From how to keep damage to a minimum to how to make them look better for longer, we asked a pro for her top nail tips

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When it comes quick fixes for achieving longer-looking and stronger-feeling nails, acrylics are still one of the most well known ways to achieve them. They’ve been around for years, but they seem to have suffered a bad rap in recent times due to ongoing concerns about damage to the nail, risk of infection and easy breakage.

Are they deserving of the negative press? According to nail pro and GTG Expert  Sabrina Gayle , the problem lies in the way that they’re applied and removed. “It is an inexperienced technician not the enhancements themselves that are the real problem,” she says. “Unsanitary tools, files and prep and cutting corners will all lead to bacterial problems and weakened, dented, or even broken nails.”

The British Association of Dermatologists also recently warned that the methacrylate chemicals found in acrylic and gel polishes could cause an allergic, itchy rash to occur on the body. It was noted that this most often occurs when gels and polishes are applied at home or by untrained technicians.

With so many developments in talon tech, it seems that there may well no longer be a need for the use of acrylic any more. However, it still has its place for certain looks. “Acrylic is more beneficial if you’re wanting a more natural pink tone to your nails,” says Sabrina. “Gel powder gives your nails a clearer look and so it is more beneficial if you’re wanting white tips. Acrylic and gel powder are both as strong and hard wearing.”

A mixture of a liquid monomer and a powder polymer, it creates a hard protective layer on nails to make them appear longer and stronger. However, if done by someone who lacks the know-how or if they’re not looked after afterwards, the reality will be far from that when they come off. We asked Sabrina for her top acrylic nail tips for getting the most out of your manicure and ensuring it looks better for longer too.

1. Book in with someone who has both qualifications and experience

Finding the right person to do your acrylics is key and a mixture of industry-specific certification and on-the-job experience can provide ample peace of mind for ensuring that you’re in the right hands. “The key to great acrylics is a qualified technician, one who is proud to display their certificates and will talk you through the service and extend aftercare advice,” says Sabrina. "The nail technician will need to have a minimum VTCT Level 2 Certificate in Nail Technology." So keep your eyes peeled and don't be afraid to ask.

2. Ensure the tools being used are clean

Risk of infection is a common area of concern for those tempted to try acrylics. This is largely due to the tools used and the process followed to prep the nails before acrylics are applied. “No matter what type of nail service or which brand of products you use, preparing the nail plate properly is paramount for enhanced nails, avoiding infections and lifting,” says Sabrina. If you think the files, tip cutters or brushes are dirty or worn out, speak up to avoid infection (they’ll be used to complete tasks like pushing the cuticles back). Clean tools that are regularly replaced will also be more effective at removing dust and debris from the nail plate to ensure that the acrylics adhere better too.

3. Invest in a good cuticle oil

A nourishing hand cream and hydrating cuticle oil are two mani must-haves for lengthening the life of your acrylics and preventing nails from drying out. “One of my favourite cuticle oils is Dadi’Oil , £8.76,” says Sabrina. “A perfect skin moisturiser for dry hands, it’s a 95% certified organic treatment which absorbs quickly and penetrates deep into the skin and nail, enhancing flexibility and preventing brittleness.” Sabrina’s also a fan of CND’s SolarOil , £12.95, too. Hand cream-wise, a tube of The Body Shop’s Hemp Hard-working Hand Protecteur , £5, provides a sizeable surge of moisture for dehydrated fingers and hands. Rich in essential fatty acids, it doesn’t leave my bag.

MORE GLOSS: Hemp seed oil - 5 products that'll help you start 2018 on a skin high

4. Abide by the two-week rule

The best amount of time left before tackling gaps caused by regrowth depends on how fast your nails grow. However as a general rule of thumb, Sabrina advises abiding by the two-week rule before getting them rebalanced. Different to infills, rebalancing adjusts the size and shape of your acrylic across the whole nail (instead of just at the cuticle) for a more natural and less bulky finish. “I recommend two weeks of growth should be rebalanced as any longer can compromise the nails and can cause lifting or breakages if your nails have grown in length,” says Sabrina. “Some clients’ nails take a little longer to grow and can go without a rebalance for up to three weeks though.”

To keep you mani looking just as glossy as it did on day one, Sabrina also recommends topping up shine levels with a good top coat such as  Seche Vite’s , £9, (it’s also incredibly fast-drying too).

5. Go tool-free when it comes to removal

The use of metal or abrasive-looking implements is a surefire way to end up with weak and brittle nails - ensure your technician’s station is tool-free. “The safest way to remove acrylics is to saturate a lint free pad in acetone, placing the pad on the nail and wrapping it in foil,” says Sabrina. “You need to allow up to 30 minutes and sometimes more before you can remove the acrylic from the nail. Forcing the product off using a metal tool or an orange stick will effectively cause damage to the nail plate. The product should be soft enough to roll off.” Unnecessary drills and files should be avoided at all costs.

Follow Sabrina on Instagram  @nailedbysg  and Ayesha  @Ayesha_Muttu .