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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…

    Since gel polish came onto the nail scene, it has influenced bookings and revenue and means that clients can’t smudge their fresh nails. However, this technique comes with its own issues, especially since home kits have become so readily available with no education.

    Don’t get complacent when it comes to this service, and follow my tips below:

    Correct hand placement in a UV lamp. Image courtesy of Cosmo Nails.

    Correct hand placement in a UV lamp. Image courtesy of Cosmo Nails.

    Ensure the correct cure

    With gel polish, it’s paramount to ensure a good cure so that the colour and overlay will last. If the gel polish is applied too thick, the curing time might not be enough to create a full cure, which can lead to peeling. Ensure that you are using the correct curing time for your lamp, as another gel and lamp can respond differently.

    Bubbling, peeling, chipping and other forms of service breakdown can occur when the product hasn’t been cured correctly and can be most commonly found on the thumbs where the client has placed these incorrectly in the lamp. If you find this happening, then cure the thumbs separately.

    What may appear cured, may not be – if the gel polish application is too thick, the outside may be cured but the inside, not. If this is left, then over time, this un-cured gel will become exposed and can lead to irritation and a possible allergic reaction.

    To test your gel polish cure, you can use ‘the dry brush test’. Using a clean dry brush, wipe over the product once cured – if the product is wiping away with the brush it is not cured. With darker, more pigmented colours you can be left with a stain on the brush, but it will not pull away.

    Bulb change schedule

    Changing your bulbs regularly is essential to ensure a through cure. The recommended schedule for changing the bulbs in your UV lamp is: If you have 30 to 40 gel clients a week, the bulbs need to be changed every four to six months. If you have 20 gel clients a week, change your bulbs every six to eight months. Once a year is sufficient for nail techs with less than 20 gel clients a week. An easy way to remember this is to write the date on the bottom of your lamp or in your diary when you last changed the bulbs.

    If you notice the tacky layer on your client’s nails starts getting thicker even after the correct curing time is up or if you are seeing service breakdown and can see a dull grey ring around the bulb, this is a strong indicator you need to replace the bulbs.

    A handy idea to ensure clients place their hands correctly in the lamp. Courtesy of Tammy Upthegrove.

    A handy idea to ensure clients place their hands correctly in the lamp. Courtesy of Tammy Upthegrove.

    Problems with application

    Gel shrinks when it cures, so it is paramount to ensure you seal the free edge by applying the gel horizontally at the very edge. Because gel shrinks when cured, it is necessary that the product continues down over the free edge but not underneath so it does not shrink back over the top of the nail.

    Capping the free edge should be the last step before curing. Remember, gel is self levelling and will shrink before curing also, if your gel polish is shrinking quicker than you can work, cure a few nails at a time.

    Gel polish colour can often bleed with the base coat or if primer is used. You shouldn’t use primer before gel polish, apart from a wash at the free edge if the client is prone to lifting or chipping, as it increases the soak off time. To prevent the base coat bleeding into the colour, I prefer to remove the tacky layer of the base coat for a more even colour application.

    Have you ever noticed that after removing your tacky layer, the gel can appear dull? You need to let the product cool slightly after removal from the lamp before cleansing and applying cuticle oil. If this doesn’t solve the issue, your top coat may be contaminated with dust.

    L-R from top: Application too far from cuticle & sidewalls; application too close to skin; product applied too thick - showing uncured product underneath; correct application

    L-R from top: Application too far from cuticle & sidewalls; application too close to skin; product applied too thick – showing uncured product underneath; correct application

    The perfect polish

    For longevity and client satisfaction you should paint as close to the cuticle and sidewalls as possible without touching the skin. Approximately a 1mm gap should be left, otherwise the client will leave their appointment with what looks like 1-2 weeks growth.

    When painting, use a balance point positioning with your pinkie to keep a steady hand and get better nail coverage. The thumb and forefinger of the holding hand pinch the client’s finger to pull back the soft tissue from the nail plate. This makes the nail bed a little bigger and ensures complete gel polish coverage and the sidewalls. If you push the cuticle back prior to painting, then once the service is complete, pull that cuticle back over the painted nail to close any gap.

    Brushes are a personal preference; some techs like short, square, stubby brushes while other techs prefer a longer, thinner brush. If the brush in the gel polish isn’t your favourite style, then use a nail art brush such as a small 3D brush, fine line or even a one stroke brush to enable you to paint as close the cuticle as you can prior to filling in the rest of the nail.

    Love Katie B x

    Check out gel polish options and more top tips in the May 2016 edition of Scratch magazine, available here.

  2. Written for Scratch Magazine

    Nailing your filing technique

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

    While filing may be considered one of the simplest skills a nail tech learns, it plays a crucial role in the preparation and finishing of the nails.

    Katie Barnes selection_of_filesNailing the grit

    There are so many types of nail file, so how do you know which one to use?

    All files are coated in a material similar to sand paper, which creates a grit-like coarse surface. Like sandpaper, nail files are graded according to how much grit they contain per square inch.

    The higher the grit, the smoother the file and the lower the grit, the coarser the file. The quality of grit is also important for longevity of your file.For natural nails, a fine-grit file (180 – 240-grit) is gentle yet effective. Coarse files (80-100 grit) are best for de-bulking acrylic enhancements.

    Medium files (150 – 180 grit) are best to shape extensions of medium thickness and to shape the free edge of toenails, which are thicker than fingernails. Fine files (240-600 grit) are best for refining. Ultra fine files (600-2400 grit) are used for buffing the nail to a shine.

    Filing techniques

    Each nail tech will have their own filing routine but consistency is key to ensure a symmetrical and even nail. When filing the enhancement you should work uniformly in sections and keep your file flush onto the product, rather than keep lifting off and filing odd sections here and there.

    Top 10 filing tips

    1. When working on the natural nail,remove shine from the nail to prevent lifting. Work one side to the other and do not over file the nail. Ensure only the file edge touches the nail place. Hold it like this as the natural nail has a curved shape. If the file is half flat, you will take the rest of the nail off too.

    2. Always prepare a brand new nail file by rubbing the sides on another file to blunt them slightly as the sides of a new file are sharp and you could risk nicking your client.

    Katie Barnes files 23. Reduce the length of the natural nail and to a rounded shape with a 180-grit file as this makes it easier to fit the form to the free edge.

    4. When filing your smile line in, begin with your file at the base of the pink platform at a 45-degree angle and as you file, slowly rock the file upright to become flush against the wall. This will ensure a consistent smile line all round.

    Katie Barnes top_tip_55. Use a file flat (you can cut a file in half for ease) to push into the corners of the smile line.

    6. Do not over file the natural sidewalls from the nail, as this will cause a weak structure.

    7. When filing the enhancement, follow the same routine as the natural nail filing, using only the edge of the file touching the surface.

    8. Refine using a lower grit file and repeat the same routine. Then repeat this routine again with your chosen buffers.

    9. To finish, get the client to turn their hand to face you and correct the shape from ‘client’s view’.

    Katie Barnes files 410. If you are unsure where your file is touching, draw in coloured pens or a pencil the panels that you want to file in the order of your routine. If you are filing through the incorrect colour, then you need to look at the angle of your file.

    When to throw your file away

    Katie Barnes files 3It is paramount to understand when to throw your files away. If they are looking grubby or dirty and you have to put too much force into the file to be effective, you are overdue to replace it. It is also essential to dispose of any files that come into contact with blood, bodily fluids or anything that could cross contaminate. If in doubt, throw it!

    Files are easy to clean in-between clients with a file disinfectant spray or solution or if you prefer, many companies offer single use, disposable files.

    Love Katie B xx

    - See more at: http://www.scratchmagazine.co.uk/simply-salon-nails-nailing-the-filing-technique/#sthash.W4HUXZoZ.dpuf