TERMS & TECHNOLOGY: GEL SYSTEMS
A nail tech’s guide to common gel systems, terms & technology.
Did you know that traditional acrylic nail systems and gel nail systems come from the same family tree? Yes, that’s right! Both systems stem from Acrylate. Both systems contain monomers and both systems require energy to promote a chemical reaction. Although the chemistry is different, there are similarities to these enhancement products.
LET’S FIRST POINT OUT THE MYTHS
Acrylics are Chemicals and Gels are Not
This myth probably stemmed from the fact that acrylic liquid releases an odor and gels do not. Monomer’s odor is directly related to the evaporation rate of a particular ingredient (vapor caused by evaporation releases the odor). Gels do not have an evaporation rate, so there is no odor. Both Acrylic and Gels are Chemicals.
Gel products do not contain acrylic chemicals
Nothing can be further from the truth. Acrylate, is the main chemical in both products and is part of the word that forms acrylic. They are in FACT both acrylic. Acrylic powders are referred to as Meth-Acrylate and gels are referred to as Urethane Acrylate.
When gels were first introduced into the nail industry in the mid 80’s, the goal was to create a strong and durable enhancement parallel to acrylic, with a glossy, hard finish. The urethane acrylate oligomer base, chosen to create these gels, had a tight molecular structure, resulting in a lower molecular weight (meaning they feel lighter). This made them highly resistant to solvents (meaning that they don’t soak off).
WHAT ARE OLIGOMERS
Oligomers are short preformed chains of monomer that make up the chemistry of gels. The monomers in gel are already linked to form these chains. They are pre mixed for you so there is no mix ratio that you need to worry about. This also makes it quicker to cure with a UV or LED lamp in comparison to traditional acrylics needing up to 48 hours to fully harden.
UV and LED lights are the energy source needed for Photo Initiators (PI) to generate the free radicals for the curing process. In general, the more PI’s there are in a formula, the faster the cure. It is often, during this time of curing that heat spikes can be generated. The heat spikes come from the PI’s as they are creating energy while hardening.
It is very important for technicians to apply the gel in thin layers and do more layers to build up the proper enhancement, instead of one thick layer. It is also important to note that thick layers allow less light to reach the bottom layers, resulting in service breakdown and undercured product.
Using the proper photo initiators and the correct amount for a UV or LED gel are two of the most difficult tasks facing NSI scientists who formulate these types of products. Three of the most important factors in UV and LED curing are:
· A proper balance between the photo initiators and nail lamp.
· The intensity and the spectrum of available UV or LED light.
· The duration of the light exposure.
Oligomer – The backbone of gel chemistry is the urethane acrylate oligomer. It’s a short, pre-formed chain of individual monomers. In light-cured materials, urethane acrylate oligomers offer superior toughness and scratch resistance. They are the base for all gel and play a crucial role in determining the gel’s working properties, including how they are removed.
Gel Powder – In plain terms, it is acrylic powder used with a resin based dipping system. Some manufacturers advertise dip systems in this way to imply to customers it is a “healthy” alternative to gel polish.
UV/LED Gels – An oligomer-based nail product that requires UV/LED energy to cure. UV gels give the technician unlimited working time prior to curing in a UV/LED lamp. They are tough and durable, so suitable for virtually any type of service, including natural nail overlay, tip and overlay, or sculpting on a form. They are solvent resistant, so they must be filed off for removal.
Hard Gels – This is another name that describes a traditional gel enhancement that is solvent resistant. “Hard” may refer to the gel being non-porous and needing to be filed off for removal. Hard gels are sculpting gels and they can come in many different viscosities (meaning thicknesses). Hard gels cannot be soaked off, they must be filed off to remove.
Soft Gels or Removable Gels – These gels are an easy to remove alternative to traditional hard gels. Removable gels maintain many of the same characteristics of traditional hard gels, with the addition that they can be soaked off in Acetone to remove. Don’t let the word “removable” or “soft” give you the impression that they are not strong – Some removable gels are strong enough to use for sculpting enhancements.
Gel Polish – This term refers to a system of thin, light weight light-cured gels that are a longer lasting alternative to traditional air dry nail polish. Gel polish does add a slight layer of strength and protection to the natural nail but they cannot be used to sculpt with. Gel Polishes tend to last up to two weeks, and can be removed by soaking in Acetone. Gel Polish is traditionally packaged in a nail polish bottle that is completely opaque due to it’s light curability.
Gel Colour – Defined as a heavily-pigmented pure gel (without the presence of solvents) used for nail art or to cover the entire nail enhancement with colour. They can be used over either traditional acrylic or gel enhancements. Colour gels are traditionally packaged in a pot, rather than a polish bottle. This can be a distinguishing factor from a close relative: gel polish.
TERMS & TECHNOLOGY: ACRYLIC SYSTEMS
A nail tech’s guide to common acrylic system terms & technology.
With the popularity of acrylic nails and acrylic products available on the market today, it’s important to know exactly what you are buying. As the demand for nail enhancements grow in salons today, they have moved from just a salon service, to a hot commodity. Acrylic nail systems have existed for years, and helped kickstart the industry, thus really put nail enhancements on the map.
THE HISTORY OF ACRYLIC NAILS
Nail enhancements have been used since the mid to late 1950s when the first experiments used dental products to form an artificial nail. Of course, in the beginning, acrylic nails weren’t so wonderful, as they are today.
IN FACT: NSI and specifically the Slack family, have been proven pioneers in product innovation and techniques. NSI has been at the forefront of creating innovative professional only enhancement products. Our first product branded was Choice Liquid & Powder System.
NOT ALL PRODUCTS ARE ALIKE
A popular myth is that all acrylic products are alike. Some manufacturers of less expensive items promote their acrylic products as the same as the more expensive brands. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Inexpensive products use basic formulas with a minimal amount of specialized ingredients. Special additives, such as flow modifiers, catalysts, and wetting agents increase performance and workability. They also can increase cost dramatically.
Online 3rd party retailers such as Amazon, Ebay and Alibaba are home to where a lot of these off brand products are sold and distributed. But don’t be fooled. There are also risks included in buying name brand products from these sites. A number of acrylic manufacturers, including NSI, discourage purchasing their products from these sites because of risk of product contamination, 2nd hand product, and even counterfeit products. A good practice for buying any nail product is to go to an authorized distributor or purchasing directly from the manufacturer.
Monomer: The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines monomer as “a simple chemical compound that can be polymerized.” In the nail industry, it is the term for nail liquid used when creating acrylic nails. There are different types of monomers and the most commonly used are EMA-based (ethyl methacrylate) monomers.
STAY AWAY FROM MMA NAIL LIQUID
The use of Methyl Methacrylate (MMA) (monomer un-polymerized liquid) is prohibited in the nail industry because it results in hard, polymerized solid plastic, which is considered too hard for nail systems. MMA monomer has been restricted for use in the nail industry since the mid 1970s. Although banned, this product is still being used in some non-standard salons because of its cost being significantly less than that of EMA-based monomers.
Polymer: The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines polymer as “a chemical compound formed by union of small molecules and usually consisting of repeating structural units”. In the nail industry, this term is used for nail powder.
Light-Cured Acrylic: Similar to traditional acrylic nails, this two part system consists of nail liquid (monomer) with nail powder (polymer). The difference being that this product cures with a UV lamp. The set-up time for light-cured acrylic is much slower than traditional acrylic and the products can be quite difficult to work with.
Odor-Free Acrylic: This type of liquid evaporates very slowly, creating little vapor (hence, undetectable odor). It can be difficult to work with, and requires a dry mix ratio. Because Odor-Free liquids set up very slow, a specific technique to application is required. NSI Spa Nail Liquid is a great odor-free monomer that creates beautiful nail enhancements when used with the NSI acrylic nail powders.
HEMA-Free (Sensitive) Acrylic: Hydroxy Ethyl Methacrylate (HEMA) is added to many monomers to promote adhesion of the enhancement to the natural nail. Most of the allergic reactions are caused by the HEMA in nail enhancement products. Although HEMA is mostly found in monomer, gels do contain small amounts of HEMA as well. NSI does have a HEMA-Free nail liquid, Universal Nail Liquid, for clients that experience sensitivity issues.
Primerless Acrylic: With Primerless nail liquids, you can eliminate the use of a nail primer and still create strong, beautiful acrylic nails. A medium wet mix ratio is required. The consistency will be a creamier texture because of added HEMA, and will result in a slower cure time for great for art and adhesion. Secrets Primerless Liquid works beautifully with any NSI acrylic powder to create beautiful enhancements and nail art.
Gels are better for the natural nails than acrylics.
This could not be further from the truth. Enhancement products do not damage nails, it is what nail technicians do in the application of enhancements, or clients improper home removal that damages the nail. It is the job of a professional nail technician to maintain the health of the clients’ nails.
Acrylic nail enhancements are stronger than gels.
No. This is not true! With any enhancement system, it is important to have a well balanced nail enhancement, this can be achieved with both acrylic nails and with gel nails, they are both tough.
I can use any company’s monomer with any polymer I buy.
This is not true. High quality acrylic systems are sold as just that, a system. These products have been formulated so that they all work together properly, and won’t always work when mixed with other product. When you begin to mix different products from different manufacturers you can end up with faster enhancement breakdown, improper mix ratios and many more potential problems.
Here at NSI, we have our own lab and scientists that work endlessly to produce high quality products that are then tested by nail techs around the world. NSI is a product driven company that will always continue to produce high quality products for their consumers around the world.
We're almost there but there's still a few days left to order before we close for Christmas!
All orders placed before 1pm on Thursday 23rd December are guaranteed to be dispatched before we close for Christmas. Unfortunately DPD and Royal Mail have been experiencing delays in some areas and although most orders are being delivered next day we are unable to guarantee this so if you do require stock, we would recommend placing your order as soon as possible.
Christmas Opening Times.
The NSI head office, mail order phone lines and Cash and Carry will close for the Christmas and New Year holiday on Thursday 23rd December at 5pm and reopen on Tuesday 4th January 2022. Any orders placed online after we close on the 23rd December will be dispatched when we return.
The whole NSI team would like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Thank you for your custom in 2021 and we look forward to serving you in 2022.
Rubber Base Step by Step
1. After preparing the nail and applying a form, apply Essential Bond and allow to dry for one minute.
2. Using your chosen Rubber Base colour, place the gel near the cuticle line allowing room for your margin and pull the product forward towards the free edge. Be sure to cover the body of the nail with a thin even coverage of the gel. Cure in the Dual Cure Lamp, LED for 60 seconds or UV for 2 minutes. Do not remove the tacky dispersion layer after curing.
3. Apply a second thin coat of Rubber Base. Be sure to cover the body of the enhancement with a thin even coverage of the gel. Cure for 60 seconds (LED) or 2 minutes (UV). Do not remove the tacky dispersion layer.
4. Check the nail to ensure proper apex placement. To reinforce the structure of the enhancement apply a small amount of Rubber Base to the upper arch. Cure for 60 seconds (LED) or 2 minutes (UV). Remove the tacky dispersion layer using NSI Cleanse on a nail wipe.
5. Use your NSI Combo 180 Grit Buffer to file and refine the nails until smooth and balanced. Remove excess dust with your Lush Brush and wipe with NSI Cleanse to remove any dust that may be hiding in the side walls.
6. At this stage you can create nail art, apply full colour with Polish Pro or simply finish with your chosen top coat (Glaze ‘n Go, Essential Seal or FlexiGloss) then condition the cuticle and skin with Nurture Oil.
Social media is an element of driving traffic to your service, whether you are a mobile nail technician or a salon owner, in today’s era it is a simple and effective way of increasing your marketing efforts. Whether you are just about to set up your social media or are looking to grow your social media presence, we have listed out a few tips to help you along the way. Hopefully these tips will help you keep on track with your social media profile. Being a nail technician, as well as having the skills to create amazing sets it’s just as important for you to have the ability to promote and market yourself.
1. Offering Valuable Content
The most common use of social media is using it as an online portfolio to show your work, but there are other types of content you could be delivering to raise awareness of your brand and to connect with your target market efficiently. Document your progress in your nail career, talk about that in your captions as you post. By sharing your nail journey, your followers learn more about you as a person and it builds a level of trust with them, as well as inspiring others. Keeping content varied will help keep your clients engaged and make a stronger social media profile. Once in a while, a feel good post can engage your customers and you can use specific quotes or pictures that you feel defines your brand.
The bio on social media profiles is an element which often can be overlooked. When people land on your page for the first time, the bio is one of the first things they will see. It’s important to make sure your bio is easy to read and points out exactly what you offer. In an attempt to attract new followers, you can entice them to like you on Facebook or Instagram by offering 10% off their next visit, by providing exclusive vouchers, it’s a good way of attracting new followers. Another way is by encouraging your existing clients to leave a review on Facebook and to take pictures online and share them with their followers. By reinforcing positive reviews on your social media, you are connecting with potential clients on an understanding level.
It is recommended that you stick with hashtags with a million or less posts in that category. It will be highly competitive if you use a common hashtag, therefore making it difficult for your posts to reach out to more people. You will find it easy to copy and paste the same hashtags and use them for every single one of your posts. However, there is a chance that Instagram sees this as spam content which may affect how many people see your photos and videos. Avoid using the same hashtags for every single instagram post. By using the right hashtags for your photos and videos, it will increase your reach to more potential clients who will discover, like, and engage with your posts. Using hashtags is a good way to point out your location. Your target clients in your city are within reach if you just find the right hashtags to connect with them. E.g. if your salon is located in Manchester, make sure you use the hashtags related to your city #manchester #citycentre
The Highlight section on instagram is the best way to provide new customers with more information about your services. Here is an example of some highlights you could create:
- Price List
- Behind The Scenes
- Before & After
Top Tip: Organise your popular set of nails into highlight stories. This will show new clients what you specialise in and it’s easy for the client to identify whether their needs will be matched by using your services. In a similar way,, you can use Facebook albums as a way of categorising your popular treatments/sets of nails.
2. First impression always count - layout
One important aspect of your social media profiles is the design element. When a prospecting client sees your social media, your facebook header and instagram feed will be the first element they will see, and we all know first impression is key. In essence, your social media reflects the standards you have set for your business. You don’t have to be a design pro to make your social media look professional and visually impressive. There are many tools out there which enable you to do so with ease. I would highly recommend Canva, as a great platform in editing graphics for your posts. You can find set dimensions for various social media profiles. Pinterest is also ideal for you to look for aesthetic layouts for your Instagram, you can choose a theme and recreate it using Canva.
Top Tip: Match the colour tones of your posts with the decor of your salon, this keeps your social media to look consistent and fits in with your brand. For example, if your salon has a young, fun, modern feel, your posts should match this tone. On the other hand if your brand has more of a vintage, old school theme you may consider posting pictures that follow this idea. Keep it consistent!
3. Scheduling your social media posts
The working life of a nail technician is a very busy one and it can be challenging to find the time to post regularly. There are tools out there which allow you to schedule Facebook and Instagram posts in advance like Hootsuite and Buffer. By using these scheduling systems, not only will this save you time but will also keep your social media profiles to look more consistent. For posts which you would want to post there and then, it’s best to use the story features on Facebook or Instagram. For posts which you would want to post there and then, it’s best to use the story features on Facebook or Instagram. To keep things natural and ‘right at the moment’ feel.
Top Tip: Research or track the best times which work well for you. By scheduling, you have control in changing the times you post one week and on another week. From there, you can see what works best for you and which times do your posts receive the most engagement.
Hopefully this post has introduced you to some new tactics and will help you utilise social media to its fullest ability for marketing your salon.
Everyone at NSI wishes you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Thank you for your custom throughout this year. We look forward to serving you in 2021.
[Christmas Opening Hours] - Phone lines and Manchester Cash & Carry
We will close for business on Thursday 24th December at 12:30pm.
We will re-open as normal on Monday 4th January 2020 from 8:30am - 5pm.
You can still order online over the Christmas period. Please note any online orders placed over Christmas will be dispatched on Monday 4th January 2020.
Royal Mail Services: If you are choosing 1st class delivery at the checkout, due to resourcing issues at Royal Mail, deliveries in selected areas are likely to be limited for the rest of this week. You may experience a delay in receiving your order. Please check services in your local area. Other delivery options are operating as normal.
Christmas Delivery Dates:
To guarantee your delivery arrives before Christmas, please place your order no later than 1pm on
For Customers: Monday 21st December. Orders will be dispatched until 24th December.
For Distributors: Friday 18th December
For Colleges/Student Kits: Tuesday 15th December