4.1 Disposables and consumables

While we want to try and reuse what we can for environmental reasons, in the interest of hygiene, there are certain products that will have to be single-use. In this lesson, we will look at the full range of disposables and consumables that you will use on a daily basis as a nail technician. Products include:

  • Gel system (base coats, builders, top coats, nail polishes)
  • Acrylic system (monomer and polymer)
  • Cuticle oil
  • Tips (clear, white and natural)
  • Nail dehydrator
  • Gel cleanser
  • Nail bonding product
  • Acetone
  • Nail polishes
  • Nail art products

In this section, we will look at the essentials every nail technician should have in their kit.

Nail glue

Nail glue and other nail adhesives are super important for attaching tips and nail art. If you have ever used press-on nails, you will know that the nail glue patches are rubbish! Investing in quality glue means that your nail services will last longer and will keep you and your clients satisfied. Nail glue isn’t as durable as household super glue (which you would NEVER use on nails), but it is far more durable than press on nail glue patches. Water, soaps, and oils do break down nail glue, but as you know, to properly break down the glue, acetone or professional filing is the way to go.

Lint free wipes

You can purchase lint-free wipes that are specific to nails. Nail suppliers sell these types of wipes, and they are strong and absorbent nail wipes, which are superior to lint-free pads that you can pick up at your local chemist. Lint-free wipes can be used as a cleaning wipe or finishing wipe on natural nails or on nail extensions.

Brush cleaner

Nail brushes aren’t cheap, and because we need so many different types, we have to look after them. For acrylic brushes, you can actually use your monomer to help break down any residue in the bristles. Some technicians use acetone, but you need to be careful as this can damage your brushes. Synthetic brushes can withstand acetone more than natural haired brushes. Gel brushes can be cleaned with a 90% alcohol solution. There are also specific nail brush cleaning products on the market if you want to try them out. With all brushes, once cleaned, lie them flat on a towel and allow them to dry naturally.

Cotton tips

Cotton tips or Q-tips will literally be your best friend as a nail technician. These are an absolute must in your kit as they work like little magic erasers. If you make a mistake with tint, you can use some tint remover and a Q-tip to remove the dye and then bam – the mistake is gone!

Did you know?
Inventor Leo Gerstenzang (1892-1973), a Polish immigrant to the US, invented the Q-tip in 1923 – although the product was originally called Baby Gays. Some say he got the idea while watching his wife applying wads of cotton to toothpicks while cleaning their baby

Towels and paper towels

All nail technicians should have plenty of towels and paper towels on hand. Not only is it practice to have towels on hand to dry the skin and nails, but it also enhances your professional image. Where possible, it is great to use actual towels rather than paper towels to save our environment! However, having a small sheet of paper towel to wipe off any excess product or to act as a catcher for flying bits and bobs is handy and hygienic.

Aftercare products

When you start building your client base, your services will turn from ‘one offs’ to #nailjourney. There is nothing more satisfying as a nail technician than to see the actual growth (pun intended) of your clients nail health and satisfaction. You should always stock a range of aftercare products that can help your clients maintain their gorgeous nails and skin at home. You don’t need a huge range of products, but having take-home cuticle oils, hand lotions, and foot lotions can be a great start. Even if you give little samples to clients, this will demonstrate your commitment to their nail health and will keep them coming back!

To learn more about equipment and products other nail technicians could not live without, watch the videos linked:

Gel products

Aside form the gel product itself, there is a wide range of additional products you will need to provide gel nail services. The table below outlines the common products used to provide gel services:

Base gelAs the name suggests, a base gel is applied to the natural nail as the base of nail services. This gel is usually applied in a thin coat. The gel you use might be an all in one gel, so you might be able to skip the base gel.
Multi-layer gelMultilayer gel or more commonly known as ‘builder gel’. Builder gels are usually a medium thickness, although they can be runny or thick. Builder gels are perfect for sculpting strong extensions over sculpting forms or tips. Some manufacturers use ‘builder gel’ and ‘hard gel’ interchangeably.
Hard gelsCompared to other types of gels, hard gel is the strongest. Hard gel is used to create gel nail enhancements for tips and forms and can also be added over soft gel on an overlay application.
Soak off gelSoak off gel is also known as ‘soft gel nails’ because the nail can be removed with acetone. It’s not strong enough to hold up an extension, but it does provide strength to natural nails that are short to mid-length.
Colour gelsColour gels are, as the name suggests – coloured. This means you can achieve your designs or the clients colour without having to use polish. These come in both hard and soft gel formulations.
Bottle gelsBottle gels come in both soft and hard gel applications and in a range of colours. Depending on the formulation, they can be used for extending the nail, overlays and for infills.
Nail cleansersNail cleansers are products designed to clean any oils and moisture found on the client’s nail plate and is also used to remove the ‘tacky dispersion layer’ left from UV gel and any uncured gel product.
DehydratorsDehydrators are a product that helps prepare the natural nail by dissolving any oils, which improves the bond, and therefore, the retention of the nail.
Nail adhesiveWhen it comes to nail adhesives for tips or for nail art, there is a couple of options – nail glue or nail resin. Some technicians prefer to use nail resin because it does not break down in water, whereas nail glue can break down. While brush on resins are predominantly used as topcoats to strengthen natural nails or to bond nail wraps, they can be used to glue on tips. You have nail resin and glue in your kit – test out which adhesive you prefer!
Gel removersMany older style UV hard gel nails must be filed off, whereas soft gel nails and LED gel nails can be removed with acetone or specific gel remover products. Always read the manufactures instructions and SDS before using these products.
Protein bondProtein bonds are used as a bonding agent and can be used on acrylic/gel applications. They are solvent-based formulations used to remove oils and raise the pH of the natural nail. You can apply this product to the natural nail, and it acts as an anchor for the product, helping with nail retention.
Protein primerProtein primers could be considered a bonder, and nail technicians often think they are the same, but there is a difference. Acrylics, for example, almost always require a primer; a bonder shouldn’t be used as an alternative. Primer, whether acid or not) serve one primary purpose – preparing the nail bed for acrylics.

So, which gels are best for what? The gel consistency you use all depends on what you are trying to achieve and what your preference is. Thick gel is sticky, doesn’t move and can be very stringy – making it perfect for creating length. Thinner gels are very runny and will move quickly, making them perfect for topcoats and basecoats. There are also medium consistency gels that can be the best of both worlds – self-levelling, not too sticky and has just the right movement. These products are sensitive to UV, so you do not want to apply gels near a window or UV light source!

To learn more about the types of gel products, watch the videos linked:

Acrylic products

When you apply acrylic nail systems, you will use a lot of the same products and equipment that you do for gel nails (e.g. nail cleanser, dehydrators and tip clippers). The main difference is not having to use a UV/LED lamp for curing and in the product system. The three key products that are essential for acrylic nails are:

PrimerPrimer is a generally the first step in acrylic application. Primer “primes” the nail plate to enhance the adhesion of the acrylic nail to the nail plate. Primer is optional for gel nails.
MonomerThe monomer for acrylic nails is the liquid component that contains a blend of monomers and is a catalyst.
PolymerThe polymer for acrylic nails is the powder component that contains polymer beads and is an initiator.

As you already know, mixing the liquid monomer and powder polymer causes a reaction that results in acrylic. Acrylic polymer powders come in a range of colours, and you have pink, clear and white powder in your supplied kit.

Acrylic monomers also come in a variety of formulations which are responsible for the different acrylic systems available. Common systems on the market include:

  • Primerless acrylic system: as the name suggests, this system can be applied without the use of a primer.
  • Odourless acrylic system: provides a good alternative if you are looking for a product that gives off less odour.
  • Dip powder acrylic systems: use a low odour resin to hold the acrylic powder in place instead of the traditional liquid monomers.
  • Fast curing acrylics: designed for the advanced Nail Technician who needs the acrylic to cure rapidly. This is especially useful for repairs or during a competition.
  • Slow curing acrylics: perfect for beginners, as it allows the user more time to apply and shape the acrylic before it cures
  • Polygel system: a hybrid formula made from acrylic powder and UV gel and promises to offer the best qualities of both acrylic and UV gel (strength of acrylic and flexibility of gel).

Nail hardeners

Nail hardeners are products that help to harden brittle and weak nails. Nail hardening polishes work by fortifying weak nails with proteins including keratin, wheat germ, or biotin to prevent cracking and peeling. If used continually, nails can grow longer and stronger. So, if you have a client that suffers from eggshell nails or if the nails appear brittle after removing gel or acrylic enhancers, then a nail hardener can be an excellent solution.

Nail polish removers

You are probably already familiar with nail polish removers. One big differentiation with these products is acetone. On the market today, there are polish removers with and without acetone. So, which one is best? Well, it depends on the type of polish you are removing.

Acetone and non-acetone nail polish removers
Acetone is a powerful solvent that removes nail polish quickly and easily but can be drying to the cuticles. Non-acetone polish removers contain ethyl acetate or nethyl ethyl keytone as their active ingredient.

In general, non-acetone removers are gentler on the skin and were developed for use with nail extensions because acetone can cause extensions to become brittle and can cause nail lift. However, non-acetone is less effective for removing nail polish than acetone. Acetone is also effective for removing oils and preparing the nails for polish. To use acetone safely on natural nails, use a cotton swab and avoid the cuticles as this can cause them to dry out.

Nail polish thinner

Some people get nail polish remover, and nail polish thinner confused. A nail polish thinner is a chemical solution that is used to restore nail polish, whereas nail polish remover removes the previous applied nail polish. A nail thinner is basically used to maintain the thickness of the nail enamel and is perfect for prolonging the life of nail polish that has become thicker or clumpy.

Nail polishes

As explained earlier, normal polishes can dry on their own or with the assistance of a nail fan. Nail polishes come in a range of formulations and finishes. The table below outlines key components of nail polish:

BasecoatBase coats can be used for any type of nail service, but they are particularly useful when you’re going to be applying dark, bright, glittery, or generally very pigmented nail varnish. A base coat helps to not only protect the nails but can also provide nourishment and reduce discolouration.
TopcoatA top coat polish is designed to be the last layer applied. The purpose of a topcoat is to seal the polish, decrease nail chipping and add a smooth finish. Topcoats come in glossy formulations for a shiny finish or matte formulations for a matte finish.
Quick dryOne of the biggest pains as a nail technician can be drying time. While nail fans and lamps can be used to speed up this process, there are actually nail polishes on the market which have been formulated to dry quicker than the average polish. Manufacturers of these products tend to use silicones in the ingredients to speed up the process.
Long-lastingNail polishes that say they are long-lasting have formulations that will help to ensure the polish lasts 7 or more days. Manufacturers selling these types of polishes have devised formulas to help ensure that the polish does not chip. Some do what they say on the bottle, others not so much! When you start using a range of nail polishes from different brands, you will soon see which polishes do actually last longer.

In addition to the components above, there are also a range of nail polish finishes that you can experiment with. Nail polish finishes include, but are not limited to:

  • Chrome
  • Metallic
  • Sheer
  • Shimmer
  • Glitter
  • Micro shimmer
  • Frost
  • Iridescent
  • Translucent
  • Cracked
  • Holographic
  • Glass flecked

Nail polishes continue to evolve, so always be on the lookout for new trends and formulations. As you progress as a nail technician, your colour range and nail formulations will gradually expand. When starting out, if you can perfect a red nail – you will be able to master any other colour! As you grow your nail polish range, always make sure that you have polish for French manicures and then select on-trend colours, as this can be a great way to anticipate your clients’ needs.

Nail tips

When using tips on clients, there is a wide range available. Most tips are made out of a plastic material, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), which is a durable and flexible surface that does not yellow. There are hundreds of tips on the market in a range of colours, but in your kit, you have the most popular – clear, natural and white (or French).

All tips are developed to add length to the natural nail. Clear tips were designed to assist nail extension with both gel and acrylic systems. These tips require little to no buffing to blend into the natural nail before application of the desired system.

White or French tips make for a quick and easy French manicure – simply glue the French tip onto the natural nail and apply the desired acrylic or gel system, creating the perfect French smile line on every nail.

Natural tips are perfect when when aiming for a natural finish, or when polish is to be applied as you can achieve a good colour payoff. These tips need to be buffed and filed to blend into the natural nail before applying the desired gel or acrylic system.

In addition to differences in colour, length and shape, tips are also designed with different wells. A well is an indent in the contact area that helps the tip lay flat when applied to the nail bed. Tips may have full-wells, half-wells, or no-wells at all. The table below outlines the benefits of each well type:

Full-wellFull-well tips have the largest contact point and therefore provide the most retention to the nail plate. The large surface area is suitable for most clients but is particularly good for nail biters because the well can cover up to half of the natural nail plate. Full-well tips require the most blending, so they are best covered with coloured products.
Half-wellHalf-well tips are usually the most preferred by nail technicians. Half-well tips offer less coverage on the nail. The advantage of this is that it is thinner in appearance, which means a smaller contact area for technicians to blend onto the nail plate. This means they can be quicker to apply in comparison to full-well tips.
No-wellWell-less tips are the fastest and most versatile tip because they can be applied anywhere on the nail plate and don’t require blending, and are perfect when creating an enhancement with a smile line such as a French manicure look. These tips are inappropriate for nail biters, and contact with their natural nails would be virtually impossible.

So, which type is better? If your client has long nails, opt for half-wells or well-less nail tips. If your client bites their nails, look for tips with wells. Selecting the right size tip is equally as important as the type of tip! An incorrect size will likely lead to nail lifting, or worse, the nail could become a breeding ground for bacteria.

When selecting the correct size tip, you need to ensure that the width of the tip fits from sidewall to sidewall. This is crucial to ensure that the nail has adequate strength and structure. If the clients nail in between sizes, always go up a size and customise the tip to fit by filing or cutting the tip. Nails come in a range of widths and lengths, so be sure to take the time to size up the tip correctly.

If you would like to learn more about the variety of nail tips and how to size them, watch the videos linked:

Did you know?
Unlike normal glue, some formulations of nail glue may contain specific ingredients designed to support nail growth.

Nail forms

When creating a new set by sculpting nails, you will need to use nail forms. There are several types of nail forms on the market, and many of them have length and shape indicators which make it a lot easier for you to guide the product. In general, most nail forms can be used for both acrylic and gel. That said, when doing gel nails, it can be useful to use clear nail forms to allow the light to reach underside of the free edge and thus assist with curing. Below are a few different nail form types:

Clear nail forms for gel
Wide fit nail forms gel/acrylic
Nail forms for edge and stiletto

We will look at how to sculpt nails using gel and acrylic in upcoming lessons. For now, if you are interested in learning more about nail forms, watch the videos linked:

If you are interested in learning more about sanitation, read the articles linked below:

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