As a certified nail tech I get so many questions relating to artificial nails.
What's better, gel or acrylic?
Do they damage my nails?
How do I take them off?
You asked 'em, I'll answer 'em!
First the big one! What's better, gel or acrylic?
Neither? Both? It's not a matter of what's better, it's a matter of what suits you better. They both have their pros and cons.
Just to clear something up, they're both considered "acrylic". Since the products both cure to plastic, they are both considered acrylic. The main difference is Gel is just that, a Gel. They MUST be UV cured (that funny little lamp), and Acrylic are a powder mixed with a liquid. A polymer and a monomer. They traditionally air dry, but sometimes they will need a UV lamp to cure.
Liquid/Powder Acrylic is stronger, with less give. They can be thinner while remaining stronger. I personally prefer liquid/powder acrylic. I find they don't lift as easy, and they don't break as easy.
Gel has more give, it's more flexible, and it's shiny. Liquid/powder will cure to a matte or dull finish while gel will be like a nail polish top coat. Which is why you're very likely to find a gel overlay on top of liquid/powder.
If you have your hands in water more, I would suggest gel. If you are hard on your hands, like myself, always smashing them into things, typing on a keyboard a lot, I would suggest liquid/powder acrylic. It's all up to personal preference.
Will they damage my natural nails?
Yes and No.
In order to have the acrylic stick to your natural nail you must remove the natural shine and oils. This is typically done by scuffing up the surface and spraying with alcohol. This can cause the natural nail to be thin, and more likely to break when the artificial nail is removed.
A poorly trained tech will over file, often using a nail machine, causing damage to the natural nail, and even worse the nail bed. If you ever feel heat or pain when getting your nails know, let the tech know right away! They should be aware they are doing it. If no one ever tells them, they'll never know, right?
Typically the nail doesn't need to be scuffed up any more than what a regular nail file would do to the nail.
If done correctly there will be no permanent damage done to the nail or nail bed.
How do I remove the nails?
There's two ways to remove artificial nails. First is the soak off method, this only applies to soakable gels and liquid/powder acrylics. Not all gels can be removed by soaking them, so you need to make sure you're aware of the type of nail you have.
The easiest way to soak off artificial nails is by putting a fair amount of acetone on a cotton ball, and placing it on the nail, then wrap the cotton ball and nail up in tin foil. Let it sit for 10-15 mins. After you've let it sit, most of the acrylic should either peel or slide right off. You can use an orangewood stick to remove any sticky acetone-y acrylic.
You will need to file off any un-soakable gel or top coat first before doing this. Acetone is very drying, so make sure you have some cuticle oil on hand for afterwards.
The second way you can remove artificial nails is by filing them down. This is the method I recommend, it's very time consuming but you don't damage your natural nail, and you don't dry out your cuticles with acetone.
The worst WORST WORST! thing you can do is rip the nails off. I see so many girls doing this, either by biting them off (yuck!) or picking them off. This will not only destroy what little bit of natural nail you had left, but can cause permanent damage to your nail bed.
How long do they last?
The amount of time they will last all depends on the speed of your nail growth. Nails are made of the same stuff your hair is made out of, so if you notice your hair grows fast, there's a good chance you nails will grow fast as well. Typically a fill should happen after 4-6 weeks, but if you feel you need one sooner get it done!
Why do fills cost so much?
I hear this one a lot! Fills often run $5-$15 less than the original set. The reason they cost so much is because it's a lot of work to fill the nail. You need to blend the original artificial nail in so you don't get that awful line, you need to re-do the french tip (if you have that done), you need to reshape, and re-do any overlay.
What can I do to make my manicure last longer?
Avoid doing anything too physical with your hands, they're meant for the more delicate woman, not a construction worker. Not only will you most likely chip or lose a nail, you risk ripping them right off, and that's painful!
Avoid using chemicals, especially anything corrosive. If you plan on doing a lot of cleaning, wear gloves! Even using nail polish remover will damage your nails. Most nail polish remover is acetone based, and even with an un-soakable gel over top, you can still wreck the manicure. It can cause the shine to dull.
Avoid sun tanning! This can cause a lot of different types of nails to turn yellow.if you insist on tanning, leave your hands out or cover them up. Yeah it sounds stupid, but not as stupid as walking around yellow nails.
Key words! There's some words you'll hear people say when talking about artificial nails:
Lifting - This is when the acrylic (or gel) has been placed too close to the cuticle or side wall of the nail. As the nail grows out the part that over laps your skin will create air pockets or bubbles, which will literally lift the artificial nail right off your natural nail.
French Tip - A classic french tip or french manicure will have the free edge (the part that is not connected to your finger) painted white.
Nail Bed - the pink part under your fingernail that holds it down. If you injure this sensitive
tissue, you can cause irreversible damage. Such as scarring.
I hope that helps answer some questions. If you have any other questions feel free to shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org
Here's a couple videos I put up about taking care of your nails.