Tips and Tricks for the Working Nail Technician

Published on: 4 Mar 2019

There are many problems that a nail technician may encounter such as lifting, breaking or chipping of acrylic nails. The following information provides some useful tips and tricks that will help you to provide a high quality service, enabling your clients to get the most out of their treatments.

You will often find that the basic principles of nail technology are the most important! Following just a few simple steps will help you achieve quality results every time. The basic principles are easy to remember and fall under three headings:





Preparation of the nail before any nail treatment is essential. It allows for easy application and adherence of product to the nail and is referred to as prepping. 

How do you prepare the nail and why is it important?

In order to prep the nail, wipe over all nails with nail polish remover to remove any oil. A useful tip is to use a lint-free wipe instead of cotton wool to prevent fluff from sticking to the nail bed and potentially ruining product application. You can also try using non-acetone nail polish remover; this product will remove oils but at the same time will not dry out your client's skin.


Oil on the natural nail is the number one cause of problems that nail technicians will come across. It is the main cause of acrylic nail lifting and will also cause gel nails (including Shellac) and even nail wraps to lift. For natural nail treatments, removing oil will allow nail polish to go on smoother as well as prevent colour from chipping. 

The next stage of prepping involves gently pushing the cuticles back. You should never cut away the cuticle because it is there to protect the nail and can potentially cause damage to nail growth. Repeatedly cutting away cuticles encourages it to overgrow and become hard. You can however, carefully trim away any dead skin or cuticle. This should never be uncomfortable for the client or cause bleeding. Cuticle work is important because it helps prevent natural skin oils from touching the nail plate and it allows products to be applied to the nail neatly.

Finally to complete the prepping process, file and buff the nail. If you are applying nail extensions it is best to keep the natural nail short. Shaping the nail to fit the well of the false tip can also make applying the nail tip easier. Buffing the nail is an effective way of increasing adherence of product to the nail, therefore preventing lifting and polish chipping. Use a worn, rather than new buffing block to gently buff across the nail in different directions creating a slightly rougher surface. Buffing the nail before a manicure can also increase nail polish wear.



The products you use will greatly influence the quality of your treatments. When choosing a product or brand, look for products that have good reviews or have been recommended. Although products at the higher priced end of the market are not necessarily the best, cheap products may be of a poorer quality.

How can poor application of a product cause problems?

Good application of a product is very important. Creating the right consistency of acrylic powder and liquid will affect the durability of the extension. Using incorrect ratios of liquid to powder can create brittle nails that are susceptible to breaking and chipping. Using poor quality nail glue or applying insufficient amounts of glue to the well of the false tip will cause extensions to break or lift at the sides. 

Applying products thickly can also cause a number of problems. Thickly applied acrylic nails not only look unnatural but are also more prone to lifting. Applying hard gel thickly can cause a burning, uncomfortable sensation when the client places her hand under a UV lamp. When soft gels are applied thickly they are more likely to lift, appear uneven and have bubbles on the surface.

How can you improve the shelf life of a nail product?

Store your products appropriately and out of direct sunlight. Dust will affect the quality of products and so it is important to keep containers of acrylic and gel closed when filing and buffing the nail. Clean your brushes after each use to prolong their life. Acrylic brushes need to be soaked in acetone to remove any pieces of hard acrylic whilst gel brushes can be wiped carefully with non-acetone polish remover. Pots and containers should also be wiped free of any product that may build up on the lid.

Some gels and nail polishes can become thick and gloopy in storage. It is best to keep them in a cool place - you could even store these products in a fridge to prevent them becoming gloopy. Use polish thinner as required to maintain a good nail polish consistency.


Last but not least, practicing will help you to develop your own techniques and troubleshoot any problems you may encounter. The more sets of extensions that you do, the better you will become at creating long lasting nails. Your application of acrylic and polish will become neater with practice.

Tips and Tricks!

Tip blending -  for natural-looking acrylic nails, gently blend the false nail tip after applying using a grit file and buffing block. Buff from the tip upwards to avoid scratching the natural nail plate.

Smudges - dip your ring finger into non-acetone nail polish remover and gently wipe over the smudge. This should smooth the surface, allowing you to apply another coat of colour or a top coat.

Capping after painting the nail plate, paint (or cap) the edge of the nail to seal and prevent chipping. You can also do this with gel nails to prevent lifting from the free edge.

Aftercare advice - advise your client to look after her new nails. Sometimes lifting and chipping is caused by poor aftercare and this can be avoided by providing the appropriate aftercare advice. For example; wearing gloves whilst washing up and doing chores.

Prepping, Product and Practice are three simple steps that will help you to avoid common problems experienced by many nail technicians.