What causes lifting?

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Multi award winning nail artist Katie Barnes explains in this blog everything about the different causes of lifting. As a professional, she regularly publishes in (inter) national media. She owns the Katie Barnes Academy training center in Warwick, England. 

Improper preparation or cuticle work

Improper prep can be one of the most common reasons for service breakdown and can cause enhancements to lift from the nail.  Whichever system you are using, it is paramount that you thoroughly remove any oils, contaminants or dead skin from the nail plate so the product is able to adhere well.

Product applied too close or too thick to the skin and cuticle area

If the product is touching the skin, it will lift. If the product is too thick at the cuticle area: with gel polish it may not be able to cure correctly which can lead to peeling and with acrylic and gel enhancement it will create a ridge which will lead to lifting.

Incorrect mix ratio

This is mostly paramount in acrylic enhancements, unless you are mixing your gel or gel polish. Your bead should be smooth, round and pearlised on your brush. If your bead is too dry, then it will not have a smooth surface and have a dry powder coating.  If your bead is to wet, you will have little control over it as it will run, could cause shrinkage and may cause the product to pull away from the nail.

Damage to the natural nail bed

The health and construction of the natural nail will give an enhancement the correct foundation. Avoid aggressive over-filing and cuticle work; just a light buff over the nail plate to remove shine is sufficient.

Under or over priming the nail

Forgetting to prime, or not priming correctly can lead to enhancements lifting or coming off. Primer is designed to help the enhancement ‘stick’ to the nail plate. However, as many products now contain primer properties, this cannot always be as crucial as it used to. An acid free primer acts like ‘double sticky tape’.  Applying too much primer can also affect the strength of the adhesion and over priming with an acid based primer can lead to natural nail damage.

Unbalanced nail enhancements

Incorrect apex placement means that the nail enhancement won’t be balanced causing stress on the natural nail and possible lifting.


Nipping the enhancement off the natural nail can damage the nail plate and lead to Onycholysis. Nipping loose product can create more lifting and more nipping and so on.  Ensure you remove the lifting from where it starts with correct filing techniques.

Under-curing products

If the product is not cured correctly, then the product will breakdown and can lead to overexposure to un-cured product. Ensure that your curing times are correct; bulbs are regularly changed and that the client places their hand in the lamp correctly – you may need to cure the thumbs separately.

Client not following correct aftercare advice and lifestyle

It is paramount to stress the correct aftercare and homecare advice to your client to ensure they know how to correctly care for their nails at home. It can be good practice to provide a written leaflet with this information on.

Pocket lifting:


One of the most common causes of pocket lifting with L&P enhancements is incorrect mix ratio.  The more liquid you use, the greater the product will shrink, so if the mix ratio is too wet, this will slow the polymerisation process and cause shrinkage, which in turn will cause pocket lifting.  This is not evident upon the client leaving the service and therefore the client will often getting the blame.  Whilst the enhancement may appear fully polymerised, the full curing process occurs over the next 24-48 hours and this can be even longer the more monomer used. In this time, the shrinkage occurs and lifts the product from the nail plate, leading to pocket lifting.

The more curved the natural nail plate, the greater the effect of shrinkage and the more prone to pocket lifting. This will be focused to the highest point on the nail, the apex and in the centre of the plate which is naturally the most curved area. The more product you use, such as on longer nails or larger fingers like the thumb, the more the shrinkage can occur. Therefore, the most likely nails to form pocket lifting are; large curved nails.


If you are experiencing pocket lifting with gel, one likely cause is under cured product. This could be the layers of gel being applied too thickly, therefore preventing the UV from penetrating to the bottom of the gel layer and therefore not adhering to the nail plate adequately.  Another cause of under cured product could be the bulbs on your lamp.  In a UV lamp, the bulbs may need replacing and a LED lamp, the strength may have greatly reduced over time.  It may also be something as simple as the bulbs need cleaning from cured product.

Your working technique with your brush is also important to consider.  As well as ensuring the correct mix ratio when working with L&P, you must pat the product down to help it bond to the natural nail and not just let it run into place.  Again, with gel, a slip layer is important and again, ensuring your product is well adhered to the nail plate.