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It was approximately 2017, I believe, and I vividly remember when chrome nails burst into the scene. Short clips of this silver metallic powder with a mirror glass finish began spreading like crazy on the ‘Gram.
There was no turning back; chrome nails were here to stay. … And slay.
Chrome gel nails are and will continue to be an evergreen design, coming in and out of trend, sure, maybe, but definitely here to stay.
Chrome nails can also be a tremendous income booster in your nail business; so it’s worth you spending the time to master it. They definitely were mine, as the chrome look sold itself.
…Like, who didn’t want that highly reflective chromie look on their nails? It was all the rage.
Chrome nails, however, can also hurt your business if they don’t last beyond just a couple of days because chrome nails are very prone to chipping with improper technique and product.
And if you’ve been struggling with Chrome, don’t be so harsh on yourself; there are a lot of variables for a successful, lengthy, long-lasting Chrome application, and that is why I sat on this video for about two weeks… because I didn’t want to leave any detail out.
So! Today, I will show you how to apply chrome on gel nails…
And you’re in for a total chrome masterclass. Let’s begin.
A successful chrome nail application involves paying attention to 3 key players to master your chrome gel nails:
We’ll be deep diving into #1 & #2. And number #3 I’ll be incorporating through out, as I give you tips and tricks.
Let’s begin with,
KEY PLAYER #1 HAVING A GOOD FOUNDATION
Your gel application must be smooth. The most perfectly self-leveled foundation as possible. That includes both the base layer and your color layer. This is because if there are any imperfections on the nails, chrome will enhance and bring those imperfections out even more!
If you are an advanced nail tech who can self-level just about any viscosity gel, proceed as you would apply your gel nails, but if you struggle with your self-leveling, my favorite product for full chrome nails is my tinted builder.
With just a little bit of guidance with my brush, this tinted bottled builder self-levels perfectly into shape, and because it’s tinted, I don’t have to stress about adding my color gel layers without error. I can simply march on with my next application step for chrome.
Now, while I want you to reach for your tinted bottled builder (some call bottled builder, rubber base, BTW), go with a name brand you can trust. A tinted builder is a delicate formulation, and if too much pigment or monomer is used in its manufacturing, you will have an improper cure, leading to allergies. And unfortunately, there is a lot of bad private labeling out there with these. So get your tinted builder from an established brand. The one I use is Nail Thoughts by Kokoist. Save 10% w/ code PPN10.
Now that you understand that a perfectly smooth foundation is key let’s move on to,
KEY PLAYER #2 THE RIGHT PRODUCTS
Ok, now, I’m not here to pigeonhole you into one particular brand of anything. If you guys know me, I don’t like to use too many brands for peace of mind and to avoid all of these troubleshooting scenarios.
So, anything that I mention today know it is tried and true, and I’ve been successful with Chrome for at least 6 years since my first original Chrome video on my channel.
With that being said, I will share with you in this section, the brand that has been there since this trend broke out and also a couple of products that I discovered this year that have been all the difference.
But before I do that…
Let me start by saying that the reason why we all struggle with Chrome is primarily because, while we may see a good-intent video of someone sharing their best tips for Chrome. Every single viewer is going to give those tips a go with whatever products they have available to work with.
That is one of the hardest things about giving advice with chrome: without issuing more context to the viewer, the advice is rarely universal.
… But today! I got you, hang tight!
For example, if a video tutorial says to cure ‘this layer for 30 seconds’, viewers will often have a different gel than the one being shown or a different curing unit.
I have yet to see a single tutorial mentioning the biggest player in the success of all gel nail applications, chrome or not, and that is indeed that curing unit.
Your curing unit MUST BE from the brand you specialize in or from a long term reputable gel nail company.
And I will admit that when it comes to achieving a successful nail art look or trend, I will personally mix more brands than I normally will.
Let’s look deeper into the products that are part of a successful chrome application because…
All chromes, clear gels, sponges, curing units, and everything else that goes into a long-wearing chrome application is not created equal.
Let’s go line-by-line…
The right chrome
There is such a thing as “high-grade” or premium chrome. A premium chrome product will be cosmetic grade and safe to use. Typically, if your chrome only requires that you use a tad to get the effect, this is a good indicator that you have a high-grade chrome.
You have to be really careful about where you source your chrome from, because in the past, some online sources have sold industrial chrome powder, or nailists have been sold chrome powders that have been questionable for safe use as a cosmetic.
So, if you just get a smidgen of chrome powder in your orders, that’s probably a good thing.
One of the first reputable nail companies that started to carry the best chrome powder, back when it all started in 2017, was Daily Charme!
And they’re still holding it down, stocking the most popular options.
Other brands that I’m continuing to use and am very satisfied with are the Korean Brand Icegel’s Sunset Glow Powders and Kokoist’s and Leafgel’s chrome pens (Also, can use code PPN10 😉).
By the way, Kokoist now offers dual-sided pens with an improved applicator.
Let’s move on,
The right sponge
This one is easy to resolve and settle on.
When it comes to sponges for chrome, whether in powder or liquid form, you want to avoid a sponge with large pores. The tighter the pores, the smoother your application will be.
Your sponge can be a full make-up sponge if you need more surface area to hold on to, especially while working on longer nails, or you can use an eyeshadow applicator for shorter nails or simply for more precision.
Remember, the key is that the sponge is smooth and has tight pores.
Regardles of which applicator you use, you will have to gently but thoroughly dust off any excess loose powder before top gel or two things can happen:
#1 You’ll end up with a shimmery look vs a highly metallic one
#2 You’ll end up contaminating your brush’s bristles
Because the process is getting really visual, I may be going LIVE on Instagram this Weds. So make sure you follow me on their @paolaponcenails to catch me LIVE or get the recording afterward.
I recommend a new sponge for every application, but If you do re-use your sponges, just perhaps no more than twice for a set of nails, as an overused sponge may decrease the clarity of your chrome.
Some people sometimes use their glove to burnish, but the success of that may vary depending on the glove. If the glove is a bit grainy, it may not work.
Do not use your bare fingers for burnishing the chrome as your fingers have oils that can interfere with how clear your chrome reflection is, and also, those oils can lead to chipping of your application.
Just a quick word on liquid chrome
As you guys may know this has been one of Kokoist’s products greatest hits, and so if you have these, a smooth sponge is crucial for liquid chrome.
If you haven’t dabbled into liquid chrome, all good; I find that pressed chrome powder in a pen or loose in a jar is more metallic, at least in my experience, than liquid chrome.
However, If you’re interested in the how-to video of liquid chrome, I’ll link it here so you can come back and watch it so that this post doesn’t get too long.
And if you are enjoying that video thus far, would you please support it with a lil thumbs up? It helps us very much on the platform. Thank you!
The right burnishing non-wipe
Yes! Although every piece of advice out there says, ‘Just use any non-wipe top gel’, in my experience, those that are specifically labeled to be for burnishing chrome will hardly, if ever, disappoint you.
The main thing about them is that they’re not “temperamental” sort-of-speak.
This means that if you cure them for 20 seconds, 30 seconds, or 60 seconds, they will still be ready for you to burnish them.
When you rely on your non-wipe top gel, you must test it.
Is it ready at 10 seconds, like the Kokoist Non-Wipe Top Gel, or 20 secs, or the full 60 secs.
And here’s the thing, even when you can find what setting makes it ready for burnishing, if you literally rub it the wrong way, or miss the exact cure time, you have to start all over, and that would mean buffing the top gel and re-applying because shiny does not adhere to shiny when it comes to gels. A little more on that in a moment.
So, investing in a dedicated chrome burnishing top gel is definitely worth it, to avoid this frustration.
Once again, Daily Charme figured this out from the get-go. They have a dedicated non-wipe gel for burnishing your chrome.
In case you don’t know what burnishing means, it simply means to rub with pressure so that you can create a polished-look.
In the salon I used Daily Charme’s gel with great success for many years, so I highly recommend them, especially as a pioneer in this chrome thing.
But, just like you, once in a while I like to get curious and try new things and I did come across a burnishing top gel from the premium Korean Brand “From The Nail”. You can use code PPN10 for 10% off at Zillabeau, too ;).
It is the one labeled “non wipe clear gel” not “non wipe top gel”.
Again, because this clear gel is formulated specifically for burnishing, it is not temperamental. You can cure it for 30 or 60 seconds and it’ll be okay, it will still allow you to burnish over it.
And yeah, these are the only two chrome burnishing gels I have experience with for a good time, so they’re tried and true.
Icegel does have a dedicated one, but I gave it away in our last giveaway… simply because I didn’t want to bother with a new product.
Although this non-wipe clear gel is intended to max cure at 60 seconds,
This is because I want the slightly undercured clear gel, to pull the chrome tightly into it for long wear, and I also want my sealing layer to fuse with that application.
Alright, time to talk about,
The right top coat
Yes, yes, yes this is a deal breaker, or a chrome-chipper, if you will.
I want to share both, what I’ve been doing with success in the past, and what I’m doing now with success also.
What I want you to do at this step is to learn the old and the new because they both work and see what you have in your arsenal of products before buying anything new.
Let’s start with what I’ve done in the past
One of the very first videos I uploaded to YouTube was on Chrome, and it was quite a successful video, with many of my subscribers now having found me through that video.
And I mention that because what I did in that video still works! And I’ve used that technique up to this day.
Here’s what I’ve always done with success…
So when it came to top-coating my chrome application, I didn’t just go straight in with my top gel. I first used a base gel and then went in with my top gel.
The freshly burnished chrome is now a shiny surface, and the rule of thumb with gel products is that they do not adhere for long to a shiny surface. So again, with gel, shiny on shiny does not last, which is one of the reasons why we all have struggled with chrome. Not only because we’re all just trying to make it work with what we have using generic advice, but because we’re trying to make gel do something that it generally does do.
SO here’s how we mitigate in order for Chrome to last for weeks without chipping. You have to pause the cure, way before the 60 seconds, then burnish, then flash cure that, and while we still have a bit of cure time to finish or, at minimum, while the nails are still warm after coming out of the lamp you must swiftly proceed to whatever gel you’re going to use to seal your application.
Now in that video, I used my Leafgel Sculpting Gel as a base before my top gel. But later, I discovered that any base gel you use before your top gel will work.
After burnishing your high quality chrome, with the right sponge, over the right burnishing non-wipe clear gel, you can tuck a little bonder on the edge to ensure long wear.
This whole process has been the most universal process that has worked for me and my community, allowing you to use what you already have.
Now, on to the new-new…
One day, while casually scrolling Instagram, I was referred to a Chrome post by a lovely gal under the handle @nailartbysofia_, and she so graciously shared what was working for her with Chrome, and that going straight in with a specific top coat gave her and her clients long-wearing results. I’ll share what top coat it is in just a moment!
She had the receipts, meaning client pictures showcasing long wear with minimal, if any, chipping at all.
She didn’t double top gel, nor did base and top gel, nor bonder at the tips; just one single coat of this top gel, sealed the chrome for weeks without chipping.
Later, I stumbled upon my student Katie Dutra’s post on her experience with Chrome, where she also confirmed that top gel was the secret sauce if you just want to seal in one coat. As pros, we want in because time is money in the salon, and we will buy the option that saves us one additional step.
So… what is that top gel? I’m so excited… because it is a Japanese Gel Nail Brand…
Can we say superior products? I know I’m so biased.
It is Presto’s Non-Wipe Top Gel.
But, although I trust these two ladies, I couldn’t just tell you that.
I had to try it for you… and the results are in…
IT WORKS 🙂
Now if you are not in a place where Presto Gel Nail Products are distributed or you can’t afford to buy a new product or don’t want to… just do what I’ve always been doing cause it still works.
So now my dynamic duo is FGEL Clear and Presto Non-Wipe Top for a super simple reliable long-lasting chrome application.
Now if you’ve been a subscriber for some time now, you know I’m a little bit of a gel nail nerd, and so I am kind of curious as to why this top gel works in one coat, and that may be because of it being a hard gel not a soak-off gel.
I’m all about starting with what you have first. So if you have a hard gel top coat and you’ve followed all of our tips and recommendations thus far, try your hard top coat first and see if it works.
For all of you who follow Japanese Gel Nail Brands, you may know that Leafgel just released a Hard Gel Top Coat, so try that if you already have it or if Leafgel is your main brand and you’re trying to stay within your brand. I’ll also try it with you, and I’ll share my results maybe as a pinned comment in the comments below, so keep an eye for it.
Couple all of my recommendations with a trusted brand’s curing unit or the curing unit of the brand you specialize in, and you, my friend, should have a mastered understanding and application of chrome gel nails. I’m so excited for you to go out there and nail this thing!
Thank you for watching and I’ll see you next week.
Content written by Paola Ponce
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