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For every nail tech, a personal grievance list exists of minor and major work annoyances. The line items can include your typical “people” issues or everyday technical difficulties. At the top of this list is the problem of lifting. For this, we have a few checkpoints to minimize the dreaded nail lift.  To solve this mystery, your best bet is to remain keenly observant. Respect each step of the process: prep, application, and filing.

When a client complains of lifting, it’s time to investigate. First, always note the clients’ nails at the time of service. Is this an isolated incident?  Is lift happening just with this client or are there other clients complaining of the same issue? The answers to this question would indicate whether the issue might be one with your product or that humans are to blame. A couple clients every now and then; there’s nothing to worry about. You’re safe if only 1 out of every 20 clients come in with lifting.  Or are you noticing a pattern of many more clients with the same problem? Make a note and assess the situation. Is it you or is it them? If you’ve discovered that many clients, are having a problem lifting, you may have to start looking deeper into yourself and your technique.

When you begin to notice issues, return to the basics. A nice set of nails starts with a thoughtful prep. It’s a mistake to ignore or rush through this step. You’d be surprised how much nail lift can be attributed to accidentally picking up the wrong file. A nail tech can go through the beginning motions automatically. Unintentionally they will choose the buffer instead of a medium grit file/arbor band.  Our purpose is to maintain the nails not to make them worse. Technical note: A medium grit with a light touch removes shines and creates just enough texture for product to hold onto. Buffing will make the too smooth. If a nail is too slick, nothing will a stick. At all costs, we do not gouge the nail.

We know you want to save time. Please don’t try it during prep.  If there is a short cut, we’ll let you know if it’s worth taking.  There are a handful of ways to slip up. Skipping steps here and there, please don’t get sloppy. Double check your cuticle prep with our tech support video using a Sharpie to be clear. We use a marker as a visible demarcation line.  If you’re prep is spot on, you will remove all the marker with the file.  Filing up against it, use a technique that makes sure you hit all the extra protein growth commonly missed in that area. The treatment post-prep can also cause lifting. Never skip YN Swipe but use it sparingly. It cleanses the nail in a balanced ratio. Acetone dehydrates too aggressively. Alcohol still has buffers with the potential to leave oils. Priming the nail with Protein Bond is a non-negotiable but don’t over saturate. It just works so well (but that’s our YN bias). Two coats of Protein Bond is the thing you need for clients that way you never have to figure out if they are chronic nail lifters. It does its job, full stop.  

When you first lay acrylic down it’s at its best adhesion point. Techs usually put it down wet right in the center. Pros know that lifting rarely happens at the middle of the nail because it’s the strongest there. Then they head towards the cuticle, edges, and tips. These tend to be where lift occurs. Super beginners take note of your acrylic consistency. If it’s too dry, the adhesion will suck.  We spend a lot of time showing you how to get the right acrylic consistency and  navigate cuticle area application because it’s where the money is. We recommend starting at the cuticle area with the consistency more wet and let the pearl flow by pointing the finger down. Let gravity go the work. At the free edge, you want a little drier consistency. Like riding a bike, you learn by doing. Make mistakes until you experience the rush of getting the consistency just right.

If you get gel or acrylic on the skin and you don’t take care of it, you will also get lifting.  Apply the product, let it flow. Make sure the product is thin in the back by the cuticle and then point the finger down so it moves away from the cuticle area naturally. Some nail techs work at the cuticle and allow it to be very thick or allow a ledge to form at the cuticle. They prefer to file it down after curing. If you do that, the more you file the more you apply pressure and weaken the product.  Seal the entire nail with my finish gel. Keep it off the skin because even a minimal amount of product touching the skin can disrupt the bond and cause lift.

One last thing to observe when it comes to gel. Are regular clients coming in with nail lifting complaints out of the blue? Swear that you’ve stuck to your regular products and application routine and you’re scratching your head? Consider double checking your lamp. It might be time to replace your bulbs. Bulbs just don’t last forever. It’s easy and quick fix. Another thing that gets missed is a change of seasons. It goes down like clockwork, clients coming back to their next appointment with lifting. They promise they haven’t done anything different either but you can always blame spring cleaning or poolside fun in the summer. Chalk those ones up to a lifetime of experience.

We know that nails are complicated, so keep your spirits up. We promise that no matter how tricky, with practice and a genuine curiosity about your craft you will get the hang of it. There are a lot of moving parts that need to line up. Front load our YN videos whenever you can to learn new ways to build upon and amplify with your techniques. If something seems too complicated at the cuticle or free edge application, chances are we have a video for it. If we don’t, please let us know. Nothing would make us happier than to address your concern.

**This is an adaptation from our YN Biz Talk playlist on YouTube, “BIZ TALK: WHY DO MY CLIENTS NAILS ALWAYS LIFT?” which originally aired on 8/5/2021.

***Follow our YN YouTube Channel and click here to watch the full discussion: