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Lecturers top tips - Nail Extensions

Posted on January 3rd 2013 by

Professionally applied nail extensions require knowledge, practiced skills and done properly can act both as a nail strengthener as well as a glamorous nail extension.

Lecturers top tip:

Dehydrate the nail and remove surface oils to ensure the nail extension adheres properly. Applying nail solvent or nail preparation to the nail plate with lint free cotton wool or a cotton wool bud can do this effectively.

The Carlton Institute Fact Sheet on Nail Extensions

This fact sheet is intended to provide an introductory guidance on nail extensions. The application of nail extensions is popular and it is important that the knowledge and skills are learnt to provide the client with both the glamour and nail strengthening benefits of nail extensions.

In this fact sheet we cover:

  • Overall benefits of nail extensions
  • The pitfalls that can be avoided
  • Summary of the 3 main nail extension systems
  • Headline of key steps that should be carried out in nail extensions
  • Further reading and nail training courses. Go to nail extension training courses.

Overall benefits of nail extensions

1.Help misshapen or bitten nails look better
2.Nail polish can last longer without chipping because you can add a layer of the gel or acrylic over the polish to seal it.
3.Can help the natural nail strength by acting as a cushion to protect the nail from external aggressions.
4.Good treatment to discourage nail biting.
5.Some clients really appreciate that French polish effect can gain semi-permanence because unlike doing a french polish in nail enamel it won't chip and using the gel/acrylic allows it stay looking the same from one appointment to the next (providing correct aftercare is followed and infills/maintenance is carried out as recommended by the nail technician).
6.Glamour for everyday or a special occasion such as a wedding.

The pitfalls that can be avoided

An understanding of the potential pitfalls is important for the therapist so that the likelihood of them occurring is minimized. Complications can arise from bad technique on the part of the technician, inadequate aftercare advice and through client abuse - it is the therapist's duty to advise and educate the client on how to look after their nails correctly. Complications such as flaking nails or allergic reaction can nearly always be avoided if the therapist is well trained and the client is well advised on aftercare.

However, if complications are identified promptly and correctly treated they rarely present much of a problem.

3 nail extension systems

There are a number of advantages and disadvantages of each system. We have briefly summarized the main ones below. Generally therapists can offer a range of options to suit different client needs.

Fibreglass Nail Extensions - excellent for nail repair and strengthening, it is often called a nail wrap. It is less strong than other systems but quicker to remove and least likely to cause an allergic reaction.

UV curable acrylic nail extensions - easy to apply, strong and flexible. It is easy to remove but takes much longer than fibreglass. It is available as a liquid or powder.

UV curable gel nail extensions - this gives a very natural effect and is strong. It is generally seen as the easiest to apply but more difficult to remove.

Key steps in the application and maintenance of nail extensions

The therapist requires specific training that includes substantial practical demonstrations of the application followed by practice. Once qualified and skilled the therapist can apply individual creativity to the nail extension - jewels, motifs etc. There is a large range of beautiful nail decorations that can be used to enhance nail extensions.

Step 1 - Preparation

First, the nail treatment table and equipment is prepared with all the items suitably cleaned and sanitized.

Before any nail work there must be an inspection of the client's hands, looking for nail infections and contraindications. A suitable solution of antibacterial rinse-off gel must be used to cleanse the clients hands, which must be dried thoroughly.

Next all traces of nail varnish are removed, again checking for any nail problems and the cuticles are gently pushed back infections, trying to lift the cuticle off the nail plate.

Lecturers top tip:

Dehydrate the nail and remove surface oils to ensure the nail extension adheres properly. Applying nail solvent or nail preparation to the nail plate with lint free cotton wool or a cotton wool bud can do this effectively

Step 2 - Application of Nail Tip

This step is important and involves selection of the right nail tip, professional application and positioning on the nail plate. The nail tip is cut and the appropriate nail shaping takes place. The qualified nail therapist is trained on how to deal with different shape nails such as hook shape or misshapen nails.

Step 3 - Nail overlay Application

Application of the selected overlay  - fibreglass, UV acrylic or gel. Each system will vary in the application procedure. The main steps involve correct mixing of product, specific application movements, such as circular and even brushing and drying under a UV lamp for acrylic and gel although acrylic are non UV curable.  Training and following manufacturers instructions are necessary to achieve a good finish.

Step 4 - Completing the Treatment

Nails are shaped and filed using files and a block buffer.  The surface of gel products MUST NOT be filed unless stated on the manufacturers instructions, as this will cause scratching to the surface.  There should be application of nourishing oil and buffing to a high gloss shine although this is not always needed for high gloss finish gels.  Finally client should wash their hands and aftercare advice must be given.


The key point here is a 2 weekly maintenance check and application of infills where needed. Methods of doing this vary according to the system of nail extension used.

The natural nail can be strengthened and repaired by using the nail extension overlay as a ‘wrap'; wrapping is an effective nail repair technique.


Removal of artificial nail structures must be undertaken with care. It can be done by a therapist or at home. Plenty of time and advice must be given so that no damage is done to the natural nail. Time needed varies from 15-75 minutes and to allow the client to move around during this the therapist can advise on a range of tips such as the use of finger spa cups or foil to wrap around the nails. Again removal steps vary according to the type of nail extension used.


Aftercare advice must be given.
Most new nail extension clients are not used to having long nails and will need to be advised on how to look after them. Nail extensions are quite strong, withstanding reasonable wear and tear but that some care must be taken to keep them looking good.

In Carlton Institute training we go through a 10-point aftercare advise plan and a good phrase to use for clients to think about is that the nails are "jewels not tools"!

Further courses and further reading - our lecturers recommend

Nail training courses: The Carlton Institute or 01395-279968

Books : Marion Newman, The Complete Nail Technician, Published by Thomson learning, recommended by Habia . ISBN 9781844801398

HABIA. Health and safety pack for nail technicians. Useful for salon owners

Trade magazine: Scratch, published by Seed Publishing Ltd

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