Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Let's Talk About Acrylics

I have seen a lot of nail enhancement "bashing" (maybe not quite bashing, but definitely no love) lately, and I think it's a little unfair.

Acrylics and gels and other forms of nail enhancements seem to have such a bad reputation for ruining your nails, and that's understandable, as your average nail tech usually does ruin your nails. It's not the enhancement's fault- it's the lazy nail tech.

Acrylics can actually be very good for your nails. It keeps them protected and helps them grow without fear of breakage or staining.

I don't know if any of you saw my post on Makeup Alley a couple weeks ago about making finger soup, but I had a little accident with my left index fingernail.

I was using one of these handy utensils to cut vegetables over a giant pot of vegetable soup. It was a wedding gift and I recently fell in love with it. It was so handy! You didn't need a cutting board at all, just like food scissors! Anyway, I was cutting carrots when all of a sudden something caused my hand to slip and SNIP!! I take a giant chunk out of my nail, nearly cutting off my finger. It cut down so far that the nail bed was exposed with only a thin layer of nail to keep me from bleeding all over. It was terrifying! And no, the nail didn't go into the soup- it flew across the kitchen and oddly enough, landed in the sink.

So, now I had a nail that was so short I couldn't file it down to even it out, it hurt and was on the verge of bleeding. What was I to do? Have a sharp, jagged, painful monster nail until it grew out? No way!

This is where acrylics save the day.

(Check out the wicked burn on my ring finger- I blame YOU, roasted asparagus!!!)

I used some clear acrylic and a tip to make myself a new fingernail until my real nail grew out enough to file. It was clear in real life, for some reason it looks really cloudy in these pictures. It was only a tiny bit thicker than my natural nail, and you would never know it was fake unless I told you. Not huge and thick, but thin, clear and natural looking.

And remember how I said a few posts back that I was having trouble with China Glaze? I'm wearing Passion In The Pacific on my nails in this picture. It's only about, say, 14 hours old in these pictures and look how damaged it is! It never fully dried, and I was chipping and denting it despite being very careful.

Back on topic. I don't do acrylics often (I really hate the way they feel- you can't scratch with them!! I really don't need them, my natural nails are very nice!) but sometimes I find myself needing one to repair a broken-down-too-far-to-file nail. I know that when I remove the acrylic nail, my natural nail will be in the same good condition as it was before I applied the acrylic. In fact, it may be in even better condition because it won't be stained by polish, it won't chip or break and it may even be a little stronger from the weight of the acrylic.

My natural nail had finally grown out enough to file down the jagged edges without making myself bleed, so I removed the acrylic yesterday. It came right off with a little acetone- about 30 seconds and it was gone! And underneath? My nail was smooth, strong, shiny and not one bit stained like my other nails.

The myth is that acrylics will severely damage your natural nail. What really damages your natural nail is a nail tech filing and drilling the hell out of it with an e-file, or YOU damage your natural nail by biting or peeling off the acrylic instead of removing it the right way (soaking).

Acrylics aren't evil- they're really not! They're great for repairs, or just to wear. If you can't get any length on your natural nails but want long nails, acrylics can do that. Or, maybe you want a french manicure that never chips? Acrylics. Maybe you want some really wacky, over-the-top nail art? Acrylics!

Hopefully I've helped to remove some of the stigma surrounding acrylic nails.

As a bonus, here's China Glaze Passion In The Pacific for lovely reader Sigrun:


  1. I agree that it's not the acrylic/overlays themselves, its hygiene! As an old nailtech I am now so picky I won't even go to get them done, I always do my enhancements myself if I feel like it, but usually I'm a natural short and funky colours kinda gal. The only real "enhancement" enemy of nails is cheap-ass glue on/stick on nails from the drugstore... Don't go there...

  2. You totally changed the way I look at acrylics now. I've never tried acrylics or gel because I thought they'd ruined my natural nails. But thanks to your blog, now I know that acrylics can save the day if I broke my nails in the future.

    I'd rather do them myself though as I'm afraid I'd end up with a lazy nail tech, but I don't know how. Do you apply them just like you apply nail polish? Would appreciate if you could give newbies like me some sort of tutorial. What brand would you recommend, and can they be removed using normal polish remover? I don't have access to pure acetone here.

    Thanks Scrangie!

  3. Oh, cool! I'm one of those who always thought it was the glue or whatever that ruined the natural nails when using acrylics. Not that I actually need acrylics or want to pay as much as it costs here in Sweden to get them done, but you made it interesting all of a sudden!

    I agree with TK in the previous comment that a tutorial would be really nice. Maybe I'll try it some day if I break a nail! Is it difficult to do on yourself?

    That utensil looked very cool by the way!

  4. Sorry Scrangie you can turn me to "evil" side. :P Of course my dislike comes from people using the grinder tool on my natural nails to make the acrylic stick. *shudders* Evil people I tell you!!!

  5. ITA, a s&*t load of damage comes from not soaking them and ripping the suckers off! Ouch!

    The amount of times my ridiculously sharp veggie knife has got the better of me.... It doesn't even hurt, it's just the shock, it sets my teeth on edge when I shred a nail. Gah! :-(

    And the scratching, LMAO!! Yes IKWYM! And other unsavoury habits I shall not sully your blog with ;-)

  6. I just wish there were more good nail techs out there - the bad ones are why I tell people all the time to stay away from acrylics/gels. I *have* started adding a disclaimer of "if you find a good tech they can be done right", but I've never found a good tech, since my nails were always destroyed with gels and acrylics :(

  7. I had acrylics for years and eventually I taught myself to do them. I loved the look and I sometimes miss them. But, I don't miss the smell and I feel really proud when people say my natural nails are beautiful. If I had longer nails, and broke one, I would absolutely resort to an enhancement as opposed to cutting the other 9 down.

  8. Great post, Scrangie. I keep my nails filed quite short, almost below my fingertips - I have long nail beds and they're very detached, so I can get away with it - but if I had longer nails and one broke I'd absolutely get an acrylic put over the top. It's actually my dream to get big, over the top acrylics when I graduate with my PhD.

    Any tips on how to find these non-masochistic nail techs?

  9. scrangie thanks for posting this. until reading the nail board on MUA i never knew that the techs weren't suppose to use that drill. I had fakes for years because i was a biter and dreaded taking them off because of the mess my nails would be.

    i wish i could do my own but i'm not coordinated enough.

  10. Thanks for this post, and for swatching Passion in the Pacific! Wow, that color is just brutal!!!

  11. doesn't acrylic make your nail bed look 'fatter' ?

  12. I had acrylics for many years. I used to get them removed every year and get a new full set and then sometimes I would go months without acrylics at all. I never had any problems with them and my natural nails were never damaged from them. I no longer have them because I don't have time to maintain them & the nailtech I used to go to have moved far away. It's nice to see and read that another person also has a healthy attitude toward acrylics. Thank you for posting this. And might I say that your handiwork is amazing!

  13. Amen Scrangie! I'm so sick of all the acrylic bashing. I have them and I love them.

  14. Lina-Elvira, I can't trust anyone but myself to do my nails :) And those stick on nails can be quite scary!

    TK, thank you, I'm glad I was able to help! I won't lie, applying acrylics isn't 'easy'- it takes a lot of practice to get them to look nice and to sculpt nails that won't lift or crack. However, it's not impossible- it just takes patience.

    They can be removed with regular nail polish remover, but it will take twice as long because there's not as much acetone- but you can file them down to speed up the process :)

    Chaosophia, thank you! :D I think they're easier to do on myself than doing it on someone else's hands. I could do a tutorial, but since applying them involves using some liquid chemicals, I'd feel sooooo bad if something went wrong! I might though :)

    Hailey, amen!! :D

    Carla G, the weird thing is I NEVER cut myself while cooking, maybe once or twice a year, tops! But this time I cut myself and burned myself 3 times in one week! WTF?? Scary. And LOL- unsavoury habits- :D

    Gymnastgirly, that's the problem, a good nail tech is SOOOOO hard to find, nearly impossible where I live! That's why if you ever find a good nail tech, you must handcuff yourself to them and never let them out of your sight! lol

    SiennaX, awesome! I bet they looked great. I agree about the smell- it's the one thing I hate the most about doing them. I've gotten used to it, but it's so strong I wonder if my neighbors can smell it?

    Rach, awesome! I'd love to see the big, over-the-top acrylics (I love them!). One way to find a good nail tech is to look around the salon- is it clean? Well-lit, well decorated, relaxing? A cared for salon environment is a sign that they don't rush and they take care of the little things. Usually when you walk into a "nail salon" you see rows and rows of nail tables and booths, sometimes with five or more nail 'techs' wearing masks, yelling across the room in a foreign language and filing away with a drill, like a nail assembly line or something! That's what you want to avoid.

    Tink, I'll admit, my first set of gel nails I CHEWED off! I was young, I didn't know any better and the nail 'tech' who did them told me nothing about them! My nails were positively RUINED, but now I know what went wrong :D (And knowing is half the battle!)

    Sigrun, you're very welcome :) I'm sorry it took me so long to post it! I don't mean to keep anyone waiting :D

    Fudge, if the acrylics are really thick it will definitely make the nail bed look fatter. I do mine extremely thin and you can't really tell the difference between my real nails and the acrylics. So, it just depends on how they're done. :)

    Elvira, thank you!! :D I'm glad you've had a good experience with acrylics- it sounds like your nail tech was amazing! That makes me happy to hear- not all salons are 'chop shops' lol

    Jsnack, yes, thank you! Flaunt those lovely acrylics and wear them with pride! They're a work of art!

  15. I'm so glad you wrote this to inform people about it, because I know there is some lack of knowledge. I'm sorry about your broken nail, but maybe it was some kind of sign that you should whrite about this. Dude, I'm getting deep **LOL**
    And I have the same drying issues with Passion In The Pacific. I love the color but I can't wear it because it NEVER dries! So I frankened with it.

  16. Sanna, lol, you're right! I think it was a sign! I might not have thought about posting it otherwise. :D

  17. I have acylics and my own nails are to weak. I work as a costume designer and work alot with fabrics. Fabrics are like sandpaper on your hands and nails and I really wont to have long nails so the only solution is acrylics then.

  18. I have no idea what's going on with ChG or that colour in particular, but I used it yesterday and even 20 hours later it wasn't dry enough to not dent. This was with Out the Door and then Qtica drying drops on it, and still a mess. :O

  19. Crazynails, that sounds perfect! You get to have great-looking durable nails :)

    Penemuel, seriously, what's up with that? It's like all the China Glazes I have are spontaneously revolting- rebellious little lacquers they are. Oh well, guess I'll have to use my other brands more :)

  20. I was speaking with a exhibitor at a beauty expo I went to on the weekend, and you are totally correct. Lazy nail techs that drill the nail down so that it is so flimsy make it almost impossible to not have acrylics.

    It seems to come down to money - they can see more clients if they drill rather than buff the shine off, without any consideration to the clients nails.

    I remember coming away with burn marks on my fingers and bleeding cuticles because they just dont pay enough attention.

  21. Naomi, that's *exactly* it and it's so sad! Really hurts the reputation of the entire nail industry :(

  22. Wow, my experience with acrylics has permanently turned me off. My own natural nails are really good and I only wore acrylics out of laziness. I had them off/on for several years. But when it was time to take them off, the problems began. Either me or the nail tech took them off but forget soaking them for only 30 seconds. Try 30+ minutes or more. Then slowly rubbing or trying to file off the disintegrating acrylic, do that over again several times. By the time the acrylic was gone the nails were almost too!! I have yet to have had a good acrylic removal experience and I've gone to many different salons. So I've given up. I won't even use them for a repair. I have been sorely tempted over the years to do acrylic repair myself as I do manicures for friends and family and am very good with nail tools but just don't want to go there....sigh.....any suggestions for trying it on my own?


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