July 2009

Vicki Peters

The Nail Extension | by Vicki Peters


The Perfect Nail Checklist

I’ve been told I have one of the best pair of eyes in the industry when dissecting a nail, especially during a nail competition, and I take tremendous pride in that.

Having 25- plus years experience as an international competitor, judge and competition director has trained my eyes to see things that the competitor cannot. To keep sharp I scrutinize every magazine cover and ad in almost every trade magazine worldwide.

Since I’ve done more than 250 covers myself, I have worked with graphic designers when they digitally clean up the nails and make them cover ready. So I know all the tricks. Rarely does a magazine print an un-retouched set of nails on the covers.

It’s upsetting when a nice set of nails upon closer scrutiny show so many imperfections that the tech apparently did not see. Sometimes I wish I could take a file right then and there and finish the edges!

The problem is that most successful nail techs never enter the competition arena or get critiqued so they don’t learn the techniques to fine-tune their work. Here are some guidelines that can help you dissect your own nails and see if there is room for improvement.

Check your nails five ways:


Product Control
The product is completely free of air bubbles and pits and the color from nail to nail is exactly the same shade and depth of color showing that you are consistent with your liquid to powder ratio and application skills. The product was applied smoothly and not over filed, perfect application at cuticle and sidewall areas.

Smile Lines
The smile lines definition of the pink/clear and white are crisp and symmetrical on all ten nails. Are the shapes consistent with even points of the ears? Equal curvature and location on the nail with a semi deep “U” shape that complements the natural nail shape.

Cuticle Area
The product is flush to the natural nails and close to the cuticles in a perfect shape, which matches the natural cuticle shape. The skin at the cuticle area is in excellent condition and not pink, free from abrasions and healthy.

Surface Structure — The top surfaces (profile) of the nail enhancements are smooth and perfectly contoured at the cuticle, both sidewalls and tip. Is the apex centered on the nail and matching in location when you view the nail from the profile angle?

Lateral Structure — The nail enhancements align perfectly with the sides of the natural nails and the arch of the nail enhancements is consistently located on the stress area. If nail enhancements are oval in shape, the point at which the oval begins is consistent. View from down the barrel and look at the tip’s edge all the way to the cuticle and see if the nail sits on the nail plate evenly.

The curvature of the nail enhancements is symmetrical and consistent. The depth of curvature is consistent from nail to nail. Looking down the barrel of the nail view the top surface of the nail to the bottom surface of the nail. Sides of the nail extension from the grove walls to the tip should not be flat from filing sides. They should be perfectly contoured so the top matches the undersides for the whole nail extension.

Also looking down the barrel at the tip’s surface and undersides does the nail appear thicker in spots even if the tip is perfectly symmetrical?

Length and Shape
The entire length, measured from cuticle to the end of the extension, is consistent between matching nails (pinkie to pinkie, etc.) and in proportion to each other. The perimeter shape is symmetrical and consistent. Check to make sure the free edge white is the same size from nail to nail and the nail bed color is a consistent length from nail to nail.

Overall Impression
The nails complement the hands. The thickness and length are suitable for the competition or salon work. The natural nails and hands appear healthy and well groomed

Polish Application and French Style
The polish completely covers the nails (close to the cuticle and all edges). The application is smooth, even and clean with no visible scratches.

Color Gel Application — The color gel completely covers the nails (close to the cuticle and all edges). The application is smooth, even and clean.

Finish Work — The surfaces of the nail enhancements are smooth and very shiny (absent of scratches). Many focus on the white tip and leave scratches in the pink. The edges of the nails are smooth and finished and there are no unfinished edges on the undersides of the extensions. This is done by graduating your grits and removing the dust in between files. Be sure to take your high shine buffers around the edges of the nails to give them a perfect finish and make sure the nails are thoroughly clean (absence of dust).

I often have said it’s the little things that make a big difference. It’s the finish work, nails that are perfectly polished, that don’t snag the pantyhose and the shape consistency that sets your work apart from the others. Taking a few extra minutes to access your work and look at your nails with a whole new perspective will help you see where you can improve and provide an even higher quality service.

Vicki Peters is a 28 year veteran master nail tech, competition champion, judge, international educator, author and manufacturer and serves on the Nail Manufacturer Council. For more information visit www.vickipeters.com or email her at Vicki@vickipeters.com.