Gel overlays are used when a client already has her own nails, but would like to protect them. A gel overlay allows her to strengthen and beautify her nails, as well as wear them at a longer length than she could on her own. However, when she first arrives, her nails are not all the same length -or even shape for that matter - but of course you will need to make them all match before she leaves .The last thing this client will ever want you to do is to cut her natural nails down - she will usually expect you to lengthen the short nails, vs. shorten the long ones.
Applying tips with these clients is usually not an option, as it will require you to shorten and shape her nail to match the tip. And a tip is usually overkill, since the amount of length being added is usually small. The disadvantages of tips (shortening natural nail, adhesive breakdown and tip separation in the future, her perception of tips as "fake") outweigh any advantages, so the best option is to overlay and extend (where needed) the natural nails with a clear gel. Even for those nails that do not need length added, the form will help to completely encapsulate the natural nail with gel, which will give better wearability and function.
The following "Full-Set with Clear Gel" method can be used for "transfers"*, full-sets, natural nail overlays, or fill-ins with major service breakdown! (*Transfers from acrylic to gel or from one tech to another)
- If acrylic is in bad shape, then soak off completely and start fresh with a full-set. Note: the natural nails underneath may be very fragile and in bad condition, if so, then it is best to cut off any damaged free-edge, as gel does not adhere as well to damaged nails as it does to healthy ones. If she is dead-set on keeping the nails underneath, then do so, but warn her that she may need fills more often until the nails grow out. Note: Whenever possible, try to do a soak-off of acrylic a week in advance of gel application (or even a day helps). If that is not possible, then be sure to remove as much of the old acrylic and remover solvent as possible from the nail bed.
- If the acrylic (or gel from an unknown source) is in good shape, with no lifting, then file the old product to a thin layer, and apply gel over it. If there is some minor lifting, you must file those areas until they are flush and have no more lifting present.
- Pre-service and prep natural nails as usual AND/OR file off some or most of old product as needed; file entire nail thin and flush. Be careful to NOT file on the natural nail.
- If you are doing a natural nail overlay (with or with out extension), be sure to remove shine from all parts of the nail, including the side-wall area. Pay special attention to the cuticle area.
- If you are doing a transfer of acrylic to gel you have 2 options:
- Do rest of prep work (dust, prime, etc), apply forms. (Do not shorten her natural nails or "even" them out. Keep as much of each natural nail free edge as you can, you will "even" them up with the gel as needed.)
- Apply a thin coat of gel on entire nail and slightly out onto form. Cure. (See previous gel nail lessons for more detailed gel application methods.) If you need to actually build a SHORT free edge, draw a box with a line of gel from one sidewall straight out to length desired and back down to meet other sidewall, then "pull" gel back and forth to fill in box thinly. Cure.
- OPTIONAL: Lay down fiber from mid nail bed out past free edge onto form (to help "hold" the slight extension, and to reinforce stress zone of the nail to help prevent future breakage-- see section on adding fiber for details). Pat fiber in till "gone". Cure.
- Lay down coat #2 of gel, over entire nail again and out onto form as in first coat. Add slight arching and top "C" curve (convex)for strength, beauty, and natural look, by using "ribbon" or "tail" method with "thin" gel (described in detail in Gel Terms and Techniques) or building it with builder gels (depends on the brand gel you use!). Cure.
- Remove forms. Apply 3rd coat of gel (final coat usually in a full set, some techs need to use more coats though if they lay down their gel too thin),with more arching as needed. Cure.
- Cure upside down one cycle. Cleanse nails.
- Use straight edge toe nail clippers to clip off any "stray" gel to make free edge shape, and sidewalls straight, or file by hand.
- Shape and finish nails as usual, shape free edge, perfect sidewall taper, bevel cuticle, sidewalls and free edge, adjust top surface arches etc, use drill for concave of "C" curve as needed (the underside of nail if gel seeped under forms), buff till smooth as you would any acrylic nail.
- Buff out and polish, or buff out and gloss coat if preferred.
- Post-service as usual.