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My Nail Just Fell Off!!

Updated: May 13

Those dreaded words that every nail technician hates to hear. Hopefully this blog will be a guide for both the nail technician and client to figure out what is actually causing lifting to help resolve the problems so we can put a stop to the blame game.


As nail technicians we all know that clients blame us for EVERY THING they do or don't do when it comes to their nails. It seems like lifting is all our fault and never the fault of the client. I can't tell you how many clients have sat across from me through the years and blamed me for not doing my job properly. Most of the time I can ignore their comments and then some days I get so frustrated I want to scream. Unless you have a client who is sitting at home on the couch with pot holders on their hands all day there is SOMETHING they are doing that is breaking down the nail adhesion. Believe me when I say I've seen and heard it all! Nails tell a story and we as nail technicians can see exactly what's happened to their nails. Nothing frustrates me more than a clients who claims my nails just fell off when their nails look like they've gone through a wood chipper!! Nail technicians are like detectives trying to determine the root cause of the problem while looking at the evidence before us. Once the client leaves the salon we really have no idea what they are doing with their nails so diagnosing the problem is very difficult. Most of the time clients are just going about their daily routine and don't notice things they are doing that is causing their nails to lift. When we ask our clients what happened they really have no idea. The reality is by the time a client notices their nail is lifting it's ready to fall off. You'll never hear a client be able to trace exactly how the nail adhesion was broken down.


Years ago I worked in a salon, a mother brought her 17 year old daughter in for a full set of nails. The daughter wanted french. She never had nails before and was spending the weekend with her friends. That night I came home and gave myself a fresh set of nails (this is key to this story). Monday morning when I returned to the salon we received the rudest angriest message ever from the mother. She was demanding a refund because her daughter's nails turned orange and her daughter did absolutely NOTHING to cause this to happen to her nails. She went on and on about how our product was junk etc etc etc...... First of all we never give refunds on a service we used product and spend time working on the client. Second we really needed to see the nails because they don't just turn orange without something happening. The mother agreed to bring her daughter in and gave me yet another ear full when she arrived. As soon as I saw the daughter's nails I knew exactly what happened......I asked her if she had a bag of microwaved buttered popcorn on the weekend. She looked at me shocked and asked how I knew. I told her I had given myself a fresh set of nails Friday night and had microwaved buttered popcorn and it turned my nails this exact same colour. If I hadn't eaten popcorn with fresh nails I never would have known what happened. To fix her nails I took 99% alcohol and rubbed the surface of the nails and the orange came right off. It was a 2 minute fix. The mother was very apologetic for the way she behaved. I told her that even though we think aren't doing anything out of the ordinary things like this don't just happen. While this girl's nails didn't lift she still claimed she did 'nothing' but without realizing it she did in fact do something.


Another client had lifting issues for years! We could not figure out what the problem was. She insisted that she literally did nothing. She had a long list of health issues lived in a place where her meals were cooked for her and she had a cleaning lady. Her nails never lasted 2 weeks and looked like they had been pried off when she returned to me. She was convinced she was one of those people who just couldn't get gel to last but something was causing her nails to look so traumatized. Finally after about 10 years of trouble shooting we found the answer! She was in for a repair and told me she had to go get special gloves so she could get her support hose on easier because she was tired of struggling every day to get them on! Without realizing it she was bending her nails trying to get her support hose on. This is why her nails looked like they were being pried off. They were!!! Once she got the gloves the lifting stopped! I love to tell this story because this client was convinced that she NEVER did anything to cause the lifting but she actually was without knowing it.


What Causes Lifting? And how do we prevent it?

Let's clear the air right away. Nails just don't FALL OFF!! There are a ton of reason why nails lift. It's our job as nail technicians is to do our very best during nail prep to make sure the product is properly adhered to the nail. If clients take care of their nails there should be zero lifting. Below are just a few reasons why nails can lift. There are so many other reasons but these are some pretty big issues I see on a daily basis.

  1. Water is a big problem. Gloves must be worn each and every time they are in water. Water is absorbed into the nail. If a client has gel on their nails water will be absorbed from under the nail. Water in the nail causes the nails to expand and shrink back once the nail dries. Think of a piece of paper. If you pour water on the paper expands and becomes very flexible and mushy but once that paper dries is becomes brittle and warped. The same thing happens with your nails but the gel stays put so you don't see what's happening. Sadly hot tubs, pools and especially dishes can cause problems.

  2. Cleaning products. Soak off gels they can be broken down by cleaning products. If a client uses bathroom cleaners, dish soap or windex etc. These can cause the gel to break down over time and the nails to lift. Gloves should be worn when cleaning. Any cleaner that breaks down grease will break down gel.

  3. Citrus fruit and tomatoes contain acids which can also cause soak off gels to break down and lift. I've seen clients come in after they have done lots of canning of tomatoes and and acid has caused their nails to lift and become stained. Wearing gloves will help.

  4. Using your nails as tools. Opening pop cans, cat food cans, removing price tags from items and seat belts can cause your nails to lift. Try not to use your nails as tools.

  5. Picking your nails! This is one of the worst things you can do but so many people do it. Your nails are made up of several layers. To get maximum product adhesion nail technicians remove 1 to 2 layers of the dorsal layer of your nail. Picking your nails removes too many layers making it impossible for product to adhere to the nail. Picking is counter productive to lasting nails.


Cuticle Oil

This is seriously the very best thing you can do for your nails. Use it daily and use it often. I have a handful of clients who use cuticle oil daily and they never experience lifting. The healthier the nail the happier the gel. A regularly oiled nail will hold up better in water and through weather changes because it will have the flexibility to move with the gel. Another great illustration is a leaf when it's green it moves and bends but when fall comes it dries out and becomes brittle...same as your nails.


Remember nails don't just fall off! Something happened along the way....let's not play the blame game but do whatever we can to protect your nails.