Solar nails are a subcategory of acrylic nails. They use a combination of white and pink acrylics made by Creative Nail Design applied directly to the natural nail to achieve the dual-toned look of a French manicure. People sometimes call them “pink and whites” for this reason.
This type of acrylic is often confused with acrylic extensions, in which a technician attaches pieces of hardened acrylic to the tip of the nail. They have advantages such as not needing to be filled as often, but they also come with some risks, such as the possibility of bacterial or fungal infection.
Definition and Differentiations Many people are confused about what solar nails are because different nail salons use the term to refer to different products and techniques. The term originally was used for a specific brand of acrylic nail manufactured by Creative Nail Design. Acrylic refers to a material known as polymethyl methacrylate, a liquid and powder that is mixed together and which hardens on the nail. This is important to remember, because some salons assert that acrylic nails and solar nails are two different products, which technically is not true. Any type of nail treatment that uses the Creative Nail Design acrylic can be called a solar nail.
In some cases, the terms “solar” and “pink and white” refer to extensions, which are white pieces of hard acrylic plastic that are attached to the tip of the nail. The technician fills in the gap between the cuticle and the tip with mixed acrylic liquid and powder that is pink in color. She then coats the entire nail for a finished look.
With true solar nails, the technician does not apply false acrylic tips. Instead, she applies multiple coats of acrylic to the entire natural nail. The first coat is white, while the second, which goes on only the nail bed, is pink. The overall look is similar to what a person gets with acrylic extensions or tips.
Appearance These nails have a look similar to a French manicure. People often say that they look very natural, especially compared to extensions, because they do not require the use of thick, bulky tips. Some individuals find that they have a glossier appearance than other artificial nail types.
Application As with other types of artificial nails, these require preparation of the nail prior to application. The nail technician first cleans, buffs and files the nails. She then applies one or two coats of primer.
The next step is to get some liquid acrylic on a nail brush, removing any excess against the top of the jar or bottle. The person doing the nails dips the wet brush into the white acrylic powder. She moves the brush in a circular motion until a small ball forms.
When the powder has absorbed most of the liquid and formed a workable gel, the technician mentally divides the nail into three sections: the free edge, seam and nail bed. The free edge is the part of of the nail that extends over the fingertip. The nail bed where the bottom part of the nail sits on the finger. The seam is where the free edge and nail bed join. She applies the acrylic to each section separately and then blends them together.
Once the first coat of acrylic dries, the same process works for the second pink coat. The second coat, however, goes only on the nail bed. This leaves the white tip of the nail exposed.
Removal The process of removing solar nails is the same as taking off acrylic extensions. The wearer has to soak her hands in liquid acetate for 10 to 15 minutes to soften the acrylic. Some people simply put their fingertips in a bowl of the chemical, but others prefer to soak cotton balls or cloths, place them over the nails and wrap the fingertips in aluminum foil so the cotton or cloth stays in place. This allows for more mobility during the removal process. In either case, wearers often find that they have to check the progress of the nails from time to time, going back to soaking or putting the aluminum foil wrap on again on if the acrylic isn’t softened enough.
Once the acrylic is soft, the wearer uses a clean cloth or cosmetic pad to wipe off the nail. In some cases, gentle scrubbing with a soft nail brush speeds up the process. The last step is washing the hands to remove any residue or chemical smell.
Filling and Touch-up The fact that this type of nail does not use tips means that a person who gets them can go longer before a gap appears between the cuticle of the nail and the acrylic on the nail bed. This gap is a natural result of the growth of the nail. In general, whereas extensions need filling once every two weeks or so, solar nails need filling about every three weeks. Some people who have an excellent application and who are gentle on their nails can extend this to as much as four weeks. The longer a person goes between fillings, the more susceptible the nails are to damage.
Advantages With an extension-based acrylic, there is always the risk of the tip coming off of the nail. The tips also can break and chip. Solar nails won’t pop off, simply because they are the real nail simply coated with acrylic. They are more durable overall, so many people find that they can stand up to a bit more abuse.
Some artificial nail products require the wearer to use nail polish, but this is not true of solar nails. The pink and white coloring of the nails is enough “flash.” The acrylic can be buffed to get a natural but shiny appearance. Application of healthy nail products such as cuticle oil also gives them a glossy look.
Advocates point out that “regular” acrylics (remember, “solar nail” simply refers to a brand of acrylic) have a tendency to turn yellow over time, especially when a person goes in the sun or tans at a salon. This problem has to do with the fact that most “regular” acrylics are of a very poor quality. The type of acrylic manufactured by Creative was formulated especially to resist this discoloration and therefore is regarded as a superior product. When a person uses a high-quality acrylic, she can enjoy being outside more and not worry about the color of her nails getting worse.
These nails do not need filling as often, so even though they can be more expensive to get initially, they often end up being more economical over an extended period. This matters for people who prefer to have their nails done all the time instead of just for special occasions. Similar to acrylic extensions and other types of nails, these also can be done at home, which keeps costs even lower.
Disadvantages This category of acrylics requires the technician to coat the entire nail. This gives some degree of strength and protection, but it also means that the nail cannot “breathe.” This sometimes leads to the development of bacterial or fungal infections.
When a person gets an artificial acrylic tip, she can choose whatever length she wants for the nail. These nails, however, rely on the length of the natural nail, because they do not use extensions. If a person doesn’t have long nails to begin with, they’re not going to see any improvement by simply adding the coats of acrylic.
Although the removal process is fairly simple, it can be time consuming. It also exposes the wearer to chemical fumes, which can be hazardous to health. Women who are pregnant or nursing need to be especially careful when using removal products.