another page due to space limitations! (Please note: I am having some server problem and moving some pages around, so hyperlinks within this page may not work; all you have to do is scroll down the page instead to find the info you want.)
SECTION I/Introduction to Gel Nails
    *What Are Gel Nails?
SECTION II/Gel Nails Lessons
    *Gel Nails Full-Set: Over Tips
    *Gel Nails Full-Set: Using Forms
    *Gel Nails Fill-In Procedures
    *Combining Wraps With Gels
    *Gel Terminology & Techniques, Repairs, Troubleshooting
    **Gel Tail Technique
        **Gel Ribbon Technique
        **Gloss Coat Application
        **Gel Over Air-brushing
        **Building Arches With Gel
    *Gel Nail Removal
    *Pink and Whites With Gels (Permanent French Manicure)
SECTION III/More Gel Nail Info & Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Gels
    *Transferring Clients to Gels
    *Guaranteeing Gel Nails/Benefits
    *Why don't more techs do gels?
    *Tips cracking under the gel
    *Broken nails and the original full-set
    *How gels and acrylics dry and "cure"

The short answer: GEL NAILS are an extremely natural-looking enhancement: thin, clear, flexible, non-yellowing, nonporous, resist lifting. Gel nails can be used for natural nail overlays (actually one of the most difficult techniques--but it looks the easiest), tip overlays, and sculpted onto forms for short extensions, and to help encapsulate a damaged free-edge as it grows out. (For definitions of unfamiliar terms, check the "Glossary of Nail Tech Terminology" page.) Silk or fiberglass can be added to gels when needed for repairs or extra strength (don't get ahead of me, I' ll cover when, why and how later in these pages :).  

MORE Info about Gel Nails (the long version :)

Introduction to "gel nails"
Gel Nails are the future of the nail industry! Europe is already 90% GELS, the USA will be too within 10 years! Gels are and will be the "hot" service that clients demand. No other service can give clients both a natural nails look and feel combined with the convenience and durability of acrylic nails. Many clients have tired of acrylic nails in this past decade because of the disadvantages that can be associated with them (such as the odors and lifting and nail damage, etc) . These same clients now flock to salons in record numbers for "natural nail" manicures with many spa type add-ons to increase the ticket price. BUT…. Many of these clients have already grown weary of the weekly appointments and rigorous home maintenance requirements of "natural" nails. They want another alternative; they want natural beauty combined with strength and durability. Now you can give clients what they want…… Gel nails ARE the best of both worlds!

Gel nails are not just a service; Gel Nails are a philosophy…….
Immediate gratification and a healthy nail philosophy! Instant length and beauty can be achieved at the first visit by utilizing tips or forms in the gel nail full-set. The ultimate long-term goal with gels is for the client to end up growing out and wearing her (or his!) own long, strong, beautiful, HEALTHY nails under the gel; so that she is no longer to be considered wearing artificial nails, but with the gel becoming essentially just a very strong, bonded base coat to protect her own nails from cracking, splitting, peeling, chipping, etc. She is now wearing a nail enhancement, not "fake" nails, and the enhancement need never be removed, only maintained on a regular schedule! Just as hair color is an enhancement of her natural hair, not "fake" hair, and can be maintained indefinitely. Gel nail enhancements ARE the client's own natural nail…. ONLY BETTER! And gels are totally compatible and complementary to other salon add-on services such as paraffin wax or hand facials, to complete the total hand beauty regimen.

Clients want and are willing to pay for "high end" services
Just as the top department stores have defined a separate niche for themselves from the "mart" stores, so will Gel Nails be distinguished from many other nail care services. I believe Gel Nails will never be a "discount" service offered in a "discount salon" atmosphere. Gel Nails are a long term, lifestyle choice. Gel Nails are meant to be a permanent solution to hand and nail beauty, not a temporary quick-fix. Gel Nail philosophy is not compatible with the type of consumer looking for only a quick fix of short term or temporary nails (i.e. "party nails"). Every market has market segmentation, which is good for the providers and for the consumers. While some salons will always cater to quantity sales (i.e. "party nails" and walk-in type business), the Gel Nail philosophy demands commitment and planning and so will attract a clientele that is compatible with that service level. Just as Nieman Marcus does not "compete" with K-Mart, neither do Gel Nail salons compete with discount salons. Two very different market segments. Two very different service levels and service providers! Two very different prices!

Benefits of Gel Nails:
1) Odorless
2) Natural Feeling
3) Thin
4) Flexible
5) Crystal Clear
6) Light Weight
7) Natural looking
8) No lifting!

Myths about Gel Nails:
1) Myth: Gel nails are soooooo easy to do, they apply just like nail polish! Anyone can do them! (Then why isn't everybody already doing them?) The truth: "Gel nails are easy to learn, but hard to master".

2) Myth: Gel nails are "lumpy" because you can't file them or do finish work. The truth: Gel nails are non-porous and completely cured, there is no reason not to file them to perfection if needed!

Normal manicure table set-up (files, buffers, tips, forms, etc)
U-V Light(s):
Styles available
Bulb types
Gels: Many systems and types available
Primer/Bonder/Basecoat gels
Self –leveling gels, Non self-leveling gels
Thin, medium or thick viscosity, Builder Gels
Multi-purpose, One-component, Gloss coat/Sealers
White builder, White free-edge, Colored gels
Most non-soluble in acetone, some exceptions……
Gel Brushes
Gel Cleanser
Gel Wipes (lint free)

**Section II**

1) Prep nails And APPLY TIPS: remove shine*, dust, oils, etc from nail. Apply tips if desired now, being sure to blend well, then dust again. Apply dehydrator and/or sanitizer and/or pH balancer as needed. (Gel does not stick to "shiny", so gently remove shiny oil surface from natural nail. This does not mean etching or roughing up the nail, only gentle removal of oil and contaminants that interfere with adhesion. A fine grit file or buffer is all that is needed. Removal of pterygium is a different matter, which may require a less gentle touch to eradicate!)

2) Primer: use very thin coat of "primer gel" or "basecoat " that came w/ your kit and cure (FOR TWICE AS LONG AS THE MANUFACTURER TELLS YOU TO ) OR use MAP (methacrylic acid primer) choose brand and strength according to needs, OR use BX (a "non-acid primer" such as OPI Bondex, or others on the market) SEE HOW TO PICK A PRIMER in acrylic nails page.

Let primer dry! When using "separate" primer (not basecoat primer gel), then only put primer on natural nail, not on the tip...w/ a primer gel, follow that manufacturers instructions as to whether or not to get it on the tip!

3-A) Application over tips:(Free-form application below, but first get the hang of manipulating the gels!) apply 1st coat of gel thinly, over natural nail and entire tip! Being sure to get to edges w/out getting into cuticles or touching skin. CURE. If using LCN lamp then 1 cycle 1.5 mins is enough, any other lamp, cure for minimum of 3 minutes for this first coat of gel!

3-B) Apply second coat, a little thicker than 1st. Pick up "bead of gel" on one side of flat brush (synthetic) and hold brush parallel to nail (HORIZONTAL. Not Vertical, Not up and down, NOT like a pencil), hold it flat over the nail. Put brush w/ gel down short of the cuticle area, and then PUSH toward cuticle slightly (this will prevent big cuticle ridge from forming! Now pull brush (still flat and parallel to nail) back toward you, from cuticle to free edge. Do not let brush actually touch the nail, it FLOATS on the nail on the cushion of gel! Pull out and over (drop off) free edge. Now go back w. flat brush to right side and pull gel around the horse shoe and down the right side, being sure to get gel as close as possible to side wall without touching sidewalls. (Gel will absolutely lift if it touches the skin, it also shrinks as it cures, causing a bit of a paradox---how to get it close enough to give strength to the sidewalls, BUT prevent it from running into the sidewalls and lifting..... Now finish up on the left side as you did the right. Cure for 1.5 to 2 minutes.

3-C) Coat # 3,. Same as #2 except we'll do 4 fingers 1st and then thumb...stay w/ me here...apply gel to 4 fingers again as in step 2, now pick up a "string"(See TAIL technique in lesson 5 below for more specifics) of gel and lay it down the center of the nail, starting about 1/5 up from cuticle to 1/5 short of end of nail. The slower you lay down your string, the more gel you leave behind (and vice versa) so use this knowledge when building the stress area...the gel will continue MOVING after you lay it, so for novices you may want to set up each finger for approx 15 to 20 seconds between gel apps (that is long enough to harden the gel to a ‘jello’ consistency so it won't move on you any more, and we'll cure it later. *INFO ABOUT THE DIFFERANCE BETWEEN HARDENING AND CURING IN SECTIONS BELOW, ALSO EXPLANATION OF THE CHEMISTRY AND PHYSICS OF "BURNING" (slow down chemical reactions by going into the light for 4 seconds, and out for 3, until set-up process (‘jello’ stage) is completed, also pressing pads of fingers on firm surface, or squeezing the finger also can help.

So you now have gel on all 4 fingers, and finally the thumb as well, now cure for 1 complete cycle again.

4) Inspect all nails, check for thin spots, etc, that may need more gel (some novices are "GEL SHY" and actually need to do 4-5-6 coats of gel to build up properly---whatever it takes---we want them thin at the free edge and cuticle and reinforced properly at the stress area (just like a traditional liquid/powder acrylic nail) (More in lessons below about adding Fiberglass or silks for strength with the gel). If you have added more gel at this point then cure as needed (at least one 1 1/2 minute cycle)

5) Wipe tacky/sticky (dispersion) layer off nails with gel cleanser (or 99% alcohol) being sure NOT to re-wipe the sticky stuff onto the skin of the next nail. (use separate sections of your wipe for each nail, that’s why I like Martex cocktail napkins or generic paper towels, big enough to do the whole job w/ just 1 (instead of 10!) If too much tacky stuff is coming off then gel did not cure---check your bulbs for dirt (wipe w/alcohol) or they may just be burned out! Note, once alcohol or cleanser has touched a nail you CANNOT apply more gel w/out first rebuffing to take shine off of the gel---gel will not stick to glossy gel, only tacky gel or non-shiny gel!

6) Now do final finish work...contrary to popular belief GEL NAILS can and in most cases SHOULD be finished and not just left as so! They are COMPLETELY cured (unlike their traditional acrylic cousins, so you cannot damage them. They are completely non-porous as well; so bevel the cuticle area and sidewalls, check the curves across the top of the nail and file accordingly as needed, do finishing work just as you would on an acrylic nail (but being gentler, remember gels are "softer" and easier to file than traditional acrylics). Send client to wash and then you are ready to polish as usual, or apply only topcoat for a natural look, or if you must apply a super thin coat of gel, cure, wipe, and now go permanently glossy! (More on permanent gloss coats and perm French Manicures (pink and whites at a future lesson! Also more on the differences between hardening and curing in section THREE of this page....there is just soooooo much information.......

Short version of Full-Set over tips.
1) Normal prep steps, apply tips, primer etc...

2) Apply 1st coat of gel thinly to nails. Cure.

2) Apply 2nd coat of gel, adding arches. Cure.

3) Apply 3rd coat of gel with additional arching. Cure.

4) Cleanse nails.

5) Do finish work; shape, taper, bevel, contour as needed. Buff till smooth.

6) Proceed to polish (wash first) or gloss coat application as desired (wash AFTER!). (Gloss coat directions in FS over forms section, at the end.)

Lesson #2) Full-Set Sculpted Gel Nails With Forms.......

Part A: Using clear gels only
Part B: Using White Free Edge

PART A) The following "Full-Set with Clear Gel" method can be used for "transfers"*, full-sets, overlays, or fill-ins with major service breakdown!(*Transfers from acrylic to gel or from one tech to another)
1)Prep natural nails as usual AND/OR file off old product, and file entire nail thin and flush, be careful to NOT file on the natural nail.

2)Do rest of prep work (dust, prime, etc), apply forms. (Do not shorten her natural nails or "even" them out. Keep as much of each natural nail free edge as you can, you will "even" them up with the gel as needed.)

3)1 coat of gel on entire nail and slightly out onto form. Cure. (see gel nail lesson above for gel application methods)If you need to actually build a SHORT free edge, draw a box with a line of gel from one sidewall straight out to length desired and back down to meet other sidewall, then "pull" gel back and forth to fill in box thinly.

4)Lay down fiber from mid nail bed out past free edge onto form (to help "hold" the slight extension, and to reinforce stress zone of the nail to help prevent future breakage). Pat fiber in till "gone". Cure.

5)Lay down coat #2 of gel, over entire nail again and out onto form as in first coat. Add slight arching and top "C" curve (convex)for strength, beauty, and natural look, by using "ribbon" or "tail" method with "thin" gel (described in gel nail lesson above)or building it with builder gels (depends on the brand gel you use!). Cure.

6)Remove forms. Apply 3rd coat of gel (final coat usually in a full set, some techs need to use more coats though if they lay down their gel too thin),with more arching as needed. Cure.

7)Cure upside down one cycle. Cleanse nails.

8)Use straight edge toe nail clippers to clip off any "stray" gel to make free edge shape, and sidewalls straight, or file by hand.

9)Shape and finish nails as usual, shape free edge, perfect sidewall taper, bevel cuticle, sidewalls and free edge, adjust top surface arches etc, use drill for concave of "C" curve as needed(Underside of nail if gel seeped under forms), buff till smooth as you would any acrylic nail. (Buff out and polish, or buff out and a gloss coat if preferred)

PART B) Building Full-Set Gel Nails Over Forms With WHITE Free-Edge Gel.....
1) Prep nails as usual, prime, apply forms.

2) Apply 1 coat of gel to natural nail only. Cure.

3) Apply white gel onto form and overlapping natural nail as needed (depends on the length of ther natural nails), being sure to make a nice smile line with the white. Use the "drawing a box" method described above to make the white free edge on the form.

4) Optional: Add fiber at this time if desired, bridging it over the clear onto the white. (see above and below lessons for more step-by-steps on adding fiber to gels). Cure fiber for at least 30 sec before continuing.

5) Apply 2nd coat of clear gel to entire nail (clear nail bed and white sculpted nail on form), adding arching as appropriate. Cure.

6) Remove forms. Apply 3rd (final) coat of gel with more arching as needed. Cure.

7) Cure nails upside down for 1 complete cycle.

8) Cleanse nails with cleanser or 99% alcohol on a lint free wipe. Do not rub residue into skin. Lay down the wipe at cuticle, and pull off nail in one firm stroke. Move to a new section of wipe and continue with other nails. Don't forget to wipe the backs of the gel extensions as well when needed!

9) Do finish work as above (shape, taper, contour, bevel, buff, etc).....

10) Now either polish or apply gloss coat!

GLOSS COAT Application:
After doing finish work to ensure nails are perfect, you must also remove all glossy surfaces remaining. Dust very well. Apply gloss coat thinly and evenly, examine nails carefully for full coverage and to be sure there are no streaks or air bubbles. When the nail is perfect CURE. Wipe with cleanser and you are done. For MINOR imperfections in gloss coat use a 3 or 4 way buffer gently in the spot of the imperfection. For MAJOR imperfections in gloss coat, buff it out and start over again on the affected nails.

Gel Gloss Coat over Airbrushing:
(WARNING, THIS IS NOT AS EASY AS IT SOUNDS!!!!) Be sure paint is very dry, and apply gel with brush parallel to the nail and a very light touch, being sure to pull out and over the free edge. Cure and wipe with cleanser. To remove, simply file it off (gel and paint) as you prepare for the next fill. Between fills, simple polish over it.
This lesson and others are "under construction" and will be added here as soon as they are ready!.....See lesson #4 for some ideas and insight into this procedure in the meantime!

Lesson #3) Fill-In Procedures/Maintenance of gel Nails....

Gel Nails Fill-In: Basic Procedure.
No breaks or repairs needed, not with "pink and white" (or permanent French Manicure as I call it). Those fill-in lessons to come soon! (These procedures best when used with thin viscosity or 1-component type gels. For thicker viscosity or builder type gels, you will need to make some adaptations.) Remember, these are GENERIC instructions for you to use and adapt to your own personal style and product line. See your manufacturers guide for product specific application instructions and other pertinent info.

1) Standard Prep: Wash hands, sanitize, remove polish, push back cuticles, etc......

2) Shorten nails; with tip cutter (my method, straight across square for now, shaping of nail comes later), by hand file, or drill. Nails should be maintained at a steady and consistent length. Clients should be encouraged to pick their ideal length and then stick with it. That requires that the nails be shortened the amount that they grew between fill appointments.

3) Preliminary shaping of nails: Put preliminary shape into nails so that the rebalance filing done in the next step reflects the proper shape. I use my drill to quickly go through the nails and "round" them for those clients who wear them rounded or ‘squoval’, or any shape not squared (or do this step with a hand file if you don't use a drill)

4) Re-balance nail. File the entire top of the nail either by hand or with a drill (I prefer a drill). Arches need to be moved BACK so gel needs to be thinned and beveled at the free edge to accommodate the new arch -placement. Entire gel surface needs to be thinned (and shine removed for new gel to adhere), to keep nail from becoming too thick with application of additional gel. If using a drill use a medium diamond bit or sanding band on a mandrel. Carbides are overkill with gels!

5) Blend cuticle area. I use a diamond football bit (med) to help blend the outgrowth of the old gel. (Do NOT drill on the natural nail outgrowth with the drill)

6) If using a drill (electric file), I still go back through the cuticle area with a file to hand file and bevel the cuticle area, and remove shine from the natural nail outgrowth (because the drill is NOT used on the natural nail), be sure all cuticle and contaminants are removed to ensure good adhesion.

7) Final shaping of nail: Tailor and taper (as needed) the sidewalls and put the final shape into the free-edge. Hold client's hand facing you, vertically, to really see the shaping.

8) Dust nail thoroughly (I use a surgical scrub brush, see hints and tips and FAQ's for more info about this.)

9) Pre-prime and prime as necessary or needed. (i.e. pH balancers, or scrub fresh, or wiping with alcohol.... then primers such as MAP, BX, or primer gels). If using a separate liquid primer (MAP or BX), apply to new nail growth only and let it dry. If using a primer gel, apply to new growth area and cure in U-V light as recommended by your manufacturer. (See full-set lesson and acrylics page for instructions, and more detailed info on types of primers, how to choose, and how to use.)

10) Apply 1 thin coat of gel to nail. Concentrate on new growth area, and "scrub" the gel in. Then pull gel out over entire nail. This coat is very thin. CURE in U-V light.

11) Apply 2nd (and last) coat of gel* more generously than 1st. Add arches** with this coat of gel. Cure.*Let gel brush float the gel on and be sure to seal end of nails by letting brush "fall off" the end of the nail as you apply. Be sure when applying this coat of gel to set your brush down just short of the cuticle, then push gel toward cuticle and pull back without ever lifting your brush. This will help to eliminate a ridge at the cuticle. **For more on how to add arches to gel see the full-set lesson.

12) Examine nails for flaws and re-apply any gel NOW if needed, otherwise, CLEANSE with cleanser or alcohol (99%). Set down lint-free wipe saturated with cleanser at the cuticle and pull away from cuticle, dropping off the free-edge.

13) Sidewall finishing: Lay the file in the grove, and pull out to be sure there is not gel in the groove and to taper the sidewalls for thickness as needed (very little if any!), and re-check free-edge shape.

14) Cuticle beveling: Gently bevel the cuticle area.

15) Check contour of top of nail, and file as needed.

16) Buff out nail to remove shine and do final contouring. (Polish sticks better to a "dull" surface than it does to the super high-gloss of a gel nail). Oily or wet buff at this time if that is your normal finishing procedure.

17) Send client to wash-up! Take her payment, book her next appointment, then polish her and send her to the dryers.

18) DONE! Total time: Super Pro=30 to 45 mins (not every tech achieves this time frame), Experienced= 45 to 60 mins, Intermediate= 50 mins to 1 hr 10 mins, Novice/Beginner= 60 minutes to 90 minutes! Regularly under 30 minutes? You are not doing a complete rebalance and you will pay the price later in total service break down!!!! (Also known as a "fluff fill-in”, basically nothing more than a buff and polish change. A disservice to the client and our industry!)

Look for more info to be added to this section soon!

Lesson #4) Combining Gel With Fiber Wraps


Explanation of gels and fiber: No, I am not using a gel w/ fiber already in it (like LE’s Fabrique). I am referring to sandwiching fiber-wraps like silk or fiberglass in between layers of gel (ANY U-V GEL!)....The fiber I like is Star Nails silk in the rollout box dispenser, and I like my stores scissors, cut well, and cheap enough to throw out (rather than have sharpened) when they get dull (actually I retire them to the "paper forms dept", for cutting out the backs of and customizing forms as needed..... I have an acrylic clear box form holder/dispenser (from LCN), and I just tuck the scissors in next to the roll.

I lay down one coat of REGULAR gel then cure 1 complete cycle. Then I place and PAT down a piece of fiber (glass or silk) into tacky residue until it disappears, (pick up fiber with "sticky" gel nail brush),and cure again (about 1/2 a reg. cure). Then I lay down another coat of gel over this as usual, adding any arches, etc, that may be needed, and cure again as usual. Now, finish as usual: wipe w/ alcohol and shape and bevel, buff etc....

1) When using fiber in conjunction w/ white free edge gel over a form (vs using over the natural nail or a tip w/ clear gel)....1st apply form, apply 1 thin coat of gel to remaining nail, cure 1 full cycle, apply white gel to area needed----entire free edge, chipped corner, etc., cure 1 full cycle, apply piece of fiber large enough to bridge from extended area (or cracked area) back over to rest of nail (but not too big to hang off nail or touch sidewalls or cuticle or not able to lay down!), pat in to tacky residue from last cure until it disappears, cure again to cement in place (30 sec's or so), now continue w/ at least one more coat of gel as usual.

2) Fiber MUST always be sandwiched between layers of preferred method is to lay it into cured gel residue, re-cure, and apply another layer.... Some manufacturers will tell you to lay it into an uncured layer of gel...well try it, you'll see what happens...gel floats to top and you have fibers sticking out, fiber slides around before gel cures, gel ends up in sidewalls because you spend too much time fiddling with the fiber and the gel is already MOVING! Also, I worry about GEL NOT COMPLETELY CURING BECAUSE OF SOME OF THE U-V LIGHT BEING OBSCURED OR REFLECTED AWAY BY THE FIBERGLASS (or silk). For these reasons, I personally like to place my fiber into CURED GEL ONLY. (However, as always, and with any technique... you may find another way of doing it that you like better and that works better for you personally!)

3) Hint: to remove a lot of extra gel that may have run a round on the form, (after it has cured) use STRAIGHT (not regular curved) BLADED toe nail clippers (I carry them in my store here if you can’t find them elsewhere or locally) to remove excess gel easily(PUT ON THOSE SAFETY GLASSES (which you should ALREADY have on anyway, if you need a reminder--- and I also carry those in the store!!!!!!), AND WATCH THE CLIENTS SKIN!) Now, straighten and taper sidewalls appropriately, without a ton of filing!

This procedure I've described is great for:

1)whole nail extensions (short ones, 25% or so), at F/S or repairs at fills (done w/ either white gel for F/S or even clear gel on forms (for 1 nail or repair).... the fiber clouds up the gel just enough to be un-noticeable on short extensions or corner chips.... or missing sidewalls....

2)cracks that go all the way thru to the natural nail bed (wipe/ FLUSH crack w/ alcohol 1st----yes, it will burn, so she (client may want to delay procedure, oooouch, the pain they/we will endure for their/our nails!), and be sure there are no other underlying pathogens to lock in, and seal w/ the tiniest bit of nail glue first (crazy glue/nail glue is safe for skin in small amts, in fact INVENTED for skin for soldiers in Vietnam to prevent infection of bleeding injuries while in the jungle and too far from med station to survive bacteria in jungle alive!). This will prevent gel from seeping into crack onto skin where it won't cure and only irritate! So sanitize, glue, 1 coat gel, cure, fiber, set, more gel, cure, wipe, and finish work!!!!!

3) Even nails that are completely broken off can use this procedure, use the tiniest bit of glue to hold broken nail piece to remaining nail., put a form under for support, and Voila--- re-attachment ---but be sure to add extra fiber to sidewalls as well or crack will re-start and take over eventually!)

4) Also good for sidewall repairs w/ forms (nails that have become too "skinny" or tapered too close to stress area (hyponychium area), or for replacing chips missing off of corners of free edge, etc...

Lesson #5) Gel terminology and techniques.

Repairs of Cracks, Breaks, etc., and other misc. troubleshooting techniques.

Basically, you will generally follow the instructions in the "transfer" full-set instructions for repairing nails most of the time. File loose, broken material off, and file rest of nail flush, apply form, and apply gel in 3 coats to rebuild as a new nail. The other option is to file the gel off and reapply a new tip.

For cracks in nails; File the product thin, apply 1 coat of gel, then the fiber-wrap to reinforce the cracked area and follow with 1 or 2 more coats of gel as needed. See the ‘adding fiber-wraps to gel’ lesson, along with the Full-set lessons for more specific info.

GEL "TAIL" TECHNIQUEWhen building ARCHES with thin gels: Use a "tail" or "ribbon" technique with the gel
(With thin viscosity gels): A "tail" is when you dip the tip of your gel brush into the gel and let it drip off the brush slightly, so that you have a "tail" of gel streaming down. You keep the brush completely off the nail (up to an inch above the nail) and let the end of the tail make contact with the nail. Now you move the brush (still not touching the nail with the brush) in the direction of your arch (from cuticle toward free edge, or proximal to distal points) vertically down the center of the nail.

The tail will keep streaming off the brush and onto the nail. It will lay down a line of gel that will "self level". If you have used too much gel it will run into the cuticles and sidewalls. Too little and you won't have enough strength. You must also develop an instinct for how fast or slow your gel will level it self to help you determine how quickly you need to get it into the lights before it has completely flattened out!

It may be necessary in the beginning to "set" a nail before proceeding to the next until you perfect this technique. Put the nail in the light for approximately 15 or 20 second. This will harden the gel enough (but not cure it yet), so that it will stop moving and allow you to continue working on other nails. NEVER apply more gel to a nail that has only been set. Only apply additional coats of gel to other CURED layers of gel. After arching and setting each nail, do not forget to go back and then CURE the entire hand.

AS time goes on you will be able to build arches in such a way that a "set" between each arch you build won't be necessary, you will be able to build each nail so that by time you have finished the 5th on a hand the other 4 are "magically" exactly where you want them to be from the gels leveling perspective. Again, this comes with much time, practice and patience!!!! The educational videos I sell in my store, or an in person class with me when I come to an area near you can be very helpful with understanding these instructions and concepts.

(in regards to arch building): Gel will only MOVE (Self level) when you are working on WET gel (a slip layer). Arching with thin gels requires that you be putting the arches (TAILS) into a wet layer of gel (do NOT "set" or cure this working layer of gel). If you attempt to put down arches on a cured layer of gel without laying down a "slip" layer, the gel will not move. It will be like putting gel down on the sticky side of tape. The dispersion layer of cured gels is very "tacky", that is why we remove it with cleanser or alcohol before filing it.

Building arches with thicker builder gels does not require a "slip" layer in most cases, but also, builder gels will NOT self level and can be sticky and not move or flow the precise way you intend them to (much the same way acrylic didn’t do exactly what you wanted it to do the first times you used it in school either :). For some techs a stiff gel is a good point (like those very accustomed to acrylic only---especially those who worked with fast setting acrylics that required them to put them exactly where they wanted them and not some of the slower acrylics that will actually self-level a bit on there own at first), for other techs, this is not so good... it's all a matter of preference and style and your learning curve.

Remember, in my instructions, our "slip" (sliding, movement)layer under the arches is also part of the structure of the nail (in gel layers #2 and 3 in a full-set for instance), so do not make it too thin; it is a normal coat of gel with extra added to give 3 dimensions to the nail (think almond shaped in 3D). IF you need to go back and add just arches though, then make the "slip" layer very thin!

Gel will only stick to "rough", "dull" or "tacky" surfaces. gel will not adhere to glossy surfaces. If you ever accidentally REMOVE the tacky surface during application, e.g. for some reason you wipe the nails with alcohol (or any solvent, even acetone) you will have to file them out (or buff) to remove ALL shine everywhere in order to apply the rest of your gel. You cannot apply gel over shiny or glossy gel, only over DULLED (buffed out) gel! So do not use the cleanser/alcohol until you are completely finished applying gel!!!

Keeping the brush flat and parallel to the nail, you very gently put the brush down in the gel on the nail. Now pick it up and get a "tail" to pull over to another section. Set the brush down to complete the tail on the other side, and now repeat. Pick up more gel and move it vis the tail method, so now you are ribboning the gel back and forth to fill in an area; such as in "drawing the box" on a form for extensions (see FS over forms lessons above), to fill in the box, or correcting a low spot on a nail during application.

I'll add more hints and tips and trouble shooting ideas here in the future! In the meantime, direct your specific application problems to my message boards!

Lesson #6) Gel Nail Removal Techniques


Yes, you do have to file GELS off (BUT I PREFER TO MECHANICALLY, RATHER THAN HAND FILE THEM, WITH A DRILL!), but you don't have to file it ALL off. 1st
prepare just as you would for a fill. Shorten and shape the nails, thin out the entire nail, and file flush the cuticles and sidewalls gently. At this point you
would normally go to gel application, instead you continue filing the gel until it's ALMOST gone. The key is to shorten the nails, there is no way for them to maintain the length the have become accustomed to w/ out the support of the gel enhancement. Next manicure the nails as natural nails utilizing some type of reconditioning treatment (such as paraffin wax). I recommend that clients come in one additional time for a follow up manicure w/in 1-2 weeks to assess the nails and see if any gel still remaining on the nail bed is still intact----it almost always is, because it is so thin and clear and almost imperceptible. It is
the rare occasions I've had to remove a set of gels (due to moving, finances, etc)(and I charge the same price as a fill for the procedure, and it takes about the same amount of time for removal, paraffin, manicure and
it's no bother if a client waits until her appt. to tell me she has to quit coming---more than once w/ tears in her eyes).

What surprises clients most is what GOOD shape their nails are in after the gel is removed. These clients ultimately return because of their good experience w/ gels. Gels are the wave of the future, for our clients, and for us! Don't be scared by the fact that they have to be filed off. I personally guarantee you that filing off a set of gels
properly is far less work and far less injurious to the nails, cuticles, and skin than sitting in acetone for anywhere from 15-30 and sometimes even 60 minutes!

Lesson #7) Pink and Whites with Gel
See the full-set section above for info about building the full-set as pink and whites. The following info is in regards to maintaining P & W's after the initial full-set.

Honestly, it took me 2 years to perfect the Pink And White backfill to the point that it took me the same amount of time as a "regular" fill, and another full year until it finally took LESS time (because of the "no polishing")than a "regular" fill. To this day I am still refining and perfecting my Pink and White backfill technique. By the way, a noteworthy point of interest: Pink and Whites do NOT have to be PINK. Clear is just fine! The pink comes from their nail bed sufficiently in most cases. Plus, the outgrowth is much less noticeable with clear than with pink! Reserve the pink for nail biters or others with ‘ugly’ nail beds.

I've been doing nails about 12+ some years now, and started doing P & W's on a regular basis 6 years ago.... before that I would give-up on them because of all the extra time it took.... but like any other procedure or skill in our industry, I found that in time and PRACTICE it finally came to me. Now I purposefully schedule my book so that my last appt before I leave is a P&W so that I can look forward to no polish drying time and so leaving the salon 10-15 minutes sooner!

Personally, I used to really like the Atwood Industries backfill bit designed by Lisa Comfort (it cuts a really nice trench, IMO). But recently have gone back to just my normal barrel bit and removing most of the free edge white gel to the proper thickness to accommodate the new gel to be applied. Trying to match the color of the ‘old’ white to the new white is very difficult, so you end up recovering the whole free edge anyway to get even coverage with no shadows or color disparity. I am inclined to change my mind on these issues regularly though (I’m still learning and changing), that’s why I offer both opinions; my current one and my previous one. As for what my future opinion will be? Stay tuned to my message boards and newsletters for that info as it develops over time. There is no ONE right answer to many technical nail questions. Sure, there are plenty of wrong answers, but there are also many acceptable and ‘right’ right answers. Use your own best judgment and choose what works best for you, and be open to change :)

Back to the topic at hand: YES, you do need to file off about 1/2 (sometimes more!) of the old white from the FE to re-cover with the new white (at the new smile-line and out over the FE), in order to get nice, even white colorant on your FE (free-edge), and to prevent to FE from getting too thick after multiple fills.

What product line you use may or MAY NOT contribute to your speed and skill level, while I do have some personal recommendations in that area that I feel are relevant (everything I personally use based on my years of experience is what I sell in my store at ) -- it’s not really important for this discussion, but I do have some general generic tips that you may or may not already know, so here goes..... (see also the regular fill steps above for more info)

Here are my over-simplified (or maybe not so over-simplified? Maybe the better description is "short version".... as there is so much more I could address in this section!) This is an area that is covered in depth in the educational gel nail video tapes I produce and sell in my online store at (specifically: Live Lecture, Gel Basics, In The Salon, and Tampa Live are the ‘basic’ building blocks of any gel nail education; beginning or advanced).

Pink & White back-fill steps

1) Regular prep... wash, sanitize, remove polish, push back cuticles.....

2) Shorten nails (I use a one-cut tip slicer, others use a drill or by hand), whatever your usual and customary method.

3) Rebalance the nail. By hand-file or by drill, move back the arches, take down thickness at the FE (free-edge), remove about 1/2 the white there, allowing for more white application, so it doesn't get too thick! (Sometimes this CAN mean removing almost all of the old white, so a drill is most helpful!) Bevel the new FE.

4) Blend the cuticle and side-wall areas.

5) Trench the new smile line with the back-fill or FM (French Manicure) bit of your choice. Trench from where the new smile line should be to where it used to be, maybe a bit more. OR file by hand or with a regular drill bit; reduce the thickness of the entire FE, more than in a regular fill to accommodate the additional white gel application.

6) Re-examine nails for any other re-adjustments necessary, but don't drive yourself nuts!

7) Do all your usual pre-product application stuff.... dusting, pre-primers or de-hydrants or pH balancers, primers, etc! (See acrylic nails and gel nails full-set lessons for more info on primers)

8) Apply your white Free Edge (FE).* Use the "tail technique" (see lessons above) to "draw" your new smile line, either right onto the nail at the new smile line, or INTO the trench you drilled. Now gently pull the gel out from the smile line over the FE. (See French Manicure polish steps in Hints & Tips page for more a bout "drawing" the perfect smile line. For crisper smile lines with gel, set nails up one at a time (5 to 10 seconds to set), alternating hands, then cure the entire hand. *For more on gel smile lines see my message boards at and . (The white gel I like best for this procedure is from Light Elegance, see my links page for info.)

9) Now, continue with your normal fill..... Apply I thin coat of gel to the nail bed, from cuticle up to smile line, but not on the white FE yet, and cure. Apply second coat as per your usual steps... float a coat over the entire nail (including the white FE now) and add arches as necessary for re-balance etc, and cure.

10) Cleanse tacky dispersion layer with cleanser or alcohol as usual. If nails are PERFECT (hopefully! But this takes time and practice!) then send client to wash and you are done! If not perfect, then continue with your usual
finishing work, (see previous lessons for these steps if needed) which should be VERY minimal if you sculpted well to begin with. Blend cuticle area gently, check side-walls and FE. Now contour top ONLY as needed, if at all! (Strive for no contouring to reduce lifting later, sculpt with your brush, not your file.) Buff as per your usual procedures, then 3 or 4 way buff to a high-gloss shine or apply a finisher or gloss gel , cure, then cleanse, or simply apply a clear or translucent French manicure topcoat color.

11) Send the client to wash (yes, even if you're not polishing, removal of chemical residues is critical to help prevent long-term client sensitization!).... take your payment, book her next appointment, and NOW you're all done.

Remember the "100 Full-Set Rule*" and practice, Practice, PRACTICE! (See ‘Hints & Tips’ page from main menu here at

***Section III***

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)....

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, or later on look for other possible causes of service breakdown, THEN you can start looking at the client herself continued in Part 2