Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Competition Nails

3rd place set from Nailpro Sacramento 2009 by Maggie

The BF and I recently attended the IBS Las Vegas tradeshow-- "IBS" stands for "International Beauty Shows," btw.

While we were watching the awards ceremony for the Nailpro Cup nail competitions on Monday afternoon, a young woman wandered into the seating area for the main stage, chose a seat directly in front of us, and-- while the winners of the sculptured nail competitions were being announced-- turned around to us and, rather disgustedly observed that, "all the nails look the same."

Apparently she expected us to agree with her and be just as disappointed. Boy! Did she pick the wrong person to seek solidarity from at a nail competition!

First I looked at her oddly, like I thought she was an idiot-- at least, I hoped that's what the look told her. Then I crinkled up my brow and said, "Yeah, it's a sculptured nail competition." And I tried to get my tone to convey to her that she was an idiot for not understanding that.

Ok, Ok... I understand that not everyone is into nail competitions. I know that even people who know that there is such a thing might not be fully aware of all the different types of nail competitions and may not understand what a sculptured nail competition fully entails.

Still. Don't show up in the middle of the awards ceremony and act like it's lame just because you don't know what the hell is going on! Especially when it's rather obvious that the people you are talking to are paying attention to the announcements.

But it did make me think, A: I am behind on updating this blog, and B: Maybe I could share the amazingness that is a sculptured nail competition with the masses... are you ready?

First and foremost: YES! There IS such a thing as NAIL COMPETITIONS!

Practice set by Maggie

Nail competitions come in a variety of shapes and sizes (metaphorically speaking.) We have nail art competitions-- which is most people think of when we talk about nail competitions. What many many non-industry types don't understand is that, bottom line, it doesn't matter how good the art is if the nail underneath it is utter crap.

Which is why, from the very beginning of learning to do nails, a good tech focuses on creating a good nail-- you can't decorate your living room until somebody buids the house, right?

So the end all/be all Mother of All Nail Competitions is the traditional Sculptured Nail Competition.

This competition is all about creating a full set of nail extensions that exemplifies ideal structure. And that is tough to do.

Nail competitions are held througout the world, and competition is fierce! Rules differ from circuit to circuit... I am most familiar with the Nailpro rules, so that's what I'm mostly going to refer to.

In a sculptured nail competition, the goal is show off how perfect you can make a set of nails. You will be sculpting them on forms-- no tips! The nails must be pink and white with a 1:1 ratio-- the pink has to be the same length as the white. You have to sculpt moons at the base of one hand. One hand will be painted red, one hand will be left pink and white-- and the pink and white hand absolutely cannot have any polish on it!

That's right, NO POLISH. No basecoat, no topcoat, no gel coat, you cannot paint the white tip, the French manicure effect must be sculpted into the nail with pink and white product.

And that pink and white hand should have a mirror finish on it like it was made of glass... and you can't do that with polish, you have to buff it by hand and you can't use oil.

You can't use a drill. The entire set must be done entirely by hand.

The nails must be very thin, the rules suggest as "thin as a business card," which actually seems pretty thick compared to some of the sets I've seen.

The nails are judged very carefully on a number of issues:

  • the pink to white ratio.
  • How close to the cuticles and sidewalls the product comes without touching the skin, how perfectly the product is filed to the nail-- you shouldn't feel any ledge where the product starts and the natural nail stops.
  • Color consistancy of the product: there should be no visible marbling effect of the pigment in the pink or the white.
  • Arch and structure of the nail from cuticle to free edge.
  • C-curve: when you look directly down the "barrel" of the nail from the free edges, the curvature of the tip of the nail and how it follows through the entire structure.
  • Convex and concave shape and consistancy.
  • Product control-- there should be absolutely no air bubbles in the product.

C-curve view of a practice set by Maggie.
It goes on. There are tons of tiny details that the judges scrutinize with flashlights, magnifying glasses, and rulers behind the curtain during judging.

The polished hand must be flawless. It must be painted with two coats of a red cream polish, absolutely no base or top coat.

They use red because it is absolutely unforgiving. Red cream polish shows every lump, dip, and rough patch. It also does not correct easily, so you can't just slap it on and then take your corrector brush around the cuticles to clean up your mess. Nope. You must apply those two coats of polish perfectly. And you get judged on that too.

Yeah. You end up with 100 sets of nails that all look the same... until you know what you're looking at. Then you learn to tell the differences. You learn to appreciate the careful skill that goes into each set. You see which competitors have perfected their "wax on/wax off" and which competitors have attempted to jump straight to the fight.

And believe me, it shows.

No. I guess it's not that interesting to look at if you don't know what to look for. Nail art competitions are far more entertaining to the uninitiated. It's easy to look at nail art and appreciate the WOW factor. But a competition where you have to do the exact same thing as every single one of your competitors, only much, much better is also much, much more challenging. There is no wiggle room, no chance to come up with a new interpretation, you simply must be the best.

C-curve view of much, much better nails by 3 time Nailpro Cup winner
 and 2009 World Champion Lynn Lammers.
Completed set of amazing nails by 3 time Nailpro Cup winner and
2009 World Champion Lynn Lammers-- this is what winning nails look like.