Did you know that long nails have been a sign of wealth in Asian cultures since as early as the Ming dynasty? Or that a male dentist patented false nails as a way to repair a broken nail that was getting in the way of his work in the 50’s? Probably not,but you will know that extensions can make your nails look longer, stronger and far more glamourous.
False nails come in two types; extensions and overlays. Which you choose depends on whether you want additional length or strengthening and long lasting colour. Nail extensions, also known as tips, are made from lightweight plastic and are cut to the shape of your nail. These are glued on to your own nails and overlaid with acrylic or gel to secure and finish. Overlays skip the extension step with acrylic or gel being applied directly onto your natural nails and shaped by hand or by using ‘forms’, before being buffed to create that glossy effect. Great for anyone with nails lacking in natural wow factor.
Acrylics are the oldest form of artificial nail and use a polymer powder called polymethyl methacrylate which is mixed with a liquid monomer called ethyl methacrylate. This formula hardens after around 20-30 seconds of being exposed to air and continues to cure for a further 15 minutes. Gel coatings are set in just one or two minutes when exposed to UV light. Whilst gels aren’t as long lasting and tend to be more expensive than acrylics, they are strong, more flexible and odourless. Gels also cause much less damage to your natural nails than extensions. A big bonus.
The length of time false nails last for, depends on what you get up to. Nails are more likely to be damaged during a weekend of DIY, than when sat at a desk in the office. Both extensions and overlays are best fitted and removed at a salon to avoid damage of the nail bed. With acrylics, you’ll want to return to the salon after 3-4 weeks for infills ( Infills are a way of extending the life of false nails and involve the bottom of the acrylic being filed down until it’s flush with the regrowth creating a smooth surface) or removal whereas gels last around 2-3 weeks. Acrylic extensions and overlays are usually removed by soaking the nails in acetone for around 20-30 minutes with each layer then being filed off. The latter can cause damage to the nail bed so it’s advisable to choose a salon or nail bar who employs qualified technicians.
Can anyone have extensions? Yes, but there are certain times when it’s best to avoid them. During pregnancy, most experts recommend you take a break and if you’re in regular contact with anyone who is unwell or in hospital. You’ll also need to be careful when drying and styling your hair as artificial nails can be damaged by heat and some materials are flammable. It’s best to check with the technician fitting your extensions or overlays about any aftercare to prevent these issues.