If you are wondering about what an acrylic nail brush is or are currently in a market for one, this is your guide. An acrylic nail brush is similar to an artist paintbrush in which bristles are made from animal hair which bundled into a cylindrical shape and the tip of the brush is flattened to improve acrylic nail application.
Acrylic nail brushes are the most prized and protected possession of a nail tech because it helps them create hundreds if not thousands of sets of beautiful acrylic nails. So if you want to be great at acrylic nails, you need to have a thorough understanding of what the brush is, complete knowledge of how to keep it clean and know how to use it properly so it can last a long time.
What is an acrylic nail brush
Similar to an artist brush, a nail brush also has three main parts and the most important section of an acrylic nail brush is the bristles.
Bristles are made of animal hair or synthetic materials like nylon filament, taklon, or polyester. Brushes for acrylic nails use “soft” hair bristles, as opposed to stiffer bristles that are used in cleaning brushes, according to www.nailsmag.com.
For the acrylic nail application, the bristles that are made of animal hair is preferred due to its superior quality of holding liquid to the synthetic ones. One specific animal whose hair is used to make the best bristles is kolinski.
“The hair is obtained from the tail of a kolinsky (Mustela sibirica), a species of weasel rather than an actual sable. The “finest” brushes are made from the male hair only, but most brushes have a mix of about 60/40 male-to-female hair”. (Wikipedia)
The ferrule is a cylindrical middle part of an acrylic nail brush. This part is usually made from metal and is a thin hollow tube so the bristles can be inserted inside and a special glue is used to lock them in place. The outer surface of a ferrule is coated with stainless steel to prevent rust.
The handle is the part that is attached to the other end of a ferrule. The long handle gives a user better control of the nail brush. This handle can be made from wood or plastic.
Sizes of acrylic nail brushes
Sizes for beginners
In 1997 when I took the practical part of the manicurist examination in California, the state board required all the acrylic nail practical tests to be done with a number 4 nail brush which is about the size of a chopstick we get from a take-out Chinese restaurant. Apparently, the California state board of cosmetology thought all the people who took the exam need to know how to do basic acrylic nails.
I had to practice with this small size brush until I could do a decent acrylic nail set so I could pass the test.
And that was the last time I used small brushes for acrylic nails.
But from practicing acrylics using a small nail brush, I learned so many valuable skills about the acrylic nail application that I could later apply them using with bigger nail brushes.
So if you want to start developing your acrylic nail skills, there are acrylic nail kits for beginners. These kits often have a smaller nail brush which can be #3 to #6.
Sizes for advanced nail technician or do-it-yourself
The more you practice or work with acrylics, the more comfortable and confident you will be. At this time, you would want to use a bigger acrylic nail brush because a small one will not allow you to lay acrylics as fast as the bigger one will.
If you will do more of small, short nails, brush’s size 14 is adequate for the initial stepping up to using a bigger brush.
When you are ready for a bigger acrylic nail brush, you can choose in a range from 16 to 18 depending on how often you do small, short acrylic nails or big and long ones.
If you regularly do big and long nails which are about one inch long from the tip of the finger, brush sizes from 20 to 22 are better.
Shapes of the bristles
The bristles for an acrylic nail brush generally are formed into two shapes: round and flat.
Including myself, I have also known many of my coworkers and friends who prefer the flat shape nail brushes because the acrylic beads will conform to the curved cuticle lines than a round one.
The round shape bristles are better for smaller and short nails.
Optimal bristle shape of acrylic nail brushes
Over twenty-plus years doing acrylics, I have used as many as 30 acrylic nail brushes and also helped and taught other nail technicians in shaping at least 50 more new brushes. I would create the flat top with a slightly round corner bristle shape if possible. Not one of them ever complained or told me they preferred the round shape over the flat one.
Can you choose the best shape of an acrylic nail brush to buy?
All new acrylic nail brushes’ bristles will be applied with a special glue so they grouped together and hardened to protect their shapes from being damaged during transport or improper storage.
Normally, after acrylic nail brush manufacturers create their brushes ‘ bristle shapes they will group the bristle tips to a point and cover them with special adhesive to protect the bristles.
Because of this, you can not see or tell the real shape of the brush that you want to buy. And distributors would not want to help you in this matter either in case you decide not to buy it and they will have a “used” brush that nobody will want to buy.
Furthermore, the people who make acrylic nail brushes are not nail technicians themselves. They just do not try to form the bristles to have either perfect round tips or perfect flat shapes for acrylic use.
If you want to have the shape you want, you have to know how to do it yourself.
How to shape a brand new acrylic nail brush
this is not for beginners. If you just start out, you should be using smaller #3, #4 brushes. They are sold pre-crimped. This step is intended for intermediate or advanced nail technicians who already have at least six months of daily acrylic nail applications. They already know how to work with larger brushes like #14 and up comfortably.
No two acrylic nail brushes are the same. The people who create the brush bristles would gather the hair and bundle them by hand for one brush at a time so each brush is unique and shaping or conditioning a new nail brush will also be unique to attain the best bristles’ final shape.
Condition, break-in or shape a new acrylic nail brush is the process you do to find the best position where the bristles form a perfect, continuous fan-shape without any saw-tooth or slit patterns.
Things you will need:
- 2 rubber bands
- 4 sandwich bags
- 4 sheets of paper towels
- about 4 tablespoons of acrylic liquid
- 1 pair of pliers
Step 1: Remove glue on bristles
- Tie 1 rubber band near the end of the handle so that you will have a loop
- Pour about 1 tablespoon of acrylic liquid in one sandwich bag
- Soak the bristles in liquid and position the bristles at one corner of the bag
- Tie the bag at the upper end of the brush’s ferrule using the second rubber band and make sure to leave some space so the bristles will hang free inside the bag.
- Find a place so you can hang the brush with the first rubber band.
- Let the brush soak for about 2 hours or until all bristles completely separate. You can tell when all the bristles can move freely as you gently squeeze them with your thumb and index finger. The brush now is ready to be shaped or conditioned.
- Remove the rubber band at the ferrule.
- The bristles need to be cleaned three-time to remove all the glue.
- Squeeze on the bristles to push out all the glue inside the bristles.
- Remove the brush from the bag and dry the bristles on a paper towel.
- The bristles need to be cleaned two more times so all the glue will be removed.
Step 2: Look for the best bristle shape
When you are on the third bag, lay it on a flat surface with the brush still in it. If the surface is dark, put a white piece of paper under the bag so you can see the bristles clearly.
If you are right-handed, hold the brush’s handle with your left hand.
Using your index finger on the right hand, press on the tip the bristles to fan them out. Take note of how well the bristles form a fan shape.
Take the index finger off the brush, rotate the brush about one-quarter turn.
Press on the bristles to fan them out. Also, do take a mental note of how well the bristles’ fan shape.
Repeat the above two steps until you complete one whole turn.
Now you should be able to tell which position creates the best fan shape.
The best fan shape that the bristles create should have a slight round curve whose two sides are symmetrical. If one side is higher than the other, the fan shape is not perfect.
Go back to that position to fine-tune it even further by pressing the bristles with your index finger of the right hand until you are happy with the final best fan shape.
If this fine-tune step does not produce the best fan shape without any saw-tooth patterns, you can try to find it from the next angle and so on.
You should be able to find it after a couple of attempts.
When you think you have it, make a small mark on the handle with a marker.
How to dry or remove acrylic liquid on the bristles properly
Fold one paper towel twice and put it on a flat surface.
Take the brush out of the sandwich bag and put it on top of the fold paper towel.
Fold the paper on top of the brush and make sure the fold is away from the bristle tips to keep the bristles straight and lightly press on the paper to remove liquid from the brush.
Do this 3 or 4 times until the bristles are dry. Make sure each time your dry the brush on a different spot on the paper towel.
Step 3: second cleaning for the new bristles
Pour about 2 tablespoons of acrylic liquid into a clean sandwich bag and soak the bristles.
Put the brush in the second sandwich bag while trying to keep the top slightly up so the liquid will not spill out of the bag.
Gently press on the bristles to fan them out. Rotate the brush and gently press on them again. Keep doing this for 1 minute. This will remove most of the remaining glue on the bristles.
Then position the mark upward, gentle press on the bristles to fan them out. If you still see a perfect fan shape without any saw-tooth pattern, you have found the best shape for your brush.
Take the brush out of the bag and dry the bristles on a new paper towel the same way you did after the first bag.
Hang the brush upside down for 24 hours before first use.
Step 4: what to do after acrylic nail first use
After you use the nail brush for the first time, check the fan shape. There are two things you should look for:
1 – is the fan shape still the same size and symmetrical as before?
2 – are there any small saw-tooth patterns or splits on the shape?
If you see either one, go back and repeat the process to find another good fan shape.
If you get it right the first time, there is one more thing left to do. Secure the shape permanently.
Step 5: secure the bristle shape permanently
Hold the nail brush with the mark pointing upward
Position the jaws of the pliers about one-quarter deep into the ferrule.
The nail brush and the pliers should be on an imaginary straight line.
Slightly squeeze the pliers’ handles. You should only use very little force to bend the circular shape of the ferrule into a large oval one. Do not overdo it because you can not reverse the shape and you can always do more with a second time.
Use the brush to do acrylic nails again. If you are happy with how the brush picks up acrylics, and the bristle shape still retains its form, you are done.
if the shape of the bristles changes, use the pliers to give the ferrule another very light squeeze. The second time should be sufficient to keep the bristle shape in the optimal form.
How to clean the nail brush with acrylic liquid
If you follow the “How to practice with an acrylic nail brush for beginners” section diligently, cleaning your nail brush after you finish doing acrylics is simple.
- After you are done with your brush, put it down on paper towel at a dry clean spot and fold the paper to cover the bristle.
- Using one finger to press down on the bristles to remove the liquid.
- Then dip the bristles in your liquid dish to wet them.
- Dry the bristles with a new spot on the paper towel and recreate the bristles’ original shape as you press down with your finger.
- Hang your brush on a secured place to dry.
How to clean the nail brush after with a nail brush cleaner
For twenty-plus years doing acrylics, I seldom used a nail brush cleaner for my brushes. If you follow my instructions on how to clean your brushes right after you finish doing acrylics, you should have no problem with acrylic powder stuck on your brush’s bristles.
If you happen to have a nail brush cleaner already, you can use it to clean your brush. The manufacturers who made this solution especially to clean nail brushes so it will not damage the delicate bristles.
At the beginning of your acrylic practice, you will likely leave some acrylic powder on your brush or forget to clean it properly after each use. The acrylic powder will dry out and cause the bristles will stick together and you are not able to use it. If this happens, you can use a nail brush cleaner to soak your brush’s bristles until the hardened acrylics soften and dissolve in the liquid cleaner.
How to make acrylic nail brushes last longer
If you just begin to work with acrylic nails, you must develop a good practice of taking care of your nail brush. Below are the four common bad habits that you should avoid doing to your brush from the very beginning so you will not shorten its life needlessly.
1 – Do not press bristles against paper towels as you are doing acrylics:
As you are doing acrylic nails, you will wipe the bristles across a dry paper towel to clean it at least 4 or 5 dozen times.
Bristles are fine, soft natural hair. If you press these bristles too hard on a dry paper towel for so many times, the outside bristles will wear out prematurely and cause tiny spots that can collect acrylics and stay inside. If the acrylics are not completely removed and allow to dry, they will cause the bristles to harden and the nail brush can not be used.
2 – Do not run your bare fingers along with bristles:
Never run the bristles between your fingers to shape them. This action is not necessary and very damaging to the bristles. As you do this, you are essentially pulling the bristle away from their base. Repeated pulls will cause some outer bristles will be removed. This will destroy the delicate smooth, continuous surface at the bristle tips and two bad things will happen:
1 – you will not be able to lay acrylics on real nails cleanly because some acrylic powder will stay on the bristles.
2- some bristles will be out and the rest of bristle will become loosen and more will be detached and more will be removed, resulting in the whole bristles losing its perfect shape.
3 – Do not push down on the bristles too hard:
If you do this thinking it will clean you brush better, you ruin the perfect shape and hurt the integrity at the base of the bristles. Pushing down hard vertically on the bristles will cause the delicate tips to wear out faster.
Do not use acetone to soak or clean your brush: acetone is a very strong solvent. If you use it on your brush, it will prematurely dry out your brush cause bristle tips to become brittle and break prematurely. Your brush will not have a perfect tip or shape anymore.
4 – Do not wipe the bristles on paper towels so many times:
Many manicurists have a bad habit of wiping their brushes on paper towels much more than they should. Excessive wiping will cause the fine delicate bristle tips will wear out faster or break off. These fine tips are necessary to prevent the acrylic powder to get inside the brush and it can no longer create a perfectly round acrylic bead.
How to revive an acrylic nail brush stuck with dried acrylics
If dried acrylics happen to stick on your brush, here is the great way you can do to remove it without ruining your favorite brush:
- Pour about 2 tablespoons of acrylic liquid into a sandwich bag.
- Soak the bristles and wrap the sandwich bag around the ferrule with a rubber band. Make sure the bristles are hanging freely inside the bag.
- Hang the brush up so it will not rest on the bristles. If it does, it will bend bristles’ shape permanently.
- Let the brush soak for 24 hours or until you can gently fan the bristles freely by squeezing them with your fingers outside the bag.
- When the dried acrylics are completely dissolved, clean the brush with new acrylic liquid and hang dry.
The brush now is ready for use again.
How to tell an acrylic brush is worn out
Hard, repeated wipings on paper towels will cause the fine bristle tips to wear out or break off. The fine tips usually have a darker color than the rest of the bristles. When these bristles wear out, you no longer see this dark section at the bristle tips. Without these fine tips, acrylic powder will get inside the bristles instead of staying out on the surface.
An acrylic nail brush is a tool that helps a nail technician create many beautiful sets of acrylic nails. It is a tool that they are proud to own can earn a lot of money using it.
If you want to become a nail technician who is very good at doing acrylics, knowing how to work with your brush and keep it last as long as possible will allow you to create the best set of acrylic nails every time.
During my working years as a manicurist, I always wanted to improve my techniques and doing acrylics is one of them. This article is the combination of my 20 years plus doing acrylic nails and by learning and watching other nail technicians doing their own ways so I could improve my skills. The information here reflects the accumulation from those long years.
When you take this information and use it, it will become your own and by practicing your acrylic nail brush using this basic knowledge, you will soon create your own techniques and styles that nobody else can imitate or copy.
Follow one good practice is a good way to start and will save you a lot of time.
Take good care of your acrylic nail brush and it will help you to create many beautiful acrylic nail sets.