Prep Products You Need For Japanese Gel Nail Application [Japanese Gel Fundamentals Series #05]

Exactly what products do you need when using Japanese Gel.

You’ve heard prep is the most important part of a service. But what does the word prep even mean what does it do to the nail? Is prep a liquid solution or a process?

We’ll answer that and a little more in today’s Episode #05 of this Japanese Gel Fundamentals Series.

Prep, prep, prep. Yes there are 3 forms of prepping the nail. Here are what they are…

Prep is short for preparation, and just like painting a car, a wall… anything, you cannot just dab paint on it … well I guess you can, but not if you want that long wear, right?

So, much in the same way prep is absolutely essential before putting anything on the nails.

Now if we can go back a bit in time, and this is even before I got into nails myself. Prep was done a bit harsher than it is now. Especially for hard nail products like acrylic nails and some hard gels. 

The nails needed to be significantly dehydrated, primed and roughened in order for these nail products to have superior adhesion to the natural nail.

Thankfully, over the years, nail primers have gotten milder, and products have become less acidic. And of course a big thank you to all the nail companies who have cared enough to alter their products so that they are less corrosive or irritating to both techs and clients.

Now better products, thankfully have also aided in better adhesion without the need to alter the natural and healthy composition of the nail itself, regardless of the system you are using, acrylic, hard gel, or soft gel.

I have specifically dedicated myself to work with soft potted gel formulas for their much more delicate process of adhering to the nail. And in today’s Episode #5 of this Japanese Gel Nail Fundamentals series we will be identifying the 2 forms of prep needed for the best adhesion to the natural nail…

First let’s address the 3 types of methods to preparing the natural nails before addressing the 2 that we will need to use with Japanese Gel.

Prep Method #1 Prepping the natural nail as in using a liquid solution…

Back in the day, acid primers were a hit in the application of acrylic nails. And apparently what one of the primary things an acid based primer did, was to actually etch the nails, so that product actually flowed into the nail and adhere… Ouch! Well, I don’t think it actually hurt, but chemically boring holes into the nail sounds like it would work at improving adhesion. My guess.

But who wants to bore holes in their nails just for long wear… Thankfully, that’s no longer happening.

Another way to prep the nail is via a pH bonder. Basically as I understand it ***calling all scientists to help us on this one*** the oilier the nail plate is or the more moisture producing ones, tend to be more alkaline. A pH Bonder dehydrator dehydrates (duh, lol)  the nail making it more acidic and helps it bond to the nail product.

We’ll learn in a little bit, that Japanese Gels or soft potted gels actually do not require seperape pH balancers prior to adhering the base gel on.

Prep Method #2 Prepping the natural as in buffong or filing the surface of the nail…

Creating texture on the nail via a buffer, file, or efile ensures a better adhesion, for sure. Sometimes we call this process of preparing the natural nails, as ‘sanding the nail’. This is another form of prepping that thankfully has gotten milder. Yes, you can still use an arbor band or sanding band to texturize the nail, but I especially like when systems only require a buffer. I’ll have you know, that most soft potted gel systems like Japanese Gels only require a 220~ approx. grit buffer . Uhm… can we say soft potted gels for the win! Yea-yay!

Prepping via sanding opens up the nails making it porous allowing for the product slip into the nail slightly and adhere.


Prep Method #3 Prepping the natural nails as in using tools to remove all excess cuticle from off of the nail plate…

Listen beauty friend, you can apply all of the primer you like, and roughen up the surface of the nail, but if there is still cuticle, and yes sometimes it is even invisible, that cuticle (aka dead skin on the nail plate) will manage to hydrate enough from oils on the nail plate, and literally within 24 hours, you will see lifting again. So what do you do? Simple. You want to mechanically, if possible remove any trace of that cuticle. You would do so via an electrical filing machine and diamond particle attachment bit. It is simply the most thorough way to remove cuticle from off the nail, and personally, w/o shredding the natural nail. Yes any bit rotating at thousands of rotations per minute will shave some nail plate, but between an arbor band and a diamond particle bit, I think the diamond bit is the lesser of the 2 evils and as equally through as in the arbor nad.

I would definitely never use an arbor band on clients or myself, soft potted gels simply don’t need it for better adhesion. With a soft potted gel brand like Kokoist that wears and feels a bit more like hard gel, you can opt to use it, but I would still avoid the arbor band, I find I still get a good 3 week wear at least  w/o the use of texturizing the surface of the nail significantly.

Alright so again the 3 methods of prepping, …

#1 Prepping via a primer

#2 Prepping via sanding

#3 Prepping via cuticle removal

Hard product systems like acrylic and hard gel always need a primer of some sort. Sometimes even both dehydrator and primer. Don’t skip them unless you want your nails to last 2 days.

Japanese gel only needs technically #2 & #3. So prepping via sanding, and cuticle removal. And I say technically because when it comes to priming, the bonding or priming agent, the adhesion agent let’s just say, is already found in your gel base.

And because of this innovation you literally only need the following prep products for maximum adhesion when using your Japanese gel or soft potted gel system:

Prep Product #1 90% isopropyl alcohol, 90% IPA for short. And you’re doing 90 instead of 70% because the 30% water in 70% alcohol is enough to cause you lifting since it will not have enough time to evaporate from the nail surface prior to your gel application. That is it my friend, alcohol, and alcohol only. No need to get fancy I promise. In fact none of the 3 main brands I use, even provide their own prep solution. This is how unnecessary a prep solution is to them to have perfect adhesion between the nail and their product. You don’t even need acetone in your cleanser. In fact it may affect your adhesion by one of 2 ways. #1 by making the nails brittle over time, and #2 by creating a condensation layer on the surface of the nail that will result in lifting. 

And again … No you do not need to use a bonder or primer. Will using one increase adhesion? Absolutely, but around the 3rd nail service ( so once your client has returned the 3rd time) her nails will be dryer and more brittle and you’ll notice your services lasting less and less or you having to get somewhat more aggressive with your prep to ensure proper adhesion going forward…and soon after you’ll be hearing the dreaded words from your client “ I need to take take a break” see you again whenever… 🙁

Prep Product #2 A buffer.

Literally that’s it. And, nothing coarser than a 180 grit buffer. The nail plate simply does not need it to adhere to the product. Overdoing your sanding prep will result in service bread downs once you’ve thin the natural nail significantly where there is not even enough keratin for the product to adhere to. Yes if you use a coarse grit on the natural nail plate you will have strong adhesion the 1st time and even the second time, but what about henceforth? Would you even have a client when she doesn’t want to get her nails done any longer because “gel ruins her nails”.

Prep Product #3 A diamond nail bit.

I’ve tried a gentle pumice stone-type bit to exfoliate and I’ve also tried a sanding band (aka arbor band) to remove the cuticle. But the pumice bit was to gentle even when I cranked my efile speed up, and the sanding band was more than I needed. A quality diamond bit is all you need, and you’ll need it and your efile to do the work for you. I’ll link you to my favorite source down in the description box below.

Using a diamond bit on the nail plate to remove the cuticle will just about guarantee a no-lift application. I will caution the DIY community against using power tools w/ o a bit of training. Check out my e-filing course below for a speedy but thorough crash training. I would much rather you use a 180 grit board file if you are not trained with an electric file. Again it is so easy to cause damage when the attachment bit is rotating at thousands of rotations per minute.

And please always work on dry nails, do not do a water manicure prior. This will allow you to see all of the dry areas and decrease lifting.

These 3 super accessible products is all Japanese gels need for great adhesion.

Let’s bring it all home.

The 3 prep methods are

#1 Prepping w/ a primer

#2 Prepping by sanding

#3 Prepping by cuticle removal

And you van remember  the 3 prep products needed for Japanese Gel by remembering ABC 

A. Alcohol

B. Buffer (use a 200 grit if working on virgin (untouched) natural nails or 180 if not)

C. Use an efile and diamond bit for a thorough cuticle exfoliation

Ill link you to my favorite ABCs sources.

Key prepping takeaways as it pertains to Japanese Gels. Primer & Coarse grits are absolutely optional, and can cause more harm than good in the long run to the natural nails.

Remember, If you use a bonder or if you use a coarse grit on the natural nails… YES you will have strong adhesion but after the 2nd service or definitely the 3rd, and also if you’re removing the nails off each time, you will see a decrease in overall good health of those natural nails.

I did my gel nail services for 5 years using only, alcohol, a buffer and a cuticle diamond bit for prep and the evidence is in the pudding my friends! Up to 6 weeks of wear on many of my clients.

You got this. Be thorough, trust your products, if you think one is not doing it for you try and train in a different one. I’m here to help you.

And by the way I am actually hosting a Leafgel Certification training in a month, I’ll link you down below to all of the details, in case you’ve chosen Leafgel as your main brand or want to learn more about it, before making it.

Otherwise checkout the description box below, to watch my free training and see if our current generic Japanese Gel Nail Course is a match for the current stage of your nail journey.

Thank you so much again for joining me in this 5ht Episode of out current series, I’ll see you next week, same time, same place for episode #06 all about, coincidently all about the best efile bits and their use when working on Japanese Gel Nail manicures. Bye for now!

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