A pocketful of woe


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The Geek

Grand Master Geek
Premium Geek
Jan 9, 2003
Reaction score
Leeds, UK
Frank the happy tek turns nasty when he meets his dark nemesis Mr. Pocket Lifting.

Laugh, cry, kiss 10 minutes goodbye reading about a big ol pain in the backside.

Meet Frank...

Once upon a time, Frank the happy nail tech was busily pumping out client after client after freaking client. That’s because he is super duper successful fancy pants nail technician and his clients love him and his cute nail tech ways.
One miserable, wet, rainy day, Bertha (also known as his 5:45) came in with a mystery.
After removing Bertha’s ‘Bitchin Red Camero’ nail enamel (She always wore that colour) on her left thumbnail, Frank was greeted with a peculiar surprise.

“Why hello there Frank I’ve been waiting for you.” saids the surprise.
“Who…Who are you?” replied Frank in a detached voice.
With an ominous chuckle, a deep and sinister voice replied, “Who am I? I am lost time, I am lost clients; I am a bacterial infection waiting to happen. Bow now to your new master ‘Peter the pocket lift’ and feel my wrath.”

Frank soon changed from the happy nail tech, to the angry tech; slave to Peter pocket lift.

Enter the Pocket Lift

Pocket lifting is one of those pain in the pants problems that can inadvertently strike unsuspecting nail technicians like Frank from out of the blue. It appears as a large area of lifting in Zone 2 and usually occurs on larger nails after a full set or replacement of a liquid and powder nail enhancement.

What causes it? Where does it come from? How can you prevent it from returning? Will Frank ever be happy again?

Though some small nigglets can contribute, pocket lifting is almost always caused by two key factors: Shrinkage and thickness.


All enhancement systems shrink as they cure (between 6% to 18%). The average shrink rate of a liquid and powder system is in the neighbourhood of 8% whilst gels usually have a tendency to be much higher.

Designed shrinkage is a good thing. As your product polymerises (cures), countless molecules come together to form highly complex structures. During this process, the product “shrink wraps” itself to the nail plate to form a very strong bond.

If shrinkage is so fancy pant... why the hollabalou?

Whilst shrinkage is generally preset with gels and wrap systems, the amount of shrinkage with liquid and powder is dramatically influenced by your mix ratio.
The more liquid used in your mix, the more shrinkage you get.

When you start to go really wet, the shrinkage may build up enough pressure to cause the enhancement to literally pop away from the nail plate.


The thickness of your application can act like a fertilizer for the shrinkage.

The larger your beads are, and the larger the area they cover, the more physical movement and stress will be exerted on the enhancement during polymerisation.

If your application is 5mm thick and you work excessively wet and end up with 20% shrink rate, then your product will shrink upwards of 1mm as it cures. That amount of shrinkage is more than enough to cause the enhancement to buckle away from the natural nail.

Anything else?

In Zone 2 of the enhancement which is always (well… it should be anyway) the thickest point of the enhancement.
Interestingly enough, nine out of ten times, this will happen on the larger fingers (i.e. thumb and the nagger finger) as well as usually only happen after application of a full set (this is when you are usually applying more product in Zone 2).

If Peter the Pocket Lift rears its ugly head around on your clients’ fingers, you need to get him out ASAP. As pocket lifting is essentially an area of separation that prevents air circulation, the bacteria there will begin to metabolise oil and moisture accumulating from the bed. When this happens, Pete’s good friend ‘Greg the Gregarious Greenie’ will make an appearance.

The real solution is to not deviate from your mix ratio. All liquid and powder systems have a pre determined mix ratio that can spell more than disaster when you run astray with it.
During a full set, use smaller more controlled beads to sculpt out Zone 2 to minimise the amount of physical shrinkage that occurs during polymerisation.

Conversely, you could always be like Frank… Tell your client that it’s all the rage in Milan and Paris and charge her an extra fiver for it. Then you too can be the Angry Nail Tech with empty pockets.
I have a couple of q's on this article which I have read through several times, avidly.

How thick is a thick enhancement....like 5mm is huge and I know you were taking it to extremes there?

You say that Peter can rear his head after a fill/realance...would this happen straight away or would it occur over time as in more than a few of days? And would this be from putting wet product over cured product?

Are greenies always a by product of pocket lifting?

Can anything else cause pocket lifting other than already stated?

Questions, questions but always looking for answers.

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