Why Do Nails Pop Off?

Why Do Nails Pop Off?

Paola PonceApril 21, 2022

It’s all fun and games until we break a nail, right!

But sometimes, it’s more than just a break. Sometimes we lose a whole nail enhancement.

What if I told you, there is a way to literally make nails impossible to pop off. Oh yes there is, and in today’s video. That is exactly what we’ll be talking about.

I said it. There is a way to have your nail enhancements never pop off, and no, it does not require that you take a very abrasive file to the natural nail or load up the natural nail with a primer or dehydrator.

In fact, if you’re a regular of this channel you know we actually prefer a medium grit sponge buffer on the natural nails for prep and simply 90% alcohol prior to Kokoist Gel Application.

But we’ve already sung that tune in another video, let’s get back on track.

So how do you prevent nails from popping off?

Let’s assume that you’ve done all of your prep correctly, and let’s briefly review what those steps are to ensure you leave no stone unturned:

Step 1: You’ve started with cleansed nails… meaning there is no things like food, or lotions, or hair products on your client’s nails before getting started.

Step 2: You’ve eliminated all cuticle on the nail plate, and there are no scraggly skins sticking out around the eponychium area that will attract gel. I would recommend you use electric file manicuring and avoid cuticle removing solutions to cut out any culprits that may cause your nails to lift.

Step 3: You’ve sanded or buffed the natural nail thoroughly according to what your nail system  suggest. Hard products typically require a board file or sanding band, and soft products typically require a sponge buffer. Now whichever one you are using, you must not pass it on the nail surface too fast or you will smooth the nail out too much and this will contribute to your nails popping off or lifting. Do it slowly and thoroughly letting the grit of the sanding tool you’re using do the prepping for you. You are looking for 2 things when preparing the natural nails: a complete matte surface AND a little bit of texture left behind on the nail plate to allow the product to grip on.

Step 4: You’ve cleansed the nail of debris and oils. I recommend you use BOTH a nail brush and a towelette soaked in prep solution. If you just use a manicuring brush soaked in your cleanser than you may not get every bit of dust particle off of the nail plate, and this will inevitably lead to lifting. Coming back around with a towelette will ensure you’ve taken a closer look and that there is no dust left behind. The cleanser you use will depend on the nail system you are using. With Japanese gel, all you need is 90% alcohol. Keep in mind that using 70% typically menas 30% water, and that amount of water typically will not evaporate or dry off of the nail plate prior to your application, thereby leading to nails popping off. 

Step 5: Using a bonder (aka primer) or pH balancer (aka dehydrator) before product application. Most soak-off products will not require a pH balancer or primer. But sadly the first thing you’ll resort to when nails pop off,  I know because I’ve done it) is to drench the nails in primer. But I want you to hold your horses here. If you have to constantly rely on your primer when the nail system you are using does not require it, you may first want to check all of the above steps we’ve covered thus far.

Step 6: Ensure that your product application does not one bit touch the skin. ANY product cured on the skin whether you’re using hard products or soft, will cause lifting. And with hard products especially, a little bit of lifting leads to a whole lot of lifting and eventually for some … nails popping off.

This all leads me to the biggest factor that will contribute to nails staying on always, or experiencing “pop-offs”.

It all has to do with the word, flexibility.

And that is the flexibility of both the gel nail enhancement, and the natural nail.

Put very simply they HAVE to match, or be compatible if you expect nails never to pop off on you or your clients.

But don’t overthink this. It is as simple as hard nails with hard products, and soft products with soft natural nails. And what I mean by soft, is flexible.

Examples of hard products include, those that typically don’t soak off like acrylic, hard gel, polygel

Examples of soft products include those that are soak-off, like soft potted gel (like Kokoist), builder in a bottle (BIAB), gel polish, and nail lacquer. 

So if you’ve ever worked with acrylic or hard gel nail products, and you used only these type of products on your clients continuously, you may have encountered a casualty. And if it was on your client… she may have said something like… “it just popped off” as if their hands were just sitting there and all of a sudden the nail enhancement got a brain of its own and decided… “Time to jump off!’ 

Ok, enough of picking on the client, they use the words that just make sense to them.

But what they most likely meant is that they were doing her things and then reached for something or hit something with her nails and the entire nail came off, or perhaps she didn’t even notice when it came off, they just looked and it was gone.

So what is happening like 9 times out of 10 when a nail pops off, is that that nail enhancement is simply too hard.

Once I made the transition in my business to soak off gel in pots or Japanese Gel this problem disappeared.

That is because soft potted gel or Japanese Gel is flexible. 

Acrylic and hard gel once cured, are practically impossible to bend or flex. And that is not the characteristic of natural nails. Even the hardest nails have a little bit of flexibility. But if you have ever had a client to  whom anything sticks to their nails, that is probably because she has strong natural nails. Anything from acrylic to nail polish, will last on her because her natural nails are strong.

But, most of us don’t have strong nails naturally. They split, or bend too much that eventually they tear. And if they're doing all of this naughtiness underneath a hard enhancement like, acrylic, hard gel, or polygel then it starts to tear away from that enhancement… and a “pop-off” scenario happens.

The hard enhancement does not move with the nail.

So by now you may start getting a hint of  what the solution is, and that is using a flexible product for your client. The really cool thing is that when you use Kokoist Products you can use them on those who want short nails, long nails, extensions… anything really. I mean except for a really extreme length, but otherwise anything is ok here.

Now remember Kokoist is a semi-hard product and so all of their foundation gels will be flexible to some extent, which means just about (if not all) of your clients have the potential to do well in them.

In order of flexibility, here is how they rank,

Mega Stick Base is the most flexible.

Then we have the Nail Thoughts Collection of Bases

Then it is Platinum Bond Duo

And Excel Builder, just remember that you need a base gel or mega stick base underneath Excel Builder. Excel Builder cannot touch the natural nail without it.

SO the cool thing here is that because all of these foundation gels have some flexibility in them you just have to find the one, or two that your clients consistently do well in, and really never have to worry about nails popping off ever again.

So let’s bring it all home and recap how to avoid nails from ever popping off:

#1 Start with cleansed hands and nails

#2 Eliminate all cuticle from the nail plate 

#3 Sand-file or buff the nails

#4 Cleanse with both a manicure brush and a towelette

#5 Use a bonder only when required

#6 MAke sure your product application never cures on the skin

And lastly

#7 Use products that match the flexible characteristic of nails.

I hope today’s blog helped you a lot!


Paola Ponce is an independent nail educator helping the Japanese gel nail niche and its nail techs grow! You can follow more of her work at www.paolaponcenails.com and @paolaponcenails on Instagram. Save & support her work with affiliate code PPN10.


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