How to Handle Extra-Long Nail Enhancements

Although some techs will never encounter a client who requests nails with free edges that are longer than an inch, many of you may already have returning clients with extra-long nails. Here’s what you should know before taking on such lengthy talons:

My First Long Enhancement Client
My own experience with a client’s request for a long nail fill required plenty of patience, some extra time scheduled on the appointment book and a bit of help from the client. Tami had her nails done by another tech for nearly seven years; when her tech moved, I was the next best nail tech in town to tackle taking care of her nails. I didn’t receive much warning, simply a quick summary from her tech of what I had to look forward to and a five-minute overview of how to take care of a broken nail and how to do the fill. Needless to say, I immediately forgot all of this information due to my panicked reaction when I saw Tami’s 3-inch-long free edges. I thought to myself, “No way am I taking this client on!” Turns out that mastering the technique wasn’t so bad after all, and Tami has been a favorite client of mine for nearly two years.

Of course, I hope that you aren’t put in the position of having to learn this service in five minutes flat, as I was. Use this article as your guide, and read on to prepare yourself for building and maintaining long nail enhancements.
The Long Full Set
When you apply a full set of lengthy nails, you want the free edge to be as long as possible by either sculpting or using tips. Use your own judgment by looking at the length of the client’s nail beds. You should also know the client’s activity levels to determine the final nail length. Free edge length shouldn’t start out any longer than the nail bed’s length. After applying this initial set, you can allow the nails to grow longer because they need the natural nail for strength.

Also factor in the client’s personal preference. If she demands to have her enhancements lengthened beyond what you recommend professionally, by all means forge ahead. However, remind the client that your work cannot be guaranteed if the client chooses to disregard your recommendation.

“For the most part, clients are willing to take my recommendations and start off with shorter nails and grow into them,” says Jerry M. Garcia Jr., Beauty Brands Salon & Spa, Gilbert, Arizona. “These are the clients who have a better success rate with their nails and are able to take better care of them.”

Some manufacturers make extra-long tips; however, you can glue multiple tips together by overlapping them to create an extremely long nail. You can glue the tips together before the service if you know the client’s tip sizes, or you can glue them while the client is present. Factor in the time you spend and charge accordingly.

The type of tips you use for this service is strictly personal preference. I’ve found that full-well tips work best when using the overlapping method because the previous tip fits nicely into the well of the next tip. Use the same amount of glue to adhere the tips to each other as you would when applying tips to the natural nail. Double-check the undersides of the tips. Fill in gaps and seams with a small amount of product for added strength.

Garcia’s trick for using tips for lengthy enhancements: “When I did the longest set of nails a client ever requested from me, I simply filed off the tip’s size number.”

Long nails can be sculpted, but I personally find it difficult—especially if your client wants her enhancements longer than the form allows. You can stick multiple forms together to create a longer form for the final nail length. Again, this choice can be made based on personal preference.

Additional product is definitely needed when doing a long full set. The additional length of a longer free edge creates a need for added strength over the entire nail to prevent cracking and breaking. My rule of thumb is to use about double the amount of product for extra-long nails.
The Long Fill
I book an extra half-hour for long nail fills because, more often than not, my clients’ nails will have hairline cracks that need repairing, which takes time. Additionally, I liken long nails to hair: They both need to be trimmed every once in a while to shape them up or even them out. You’ll find that your client might need her nails shortened every few weeks, so allot time for this as well.

You may need to book an extra half-hour to an hour if you have to remove polish and reapply it. Fortunately for me, my long-nailed client takes her polish off before she visits me and polishes them herself at home after she leaves my salon. If you feel this is a reasonable request, ask your client to help you by removing polish before she comes in for her service. However, if you have to remove polish, be forewarned: The  process is messy. I suggest wearing gloves and using pure acetone. As long as you aren’t soaking the enhancements in pure acetone, it’s perfectly OK to use it in place of polish remover. It’s actually much quicker, neater and more efficient.

The most important aspect of filling long nails is to add more acrylic to the stress area to maintain the curve and strength of the enhancement, which aids in the prevention of cracks and breakage. I always apply the product twice as thickly as I normally would.

As the enhancements grow out, the natural nails become the new foundation for the enhancement. Remember that if this client is going to continue to grow her nails extraordinarily long, her natural nails will eventually be the only support under the product. Therefore, you need to check the status of the undersides at every appointment. Look for potential problems such as natural nail separation from the product and hairline cracks.

The Long Backfill
Although backfills are difficult and time-consuming with extra-long nails, the service is possible. Perform the backfill as you normally would. I file down the entire tip when doing a backfill and reapply the product. However, to save time when doing long nails, you can file out the new smile line, reapply product and blend the new product in with the old product. It will take you an extra half-hour or so for this service and you should price accordingly. “Doing backfills on extreme nails can be pretty time-consuming, but well worth it for your client,” says Garcia.
Extra-long nails are prone to cracks and breakage. For clients whose nails naturally curve, fractures occur even more frequently—especially when coated with acrylic. As the nail grows out and curves or twists, the acrylic stays rigid. Gel, which tends to be more flexible, may be a better enhancement product choice for these particular clients.

If the nail cracks: Using a backfill bit, file out a groove across the crack until you get all the way through the crack.

Using a large-barrel bit, file a wider well across the crack. You can also hand-file across the crack.

Apply fresh product, building the nail back up to its original height. The more new product you apply over and around this fracture, the better reinforced it will be.

If the nail breaks: Nail breakage is more tragic with extra-long nails because months’—if not years’—worth of growth is interrupted. If the nail completely breaks off and your client saves the nail, you can easily glue it back into place by gluing the broken edges back together with a small amount of glue. Follow the nail-crack repair directions above and mend the crack.

If the client didn’t bring the broken portion of the nail for you to glue, file down the tip of the free edge, apply a new tip or multiple tips glued together, and do an overlay. Apply a small amount of product to the underside along the seam for added strength.

If you decide not to use a tip, use a form, applying it to the underside of the nail upside-down, and sculpt to extend the nail’s length. The form sticks to the underside of the nail rather than the finger.

Client Knowledge
You’ve invested time in creating these lengthy nails, and you want your clients to maintain them properly. Usually, clients who request this service have worn their nails long for a while and won’t need any additional coaching on how to deal with the nails. These clients already use pencils to push buttons and have discovered that knuckles can aid in most finger functions. These women have adapted to their nails, and their nails have adapted to them.

Nail lengths change like hemlines. Even if you currently don’t have any clients who wear their nails extra-long, you should prepare yourself for the possibility. If Tami had walked into my salon and asked for a fill, I would have taken a look at her nails and turned her away, as some of you may have already done. You don’t need to “specialize” in extra-long nails, nor do you need any supplies or skills that you don’t already have. Just arm yourself with extra time and an open mind.  

-Jill Iannucci 

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