Sure, they’re tacky, but fake nails – particularly those adorned with faux jewels or airbrushed designs – are hot, and their sales are rising, according to Women’s Wear Daily.
Fake nails come in three basic forms: acrylic, gel, and silk or fiberglass-wrap.
Acrylic nails, the most popular, involve a four-step process of cleanser, primer, then liquid and powder acrylic. Dental research led to the chemistry behind acrylic nails, which revolutionized the artificial-nail industry when they came onto the scene 25 years ago.
The cleanser removes all oils from the nail so the chemicals will stick, according to Annie Trecker, supervisor of Nails Now! in Dallas. The primer is most often an etching substance that removes some of the nail surface to make it rough and porous, which also helps the chemicals adhere.
To get the right shape, the nail technician may apply a nail tip and then combine the acrylic liquid and powder on top.
The other option is a sculpture, in which the tech will place a sticker around the fingernail being set. The sticker allows the nail to show through and provides a surface on which the acrylic can set. It also lets the tech shape a rounder or flatter fake nail and adjust a nail that’s too wide or too narrow for the standard-sized tips.
The sculpture is more durable, which may not be a good thing. “(With a nail tip), if you hit the nail, the tip will come off easier,” says Rita Lewis of Spud’s Network Hair Salon in Dallas. “With the sculpt, your whole nail could be in trouble if you hit it too hard.”
You could spend 20 minutes to two hours having artificial nails acrylic or any other type applied. It depends on how leisurely the client wants her appointment to be and how experienced the nail tech is, says Trecker of Nails Now!
“One of the setbacks is that some people may have an allergic reaction,” Trecker says. She emphasizes that acrylic nails do not cause allergies, nor do they cause the fungus and mold that sometimes develops under a fake nail.
“You can’t blame it on the acrylic because it has to do with the person’s neglect of the nail,” she says. Mold occurs when water seeps into cracks in the nail, and fungus may spring up if you hit or otherwise traumatize your nail. If a fungus goes untreated, it can cause you to lose your entire nail.
Gel nails, the rarest of the fakes, are made from a pre-mixed chemical that is painted on the way polish is and then hardened under an ultraviolet lamp. The price range is about the same as for acrylics, as is the maintenance.
“There are less chemicals being applied on the nail, so gel works better for someone who might have allergies,” Trecker says. Some nail techs chemically etch the nail first, but others just cleanse it with alcohol before applying the gel.
Technicians are likely to be very meticulous in applying gel nails because the gel is so runny, Trecker says. The process involves application of three layers and hardening each one under the UV lamp.