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Nail Structure: The Important Things in a Nutshell


A good nail technician knows how crucial it is to correctly sculpt nails when applying the 

product. The term ‘nail structure’ refers to a specific shape of the nail that is created during sculpting. Above all, it is important for the customer’s safety, since if the tip of the nail is thicker than its middle part, painful and sometimes very dangerous breakage becomes inevitable.

What Nail Structure is Considered Right

The nail plate consists of a cuticle, a stress point and a free edge. The stress point of the nail is actually a ‘sore spot’. It’s this area where the nail often breaks and deforms.

The correct sculpting of long and short nails implies that the apex (the highest point of the nail plate) is located in the stress zone. It means that this is where the product layer is the thickest.

But how do you know exactly where the stress point is? In order to find out, just press lightly on the free edge of the nail (make sure there’s no product on it). Its upper part will turn white. The borderline between white and pink on the plate is the stress point.

Why is it Crucial to Build Apex Properly?

A correctly built apex rises smoothly, there’s its soft transition into the cuticle, but the apex does not reach it and does not have a so-called ‘step’ on the side. If the nail tech does not follow the nail sculpting rules, it may lead to one of the following unpleasant consequences:

  • breakage and deformation. Such problems are caused by the apex absence and the making the nail plate too flat;
  • unnatural look (the plate has the shape of a key). This is because the apex is too pronounced;
  • cracks and chips of the coating. This happens when the apex is too far back toward the cuticle.

If everything is done correctly, you will not only get the desired shape, but also make the coating last much longer.

Nail Fixing: The Basics

To begin with, it is worth deciding on the working material first. Today’s nail techs mostly work with gel polish and acrylics. However, it’s more reasonable to choose the product based on the type of your nail plate - some nails last longer with gel, others do better with acrylic.

Gel polish, unlike the acrylic one, does not dry by itself - you will have to use a lamp. Acrylic coating is stronger than gel coating, but gel does not repel a sharply unpleasant odor, like acrylic does.

The procedure for building a nail structure using acrylic includes the following steps:

  1. Disinfection of hands and nails.
  2. Working on cuticles.
  3. Removing the natural gloss, removing the old coating with a router, leveling the surface with a nail file, filing the length and creating an almond shape.
  4. Degreasing the nail plate and applying a primer.
  5. Applying acrylic coating.

Gel nails modeling is an easier task:

  1. Disinfect your hands and nails.
  2. Push the softened cuticle back.
  3. Clean, degrease and level the surface.
  4. Apply the gel.

This procedure is relevant mostly for customers with straight-growing nails. If the customer has a different type of nail plate, the specialist will have to follow a number of different rules.

Nail Fixing Steps Depending on the Nail Shape

When working with convex nails, it is tempting for a nail tech to simply apply a thick layer of product. Unfortunately, this cannot be done. A really experienced nail specialist usualy does the following:

  • disinfects hands, pushes back the cuticle;
  • removes glossy shine, removes the top layer of product with a milling cutter or file;
  • files the length (taking into account the customer’s preferences);
  • uses a degreaser, base coat and primer;
  • lifts the free edge using thick products;
  • files the nail shape;
  • cuts out excessive product from under the nail plate;
  • applies the top coat.

The hardest thing for a nail tech are concave nails. Disinfection, working on cuticles and filing are followed by filing the nail out from the inside. Next, the specialist lays out artificial material under the nail so that the layer becomes thicker as it goes towards the free edge. Finally, the nail tech removes the topcoat, and gets rid of the excessive thick layers.

Proceeding to work on the cuticle area, nail experts file the nail shape, use a degreaser, primer, and base coat. The procedure is almost completed as soon as the nail tech applies the product, builds the perfect apex and files it down in shape (files out the arch and levels the nail plate from the inside). Then the nail technician applies the top coat - and the nails are done.

Specialists advise to conduct concave nail correction once every 3 weeks. When such nails grow out, they grow upward, which complicates the next manicure procedure a lot.

If you need to fix long nails that grow sideways, it is important to remove product excess from places where there is a lot of it when filing. Just like with the convex nails, you have to add the missing part at a certain stage and then build the structure.

Look at the nail from the front side: is one side of the arch directed down, and is the other defective? Just do the same in this case - cut off the edge that doesn't grow straight, change the shape and redo the corner.

How to Tell if Your Nail Tech Did a Good Job?

Look at the work in good lighting. The amount of the product on the tip, the cuticle and the sides of the nail should be smoothly reduced to the minimum. Pay attention to the highlight. If the right technique has been used, light is not refracted on any part of the plate. If there are refractions, there is an error in structuring and building the nail.

As you can see, nail fixing and building should be carried out with a focus on the anatomical features. If your nail shape is standard, switching the nail tech is common and no threat. However, when it comes to unusual shapes, when changing a specialist, it is worthwhile to make sure that the features of your nail plate are taken into account when fixing. Do not hesitate to ask questions, be interested in the technique difference, and evaluate the result of the work.

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