Our poor little paws need some love.

Never mind all the hand washing we’re doing, most of us haven’t been to a salon in over a month thanks to fears of the coronavirus’ spread. For those who schedule their nail appointments every two to four weeks, your nails are definitely looking a little sad right now.

From gels and acrylics to removal and after-care, the pros spilled their secrets on how to care for your nail services at home.

Gel nails

Gel nails are ready to come off only when the edges have lifted, said Rebecca Daletto, a licensed cosmetologist and brow and lash technician who also does color services, makeup, spray tanning, waxing and nails at RD Salon and BlowDry Bar, Scranton and Clarks Summit, and RD Brow and Lash Bar, 324 Penn Ave., Scranton (not to be confused with RD Salon owner, Rosey DeAntona). However, she suggests leaving them alone.

“If an edge lifts, grab a nail clipper, hold it flush to the nail and nip the part that is flapping around to prevent it being caught and ripping the rest of the nail,” she said.

Also, don’t ever peel off the gel nails.

Gel polishes are made to have a special bond with the nail plate and every time the polish is peeled off, it peels a layer of your natural nail with it. While many people peel their gels off and insist they do not have damage, Daletto said she can always tell when a client has peeled their shellac. (Some clients have even tried to hide the evidence by buffing the nail and throwing on a top coat.)

“I am known for being very momma-bearish about anyone peeling their nails off,” Daletto said.

If your nails are strong and healthy, you may not notice the damage, but it exists. Worse, those with thin, brittle nails will peel their polish and insist the shellac is ruining the nail, which is untrue.

“Polish is an inanimate object that does nothing to the nail. The process of applying and removing is what ruins the nails if done improperly,” she said, adding this also applies with acrylic nail enhancements. “Never just pop them off.”

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A little nail action

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The only safe way to remove gels is to soak them in pure acetone. (Regular nail polish remover will not cut it and will take forever, Daletto said.) You will need a porcelain or glass bowl, as acetone will eat through regular plastics and other softer materials. Soak the nails until the polish flakes off.

Acrylic nails

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If you have acrylic nails, the first thing you can do to try and extend their life-cycle is to keep them in the best possible shape.

Heather Buzzell, a nail technician at Alexander’s Salon and Spa of Wilkes-Barre, 88 South Franklin St., tells her clients “Take care of your nails and they’ll take care of you.” She advises to never use your nails as tools, like to open a can of soda or to scrub when cleaning, as this causes pressure. Your natural nail bends but the acrylic on top doesn’t, which causes lifting or, in the worst case scenario, breaking or popping off. If you have to do any activity using your hands (washing dishes, gardening or painting), Buzzell recommended using gloves.

“This also goes for any nail extension whether it be acrylic, gel, a hybrid, or a press-on,” she said.

Acrylics do grow with your nail, however, which can start to look a little crazy.

If you’re someone who can’t stand the grow-out, Buzzell said to just remove them. Times are hard right now and you don’t want your less-than-perfect nails to be an added layer of stress, she added.

If you don’t mind the grow-out, Buzzell said they don’t need to be removed until you start to experience lifting. Don’t reach for the glue if lifting happens, however. When lifting occurs, this provides a perfect home for bacteria to hide out, which can turn your nail green — using nail glue locks that bacteria in there. Pros can properly take care of lifting during your typical service but, at home without proper tools, it’s better to lay off.

“If you have lifting and are stuck at home for who knows how long with this pandemic, it’s better to remove them,” Buzzell said.

If you don’t care about saving your natural nail’s length, the first thing you need to do is cut them down. If you have gel polish on top of your acrylics, you must first break through the top coat sealant. Use a coarse nail file to take off the top shiny layer. (Buzzell advises against any electronic files as you can hurt yourself.)

Once the top coat is gone, soak your nails in pure acetone in a glass bowl. A hot, wet towel under the bowl will accelerate the process, Buzzell said. Alternate every few minutes between soaking and scraping the acrylic off with a cuticle pusher. Repeat the process until it’s completely removed. The thicker the nail, the longer it will take, which can be anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes.

Unfortunately, some may struggle with the removal process if MMA (Methyl-methacrylate, an illegal acrylic powder) was used on them, Buzzell said. In that case, just be extra patient and keep soaking and scraping. You also can gently buff. If worse comes to worst, Buzzell said, some clients with MMA in their nails (which she referred to as the devil of the nail world) may just have to wait until they can get to a pro who can remove them. That’s asking a lot right now, she said, so patience is key.

Keep it up

After removal of gels or acrylics, you want to keep your natural nails healthy. Make sure they’re neat and filed and leave the cuticles alone. Absolutely no biting and use nail clippers to remove hangnails and little pieces of lifted cuticles. Both pros strongly recommended the use of cuticle oil.

“I always suggest (for clients to) leave it on their nightstand, that way you can apply it before you sleep for the next six to eight hours and it really has time to work its magic,” Buzzell said.

Daletto also said any carrier oils (coconut, jojoba, sweet almond, argan, avocado, grapeseed or olive oils) will be great if you do not have a dedicated cuticle oil.

“Keep these babies oiled up a couple of times a day, nail bed and cuticle, especially with all of this hand washing going on,” she said.

Show support

Under the orders from Gov. Tom Wolf, all non-essential businesses must remain closed indefinitely until at least April 30, which means your stylist or barber will be out of work during this time.

There’s still some ways to show love, though.

Some no-cost options including leaving reviews; liking and commenting on posts on social media, or tagging or referring friends.

You also can help them out by buying a gift certificate for the same price as your normal service. For example, RD Salon & BlowDry Bar is offering 25% of all electronic gift cards at rdsalon.square.site (with the code “RDSALON”), which can be used at any of its locations when salons re-open.

If you’re going to buy products, buy local.

Buzzell, who’s known on social media for her intricate, hand-crafted nails and designs, said press-on nails are super trendy right now. They’re totally okay for your nails, she said, and have evolved from when we were all kids.(I co-sign this as you already know about my love affair with press-ons.)

That’s why Buzzell is creating custom press-on nails that include your choice of nail art as well as proper tools and step-by-step instructions for proper application and removal. The kits also can be shipped directly to the customer. To order a kit, direct message Buzzell at Hand It To Heather Facebook or @handittoheather on Instagram.

As she misses her days in the salon and the one-on-one experiences with clients, she aims to bring happiness during this weird time.

“I want to do anything possible to accommodate someone if it’s going to mean they’re going to look down at their hands and feel good for a few minutes,” she said.

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The pros
Heather Buzzell


Rebecca Daletto