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When it comes to manicures I know we’re all looking for the best look and feel because it adds to our fashion, our brand and helps to show the world who we are. But deciding between materials to form the look of your nails can be a bit tricky as the benefits and disadvantages for each vary. But you don’t have to worry because I will give you an in-depth comparison between fiberglass and acrylic so you can decide which is better for you.
Between fiberglass nails and acrylic nails, neither is necessarily better than the other as it depends on what is more suitable for you. Acrylics are more durable and cost-effective than fiberglass while the latter appear more natural and are easier to remove than acrylics. Depending on these characteristics, you can decide which is the better choice.
I will discuss some of the types of nail wraps available and explore what benefits you can get from each. Afterward, I will explore the different features of fiberglass and acrylics, including how to apply them, how to use them together as well as how to determine which is better for you. You will then gain a better appreciation of what either of these can offer for your next manicure.
Table of Contents
Types Of Nail Wraps
As the name would imply, nail wraps are materials that are used to wrap the nails, forming a thin, protective layer as their base. They extend as far back as the 1920s when women would use different materials to repair their broken nails.
Materials varied from tea bags to coffee filters. As the practice evolved companies started identifying and creating alternative ways to make wraps. Types of nail Wraps include silk, linen, fiberglass, and paper wraps.
You will find that almost any thin fabric can be used.
Silk wraps are the most natural-looking of the three as it already has a smooth texture that you can build on. It is said to be healthier for your nails as it still allows your nails to “breathe” due to the very small holes in the fabric. It isn’t as strong as the other materials, however, which means you will find that of the four they need more layers and fortification.
For stronger wraps, you can use linen nail wraps. The color of the linens used is often white which shows through the agents used to fortify the linen, leaving you with an awkward white finish. So, with this type of nail wrap, you may have to add a layer or two of colored nail polish to cover the white.
Paper nail wraps tend to not last longer than a week. However, despite paper’s natural reaction to moisture, it can be used as a base for nail wraps. The strength will depend as much on the thickness of paper you use as it does on how much of the fortifying agent you apply.
What Are Fiberglass Nails?
Fiberglass nails are made from thin strips of fiberglass. It is a form of plastic that is reinforced using glass fiber. To make fiberglass, heat is applied to the glass until it melts.
It is then forced through micro holes which creates tiny glass pieces. They are then woven together to form larger forms of the material. As the pieces are woven, upon close inspection you can definitely see the weaving patterns in the strips used to apply to nails.
As these are strips made from actual glass, however, the material is strong enough to form synthetic nails. It tends to only require a few layers to properly fortify the nails.
Fiberglass comes in two options: Pre-Cut and Rolls. The pre-cut wraps will come in packages of ten, one for each finger. It is easier to apply and you can have a better handle on the wrap to apply it.
When it comes to a roll, you will have to cut out the desired shape for your nails. It will be more tailored to your nails as sometimes the pre-cut fiberglass can be a bit off in terms of matching the size of your nails. I would suggest sticking to pre-cut fiberglass nails if you are handling them as a novice. The rolls can become overwhelming to tailor.
How To Apply Fiberglass Nails?
To apply your fiberglass nails, you will first have to prep your nails. Buff your nails to promote adhesion to your nails, then clean away debris and particles from the buffing. You will need a substance called a resin activator.
You also have to use nail glue. The resin activator and the nail glue are the products that you will be using to build up and fortify your nail wraps.
Resin is often made from shellac. Shellac is the secretion from lac insects found on trees in countries such as Thailand. As these insects eat the sap from the trees, they produce this secretion that is harvested and used in substances that need a hardening and sheen effect such as wood varnish, or even food products like candy.
This resin is what you’ll be using to fortify the fiberglass throughout the application process. Place a layer on your natural nail plate to start. Place the fiberglass strip onto the nail using an instrument.
You cannot use your hand to apply the strip as the oil from your skin will moisten the wrap, causing you to experience lifting. Also, ensure that the wrap does not cover the nail up to the cuticles. Like most nail grooming processes, it is best to avoid applying the product too close to the cuticles as this will cause the wrap to lift.
Once you’ve placed and correctly positioned your wrap, use your nail glue brush and place a thin film of glue over it. When it is secured, you can go ahead and cut your wrap to your desired length. The longer you desire your nail wrap to be, the more layers you will have to place at the tip of your nails to support the length of the wrap.
Once you have glued and secured the first layer, spray your resin activator on your nails to help the wrap to harden.
With each layer you add, apply glue and resin to fortify the nails. Once the nails have adequately hardened, you can gently file the nail to give it your desired shape. Afterward, go ahead and buff your nails to reduce some of the weave patterns that may still show through your resin and glue layers.
A good way to improve the finish of the nails is to apply gel polish. For even stronger nails you can also apply tips to your nail plate before starting the process.
Can You Use Any Fiberglass Material On Your Nails?
Your fiberglass nails are made of the same materials as regular fiberglass used for buildings and everyday items. If you’re wondering if you can buy fiberglass yourself and file them down to use on your nails, I would strongly advise against it.
It is firstly not a good idea as without a proper machine it will be next to impossible to acquire the thin sheet of wrap needed for your nails. Even if you were to get such a thin strip, your nail wraps have been treated and made specifically for nails. I would believe that you are exposing yourself to danger if you allow regular fiberglass to come in contact with your cuticles.
If your fiberglass is not professionally cut, you risk the possibility of splinters of fiberglass stripping from your nails and entering your body. Fiberglass can cause sore throat and irritation of the stomach and eyes. While this is still a risk if you should use store-bought fiberglass wraps, the chances are greater if raw fiber is used.
Chemicals used during the production of fiberglass pose a hazard. These chemicals can trigger respiratory issues like asthma. Wearing proper safety equipment is often suggested when handling regular fiberglass so I think it is safe to avoid participating in DIY nail wraps using this material.
Are Fiberglass Nails Expensive?
Fiberglass nails can be quite costly. When you consider how many layers you need to apply per nail, the length of time your technician will take applying them and the fact that it will need to be removed in a matter of weeks you can see that the bill racks up to quite an expensive job.
What Are Acrylic Nails?
Acrylic nails find their origins in a dentist’s office. A dentist had chipped his nail and used dental photopolymer to repair it. Once he saw how good it turned out he realized that it could become quite a successful business selling the formula to manicurists.
As time progressed this formula was enhanced and developed into the acrylic mixture we use today. Acrylic nails are a combination of powder polymers and liquid monomers. When put together, they form a substance that is easy to be sculptured over your nails and in your desired shape.
There are no photoinitiators inside the chemicals so they can be air-dried. It performs the same function as nail wraps which fortify and extend the durability of your nails when groomed.
Here you can read more about acrylic nails and why you should use a primer.
How To Apply Acrylic Nails
Some nail technicians will place nail formers on your nails to sculpt your desired shape. After using a nail primer to degrease and clean your nails, your nail tech will moisten the applicator instrument in the liquid monomer then lightly pull it through the powder for the dough to form. The tech will then apply it to your nails from the base and pull it towards the tip.
They will then repeat this method until they have reached the desired thickness and shape.
Nail formers come in handy for longer nails and ones that have a pointed shape. Afterward, your nail tech will buff your nails so that they can have a bit of grit for your desired nail polish to grip. He or she will then treat it as your regular nail by applying base coat polish and topcoat.
How To Remove Fiberglass Nails
First, remove any nail polish you have using acetone or nail polish remover. Although you will be using the same product to remove the fiberglass that you’re using to remove the nail polish, I prefer to remove the nail polish first.
The reason for this is if you soak your nails in acetone with the nail polish on you will find that the color will seep onto your fingers which may be a little difficult to remove. So, dip a cotton tip into some acetone and gently rub the polish off.
Once you’re done place some of the acetone or nail polish removers into a bowl and dip your fingers in. You do this at three-minute intervals wiping away the product off your nails each time to ensure that all the fiberglass is removed.
You want to ensure that you don’t keep your finger in the acetone for longer than three minutes at a time. You can damage your skin by allowing it to soak in the acetone for that long.
If you find the fiberglass is still difficult to remove, do not tug at it as you can ruin your nail bed and damage your cuticles. Just keep soaking and gently working the material from your nails.
For a more incubated approach, you can wrap cotton balls that are soaked in acetone around your fingers and hold them in place using aluminum foil strips. Bear in mind you don’t want to leave this on your skin for long either.
Afterward, buff your nails to regain their smooth texture. Nails become weakened after being under products like fiberglass for an extended period of time, so ensure not to buff too hard as you may damage them. As acetone and nail polish removers are very drying substances, ensure to rehydrate your skin and nails with cuticle oils and moisturizers.
Which Is Better: Fiberglass Or Acrylic?
To answer which is better for you we’ll assess different expectations we have for our manicures and use that to measure how satisfactory one is compared to the other.
Of the two, acrylic nails are stronger than fiberglass nails, lasting up to three weeks per nail job. There is a chemical reaction that occurs when the polymer and monomer are mixed and hardened, which gives it commendable durability. Personally, it would be my go-to if I need durability but don’t want to do gel nails.
Fiberglass on the other hand will have more of a resemblance to natural nails because of its thin finish. But this thin finish is precisely why it is not durable. If you’re lucky you may be able to get away with having it in for two weeks.
So, if you’re looking for a manicure that lasts, I would have to say to use acrylic.
If you find that you do a lot of washing or just frequently have your hands in water, I would advise you to not use fiberglass nails as they can be broken down in water over time.
Acrylics are malleable where it concerns being able to easily manipulate the formula to set how you would like. However, that is only the case when the formula is still wet. Once it hardens, your only hope of shaping the nails is to file it but even then, you might not get what you want.
Fiberglass on the other hand, as it is fabric-like, is easier to shape by simply cutting the material before hardening the nails with a resin activator. I would say that fiberglass nails are a better option if you’re looking for flexible nails.
This might be a little close between the two as both require repeated soaks in acetone for it to be removed. However, I have an easier time removing fiberglass than acrylic.
Acrylic takes a while to break down because of the different layers we may have put on when we were applying. It follows that a more durable formula will have a harder time breaking down.
Gentleness on Hands
Any unnatural chemical reactions happening to your body aren’t good for you. As the acrylic formula is being set on your nails, you can actually feel the warmth from its reaction to the liquid. It isn’t healthy for your nails and will help them to weaken.
However, fiberglass doesn’t have that risk. You place it on your nails and set it using glue, no chemical bonding is needed.
It can actually act as a barrier between your nails and acrylics. I will provide more detail on that below.
Of the two, acrylics are more affordable. Fiberglass can cost anywhere between $50 to $100. As we mentioned before, taking into consideration that it doesn’t last quite as long as acrylic, the amount adds up further if you do your nails consistently.
Doing fiberglass nails twice per month can set you back as much as $200. Alternatively, Acrylics cost a maximum of $50 and last longer than fiberglass. If you are looking for a budget-friendly option I would suggest sticking with acrylic.
Can Fiberglass And Acrylic Be Used Together? Step By Step Guide
You can use Fiberglass with Acrylic. This method is perfect for cracked nails as it is not recommended to apply acrylic on top of nails that are cracked. The acrylic may worsen the damage to your nails or seep through the crack and come into contact with the skin underneath.
Dangers Of Acrylic On Skin
Chemicals in the acrylic formula can irritate your skin and cause it to redden. The reason you have nails covering your flesh underneath is that the tips of your fingers are far more sensitive than the skin anywhere else. Allowing acrylic to sit on those sensitive sections will irritate it and at the very least make for a painful nail job.
This is why if you have cracked nails that expose the skin underneath them you can apply fiberglass nails first.
Step 1: Using Fiberglass As The Protective Layer
You will find that one side of the fiberglass wrap has a bit of adhesion to it. You can use some nail glue to help it stick to the nail. If your nail is cracked, I would advise you not to buffer them before putting on this layer as buffing can further damage them.
Once you have placed the fiberglass on your nails, you can use your nail glue to secure it, all the while avoiding your cuticles. You have now formed a barrier between your natural nails and the pending acrylic.
This method is beneficial even if you don’t have cracked or weak nails. You will find that your manicure will last longer on the fiberglass than if it were applied to your nails directly.
Step 2: Acrylic Layer
If you followed my explanation on how to apply fiberglass nails, you will see that ordinarily, the next step would be to use a resin activator so that the nail can harden. You can actually skip this step and use acrylic as a substitute. There is a bit of technique to it however if you want to ensure that your fiberglass stays secure under the acrylic.
First, apply a very thin layer of acrylic over your nails by placing a light amount of the liquid monomer on your brush and ever so lightly tapping it into the acrylic powder.
You will then tap on the base of the nail and pull it all over the fiberglass. Take care to even out the layer so that it can be very thin. With this method, the acrylic is acting as a resin to harden the fiberglass before applying another coating of acrylic.
Once your first layer is dried, you can apply the acrylic as normal. Use the powder and liquid to achieve your desired texture. For thicker applications of acrylic use less liquid and add a little more of the powder.
If you want your acrylic to be runnier then soak the brush a bit more then lightly tap into the acrylic powder.
For longer nails with more of a pointed shape, you can employ one of two methods.
Method 1: Fiberglass Structure Before Applying Acrylic
In this method, you will use fiberglass to form the shape and length of your nails before applying the acrylic. You will need more than one layer of fiberglass to achieve this. The less you can use to construct the shape, the better, as you don’t want to end up with bulky, unnatural liking nails.
As we discussed before for longer nails you will need to apply smaller strips of the fiberglass wrap nearer to the tip of the nails to secure the base of your length. Once you have reached your desired length, apply the thin layer of acrylic that I described earlier over the nail. You will then use your file to shape the nail as desired.
Once the nail is shaped you can buff the layer of your nails and apply your additional layers of acrylic over the full expanse of your constructed nails.
Method Two: Using The Acrylic To Construct
You can use acrylic to construct your nails instead of fiberglass. Once you have placed the fiberglass on your nails as previously directed, you will need to add several layers of acrylic to achieve your desired length.
Although you can achieve this look without using a nail former, I would recommend using it to get the best result. Place the nail former over your fingers and ensure the top is snug underneath your fiberglass nails. Bend the nail former into the shape that you are trying to achieve.
You will use the same motion of pulling the acrylic mixture from base to tip. After your first application repeats the same process, however, tap your powder a bit further from the base and gently pull the mixture past the tip of your nails onto the nail former. This method works best with runnier textures as it prevents the constant addition of acrylic from bulking up.
Each time you move away from the base ensure to run over the gap between your initial starting point and your new starting point to ensure a smooth flow. Once the acrylic has dried you can remove your nail former. Use your buff to make your nail shape more precise and to prep the structure for the coming nail application.
The decision is up to you as to which you determine to be better as you might not mind the expenses of fiberglass nails if you place more value in a natural look than how much it costs. Likewise, you may not mind that acrylics are harder to remove as long as you have a manicure that’s durable and cost-effective. The best product can be found in your preferences and not necessarily in the products themselves.
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