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  1. Written for Scratch Magazine

    Salon owner, educator, former Scratch columnist and award-winning nail stylist, Katie Barnes, shares her nail tales and tips…

    Nails are not all one size or shape, so it is likely that you will need to pre-customise your form prior to fitting under a client’s nail.

    Sculpting nails is like architecture; if the foundation is incorrect, the structure will be compromised. If a form doesn’t fit perfectly, adjustments are required to get that perfect fit.

    If your form is not straight and facing to one side, then the enhancement will follow this too. If your form is tilting down, then so will your enhancement, which will then grow out over 2-3 weeks and keep growing downwards, putting unnecessary strain on the natural nail. It is paramount to ensure that as well as the correct placement; the correct adjustments are also made.

    I cut the form where it meets the natural nail to ensure that it fits snugly under the natural nail. It is common to need to make adjustments to this for a perfect fit. If there is a gap between the natural nail and the form then the product will leak under and create a ridge at the join. Not only will this give the client something to pick at, it will also create a weakness.

    It is good practice to remove the length of the natural nail prior to applying you form. The reason for this is that if the natural nail does not grow flawlessly, then the length you leave will affect your form placement and you will not get a tight or perfect fit. If the natural nail tilts upwards like a ski-slope, then your form will do so, along with your nail enhancement. If you remove this natural free edge, then you are able to correct this and create a perfectly straight structure. I always make cuts in the form from the nail side-wall at a 45-degree angle outwards. This allows a tighter pinch and pre formed C-curve, with less need for pinching after application.

    Different nail shapes require different kinds of form fitting. Form positioning and adjustments are important to ensure that you are creating the correct structure for your enhancement. The main shapes we come across for salon nails are almond and square.

    Form positioning


    Form position: Form should be slightly pointing down.

    Apex (highest point): 1/3 of the nail extension.


    Form position: absolutely straight, the wings parallel and 1/2mm apart.

    Apex (highest point): centre of ‘extended’ nail bed area. If creating a long square nail, change the highest point to further up.


    Form fitting

    Katie Barnes form 1

    < Hold a ruler or something perfectly straight along the centre of the finger. Although to the eye, this form may appear straight, it is tilting down slightly.

    This would not be a correct placement for a square shape, as the enhancement would tilt down and therefore not be straight.

    This form placement would be suitable for an almond shape as long as the end of the form was then closed.





    Katie Barnes form 2

    Compare this photo (right) to the one above and you can see the difference where this form placement is straight from the centre of the finger.

    This is the correct fitting for a square shape. >






    Katie Barnes form 3

    Correct form placement with nail bed application and smile line filed.








    Extended Hyponichium Growth

    When you come across a client who finds that forms feel very uncomfortable – with pinching at the smile line – they probably have extended hyponichium growth (where the skin pertrudes the free edge). The solution is to create a proper fit and reduce the pressure by cutting in a deeper curved indentation at the contact point of the form.

    Although it can seem fiddly, it is important to spend a little extra time on these steps because if your forms are fitted perfectly you will have the perfect foundation to build on and the following steps of application will flow more easily.

    Love Katie B x

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  2. Written for Scratch Magazine

    Salon owner, educator, former Scratch columnist and award-winning nail stylist, Katie Barnes, shares her nail tales and tips…


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

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

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

    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.

    Lifting at the cuticle area & trapped varnish & damage to the nail where the client has glued the enhancement back down.

    Lifting at the cuticle area & trapped varnish & damage to the nail where the client has glued the enhancement back down.

    Lifting from where the product has been applied too thick & too close to the cuticle area.

    Lifting from where the product has been applied too thick & too close to the cuticle area.

    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.

    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.

    Love Katie B x