Chances are, if you went to a discount salon for a full set of nail enhancements, they slapped some product on you in 20 minutes, took your money, and booted you out the door.
This article will explain to you how to care for your acrylic or gel nail enhancements, including what to do if a corner chips or if they start popping off.
Sometimes, even if artificial nails are applied correctly, accidents will happen. There are a few things you need to refrain from doing now that you are wearing artificial nails.
1.) Your nails are not as strong as they appear. Do not attempt to open soda cans with them. Many times, in the soda tab vs fingernail war, the fingernail loses. Instead, use a quarter, butter knife, or a car key to open soda cans by wedging it under the tab and popping it up far enough for you to slide your finger underneath and open it fully.
2.) Do not use your nails to clean dirt from hard to reach areas (like between windowsills, for example). Don’t use them for scraping things off of your counter tops. That is not what they’re for. Also, it’s disgusting.
3.) Wear gloves whenever you do anything involving water (other than shower). You want to minimize your hand’s exposure to liquid. Even while swimming or enjoying a soak in a tub, try and keep your fingernails away from the water as much as possible. Water and your nails are not friends.
4.) Be cautious of the lotions and sunscreens you use. Some may interact with the product and cause your nails to yellow or become brittle. Keep in mind that your nails are made of plastic (regardless of whether they’re acrylic or gel). They will break down if they’re exposed to certain chemicals.
5.) Learn to use your knuckles when handling laundry. Pulling wet laundry out of a washing machine can cause a lot of lifting if you use your fingertips, so instead, spread your fingers apart and bend them at the knuckle. Reach in and grab the laundry in between your knuckles and pull it out that way. It takes some practice, but you’d be surprised how much laundry you can actually pick up this way.
6.) No heavy lifting. When you pick up a heavy box, the downward pressure the weight of the box or item puts on your fingertips will put stress on the nail enhancements and cause them to lift.
7.) NO DIRT. Do not dig in the dirt with your nails. If you are a gardener, simple gardening gloves are not enough anymore. You’ll need to wear latex gloves and then your gardening gloves. Pseudomonia is a bacteria that lives in the soil that can cause a big problem for you if it gets under those nails.
I’m sure for a lot of you, those things seem like common sense. You’d be surprised how many people I’ve had come into my office and tell me, “Oh, the girl that did my nails didn’t tell me that!” I think to myself, “She really shouldn’t have had to. It’s pretty obvious that you shouldn’t be trying to use your nails as screwdrivers.”
Anyways, now we’ll move on to how to care for them between maintenance appointments.
If you weren’t already informed, you DO need to maintain those nails. Every 10-14 days, they need to be “filled.” They’re not permanent. Your natural nails will continue to grow underneath the enhancement material and the enhancement will be pushed out, leaving a gap between your “fake” nail and your real nail at the cuticle area. If you choose not to get the nails filled, they will (hopefully) just pop off over time. This can be extremely damaging to your natural nail. In many cases, however, the nails do not just “fall off.” They hold on stubbornly until you break them in a really traumatic, painful way. More often than not, the nails lift excessively and bacteria grows underneath them, causing an infection that can take months to resolve and a green discoloration that must be grown out.
I cannot stress to you how important it is to get your nails filled regularly. If you can’t afford monthly maintenance, you need to take them off immediately. You should never have had them put on in the first place if you weren’t going to care for them properly.
Keep the nails clean. Invest the ten cents in a nail brush. Use it every day in the shower to remove any dead skin and debris from around and under the nails.
Alcohol around the regrowth periodically. You can purchase alcohol wipes from most drug stores. Keep a few in your purse. If you get your hands into something oily or greasy (like ribs or cooking oils), use the wipes to remove the residue from around your cuticle and regrowth area. This will keep those oils from burrowing under your enhancements and causing lifting or introducing bacteria.
Buff away rough spots. You should avoid using a nail file on your enhancements unless you know what you’re doing. Too often, I’ve had clients come in to have a nail rebuilt because they decided to take a file to it to “smooth out a rough edge” and got a little too aggressive. Instead, use a buffing block and gently buff from underneath the nail. A few swipes with the block should be all it takes to remove a sharp edge or rough area.
Invest in a quality cuticle oil. I recommend Avoplex oil by OPI. (I find that SolarOil just isn’t as good and tends to go rancid quickly.) Avoplex oil is specifically made for enhancements. SolarOil tends to be a bit watery, but Avoplex is very thick and a tiny drop is enough to do at least four fingers so it lasts a long time. Oiling the enhancements will help to replasticize them, keeping them flexible and keeping the material from drying out and breaking down. It’s also great for your skin.
Do not hesitate to call your technician if you notice something is “off.” If you feel like any of your nails are loose, call your tech and have her check it out.
Alright, now you know what to do during the two weeks between appointments, but what if something bad happens and you can’t get in with your tech? It’s okay. We’ll cover that too.
“One of them just popped off! Can I just glue it back on?” Can you glue it back on? Yes. Should you? Absolutely not. If you glue that nail back on without properly prepping the nail plate, you are putting yourself at risk for a serious infection. Leave it off and wait until you can get in for a repair.
“Um…they’re turning yellowish green underneath. Is that normal?” NO FREAKING WAY IS THAT NORMAL. If the nails are just yellowish, there’s a possibility it may just be surface staining from something you’re using (like a lotion). Remove any polish or topcoat and buff the nails with your buffing block. If the discoloration doesn’t go away, do not take any chances. Those nails need to come off immediately, with or without your nail technician. Follow the steps in my post, “How to Safely Remove Artificial Nails”. If you think that’s a bit too much for you to handle yourself, head to ANY nail technician and get them off. After they’re removed, leave your hands naked. No polish, no enhancements, nothing. wipe your fingers with alcohol wipes daily until the discoloration grows out. Odds are that you were exposed to pseudomonias.
“They’re gummy and sticky! What do I do?” First, whatever sunscreen, soap, cleaning product, or lotion you just used needs to be shelved until you figure out whether it isn’t compatible with your topcoat or your enhancement material. Next, remove the polish with acetone and buff the nails with your buffing block until the gummy mess is gone. If it’s not gone after buffing, call your tech and have her figure out what happened. Generally, certain chemicals interact with the enhancement and cause it to get gummy, but that tacky layer is easily removed. If it is not easily removed, it is beyond your ability to fix and could possibly have something to do with the product not being properly cured (this is more common with gel nails than acrylics).
“They’re lifting. A lot.” You can’t fix this yourself and you can’t wait to have them fixed either. Your options are to remove them yourself or go to any nail technician that will take you. That lifted product needs to be drilled out and replaced.
“I chipped a corner off!” Chill out. It’s no big deal. Use your buffing block to smooth the rough corners and deal with your lopsided nail for a few days. If you still have the piece you chipped off, you can attempt to attach it, but odds are that it will just be a big mess and will fall off again anyways. Save yourself the aggravation and deal with the funky finger until your next appointment.
“Holy shit, I broke my nail right down the middle and it’s bleeding everywhere. Do we need to amputate?!” Not yet. This is one of those instances where you have two options and both suck. If the break is really, REALLY bad, you can go to a doctor…but I don’t recommend it (at least not until the skin has had time to heal). Many times, doctors have referred patients that experience intense breaks like this to me without treating them. (Yes, really.) So, don’t rush to the ER just yet.
Your other option is to clean it up and maintain it until your finger is ready to be handled. I’ve had this happen to several clients of mine. One actually fell down outside of a nightclub and broke four nails down the middle trying to catch her fall. The fall split her natural nail as well. It was a bloody mess. When she came in the next morning (hungover and miserable), I gently cut off the excess length. I strongly recommend doing this part yourself if you can. Only you know how to handle the nails without causing excessive pain.
After you cut off as much of the excess length as possible, use a Q-Tip to remove the polish. This might take you a while and it might sting, but it needs to be done. Once the polish is gone, soak your fingertips in alcohol. Don’t use hydrogen peroxide.
When the blood has dissolved, bandage the finger. Every day, twice a day, wash the nail with antibacterial soap, dry it thoroughly, and treat it with alcohol. After a few days, the enhancement can be removed with acetone and the broken skin underneath can be treated. It is likely that your natural nail (from the breaking point to the tip) will fall off. Don’t worry, it will grow back soon.
Once the skin is healed completely, you can apply another nail to help protect it (and keep it from looking funky). However, this nail will need to be removed during every appointment and replaced.
This type of injury is exactly why I refuse to do nails with excessive length. This should never, ever happen. Keeping your nails at a reasonable length is the best way to minimize the risk of a serious break like this.
And that’s about it. If you can think of anything I missed or if you have any questions you want answered, post a comment and I’ll be happy to answer and add your question to the post!