Acrylic Nails | Everything You Need to Know Before Taking the Plunge

Are you considering getting acrylic nails? Before making a hasty appointment, let me guide you through everything you must know about them. It’s vital to understand every aspect of acrylic nails to ensure their proper application, maintenance, and removal.

As a nail technician for many years, I will ensure this article will make you enter that salon with the appropriate knowledge and leave with flawless fingertips. 

So, let’s dive into the world of acrylic nails.

What are acrylic nails?

Acrylic nails are a type of artificial nail made from a liquid and powder combination that hardens into a durable coating over your natural nails.

Types of acrylic nail systems

These include liquid and powder acrylic, sculpting acrylic, and dipping acrylic.

Liquid monomer combined with acrylic polymer powder creates a versatile product for nail artistry that can be customized depending on the desired style or effect. 

Liquid and powder acrylic 

This method involves mixing a liquid monomer with a polymer powder, creating a molding paste.

Sculpting acrylic 

Sculpting acrylic nails is a tricky process that requires skill and precision, transforming ordinary nails into stunning works of beauty. 

Nail technicians begin by applying a mixture of polymer powder and liquid monomers to your natural nail surface, sculpting it into the desired shape and length using a brush or another tool.

Dipping acrylic 

Dipping acrylic nails, also called dip manicures, offer a unique alternative to traditional liquid and powder systems. This technique involves applying a base coat to the nail and dipping it into a jar of colored acrylic powder. For an in-depth look at dip nails check out our article on Dip Manicure: Your Guide to Flawless Nails.

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Comparison of different acrylic nail types

Liquid and powder acrylic is the most common type, providing a strong and durable finish.

I’ve noticed that sculpting acrylic creates a more natural-looking shape for your nails while dipping acrylic offers a faster application process with less odor.

Prepping for getting acrylic nails

I must take care of my nails and thoroughly research before heading to the nail salon. Remember, your designs will last just as well as your nail prep. 

Nail care before your appointment 

Before heading to the salon, ensure your cuticles are pushed back, and any hangnails are trimmed. 

Why sanitization is so important

Before getting acrylic nails, make sure your technician properly sterilizes their tools. They should also wash their hands thoroughly before starting the service. 

Additionally, it’s essential to sanitize your natural nails by cleaning them with rubbing alcohol or an antiseptic solution.

Choosing the right length and shape for your nails

Choose a length that suits your lifestyle, job type, and preference.

When choosing the nail shape, consider what flatters your hands’ size and shape- almond-shaped or square-shaped nails are popular options.

Acrylic design options

When getting acrylic nails, there are many design options available to choose from. You can opt for a custom design, French tips, or a natural look.

So many women, like myself, are obsessed with nail art! @NailsByInkQueen says: “From intricate designs to mesmerizing colors, they’re a statement of self-expression that never fails to turn heads. Nail goals unlocked!” 

Your appointment 

During your appointment, the nail technician will carefully prepare your nails for acrylic application and use a combination of liquid monomer and a powder polymer to create a durable, protective coating over your natural nails.

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Step-by-step process of applying acrylic nails

First, the nail technician will prepare your natural nails by buffing them and pushing back your cuticles.

Next, they will select the appropriate size of artificial tips to glue to your nails or sculpt custom acrylics directly onto your nail bed. The liquid and powder components are mixed to create a paste applied over the tip or nail bed using a small brush.

The mixture hardens as it dries, so it’s essential for both you and the nail tech not to move your hands during this time.

Tools and materials used 

Acrylic nails require specific tools and materials for the application process. These may include nail files, nail tips or forms, a brush, acrylic liquid, and acrylic powder. 

How acrylic is mixed and applied to the nails

First, a liquid monomer mixture is applied to the natural nail and sculpted into the desired shape using special tools.

The paste hardens onto the natural nail as it dries, creating a durable protective layer lasting for several weeks.

Tips for a smooth and even application

In my experience, the nail surface should be adequately prepared by removing any oils or previous polish, pushing back cuticles, and shaping the nails before coming into the appointment.

Finally, avoid touching or bumping the freshly applied acrylics while drying to prevent smudging or imprints.

Drying and finishing process

Acrylic nails cure by air-drying. But if you get gel color or nail art your nail tech will use a UV light to fully cure the gel polish. Your nail technician will also smooth out any bumps or rough spots with a file and apply a topcoat for added protection and shine. 

Pro tip: Improper curing of gel polish by either using an underpowered UV lamp and/or not curing nails long enough can result in contact dermatitis so be aware of this if you are DIYing your own nails.

Precautions and safety measures for acrylic nails

Once your acrylic nails are applied, properly caring for them is vital to avoid potential health problems. Always clean them regularly with soap and water and dry them thoroughly after washing.

Avoid exposing them to harsh chemicals or soaking them in water for long periods, which can lead to fungal infections or other issues.

acrylic nails

How long do acrylic nails take to get done?

The duration of getting acrylic nails done at a salon may vary depending on several factors, like the number of nails being worked on, the design complexity, and the experience level of the nail technician.

However, a standard acrylic nail application procedure can take 1.5 to 2 hours to complete. However, if you’re getting more than a simple design like classic French tips or a solid color, this could go upwards of 4 hours quickly. Especially if your nail artist is using embellishments like charms or creating custom 3D art.

Regular maintenance is vital in making acrylics last longer. Typically, nails need a fill every two to three weeks since your natural nails continue growing beneath them.

Maintaining your acrylic nails

From caring for them at home to understanding when it’s time for a touch-up appointment, we’ll cover everything you need to know about maintaining your acrylic nails.

How to care for your acrylic nails

To care for your acrylic nails, use warm water and mild soap to clean them regularly.

How long do acrylic nails last?

Depending on the speed of your nail growth, acrylics must be refilled every two weeks.

How to make acrylic nails last longer

One of the critical things you can do to extend the life of your acrylics is to moisturize your nails and cuticles regularly, especially after washing your hands or immersing them in water.

Another essential step in maintaining acrylic nails is protecting them from dirt and bacteria. 

Regularly cleaning under and around your acrylics with warm water and mild soap also helps reduce the risk of infection.

Avoid water and harsh chemicals

Activities such as washing dishes or swimming can weaken the bond between the natural nail bed and the acrylic nail, causing them to lift or break off prematurely. 

Moisturize your nails and cuticles

Neglecting to moisturize nails properly can cause them to become brittle, prone to breakage, or even discolored.

Cuticle oil will contain ingredients like jojoba oil, vitamin E, and sweet almond oil that help nurture the skin around your fingertips while keeping it supple. 

When to get a fill

For those who want long-lasting acrylics for more than a few weeks, regular fills are required every 3-4 weeks, depending on natural nail growth.

It’s crucial to book appointments in advance to ensure you get all of the fill and regularly get a fresh set of enhancements.

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Removing acrylic nails

To safely remove acrylic nails at home, soak them in acetone for approximately 30 minutes, carefully file off any remaining residue, and use cuticle oil to moisturize the natural nail.

How to safely remove acrylic nails at home

The most common method is to soak your nails in pure acetone, but taking precautions when using this chemical is essential.

You’ll need a few items to remove acrylics, such as a nail file, cotton balls or pads soaked in acetone, tin foil strips, and cuticle oil. Start by filing off the shiny top coat of each nail until you reach the first layer of acrylic.

Place one cotton ball over each fingernail soaked with pure acetone and wrap them tightly with tin foil strips to hold them in place for around 30 minutes. 

Afterward, carefully remove the foil wraps and use an orange stick or similar tool to push off any remaining acrylic gently.

Soaking process

Whether you’re doing it at home or in a salon, warm or hot water can soak the nails for 15-20 minutes before removing the acrylics. However, for an effective removal process, acetone is essential. 

Filing process

The top layer of the nail and acrylic must be filed down before soaking or using an e-file drill to remove them. A nail technician should use a gentle filing technique that doesn’t apply too much pressure or create heat on the nail bed, which can cause discomfort and even pain.

Avoiding damage to the natural nail and nail bed

Moisturize your hands regularly by applying hand cream containing vitamin E and jojoba oil, which will help strengthen skin and nail cuticles. Avoid biting or picking at dry skin around the cuticles.

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Acrylic nails cost

The cost of acrylic nails will vary greatly depending on location and salon but expect to pay over $50.

Cost and duration of acrylic nails

A basic set of short acrylics typically costs $10-$30, while a complete set can range from $30-$120.

In addition to the initial cost, it’s essential to factor in maintenance costs.

Regarding duration, acrylic nails typically last anywhere from 2-4 weeks before needing a fill-in. 

The average cost of acrylic nails

The average cost of a complete set of acrylic nails is around $30 to $35; this can range from $25 to $120, depending on where you go and what design or length you choose.

If you opt for gel nails instead, be prepared to pay slightly more than for acrylics, with prices ranging from about $45 to $55 per session. 

How long do acrylic nails typically last?

It’s important to note that acrylics must be refilled every 2-3 weeks, depending on natural nail growth. Regular fills help care for new nail growth and seal edges for longer-lasting results.

Factors that affect the longevity of acrylic nails

The longevity of acrylic nails can be influenced by various factors, such as the quality of the materials used, the skill level of the nail technician, and how well you take care of your nails. 

Pros and cons of getting acrylics

If you’re a beginner, it’s best to go into a nail appointment fully aware of the potential benefits and drawbacks of what you’ll get. 

Benefits of acrylic nails

One significant advantage is that they are incredibly durable, able to withstand wear and tear without chipping or breaking easily. Acrylics also offer instant length and shape, perfect for those who struggle with brittle or short nails.

Drawbacks and side effects of acrylics

Prolonged use of acrylics can weaken and stain natural nails, making them more susceptible to breakage and damage. Poor application or removal techniques can cause nail damage, skin irritation, or infection.

Comparison with other types of manicures

Gel manicures offer a glossy finish and are less likely to cause damage or staining to the natural nail. They also tend to feel lighter on the fingertips than acrylics but come at a higher price point than acrylics.

Precautions and safety measures

Choosing a licensed and experienced nail technician who follows proper sanitization and hygiene practices is crucial. Regular upkeep is also required for acrylic nails as they require filing and shaping every few weeks, failure of which can cause breakage or chipping.

Sanitization and hygiene practices

Salons should follow proper sanitation procedures by sterilizing tools between clients and using disposable equipment. It’s also crucial for technicians to wear gloves throughout the process.

As a client, you can take steps towards maintaining your hygiene by ensuring that your hands and nails are clean before heading into your appointment. 

Why choose a licensed and experienced nail technician

You want to ensure that the person doing your acrylic nails has undergone proper training and certification and knows how to apply them safely and efficiently.

Precautions to take during the application process

To start with, choose a licensed and experienced nail technician. Make sure that they sanitize their tools before use.

Finally, be gentle with your new set of acrylics until they dry completely after application. 

acrylic nails

Acrylics Nails FAQ

Today, I’ll answer some of the most commonly asked questions regarding acrylic nails. 

What are the different shapes available for acrylic nails?

Several shapes are available for acrylic nails, including square, round, oval, stiletto, almond, coffin/ballerina, and squoval, each offering a unique and distinct look.

What is the difference between gel and acrylic nails?

Gel nails are made with a gel-based formula cured under a UV/LED light, while acrylic nails are created by mixing a liquid monomer with a powder polymer.

Can you use gel nail polish on acrylic nails?

Yes, gel nail polish can be used on acrylic nails as a top coat to provide a glossy and long-lasting finish.

Do acrylics ruin your nails?

Improper application, removal, or excessive filing of acrylic nails can damage the natural nails. Still, when done correctly and with proper care, acrylics can be worn without significantly harming the nails.

Are there any side effects of getting acrylic nails?

Some possible side effects of getting acrylic nails include nail damage, weakened natural nails, allergic reactions to the products used, and the risk of infection.

How to revive your nails after acrylics?

Trimming them short, moisturizing them regularly, applying a strengthening nail treatment, and giving them time to grow and recover are recommended. 

Can I wear gloves with acrylic nails?

Yes, you can, but choosing gloves that fit well and don’t put excessive pressure on the nails is essential.

Are there alternatives to acrylic nails?

Alternative to acrylic nails includes gel nails, dip powder nails, nail wraps, or simply maintaining natural nails.

Key takeaways on acrylic nails

Firstly, acrylics offer a durable option for nail enhancements. Secondly, proper application, maintenance, and removal techniques are crucial to minimize the risk of nail damage. Thirdly, It’s essential to prioritize nail health and take breaks between wearing acrylics.