The One Surprising Thing That REALLY Wrecks Your Nails

Having spent the last few years becoming known about town as the manicurist who specialises in, shall we say, nails that have been slightly traumatised, the culprit of this trauma seems to shift with the popular nail enhancement of the moment. You’ve probably uttered these words yourself, or heard them from your friends:
First it was a chorus of, “Acrylics ruined my nails!”
Then it was, “Gel trashed my my nails!”
More recently, “I got Shellac and my nails have never been the same since!”
And finally, the last year or so has brought forth a never ending litany of “SNS* wrecked my nails!”

I can see how you, the customer, would eventually start to assume that ALL nail enhancement** systems are damaging to natural nails. You start looking for “healthy” nail enhancements. You come across buzzwords like “organic nail gel”, “breathable gel”, “infused with vitamins to strengthen your nails”. This is all, if you’ll excuse my language, bullshit. Marketing bullshit. These are all the same products as the ones that purportedly “wrecked” your nails in the past, just dressed up with weasel words to make you think it’s something “new” and “improved” and “healthy”.

So, what do you do? How do you find this perfect acrylic/gel/unicorn-horn-in-a-jar that won’t trash your nails? What’s the magic formula? I’m going to let you in on a little secret… lean in closer and I’ll whisper the best kept secret in the nail industry… listen carefully:

THE PRODUCT DOESN’T WRECK YOUR NAILS.
THE MANICURIST WRECKS YOUR NAILS.

Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean to shout! I get a little worked up about this. Someday I’m just going to get this tattooed on my forehead so I don’t have to keep repeating myself.

Think of it this way: When you get a badly made burger, do you blame the beef or the chef? Because, here’s the thing: in the nail industry, there’s a lot of untrained, uneducated, and uncaring chefs out there turning your nails into a bad burger. Yes, I know that’s a weird metaphor, and I don’t care. To be honest, I’m not even certain that it technically qualifies as a metaphor, so there you go.

Let me break it down for you: This is what damages your nails:

1. Improper prep – roughly filing/drilling the nail plate in a misguided attempt to help the product “stick” to the nails. Sanding down the surface of the nail is NEVER ok. This is how you end up with nails so thin that a strong breeze makes them hurt. Quality products are designed to bond to your nail safely and effectively, only requiring a light buffing to remove the surface oils on the nail plate.

2. Picking or peeling the product off your own nails – you know this one, so I’m not going to nag you, but a good nail tech will assume you’re a nail salon newbie and gently remind you of what a terrible habit this is and how much it thins and weakens your nails.

3. Overzealous product removal is the most common reason for “wrecked” nails -everyone has a horror story about their soak-off gel polish being drilled off with a nail drill or hand-filed off with force that would be better suited to a furniture refinishing shop. You sit there, nails burning, too shocked and scared to jump out of the chair and flee the salon. Or the particular hell of your acrylic extensions being removed with a plastic nail tip shoved between your natural nail and the acrylic, thus “popping” the acrylic off and giving you a little taste of what it might be like to be captured behind enemy lines during wartime. Any aggressive filing, drilling, or scraping with little regard to the health and structure of the natural nail underneath is going to contribute to nail thinning, damage, weakness, and a general mistrust of nail professionals.

All manicurists are not on the same level, especially in Australia where we have no licensing board and very little regulation aside from yearly, cursory visits from the Health Department. Anyone can watch a few videos on YouTube, order some no-brand products off Ebay, hang out shingle, and start wreaking havoc on the fingernails of the general public.

If you want to have professional nail treatments without the stress and disappointment of damaged nails, stop looking for specific enhancement products and brand names and start looking for a good nail tech. Good nail techs use good products. They recieve ongoing education from the brands they are loyal to. They will assess your nails and lifestyle and recommend the best treatment, products, or nail system suited to you. They practice proper application methods and educate their clients on how to care for their nails at home. THIS is what you don’t get at your average walk-in, one size-fits-all sort of nail bar. If you have only had good experiences at these discount salons — that’s great. I’m not concerned with you. I’m writing for the clients who can’t figure out why their nails always end up in a worse state than before they had Shellac/gel/acrylic/etc. The products are only as good as the nail tech using them.

In future articles, I’m going to be writing in depth about the differences that separate a professional, ethical, educated nail professional from the manicurist who “wrecks” your nails. From practices to products to equipment to even the length of time of your appointment, I’m going to try to demystify the world of nails for you. Because knowledge is power, and I don’t want your nails getting “wrecked” any longer.

*SNS is the brand name of a popular acrylic powder-and-resin glue dip overlay system

**for this purpose, I am using the term “nail enhancement” to describe any professionally applied nail product that requires maintenance or professional removal

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