How To Create Winning Competition Nails

Get ahead in nail competitions and transfer those same skills to your salon work! Nailpro Competitions Judge


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Product Application: Polished Nails

The thickness of the nails should be that of a business card, and the free edge length must be one-third of the nail bed. Visualize exactly how you want the set to look when finished and apply the acrylic as though it were finished. This will aid in the consistency of the nails and leave you with very little filing to do. Start by sculpting the polished set so you can get yourself warmed up for more precise smile lines on the second hand.

Step 1: Prep nails and then apply primer.

Step 2: Apply forms one at a time so you don’t have to worry about them shifting while you work on another nail. (I don’t recommend extending the nail beds unless your model doesn’t have long nail beds.)

Step 3: Mix the white acrylic with a natural shade of acrylic so that it still appears white, but the line of demarcation from the smile line doesn’t show through the polish. Apply the white acrylic in one ball.  Note: Don’t waste too much time perfecting smile lines here.

Step 4: Apply pink acrylic to the nail. Note: Practice achieving the right liquid-to-powder ratio. It’s important to have good product control, and this means no air bubbles. Nailpro judges will be looking closely for bubbles!

Step 5: Move to the next nail. Apply the form and white acrylic, and then go back to the first nail and press the C-curve.

Step 6: When you’re ready to press your C-curve, start by removing the form, and then either place a C-curve dowel under the free edge and gently pinch the free edge around the stick, or use a pinching tool, such as tweezers. I prefer the old school way of pressing with an even amount of pressure by placing the top of my thumbs just behind the smile line on both sides. Or try a technique used by world champion Tom Holcomb in Japan: When you’re pressing in the C-curve, push down instead of in and you won’t risk lifting the nail plate. Continue until all five nails are complete.

Step 7: Use acetone or soap and water to remove the oil and any dust from the hand.

Step 8: Apply an even layer of base coat to the nails.

Step 9: Apply one coat of red crème polish. Load the brush with polish and drain one side on the neck of the bottle. You don’t want to accidentally get polish into the cuticle – it’s almost impossible to completely remove it to the point that the judges won’t notice. Using your pinkie to steady your hand, place the brush about 1/8-inch from the cuticle on the nail surface and carefully push the polish brush up toward the cuticle to create a guide. Then stroke the polish down evenly and in one stroke.

Step 10: Repeat with two more strokes until the nail is covered. Add a fourth stroke if necessary. Pull the skin back at the sidewalls and completely cover the nails.

Step 11: Apply a second coat of polish in smooth, even strokes. Use long strokes, and don’t dab at the nail. Note: When applying the second coat, brush down over the free edge to completely cover it. Make sure all edges are covered but be sure not to get any polish on the undersides of the nails. Use exactly the same stroke on every single nail.

Step 12: Use your acrylic brush to clean up around the cuticle with acetone; this makes a perfect margin and cleans up any polish that may have splashed underneath the nail. Don’t let any polish touch the underside of the nail – it should be completely clean!

Step 13: Apply top coat. Instruct your model to hold up her hand and rest on her elbow. The polish will dry untouched while you shine the unpolished hand.

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Product Application: Pink-and-White Nails
When working on your pink-and-white nails, use two dappen dishes: one for the white powder and one for the pink. This keeps the pink from becoming cloudy. Pour only enough liquid in the dish to do one or two nails at a time.

Step 1: Apply the form. Apply the white product in one ball using a dryer consistency. Quickly press the product up into the corners on both sides to create a smile line. Don’t worry if it doesn’t get all the way up in the corners, you can fix that later—just make sure the smile line is sharp and in place. To make it really sharp, poke your brush down behind the product at the smile line while swiping.

Step 2: Make sure there is absolutely no white on the nail plate—it must be very clean. If necessary, place a tiny ball of product up in the corners of the smile line to make them sharp and complete. Note: Be sure that the top points of the smile line are completely even and the curvature of the smile line is the same on all five fingers. Be aware of the pressure that you apply with your brush. Many times I’ve seen smile lines that were consistent but leaned to one side on every nail because the technician was heavy handed on the right side.

Step 3: Place a medium consistency pink ball of acrylic directly behind the smile line and press it into place. Do not pull the pink product down over the white free edge because this clouds the tip. After it’s pressed into place, you can lightly stroke down toward the free edge with your brush to ensure smoothness.

Step 4: Place the next ball of medium consistency pink at the cuticle area. Be sure to completely cover the area leaving a tiny margin at the back. If you over liquefy the product here, it will just file off because ?it’s so thin in this area—and the judges will see that. The cuticle area must be completely covered with product.

Gently press your C-curve with tweezers or another pinching tool.

Step 5: If necessary, place a fourth pink ball of acrylic at the stress area, but be careful about? pulling it over the white tip. This one can have a? wet consistency.


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Filing Competition Nails

It’s best to use a new file for each nail, or at least every other nail; I find that using new files and buffers on each nail is important for consistency because the grit of your file changes every time you use it. Also, be sure to graduate grits when filing. Start with a lower grit file and work your way up to a high-shine buffer. To prepare your buffers, lay five shining buffers—green side down—onto your heating pad. The heating pad will warm the buffers and save you time and energy so you can create a marvelous shine—trust me.

Remember to always use a filing system. For example, file the sides of your nails, then file the other sides, and finish by filing the tips. Use the same pressure on each nail with your 100-grit file while keeping the file parallel to the finger and your wrist straight at all times.?

Step 1: Use a 100-grit file to shape the sidewalls and tips. Note: Don’t shape the nail surface with any grit lower than 150; this makes scratches that are hard to remove.

Step 2: File the surface of the nail with a 150- or 180-grit file. Start and stop at the same place on each nail and be sure to cover all surfaces with every file—not just the top of the nail. When filing the cuticle area, bring the product flush?with the nail plate without filing it off or filing into the natural nail. Turn the hand around and check your filing from the model’s perspective. Look for any high spots and check the nail from all angles for dips and bumps. The nail should graduate from thinness to thickness to thinness evenly, from cuticle to free edge and sidewall to sidewall.?

Step 3: Apply a light coat of cuticle oil?and rub it into the cuticles and enhancements.?

Step 4: Use a finishing stick buffer with a thick foam center to buff all surfaces of the nails with the 240-grit side, then flip it over and cover all surfaces using the 280-grit side.?

Step 5: Remove any dust and debris from your client’s hand.

Step 6: Using a shining block buffer with both green and white sides, buff each nail with? the green side of your shining block. Then after each nail, place the white ?side of the block back on the heating pad. High shine each nail with the white side of the buffer. Be sure to cover every surface: the sides, cuticles and all edges. As a judge, nothing says novice like a finished nail that has only been shined on the top surface.

Step 7: Use soap and water to clean every nail and remove any traces of dust. When you’re finished, check to make sure there is no dust residue. Done!  –Carla Collier

Now start competing! If you’re new to competing, be sure to enter

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