What Are Solar Nails?

Niki Foster
Niki Foster
Niki Foster
Niki Foster
Solar nails look similar to a French manicure.
Solar nails look similar to a French manicure.

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

An individual's nails must be cleaned, buffed, and filed prior to solar nail application.
An individual's nails must be cleaned, buffed, and filed prior to solar nail application.

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.

Solar nails are a subcategory of acrylic nails.
Solar nails are a subcategory of acrylic nails.

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

Nail primer helps polish bond to the nails so that artificial nails last longer.
Nail primer helps polish bond to the nails so that artificial nails last longer.

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.

Cotton balls may be used in the removal of solar nails.
Cotton balls may be used in the removal of solar nails.

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.

What’s the Difference Between Acrylic and Solar Nails?

Acrylic nails have been a signature look since they rose to popularity in the 1980s. This popularity is largely due to the remarkable versatility of the style. Most acrylic nails are made by sculpting an extension out of the aforementioned polymethyl methacrylate. This extension of the nail bed gives manicurists room for an array of unique designs. Among these designs is the solar nail style. If you are wondering what’s the difference between acrylic and solar nails, it should first be clarified that solar nails are a type of acrylic. That said, the term “acrylic nails” is most commonly associated with nail extensions, while the term “solar nails” is typically used to describe the pink and white style pioneered by Creative Nail Design.

Can You Paint Over Solar Nails?

If you have opted for a solar nail manicure, you might be tempted to paint over it with a new polish color. Can you paint over solar nails, and if so, how? This question is especially pertinent in the weeks after your manicure, as your nails start to grow, and a gap at the bottom of your nail bed may become visible. This may tempt you to paint over your solar nails in order to quickly cover up the gap. Generally, though, this is not the best course of action. Because solar nails are created by painting layers of acrylic onto the nail, regular polish is unlikely to stay intact for an extended period of time. Rather, it is liable to chip off soon after application. Still, if you are looking for a quick and temporary fix, it is possible to paint over solar nails — and doing so should not damage the manicure underneath. You may need to use two or three coats to completely cover the old polish.

Can You Polish Solar Nails?

Sometimes acrylic nails, including solar nails, can fall prey to scuffs and scratches that dull their ultra-glossy shine. Can you polish solar nails and restore their original glimmer when this happens? Doing so requires some basic nail care skills, but yes, you can polish solar nails. You will need a nail file and a top coat for acrylic nails, both of which can usually be purchased at a beauty supply store. You should start by gently using the nail file on the top of your solar nails and buffing out the shiny top coat until it is matte. This will remove any damage that has occurred on the surface of the manicure. You can then apply the new acrylic top coat to restore your manicure’s shine. Be sure to follow the application directions for the polish you choose.

Should I Choose Acrylic Extensions or Solar Nails?

When you go to a salon for a manicure, you’ll have the option of acrylic extensions or a solar nail style. The question remains, then — which one should you choose? To answer this question, you should first consider whether you want to lengthen your nails. If you do, you would be best served by acrylic nails that use extensions. Do you want an elaborate design with multiple colors or nail art? Acrylic nails with extensions are also the better option for such styles. If you would prefer the simple elegance of a pink and white manicure, solar nails are the obvious choice. Solar nails are the better option if you want a natural look that errs on the understated side. These manicures are also likely to last longer than acrylic nails that feature extensions, which can easily be broken or damaged.

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

In addition to her role as a BeautyAnswered editor, Niki enjoys educating herself about interesting and unusual topics in order to get ideas for her own articles. She is a graduate of UCLA, where she majored in Linguistics and Anthropology.

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

In addition to her role as a BeautyAnswered editor, Niki enjoys educating herself about interesting and unusual topics in order to get ideas for her own articles. She is a graduate of UCLA, where she majored in Linguistics and Anthropology.

Discussion Comments

anon993840

Thank you for writing about what I feel is a serious problem. I am lucky to have inherited my Grandmother's strong nails, and I'm pretty good at doing my own, so I only get a mani when I want to treat myself.

I have read a lot recently about the confusion between solar/acrylic/gel nails, and I feel there are a lot of shops taking advantage of clients who don't educate themselves about what products are being used on them. When there is a significant language barrier between client and technician, it's almost impossible to ask the right questions. I've even asked for a different tech if I felt the person working on me does not understand what I'm asking. I felt like a jerk, but it's important. I know there are nail tech licensing classes taught in different languages, but if she can't understand a simple question from me, how did she pass her licensing test? For these reasons I think there should be stronger regulation within the nail industry overall and permanent bans of salon owners who violate them.

Of course, regulation means nothing if there is no one inspecting licenses, practices, etc. Too many times one employee gets certified and then "trains" others. These are the shops that should be closed -- permanently -- and the owners banned from the industry. Not to mention the employment laws some shop owners violate.

These places continue to operate illegal, unsafe shops because we are willing to look the other way in exchange for the cheapest service. At the end of the day, it's our responsibility to educate ourselves, ask questions and only go to legitimate salons.

anon166011

Solar Nails are used as a ploy to have unsuspecting customers pay more for acrylic nails. Ask your nail tech for the safety data material sheet on their "solar nails". I'll bet that they don't have it. Many nail techs put an illegal product in the monomer (liquid).

If your nails are lasting more than three weeks without any lift, you probably have an illegal product. The FDA banned the product several years ago. Call your state board of cosmetology to learn more.

anon155114

how does a salon offer solar nails if they are no different than acrylic. Isn't this like false advertisement?

anon149349

solar nails are not a type of nail. Solar nail is the trade mark name of an acrylic brand made by creative nails design. This line of acrylic is no longer made.

So, if you are getting solar nails your getting lied to because it's just regular acrylic that is pink on the nail bed and white on the free edge. nothing special about that. the name Professionals use is a pink and white! Sincerely, a 20 year veteran doing nails professionally. i should know.

anon114703

Can you give me Solar nail shop locations in Los Angeles California?

christym

@cmsmith10: I have been getting my nails done for quite some time now. I just switched to solar nails about two months ago. They were $45 for the initial set and they are $35 for refills. This is a little more than what I was paying before, but I think they are worth it.

cmsmith10

Does anyone know the price difference in solar nails and regular acrylic nails? Do most salons offer solar nails?

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    • Solar nails look similar to a French manicure.
      By: Andriy Bezuglov
      Solar nails look similar to a French manicure.
    • An individual's nails must be cleaned, buffed, and filed prior to solar nail application.
      By: Sandra Gligorijevic
      An individual's nails must be cleaned, buffed, and filed prior to solar nail application.
    • Solar nails are a subcategory of acrylic nails.
      By: Votash
      Solar nails are a subcategory of acrylic nails.
    • Nail primer helps polish bond to the nails so that artificial nails last longer.
      By: starush
      Nail primer helps polish bond to the nails so that artificial nails last longer.
    • Cotton balls may be used in the removal of solar nails.
      By: nick holdsworth
      Cotton balls may be used in the removal of solar nails.