Sunday, September 20, 2015

Fiberglass, Silk and Linen Wraps

Developed in the early ‘80s, nail wraps are thin products made from paper, silk, linen, fiberglass, mesh, or other fabrics applied to the nail for extra reinforcement.  Fabric nail wraps used to be one of the "big" nail enhancements. Nowadays many nail techs aren't even taught them in school! 

However, as clients are moving toward a more natural nail and the trend is short, many nail techs are using nail wraps as a way to give their clients stability while still maintaining a very thin, natural look. Nail wraps are great for clients who are allergic to acrylic or primer, clients who are looking for a very thin nail enchantment, and natural nail repairs. Nail wraps are also great for clients who are giving up acrylics and want to grow out their nails. “When you have acrylics, you don’t have to be too careful with your hands,” says Elaine Watson. “If you reach for something and bang your nail, it probably won’t break. But when you’re going back to natural nails, this can be shocking. When wearing nails with an overlay, you’re going to tend to adjust to them better as they’re growing out.”

The Chemistry of Wraps 
by Doug Schoon, excerpted from

The monomers used to create wraps are called cyanoacrylates and are members of the acrylic family. They are the same monomers used to create many fast setting adhesives such as Krazy Glue.® Professional nail products are specifically designed for use on fingernails and are far superior for this application. These monomers are sensitive to alcohol, water, and weak alkaline substances, and in large amounts they can cause almost-instant polymerization. A drop of water or alcohol on wrap monomers will cause ‘shock cure”. They will harden quickly and turn cloudy white. They turn cloudy because shock curing causes thousands of microscopic crack. They are invisible to the eye, but the cracks will scatter light reflecting from the surface. Small amounts of these substances cause slower, controlled reactions which result in polymers which are clear, flexible and strong. Wraps, however, do not have the advantage of being cross-linked.

Water-sensitive monomers must be protected from moisture in the air which is why they are sold in containers with small nozzles. This prevents air molecules from gelling or thickening the product. As with other monomers, inhibitors are used to prevent gelling. Even so, leaving a container open for too long will thicken the product fairly quickly. You might think this moisture sensitivity is a negative, although it actually is a positive. The nail plate contains enough moisture to polymerize wrap monomers, and just touching the nail plate is often enough to react the monomers. (This is one reason why cyanoacrylates so easily adhere ones fingers together.)

Catalysts speed up the polymerization and reduce cure time from minutes to seconds. Spray or brush-on catalyst causes an almost-instantaneous reaction. The catalysts in wrap systems are generally weak alkaline substances which may be listed as “aromatic amines’. Rapid reactions cause rapid heat build-up. Incorrectly used, these catalysts may heat the nail plate to a blistering 170° F. A small amount of warming is beneficial and will improve strength; however, pain-causing heat may cause serious burns to the nail bed. To avoid over-heating, some catalysts must be sprayed from a distance. Always wear the proper mask when using these systems to protect yourself from the vapors of mists and sprays.

Clients who frequently wet their hands should be warned that all cyanoacrylates are moisture sensitive, and should be instructed to wear gloves whenever possible. This is true of both tip adhesives and wraps.

Choosing a Fabric:
"A lot of new techs are unsure whether they should use fiberglass or silk. I always ask the client first how tough she is on her nails. Is she breaking her nails often? Or only once in a while?  If she says she breaks her nails frequently, then I’ll go straight to a fiberglass wrap because they offer more strength — about double that of silk wraps. But if she says she only breaks or chips a nail every once in a while, then I’ll start her off with silk wraps and take it from there. If she needs more reinforcement we can switch to fiberglass." ~Backscratchers educator Christine Vargas

There are three main types of fiber traditionally used on nails:
Fiberglass: Very strong, cross-weaved fiber but mesh can be seen on the nail if you look closely
Silk: Turns completely transparent when saturated with resin, but not as strong as fiberglass or linen.
Linen: thickest fabric, opaque, very strong but rarely seen nowadays

Application Methods:
  • Tip and Overlay
  • Natural Nail Overlay
  • Natural Nail Repair
  • (Sculpting with wraps is a very advanced technique and not usually done)
Generic Application Procedure: (as always, follow the manufacturers instructions for your chosen product)

  1. PREP the nail as usual - use a very fine grit to remove shine
  2. Lay down a base of resin on the natural nail and apply accelerator as directed by your system
  3. Apply and blend tip if desired - if you are going to apply a tip lightly remove the shine from the free edge of the resin base before applying tip.
  4. Place full strip of chosen fabric on nail, cut to fit with 1/32" to 1/16" space around edges. DO NOT Touch the fabric with your fingers as natural oils will inhibit the resin from penetrating the fabric.
  5. Apply a thin resin, saturating the fabric. Spray activator.
  6. Optional: apply a second layer of fabric or just a 1/4" "stress strip" across the tip line for additional strength.  Apply a thin resin, saturating the fabric. Spray activator.
  7. Apply 1-2 additional layers of resin and activator.
  8. Use a medium-fine file to smooth the nail - do not over file.  Wraps file much easier than acrylic or gel nails.
  9. Use a block buffer and a 3 way buffer to finish the nail.  You may also apply gel polish to finish.

Wrap Removal:
Because wraps are not cross-linked like acrylics, removal time is greatly reduced.  Generally they will come off in around 10 minutes of soaking in acetone.  Of course, this means you also need to be very careful when removing nail polish on wraps and most manufacturers suggest a non-acetone remover so as not to "melt" the resin when removing polish.

Application Video

Some Brands of Wraps:

Much of this article was excerpted from: and