Monday, September 7, 2015

Creating the "Perfect" Nail Structure

The idea of the perfect nail completely subjective - no one likes the exact same length, style, shape, thickness, etc. “Perfect” is in the eye of the beholder. Maggie Franklin once said “A perfect nail is sleek and clean with straight lines and no lumps or bumps. No matter what the shape or style you are doing, the finished nail should look like it was done that way on purpose, with care and attention to detail; not sloppy and given up on.” Still, there are some guidelines to build a nail to that it is balanced, structurally sound and aesthetically pleasing. If you choose not to follow these guidelines, your nails will not fall off the next day 
wink emoticon. But these guidelines will help you build the most natural looking, thin, strong nail enhancement possible.
Apex/Stress Area
The apex is the thickest point of a nail enhancement which should be placed where the nail would break if it were firmly hit head on. (Picture #1) If you apply slight pressure on the free edge, a faded area will appear midway down the nail and that is where the apex should go for maximum strength. For good structure, placement of the apex should always remain at the stress area which will change depending on the length of the enhancement. Of course, as your nail grows out, the arch will grow toward the free edge and the nail will become top heavy and be more prone to breakage and lifting. This is the reason why clients come in every 2-3 weeks for a fill/re-balance - it has nothing to do with the gap at the cuticle! Actually leaving a small (1/16"-1/8") gap at the cuticle so you can completely blend product into the natural nail will help go a long way to the nail looking more natural as it grows out.
Lateral Structure
A strong nail begins and ends with lateral structure (sidewalls), which support the structure of the nail extension. A sidewall must extend straight out from the cuticle to the free edge on both sides. (Picture #3) When you look at the nail from the side or the top, the sides should be straight and both sides must look the same - even with pointed nails. A nail tech can build a strong sidewall and then ruin it with improper filing techniques. Files are intended to smooth and shape the nail surfaces; wrong angles and a heavy hand can weaken the best structure. Ideally, you should sculpt the nail with your brush and then use a file to level and smooth out the product. In addition, always sit straight! It is impossible to have straight sidewalls if you are sitting crooked or crossing your legs. One last tip is watch the side of your dominant hand - many techs over file the right side if they are right handed, or vice versa if they are left handed Really pay attention to your stronger side and make sure you are not over filing.
The strongest shape in the world is an arch - arches support more weight than a flat surface and this is the reason that bridges are built with arches. In the same way, C-curves can make or break a nail. Even an accidental bump to a nail that is flat can cause it to easily break. One way to get a better c-curve in the nail is by gently pinching in a c-curve before the product fully hardens - this is easier on a product that cures by evaporation (acrylic, wraps), but can still be done with light-cured enhancements. After the application of an enhancement product and before the enhancement is completely set, gently “pinch” the nail using even pressure on both sides of the nail to obtain the perfect curve. There is no need to get the 40° c-curve of a competition nail (picture #2), even adding just a slight curve will make the nail stronger. Plus, those extreme curves can hurt a client to "pinch in".
I always think of the balance of the nail and the location of the apex like a teeter-totter (see-saw) - in order for two people to balance at the same level they need to be the same weight, if one is heavier, the see-saw will tip toward their side - in the same way, if a nail is too heavy at the extension edge, it is more likely there will be breakage. Keeping the arch in its proper place will go a long way to having nails that last a long time.
Another way to balance a nail is when doing a French manicure. The white on a French tip should NEVER be longer than the pink. Ideally the pink should be 2/3 of the nail and the white 1/3 of the nail or less (for balance). The smile line can be curved gently or more extreme but should never be straight across - do you know how people always say horizontal stripes make someone look "fat"? It's the same with nails - a flat smile line will make the nail look wider than it is.
I have attached an image I got off a website in the UK that gives some pointers on looking at the nails - they use the term "crown" instead of "apex", but it means the same thing.

Join the conversation: What do you struggle with when creating a balanced nail?