Sunday, December 4, 2011

I am a Trained Professional-- Please do not try this at home

I had a hard time finding ugly pictures,
so here's my dog wearing socks.
I rarely bother checking Internet goings-on on my weekends. Mostly, I keep pretty busy on my days off, trying to keep the BF and the dogs "de-squeaked" (one dog gets particularly squeaky when he's bored or anxious and the BF has determined that he does too.) But this has been a mellow sort of weekend and so, last night, I admit to checking on my Twitter feed. Which is where I found a link to what you might think is a simple enough question: "Are acrylic nails difficult to do by yourself?"

Specifically, the questioner is asking about sculpting traditional liquid & powder acrylic product over forms.

But what prompted me cackle and start screaming was the "answer" that includes the information, "It takes probably about 6 times to really get good at it, and that would be if you were using really good products."


SIX?! SIX times? Seriously? Six full sets and you've got it down? Six full sets and you'll be able to turn out a set of nails that looks anywhere near decent? Six?!

(breathe, Maggie, breathe)OK. Let's start with the notion that this "six sets to perfection" idea is dependent on the quality of the product you are using...

Bullh!t. Quality products are, of course, essential in creating a quality set of nails. But the quality of the product is not the major contributor to the final appearance of the set. For a great looking set of nails, you'll need quality of skills, aka talent, baby, talent. And although there are some people out there who just have an inherent knack for doing nails, most people will end up with nothing but a thick, globby, mess on their hands-- literally-- the first several times they pick up a sculpting brush.

Acrylic is a hard substance. And it is not the best of ideas to use an electric file (drill) on your own nails-- trust me, I know-- not to mention that quality drills are pricey and very few DIYers are willing to put down $400 or so for their own professional e-file. Which means that you either end up filing through all that thick, globby mess by hand-- or you go out and spend $30 on a cheap POS drill. Which means you will end up with one of two sorts of drills: A knock-off brand Dremel-type drill that WAS NOT MANUFACTURED FOR USE ON PEOPLE! These things are made for wood working. They run rough, with lots of vibration. I'm not of the camp of pros who insist that Dremels and their ilk should never be used on nails, but they are NOT the ideal tool for the job! Or-- the other choice in inexpensive electric nail files-- you'll get a Nail Genie, or similar product.

These are, laughably enough, made for use on nails. And, if an untrained DIYer is going to own their own nail drill to use on their own nails, I'd recommend going the Nail Genie route. But you'll hate it. Because they are reknown for their low torque.

Torque-- without getting into a technical description-- is what makes the bit keep spinning when you put pressure against it. Nail Genies have low torque-- this makes them the safest option for using on yourself, because you are far less likely to end up drilling holes through your nails, or worse, your fingers. When you press the bit against the thick, globby mess on your nails, mostly likely, the bit will bog down and even stop in sheer protest of what you are asking of it.

Just don't try using a drill on yourself. In fact, don't try using a drill on ANYONE unless you have undergone some professional training for it AND HAVE INSURANCE UP THE BUTT! Because, if you drill a hole through someone's nail or fingers, it is highly likely that they will SUE YOU!

So, there you are, left with a thick, globby mess on your fingers and now you have to turn it into a set of decent-looking nails.

Prepare to start filing...and filing...and filing.

Yes. You probably can and will end up with a decent-- even nice-- looking set of acrylics. But it will take hours. And more than 6 tries before you figure out how to not end up with a thick, globby mess that requires hours of filing.

But, even if you find yourself impressed with your own skills at turning out a decent-looking set of acrylics, you'll probably want them to stick to your nails for more than a few hours, huh? I mean, the ones you get at the salon last for at least 2 weeks, right? So you're probably expecting similar results from the DIY method.

So, when they start to lift around the edges within 24 hours, you are most likely going to blame the product you used.

And, if you got your hands on a "quality" professional product, then there's a good chance you will decide that that product isn't so great afterall... even if it's best freakin stuff on the planet... because very few people bother to take into account that THEY DON'T HAVE ANY PROFESSIONAL TRAINING. You think that just because you read the directions and/or watched a YouTube video, that you totally know how to do this.

Oh wait. That's right. Even those who have completed a training course, undergone testing, and acquired a legitimate license rarely experience optimal results at that point.

You know why? Because beauty school doesn't teach you skills and state regulating agencies don't care about how well you do nails-- only that you know the "rules" of the state-- which usually revolve around making sure you disinfect your implements. The state doesn't care if you do pretty nails, which is why there are so many crap-tacular "professionals" in the biz making you think that you can do your own nails just as well as they can.

The thing is, even consumer product kits are of fair quality. There are some little tweaks here and there that make professional products "better" but usually only professionals can tell the differences. Pro products have better color stabilization so they don't get dingy and turn yellow in the sun as fast, pro products might cure (set up) faster-- or slower, they might have better shelf life-- or worse, since they are intended to be used up faster, they come in more colors and shades... but mostly, what makes a professional product better, is the professional who is using it.

The professional who didn't stop her training at passing her state board exam. The professional who faithfully reads every page of the professional trade magazines every month, month after month, year after year. The professional who attends professional tradeshows on a regular basis and does more than just shop at those shows. The professional who attends continuing education classes, even when they aren't required for her license. The professional who attends networking events and participates in online networking and mentoring forums. The professional who was not/is not content with "good enough" and insists on going above and beyond in order to find answers to questions and help with technique.

The professional who drives her friends and family insane because she simply cannot not think about nails.

What you don't know about doing your own nails, after you have managed to make them look nice, is how to care for your brush so that it doesn't harden with caked-in product, or contaminate your remaining product. You don't know that you can (and probably did) contaminate your product to the point where it just won't matter if it was "quality" to begin with-- you've ruined it. You don't know how to properly store product to preserve its quality. You don't know that buying "professional" products at the flea market is THE WORST IDEA EVER! ...and you don't know why.

And you don't know how much work goes into properly preparing the natural nail for the application of the product. In fact, that is the number one culprit in service break down, and it is the number one thing that new techs fail to grasp upon licensure and it is the number one thing you absolutely must learn in order to create a truly decent set of nails.

And it is the absolutely least interesting thing to learn. Which is why so many people-- DIYers and pros alike-- waste so much time and money switching from one product to another, looking for a magic potion that will solve their application and wear issues.

Most DIYers will end up jacking up their natural nails; applying more product and then ripping it off, overfiling both their natural nails and the mess they've created from the acrylic, thinking that "roughing up the natural nail" or applying too much primer is the answer to their lifting problems.

Most of the "professionals" entering the industry will find jobs with benefits and steady paychecks within 2 years of getting their licenses and then sit around and say things like, "There's no money in doing nails," "The economy is so bad, no one can afford to get their nails done anymore," "The Asians have ruined the industry and no one can compete with them," and "There's just too much competition." And any number of other excuses I've heard people come up with for why they weren't successful in the salon.
second place "french twist" sculptured nails by Moi 2009

The answer ultimately comes down to, "That all depends on what you mean by 'easy?'"

Yeah, it's pretty easy to get your hands on an acrylic kit and apply it to your nails. It's even relatively easy to manage an aesthetic result that you might be ok with. But it's not easy to do a set of nails that will last for several weeks. It's not easy to avoid contaminating your products. It's not easy to maintain the health and integrity of your natural nails. It's not easy to be sure that your product is safe, in good condition, or isn't counterfeit.

And it's almost never cheaper. Believe me, how do you think I ended up here? I used to be a DIYer too, I've done the math.


  1. Love it!!! I'm a newbie nail tech and it def. takes practice, practice, and more practice!!

  2. Yep, I must say, I'm a fan now. I even tagged this on my Blog. Thanks for validating that anything worth doing, is worth learning well first before you get out there and make an arse outta yourself.


    Hope you have a wonderful and Happy New Year.

  3. .. im ASIAN. and i see what you mean. im still in training and my BEAUTY SCHOOL is teaching this way. im FURIOUS! as im the ONLY ONE in the whole school that uses size 8 - 12 brush for acrylic. they started me off with size 18 and im like wth?!? and i started the trend of all the cool designer nails. they never heard of 3D or embedding or impressing or rockstar.. i went to the wrong school

  4. btw i <3 ur french twist can you make a tutorial?

  5. If beauty school isn't going to teach me how to keep my brushes clean, and you are just going to berate me for not knowing. Then could you kindly tell me where you DID learn the information so I may go and procure the source so that i may LEARN?? Do i soak them in the monomer? Or a specific brush cleaner? Do i apply product and then scrape my brush for an hour and HOPE i got it all out??

    1. Are you specificially looking for directions on cleaning your acrylic brushes? You should know that MY answer is controversial in the profession: I soak 'em in acetone.

      Most professional resources suggest soaking in monomer.

      Either way, make sure you suspend the brush in a manner that allows the bristles to soak but doesn't squish/crimp/bend the bristles. I use a clothepin to hold the brush and rest the clothespin across the top of a deep dappen dish.

      Once the brush is clean, I make sure to thoroughly soak the bristles in monomer again.

      I re-read the entire post: I don't really think I "berated" you about not knowing how to clean an acrylic brush-- I purpose was to point out that learning this type of information comes from a committment to do so. And I listed several examples of how dedicated professionals go about doing so.