Nails

Understanding Nail Coatings

When there are so many different nail services on offer, what are the differences and how do you choose? In this article I’ll try to help you to navigate those treatment menus.

Let’s start with the least durable and easiest to remove:

Nail Lacquer or polish. Nail polish consists of a mix of an organic polymer and several other components, depending on the brand that give it its unique colour and texture. It’s great for a short term look for a single event, can be purchased on the high street, is safely and easily applied yourself and removed at home. Some professional products Like CND Vinylux offer 7 day wear when used with the Vinylux top coat and are of a higher quality in terms of pigments than the high street brands. Vinylux also comes in the same colours as CND Shellac so can be great to use at home to paint your toes to match your manicure.

CND Shellac. A hybrid of nail polish and Gel, it’s cured in a UV lamp and is guaranteed to last 14 days and often lasts longer. It’s a professional only product, is hypo-allergenic and vegan (Shellac is just the brand name and it doesn’t mean it’s made of crushed beetles!). The system consists of a base coat, 2 colour coats and a choice of top coat. It’s a fairly unique system in that it doesn’t require any buffing of the nail surface and it’s therefore a zero damage system when correctly applied and removed. It also has one of the fastest removal times when Express 5 top coat is used at just 5 minutes.

Gel polish. Also a UV cured product and it’s longer lasting at 3 – 4 weeks. CND’s Creative Play Gel is also a no buff system, but most other brands require that the surface of the nail is lightly buffed to help with the adhesion. Again most brands require a base coat, 1 or 2 colour coats and a top coat. Gel polish is less likely to stain during wear. It’s also quite flexible and is therefore less likely to chip. Gel polish is also a soak off system taking around 10-20 minutes to remove. Gel Polish should be a professional only product due to the likelihood of allergies developing from over exposure to the chemicals, however due to a lack of regulation there are a number of systems available on the market, these should be used with caution and you must avoid getting it on your skin. Gel polish can also be known as a soft gel to differentiate between the polish and the gel used in enhancements known as hard gel. Some people say they want gel nails meaning enhancements so it’s useful to ask exactly what they are looking for.

Hard Gel. A UV cured product that is applied in a liquid gel like form in various viscosities (or runny-ness). It’s typically applied over a bonder and can be clear, coloured and even glittery. It can be used as an overlay to strengthen the natural nails, or used to extend them when sculpted over a form or over a nail tip. Once cured it can be filed to perfect the shape and is finished with a top coat. It’s not typical to remove hard gel, it’s usually rebalanced or in filled. If removal is required hard gel is usually filed off, normally it’s filed down as far as possible without touching the natural nail, and the final bit is left to grow out naturally.

Acry-Gel. This is an acrylic, hard gel hybrid that comes in a tube, it has a fairly thick consistency and is shaped with a brush soaked in Isopropyl alcohol. It’s self levelling so doesn’t need filing after application and is cured in a UV lamp. Acry-gel is finished with a top coat. It typically comes in clear, a few natural skin tones and white and can be used the same way as the hard gel. Acry-gel is slightly less flexible than a pure gel and nearly as tough as acrylic, it can last indefinitely, although a rebalance is recommended every 2-3 weeks to maintain your natural nail health. To remove Acry-gel it has to be filed off and the same as the hard gel, to avoid damaging the natural nail it is advisable to leave a tiny layer on the nail to grow out.

Dip System. This is a version of acrylic or liquid and powder. Following the application of an air drying base coat the liquid is applied to the nail and is then dipped into the powder. These steps are repeated and then it is sealed with a top coat. This system lasts about 24 days and is removed with a combination of filing and soaking in acetone. It’s a quick alternative to gel polish and a more recent innovation in the nail treatment market.

Acrylics or Liquid and Powder. Can be used as an overlay to strengthen the natural nails, or used to extend them when sculpted over a form or over a nail tip. Liquid and powder is applied by dipping a brush in to the liquid or monomer and then using the same brush to pick up a bit of powder or polymer which absorbs the liquid in the brush and changes in to a milky bead, it’s then applied to the nail and shaped with the brush. It cures on its own as the monomer reacts with the polymer and once hard can be filed to perfect the shape. Acrylics can be finished with a variety of products Orr just buffed to a shine. Acrylics can last indefinitely but a rebalance is advised every 3 to 4 weeks to maintain your natural nail health. It’s not typical to remove Acrylics, they are usually rebalanced or in filled. If removal is required the acrylic has to be filed off, normally it’s filed down as far as possible without touching the natural nail, with the final bit left to grow out naturally.

If there’s anything I’ve missed please let me know. Similarly if there’s a nail related subject you like me to investigate I’d be happy to hear about it.

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