and Care for your Nails
by Lacey Brushwood
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I was a professional nail technician for 14 years and spent 5 of those years traveling to trade shows and teaching other nail techs as a representative for a major manufacturer. I guess what I'm trying to say is that this is an area that I know a lot about! :) Below, Iíve addressed how to keep both artificial and natural nails clean, how to remove stains, and how to hide them. If there are any other questions about nails and face painting, Iíll be happy to address those as well, just let me know. If youíd like to contact me off list, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org .
To keep your artificial nails looking clean and professional:
Before you begin face painting, scrape your nails along a bar of soap (preferably one that's a bit soggy or soft). Use your fingers to push the soap into the areas that normally get clogged with paint, but don't 'overfill' this area, or it will be uncomfortable. You can paint as normal, and when you're finished, use a stiff bristled nail brush (99 cents at most general stores, maybe cheaper) to scrub out the soap. The soap will block the paint from working its way down into the small separations between your natural nails and the artificial ones. If youíre concerned about getting soap mixed in with your water, try orthodontic wax. You can purchase orthodontic wax at most drug stores. It is inexpensive, soft, pliable, and clear in color, and can be pushed into small spaces like the soap. It will stick for long periods of time and can be removed with a toothpick.
If you have existing paint, soak your nails in warm, soapy water, and then take a sewing needle and **very carefully** scrape gently along the edge between your natural nail and the artificial nail. Be careful not to push too hard or go chasing after one piece of dirt that's particularly deep, because you can separate the artificial nail from your natural nail. If you do separate the two, dab a very small amount of glue into that area and let it drip off the tip of the nail (rather than towards your finger tip). Tap your nail against a paper towel to catch any overflow and use a gentle file to remove any ridges from the edge if you do get too much glue that drips that direction. (In a pinch, you can also use clear fingernail polish, but it doesn't work quite as well because it's thinner than glue.) Never apply glue to your nails when they are even the slightest bit wet. This can trap fungus and bacteria that can cause an infection.
Separation between the natural nail and the artificial nail is the number one cause for breakage. Artificial nails, when applied properly, are very durable. However, if you tend to see a lot of separation between the two, ask your nail tech to bevel the edges between your natural nail and the artificial ones by holding the file at a dramatic angle and filing until a bevel is obvious, so that the natural nail is just a tad shorter than the artificial one, all the way around the free edges of the tip. Then ask her to apply a thin coat of glue around this edge to seal the bevel. This step takes about 3 extra minutes and can mean the difference between nails lasting a few days and a few months! This will also keep dirt and paint from seeping into the edges of your nails.
If your nails tend to lift at the back towards the cuticle, allowing dirt to seep in from that direction, chances are, your nail tech isnít pushing your cuticle back and is gluing over it instead. Nail glue will lift from skin after a day or so, causing your nail to lift with it. If your nail tech doesnít push your cuticles back for you (which really should be part of her regular service), do it yourself before your appointment. A dremmel tool or other electric file is NEVER appropriate to use on your skin or natural nails, and should be used sparingly, if at all, to buff the artificial nails down.
One last thing you can ask your nail tech to do after your retouch is done (but before you scrub) is to flip your hands over and lay a thin coat of glue over the area where your natural nail and artificial nail meet to help fill in that ridge and seal it. Be sure to 'flex' your wrists so you're holding your hands with your nails pointing toward her mat so that any dripping runs off the tips of your nails, not towards your finger pads. Some techs use an orangewood stick to smooth it out. A little drop goes a long way, because if she gets too much, it'll create a well at the base of your finger pad, which just re-directs the dirt (or paint!) to that spot instead.
Invest in two stiff bristled nail brushes and keep one in your kit. When you wash your hands during or after a gig, use the brush to scrub your nails as free of paint as you can before you leave. Keep the other one at home, and when you see stains, soak your hands in warm, soapy water for about 10 minutes and then scrub well. Scrub on both sides, paying particular attention to those areas underneath that get filled with dirt. The soapy water should help loosen the paint and the stiff bristles should help to chase away those stubborn stains after several days of use. DO NOT use paint thinner, remover, or any other chemicals to remove the paint, because it can, at the least, partially dissolve your nail polish and make it unattractive, and at the worst, dissolve your artificial nails.
Don't skimp on your retouches! Every two weeks, make it a priority to have your nails retouched. Theyíll look better and last longer. Artificial nail products arenít designed to last longer between retouches. If your artificial nails consistently break in the two weeks between retouches, talk to your nail tech about the problem and if she canít correct it, find a new nail tech. Nails are an investment in yourself and they should look great for the entire two weeks, though an occasional break is expected. If you need to remove them, pay someone to do it! Donít pick at them or peel them off, as this can cause damage to your natural nails and can be painful!
Finally, learn to avoid the paint in the first place. Pay attention to how you hold your brush and when your nails get paint on them, and try to find a way to avoid the paint on your nails altogether.
As with face painting, in the salon industry, you get what you pay for. Remember that those nail salons that charge drastically reduced prices for artificial nails often use substandard products, and in many cases, are using products not designed for nails at all! They may be cheaper and/or faster, but what price are you willing to pay for a few extra bucks or minutes? Be an informed consumer before you put something on your nails that can cause permanent damage!
For natural nails:
The soap trick and a stiff bristled nail brush can work for natural nails, too, and there are many products out on the market to prevent or reverse yellowing.
Nail bleach is hard on your nails and can dry them out, which will cause them to become brittle and break, so use it sparingly. Try a nail whitening pencil to color in the tips of your nails if they've become discolored. Avoid buffing out to remove stains on the surface of your nail as this will weaken the nail.
If you donít like doing your own nails but prefer not to spend a lot of money on a manicure, consider your local beauty college. Most of the students that perform work on customers are close to graduating, and theyíre carefully observed by instructors. A manicure at a beauty college will cost you a fraction of the cost for the same service in a salon. Small imperfections in painting with light colored polish will be less noticeable than darker polish, so choose a lighter color the first time someone paints your nails. If they do a good job, go darker next time. If you like your student, give her your number and ask her to contact you when sheís out of school so you can find her again, and remember that those girls donít get paid, so if you like what theyíve done, tip well! Youíll still get out the door spending less money than you would in a salon.
If you're concerned about what your nails will look like during a gig, consider a darker colored polish. Always use a professional brand base coat and top coat. Creative Nail and OPI are two of the best, but certainly not the only ones out there. You can purchase either of these brands at the salons or beauty supplies in the mall. The investment is worth it and no 'over-the-counter' product I've ever tried works as well. These two extra steps don't take much more time to apply and will make your manicure last days longer. Look for a base coat that dries tacky, which will hold your polish to your nail, and look for a top coat designed for natural nails (unless yours are artificial, of course). Quick dry top coats are a good two-in-one deal and work better than the spray-on or brush-on nail dryer. To remove nail polish, use felt or gauze squares rather than cotton balls. Cotton balls just push the color around on your nails and onto your skin, while felt or gauze will absorb the color and keep it off your fingers. This is especially true for red or dark colored polish.
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