Salon Scam: The “Acrylic/Gel Hybrid”

Clients, please stop insisting that you have “the new acrylic/gel hybrid product,” and assuming that because we refute its existence, we must not be familiar with it because “it is so new.”

We refute its existence because it doesn’t exist.

Our guests often report that their last nail technician used a “great new product” that “combines the strength of acrylic with the flexibility of gel.” These technicians also like to tell their clients that the “hybrid” is “safer/more healthy for the nails than acrylics.”

To experienced technicians, this entire pitch is laughable.

There are only three differences between sculpting gel and acrylic: the flexibility, the smell, and the method of polymerization. Acrylic enhancements are more rigid than gel enhancements, and even so-called “odor-free” acrylic formulations smell heavily of chemicals as a result of the volatile compounds in the liquid and powder. Sculpting gels smell like absolutely nothing.

On a chemical level, the products are very much the same; the only thing that differs between them is the way each of them “cures” (hardens). Both cure with a free radical reaction, but the acrylic does so when the peroxide in the powder is exposed to the monomer and the gel does so when the photoinitiator in the resin reacts with the wavelengths emitted by the lamp.

You can’t have both properties in the same product. It’s a scientific impossibility.

Contrary to popular belief, neither method is more “healthy” or “less-damaging” than the other. When professional products are applied and removed properly by a qualified professional, you’re highly unlikely to experience any noticeable damage whatsoever.

So where did this “miracle product” story originate?
In discount salons.

Unscrupulous technicians who sought to increase their bottom line began telling clients of a wondrous “hybrid” enhancement medium that would deliver all of the benefits of both products and none of the drawbacks of either. These techs then offered to apply this “hybrid” product for $10-15 more per service. It’s the perfect upsell scam, as salon consumers are, for the large part, completely ignorant of professional procedure and product chemistry. Clients had no idea that they were paying money for absolutely nothing.

At least once a week we have an exchange with a new client that goes something like this:Client: Do you have the new acrylic/gel hybrid product?
Unvarnished Staff: No. There’s no such thing as an acrylic/gel hybrid product.
Client: Yes there is. I have it. You must not have heard of it yet. It’s this very new thing. It’s strong like acrylics, but lightweight and gentle on your natural nails like gel.
Unvarnished Staff: I can assure you, it doesn’t exist. There are acrylics and then there are gels. There is no such thing as “acrylic gel.”
Client: Yes there is! I have it right on my hands right now!
Unvarnished Staff: Did your technician use a liquid and powder to construct your enhancements?
Client: Yes. They dip the brush in the liquid and then in the powder and that’s how my nail is made.
Unvarnished Staff: Did your technician at any point pull out a tub of thick gel and apply it directly from the tub to your nail with a brush and then put your hands under a UV or LED lamp?
Client: No, my hands went under the fan, but that was it.
Unvarnished Staff: Then you have acrylics.
Client: No! They charge me an extra $10 for these!
Unvarnished Staff: They scammed you. Gel is like premixed acrylic and comes in a tub. Acrylic requires the mixture of the powder polymer with the liquid monomer. The difference between acrylics and gels is the way the product polymerizes. Both cure with a free radical reaction, but the acrylic does so when the peroxide in the powder is exposed to the monomer and the gel does so when the photoinitiator in the resin reacts with the wavelengths emitted by the lamp. You can’t have both properties in the same product. It’s a scientific impossibility.
Client: Are you serious?
Unvarnished Staff: Unfortunately, yes.

These discount technicians are an embarrassment to our profession. At Unvarnished, we don’t engage in any of these underhanded sales tactics, and we’re happy to educate our clients on all aspects of our procedure when asked. MSDS sheets are also available at the front desk for our guests to review at any time.

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