My Experience with Acrylic Nails – Getting Acrylic Extensions/Overlays

Until earlier this year I’d never really delved into the world of false nails, acrylic nails or even getting my nails done at a salon. If you read my old blog Steph’s Inside Voice or have followed me on Instagram for a while you’ll know that nail painting is/was my THANG. I absolutely love painting my own/other people’s nails and used to rush to Superdrug when BarryM released a new shade. I would paint my nails around every other day and took pride in the fact I could do them myself and constantly got asked if my nails were my own or if I got them done.

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My current job is in a lab and hallelujah, we are allowed to have our nails painted *angels sing*. I found after just a couple weeks in my job my nail polish just would not stay on no matter what base or top coat I used – they just didn’t last and would be chipped and dulled within a day of painting them. I’m someone who loves having my nails looking painted (and fabulous) so I found this really annoying and would end up not bothering doing them because I knew they’d be ruined so soon. I got a bit sick of it and tried out the Sensationail brand of gel polish. I managed to get the starter kit with lamp and two colours super cheap due to packaging damage, but found that it was like £14 for a polish and they didn’t ever last longer than a week on me and for that cost and having to build up a new collection at £14 a piece, I just didn’t want to do it.

I first thought about acrylics after a friend at work got hers done regularly and they would stay nice for weeks. Back in March I booked an appointment for July, thinking I would try them for my holiday, but was too eager and ended up getting acrylic extensions the week later.

I hated them. They were so long and to have them applied I had my own nails filed down completely, meaning whenever I caught them on anything it felt really uncomfortable as they were attached to the base of my nails and would pull on them – it felt so strange. They were also far too fake-looking for my liking. I had chosen a bright teal colour with one sparkly white nail and a daisy on one nail. To me, they looked chunky and thick and nothing like the nails I had in my head and I just wanted them off. The day after getting them I filed them right down, which only made them thicker on the ends. I sent a Facebook message to the lady that had done them and she suggested I come in to get them thinned and filed and the colour changed, to something more neutral and less in your face!

After that my opinion on them changed completely. They were a colour I would have painted them myself and they felt far less fake and more natural. They lasted 3 weeks and would have stayed on even longer without chipping, but my nails grow really fast and you could really see that they’d grown out. I got them filed to a similar length they’d been before and changed the colour after having infils.

I’ve been doing this every 3 weeks or so since then. I now have them a little bit longer and no longer have an extension as my nails are strong enough to be used for their length with just an acrylic overlay on top for strength. The colour lasts a solid 3 weeks and I will admit that I sometimes go a bit sooner as I enjoy changing the colour frequently. For my job, they’re perfect! So perfect, there are now 5/6 of us that all go to the same nail technician to get our nails done – it’s so exciting seeing everyone come in with their new ones and get ideas from one another.

Here’s my answers to the FAQs I see popping up a lot and that I’ve been asked:

ACRYLIC OR GEL EXTENSIONS?

Having never had gel overlays or extensions, I can’t really answer that one properly. What I do know is that acrylics are made by using a liquid and powder substance painted onto the nail (in the case of overlays) and for extensions they involve the use of forms which sort of fold and go under the nail to allow a “new nail” to be produced with the acrylic by extending on what is already there. I believe a similar technique is used for gels but can’t be sure! This is unless tips are used. Tips are already an extension and so don’t need to be built. Acrylics set in natural air and gels are set under a lamp. Both are filed to shape. From what I’ve heard, gels can give a slight burning sensation when setting under the lamp and it is that that put me off getting them in the first place. I’ve heard they are however quicker to set and shape. Acrylics work for me as overlays – they’re strong and I’m used to the slight bit of extra time they take to shape.

HOW DO THEY REMOVE THEM?

For acrylics, the removal process can be done using a nail drill or acetone. The drill sounds scary but if your nail tech knows what’s what it shouldn’t be something to worry about. They can use a drill which is essentially a very fast spinning file which gets right through the acrylic. Alternatively acetone can be used but this takes much longer and can leave your nails and skin very dry. I haven’t actually had mine fully removed since getting them and people forever warn *cough patronise cough* me about horror stories of people “they know” left with paper thin nails that never recover. 1. If you have a good nail tech your nails won’t be left in an awful condition, paper thin or bleeding. (They obviously will be a bit flimsy but shouldn’t be sensitive or painful!) 2. Your nails will grow back to their old condition within 6 months. I did biology at uni and your nails constantly regenerate. So regardless of what you’re left with, you won’t have it long.

HOW OFTEN DO YOU NEED TO GET INFILS?

Every 2-3 weeks depending on how fast your nails grow. Mine grow fast so I aim for 3 weeks maximum. Infills means what it says on the tin – filling in the bit of new nail that’s grown in with either gel or acrylic and then reshaping and painting.

WHAT DO YOUR NAILS LOOK LIKE UNDERNEATH –  ARE THEY DAMAGED?

As above ^. I don’t even know and I don’t even care at this point! They will be weak, yeah, they’ve been filed and shaped underneath that acrylic (to get a good layer for the acrylic to adhere to) but they’re not ruined forever. I guess we will see when I ever get them removed – but who knows when that will be?

HOW DO THEY CHANGE THE COLOUR?

By using the filing technique in my experience; whereby the colour is filed off with a drill prior to shaping and infils. A new gel polish colour is applied once you’re happy with the shape.

So that’s my experience with acrylics/false nails/overlays – whatever you want to call them! I hope it gave some of you an insight into what getting them is like as I will admit I went into it very blind and would have really appreciated a post like this 10 months ago! I must stress that all of the above info is solely from my own knowledge and experience and advice from my nail technician. The information is not necessarily factually correct and obviously experiences will differ from person to person – but above is mine!

Here are some of the colours I’ve had in the past, I hope they can inspire you with your nails.

Let me know if you’ve ever had acrylics – was your experience good or bad?

S x

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7 Comments

  1. November 8, 2016 / 11:02 am

    Really informative post!

  2. November 9, 2016 / 9:51 pm

    Your nails look lovely! Thanks for all the nail info hehe!
    I got acrylic nails for the first time this year, my nails haven’t been the same for months! I loved them but I don’t think I’d get them back on unfortunately!
    Sallie X

    • November 9, 2016 / 9:53 pm

      Haha thank you! Oh no 🙁 that’s such a shame – hopefully they will grow back to normal soon!! Xxx

  3. Rachael
    November 12, 2016 / 12:39 pm

    Your nails always look amazing! I’m always telling Mat how much I like looking at them – I wish I was allowed to have mine done at work too!! I can’t wait for Christmas to get some glitter going…

    • stephmap
      November 12, 2016 / 1:00 pm

      Thanks Rach!! I never thought I would want them but now I’ve tried they’re so fab. And defo I love a bit of glitz! I’m getting snowmen and the lot on the 1st December hehe! Xx

  4. Anonymous
    November 12, 2016 / 12:56 pm

    Testing 1, 2

  5. June 15, 2017 / 2:38 am

    I like your initial manicure (that one with white nail). Acrylics are fine if you want extreme nail shape or length- Otherwise I vote for gel nails. As for removing acrylics, I think we learned in elementary school that nails do grow out (or you can just observe your nails and determine it by yourself).
    Have you tried nail dipping?

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