Nail modeling

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Modeled nails in French manicure

Nail modeling is the artificial extension and reinforcement of the human fingernails and toenails with the help of gel or paste-like, hardening plastics (e.g. acrylic, fiberglass or synthetic resin).


As early as the Ming Dynasty , aristocratic women in China wore long fingernails as a status symbol to make it clear that they had no manual work to do. In early 19th century Greece , many upper class ladies carried empty pistachio shells on their fingernails, which contributed to the slow spread of artificially modified nails in Europe. The first use of acrylic in nail modeling goes back to the chemist Fred Slack, who, due to his work as a developer of dental products, provided an injured fingernail with dental plastic and, because of the good result, pursued this idea.


It is between the use of nail tips ( Tips distinguished), and modeling with mask. First, regardless of the procedure used, the customer's hands and nails are disinfected. The nails are degreased, the cuticles pushed back like with a manicure and prepared for the modeling with a buffer or sanding block, dehydrator (consisting of isopropanol and acetone ) and often with an adhesion promoter .

Extension through tips

When using nail tips (tips), these are glued on with nail glue, shortened to the desired length and shaped. Then the nail is degreased with a primer, so that the connection of the modeling plastic (also modeling gel) with the natural nail is guaranteed. In order to increase the strength and to get a smooth, paintable surface, the own nail and the nail tip are covered with modeling plastic. After hardening, the sweat layer is removed with a disinfectant. The surface is filed into shape with a hand file or electric milling cutter, smoothed and finally either polished or a UV-curing sealant applied. The advantages of this method are that it is easier to learn at first and that there are pre-designed tips for certain purposes , such as: B. French tips (white tips) or patterned tips that only need to be adjusted and shortened.

Extension by template

When modeling with a template, the nail designer glues a template flush under the natural nail in order to model the extension onto the nail. The selected material is applied to the template. The template is peeled off after hardening and the modeled nail is smoothed with a milling cutter or hand file, as when using tips, and sealed with gel or by polishing. The advantages of this method are the more natural look, the less foreign body feeling for the customer, the time savings for the experienced nail designer, more flexible design options in terms of shape such as stilettos, edge nails , pipes , fringe nails or all new style shapes and avoid possible contact allergies from nail glue, which could also come off over time. The use of a stencil to be stuck under the nail goes back to Thomas S. Slack.

Natural nail reinforcement

With natural nail reinforcement, only your own, naturally grown nail is covered with a layer of modeling plastic to protect it.

Filling up / "refill"

After two to four weeks, the part of the nail that has grown out must be filled in due to the shifted statics, the so-called stress point and the unsightly approach. To do this, the extended nail is shortened accordingly for a constant length, the transition to the natural nail that has grown out is smoothed and re-coated with the appropriate plastic and filed into shape.

Filling or refill is known colloquially as refilling. When refilling, it is important to clean up damaged areas and remove all visible air bubbles. Before applying the gel / acrylic, a degreasing agent, the so-called primer, is applied, as this is crucial for the bonding of the gel / acrylic with the natural nail.


If after one to two weeks only the surface is matted, possibly the design changed and re-sealed, this is called a refresh .

Processing and materials

Shaped thumbnail

The material from which the artificial nails are made is acrylic , which behaves differently depending on its composition in processing, sensitivity to solvents and, above all, in curing. However, only one type is colloquially referred to as "acrylic nail".


So-called " acrylic nails " to be by using a two-component acrylic, a liquid ( Liquid constructed) and a very fine acrylic powders. This system is the oldest method. It cures automatically after the components have been mixed, whereby there are also UV-curing acrylic systems. The material is characterized by its great hardness, which makes it possible to process the entire nail very thinly and precisely, and can usually be used with all types of natural nails. Acrylic nails can be removed easily and quickly with a solvent (usually acetone ). An alternative method of removing acrylic nails is using nail burs. If the nails are varnished, acetone-free nail polish remover must be used, otherwise the nails will be loosened when the nails are varnished. The method is considered the supreme discipline among nail designers, as it is more difficult to learn compared to the gel system, because it has to be processed faster due to the independent hardening in order not to be too firm for the modeling or hardened in the brush. It is very well suited for particularly unusual designs such as 3-D flowers and is therefore often used at championships.

The acrylic system is also called a two-component system or powder-liquid system . However, despite the ambiguous name, it should not be confused with the gel system described below. The actual powder gel system is not used in Germany because the process is very impractical to use and offers no particular advantages. For this purpose, liquid plastic is repeatedly applied to the nail in very thin layers one after the other and sprinkled with a powder.


"Gel nails" are nails that are processed with the gel technique. The gel consists of a UV-reactive, modelable plastic that hardens under UV light . Due to the comparatively simple handling, it is the most widespread method of reinforcement and lengthening in Germany. The nail designer has her own hardening device in which the customer places her hands with the nails previously modeled with gel. The gel hardens in a few minutes while generating heat . Since the gel is a comparatively soft material, it is usually more suitable for soft natural nails.

Colorful gels and other decorations such as crystal stones , dried flowers and inlay motifs can be incorporated into the liquid gel , as the modeling gel can be processed for a long time until it is placed in the hardening device. Most gels are resistant to solvents and must be milled to remove; But there are also variants (soak-off gels) that can be removed like acrylic, despite the UV curing.


The fiberglass system , in which textile strips, mostly fiberglass or silk, are applied and sealed in several layers using a resin adhesive , is hardly common today. This method is sometimes still needed to repair torn natural nails and give them the necessary stability. There are also UV gels with integrated glass fiber particles, the so-called fiberglass gels, which are very often used as independent build-up gels and are more stable and durable than normal UV gels.

"Nail Art"

Gel nails with permanent nail polish

The decoration of the finished nail is called nail (for dt. "Nail art"). The simplest variant is the Frenchlook , in which the nail tip is made from natural to brilliant white, the rest from transparent or slightly milky material. Colored acrylic topcoat is also often used, which remains glossy for several weeks due to its hardness and is known as Permanent Nail Polish (PNP). As a so-called "thermal gel", the top coat changes color depending on the temperature. However, there are hardly any limits to the creativity of the designer and the customer, the nails can be pasted, provided with an airbrush motif, decorated with colors and glitter and brought into many extravagant shapes. A nail designer can also make an artificial nail look like it is a completely natural nail. For this reason, more and more men who chew fingernails are wearing artificial nails in order to have well-cared for hands.


The modelage is removed either by soaking in acetone or by sanding. After removing a model, the natural nail underneath is thin and soft because the keratin of the nail plate did not come into contact with the air in order to harden, and the nail was roughened before modeling, which can weaken thin nails anyway. After the modeling has been removed by grinding, the nail is particularly susceptible to germ colonization for a few months. After three to four months, the nail has fully returned to the same condition as it was before the modeling.


If the nail is not processed hygienically , it is possible to become infected with a nail fungus or another nail disease. Filing the nail too hard down to the nail bed also increases the risk of infection. Furthermore, allergies can arise from the materials (especially hydroquinone ) for nail modeling, which show up as a rash or swelling on the face and hands (until the 1970s, these were primarily caused by methyl methacrylate , which has since been replaced by other methacrylates.)

A material suitable for nail extensions should have a certain degree of hardness in order to achieve a long-lasting, optically attractive impression, but at the same time break in the event of dangerous overload before the natural nail is torn off. Since these two requirements contradict each other, a compromise is usually chosen in which, by modeling the nail in a suitable material thickness, it breaks if the fingertip is overloaded . However, in extreme cases it cannot be avoided that the nail is pried off at an unfavorable angle and the nail plate is damaged as a result. This can subsequently lead to the growth of the nail being impaired (wavy regrowth, etc.). Therefore, inexperienced users of a nail model should start with a moderate extension.

The methacrylates and acrylic monomers used to fasten the nails can trigger a contact allergy such as an acrylate contact allergy and can be accompanied by abnormal sensations such as tingling and numbness .

Particular risks in patient care

Artificial nails are more densely populated with bacteria and fungi than natural fingernails. According to studies, this led to nosocomial infections in people with weakened immune systems and infections in surgical wounds. In addition, disposable gloves are more likely to tear from artificial fingernails. Therefore, personnel who work in areas where hand hygiene is important (e.g. food processing, health care) should refrain from using artificial fingernails. During these activities, wearing artificial nails is usually prohibited by the employer's hygiene standards.

So in the will the Robert Koch Institute published KRINKO recommendation hand hygiene in health care facilities treat for those patients or care, prohibited the use of nail polish and wearing artificial fingernails and gegelter.

Web links

Commons : Nail modeling  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ↑ Brief portrait of Fred Slack (English). In: Retrieved November 19, 2012 .
  2. NAILS Magazine Encyclopedia: NSI (Nail Systems International). In: Retrieved November 26, 2012 .
  3. The History of Nail Polish and Nail Care. In: Retrieved November 26, 2012 .
  4. US Patent # 2799282: Device for extending fingernails. Retrieved November 26, 2012 .
  5. Which bit to remove gel or acrylic? Simple explanation. In: JCMaster Beauty. July 24, 2018, accessed on July 25, 2020 (German).
  6. Acrylic Fingernail Study Guide. In: Retrieved November 19, 2012 .
  7. Health risk from artificial fingernails. In: Retrieved October 16, 2019 .
  8. Diagnosis and therapy of nail diseases. In: Deutsches Ärzteblatt No. 29/30 2016, pp. 509-518. DOI: 10.3238 / arztebl.2016.0509
  9. Is wearing artificial fingernails safe for people who treat or care for patients? In: Retrieved November 26, 2018 .