Manicure 101: All you need to know before getting acrylic nails

Clawing up


By Phyll Wu

Images courtesy of @badgirlsgoodnails on Instagram
Manicure 101: All you need to know before getting acrylic nails

Getting your nails done for a special occasion coming up? Here’s everything you need to know about acrylic nails before booking your appointment.

So, you’re browsing through social media for nail inspo and you are particularly interested in getting inches-long claws with acrylic nail extensions. After stumbling upon a design that took your breath away, you book that nail appointment, send in your deposit, then sit back and relax as you wait in excitement to get your nails done. What could go wrong?

Well, a lot. Any nail-do requires more maintenance, care, and research than you may expect. It’s easy to ignore the risks when you are in awe of that stunning design you’ve been looking forward to getting for weeks. Next thing you know, you’re witnessing a manicure horror scene right in front of your eyes—and it’s happening to your delicate little nails! Especially for acrylic nails or nail extensions in general, you should always know the risks before it’s too late to turn back. And no, do not get weirdly cheap manicures—precaution number one. Before you hit up your nail gal to get clawed up, here are some important things to know:


What are acrylic nails?


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There are two types of acrylic nails that you can get. The first is false acrylic nail tips, which are plastic nail extensions that are glued onto your natural nail plates then trimmed and buffed into the shape and length of your choosing. Some acrylic nail tips are adhered to the tip of your nails then filled in with gel polish or powder acrylic, whilst others are placed directly onto your nails, covering every edge.


On the other hand, we have powder acrylics. Y’know those satisfying nail art videos you see on social media where nail extensions or embellishments are moulded with a putty-like dough and a brush? Yeah, that. Essentially, these acrylic nails are chemical mixtures of powder polymer and liquid monomer that form a blob of paste when combined. They are then bonded to your natural nails and quickly moulded to the shape of your choice before being completely hardened through air drying. Compared to other nail extension techniques, powder acrylics do not require lamps to cure. They’re also much thicker, more durable, and will survive on the busiest hands with hardly any signs of chipping or breaking for weeks—even months!

Now, let’s get into detail.


Can acrylic nails damage your natural nails?

To put it simply, yes. Without proper care, quality products and a skilled manicurist, any nail enhancements can damage your natural nail beds. Issues may arise from incorrectly removing your nail extensions (ripping them off), air bubbles or un-filled spaces under your acrylic nails that may collect bacteria and lead to infections, fragile nail beds due to excessive buffing, or even skin damage from too much UV exposure without any protection (sunblock). The worst of all, however, is the use of shady cheap products—particularly MMA acrylic nail enhancements.


What is MMA acrylic?

The use of MMA (Methyl Methacrylate Monomer) acrylics will horrify any knowledgeable manicurist with any sense of morality. They are a much cheaper alternative to quality powder acrylics that are safe for nail use, otherwise known as EMA (Ethyl Methacrylate Monomer) acrylics. It’s difficult to tell them apart just by appearance, but the horrors of MMA acrylics will soon reveal themselves once you attempt to remove them.


@lovely_gianna24 Please ladies stop paying so much for bad products and bad work! #mmanaildamage #illegalnails #ctnailsalon #nailchopshops #mmanails Running up that hill – 60 seconds sounds

The key difference between the two is that EMA acrylics can be easily broken down and scraped off after soaking in acetone. MMA acrylics, however, are not only extremely difficult to remove, but they are also terrifyingly harmful to your natural nails. You can soak them for ages and the most that will come out of it is their surface turning a little slimy. Just a tip: You may want to give your nails a break from any manicures post-MMA acrylics to let them recover from all that mess.

To give you an idea of exactly how unsuitable and unsafe MMA acrylics are for your nails, this particular chemical is widely used for teeth filling and bone reconstruction, often referred to as ‘dental acrylic’ or ‘porcelain nails’. It can cause anything from fingernail deformity to contact dermatitis and even permanent nail loss. MMA acrylics may last longer than any other product, but at what cost?


Gel vs. acrylic

Aside from acrylics, there’s also gel. Almost similar to regular nail polish, gel nail polishes are made from a liquid resin that is applied to your nails after a base coat. Once cured, it offers a glossy, nail-like finish that can be easily removed within minutes. Unlike regular nail polish, gels can be used as nail extensions in a similar technique as acrylic powder. If you plan to switch designs often or if you prefer more natural-looking designs, gel nails are the ideal option. Although much easier to remove than acrylics, gel nails are still just as durable and are able to last for weeks without signs of breaking or chipping.

Because gel manicures require more equipment, they are often more expensive than acrylic manicures, but that also depends on the design itself. Overall, it boils down to your own preference, budget, and time when deciding between acrylic or gel nails.


How to remove acrylic nails?

It is always recommended that you have your nail enhancements professionally removed. But, desperate times call for desperate measures, so if you need to, you can remove them yourself with these simple steps:

  • Soak your fingernails in a bowl of pure acetone for about 10 to 15 minutes. Your nail enhancement should turn into a much softer consistency. You may also wrap each finger with cotton pads soaked with acetone and aluminium foil to keep them in place, then dip them in a bowl of warm water to help accelerate the process.


  • Once you have the right consistency, you should be able to effortlessly remove the product just by wiping them off with acetone-soaked cotton pads.


  • Use a cuticle pusher to scrape off the excess, then buff your nail beds for a smoother surface.


  • Finish off with cuticle oil to hydrate your nails and you’re done!


Whilst removing, it is important that you patiently follow each step and do not forcefully rip or scrape the product right off your nails. If you attempt to remove them just to discover that your acrylics are actually MMA, stop right there! Head to a professional manicurist to get them removed as soon as you can and never return to whoever used MMA acrylics on you. Your nails are delicate and can be easily damaged, so treat them with care!



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