How to deal with nail service breakdown

As a nail tech, we can be first to blame the client or ourselves when a client returns with a problem. One of the key issues for nail techs appears to be the lifting of enhancements.

What is lifting?

An enhancement lifting away from the natural nail is a sign of service breakdown. This can occur with gel polish, gel or L&P acrylic enhancements. Lifting is often found at the cuticle area or around the sidewalls and can be recognised as the enhancement appearing to lift off or peel away from the natural nail – but it can also occur in any part of the nail enhancement.

Lifting demonstrated by the product coming away from the cuticle zone

Lifting at the cuticle area. The client’s skin & cuticle area are very dry.

Lifting in the middle of the enhancement, pocket lifting.

Lifting in the centre of the nail. Possible causes: poor adhesion & mix ratio or trauma.

What causes lifting?

Improper preparation or cuticle work – improper prep can be one of the most common reasons for service breakdown and can cause enhancements to lift from the nail. Whichever system you are using, it is paramount that you thoroughly remove any oils, contaminants or dead skin from the nail plate so the product is able to adhere well.

Product applied too close or too thick to the skin and cuticle area – if the product is touching the skin, it will lift. If the product is too thick at the cuticle area: with gel polish it may not be able to cure correctly which can lead to peeling and with acrylic and gel enhancement it will create a ridge which will lead to lifting.

Incorrect mix ratio – This is mostly paramount in acrylic enhancements, unless you are mixing your gel or gel polish. Your bead should be smooth, round and pearlised on your brush. If your bead is too dry, then it will not have a smooth surface and have a dry powder coating. If your bead is to wet, you will have little control over it as it will run, could cause shrinkage and may cause the product to pull away from the nail.

Damage to the natural nail bed – the health and construction of the natural nail will give an enhancement the correct foundation. Avoid aggressive over-filing and cuticle work; just a light buff over the nail plate to remove shine is sufficient.

Under or over priming the nail – Forgetting to prime, or not priming correctly can lead to enhancements lifting or coming off. Primer is designed to help the enhancement cling to the nail plate. However, as many products now contain primer properties, this cannot always be as crucial as it used to. An acid free primer acts like ‘double sticky tape’ and an acid based primer makes tiny holes in the surface of the nail plate, so the product can ‘weave’ and stick into the nail. Applying too much primer can also affect the strength of the adhesion and over priming with an acid based primer can lead to natural nail damage.

Unbalanced nail enhancements – Incorrect apex placement means that the nail enhancement won’t be balanced causing stress on the natural nail and possible lifting.

Nipping – nipping the enhancement off the natural nail can damage the nail plate and lead to Onycholysis. Nipping loose product can create more lifting and more nipping and so on. Ensure you remove the lifting from where it starts with correct filing techniques.

Under-curing products – if the product is not cured correctly, then the product will breakdown and can lead to overexposure to un-cured product. Ensure that your curing times are correct; bulbs are regularly changed and that the client places their hand in the lamp correctly – you may need to cure the thumbs separately.

Client not following correct aftercare advice and lifestyle – it is paramount to stress the correct aftercare and homecare advice to your client to ensure they know how to correctly care for their nails at home. It can be good practice to provide a written leaflet with this information on.

Knowing how to remove lifting correctly is essential for success and prevent further lifting and damage. Follow my step by step guide here.

What should the client do?

  • Never pick or chew – they will cause more damage to the natural nail.
  • Do not glue the nail back down – this can lead to bacterial infections, skin irritation and allergic reactions.
  • Do not apply a plaster as this can attract moisture to the area, leading the bacterial infections.
  • Apply cuticle oil to the nail to increase flexibility and help to prevent further lifting.
  • Book an appointment for a repair or infill.

What should the tech do?

Invite the client in for a repair, chat through with them how the breakdown occurred. It may be a one off, simple reason; such as they knocked it whilst cleaning. However, if this becomes a persistent problem with just one or two particular clients, you need to discover the underlying causes. Go back over your working techniques and procedure, is there anything you have missed out or changed? Get them to talk through their daily activities after leaving the salon, however irrelevant these may seem. It is here that you can often discover the cause and work out the best solution.

Getting to the bottom of why a nail has broken is key to repairing it successfully and preventing any future occurrences. My nail break guide will help you understand and identify this.

Want to learn more tips about how to deal with service breakdown and how to deal with these and many other troubleshooting nail advice, then sign up to our KB Masterclasses.

Love Katie B x

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