[VIDEO] Combined Manicure - how to perform it

What is a combined manicure? How to do it properly? Where to learn the right technique? See the latest episode on our channel and discover the secret of a perfect combined manicure along with Klaudia Kawińska - a nail master and long-time Indigo Educator.

Combined manicure - what does it mean?

Combined manicure is a type of manicure in which first mechanically (with an e-file), and then manually (with scissors) we thoroughly get rid of the cuticles. The final effect? The nails are fresh for a long time, because the colour looks like it grows from just under the cuticles. And as if it grows back more slowly and the regrowth is less visible.

There are many fans of combined manicure, but its correct performance is an art. That's why a nail stylist whose specialising in the combined manicure is always full of bookings, and customers can wait for weeks for this treatment.

The secret of perfectly prepped cuticles

Although it might seem that cutting the cuticles is not rocket science, it's the whole secret of a perfect combined manicure, and at the same time ... a serious risk. Too much cutting of the cuticles can result not only in the formation of cuts but even irreversible damage to the nails, e.g. as a result of slamming or severe finger bruise.

The nails can grow back wavy or deformed and will never go back to their former shapes. This is the effect of damage to the invisible nail matrix that is hidden under the cuticles. The dead part of the cuticles that can be safely removed transforms into the eponychium, i.e. the living part of the cuticles that passes directly into the nail matrix, responsible for the production of the natural nail plate. If the nail stylist cuts the cuticles too much, can damage the eponychium or matrix and cause serious harm, so the real art in a combined manicure is to know which parts of the cuticles can be safely cut, and which cannot.

Combined manicure - professional course 

Although you cannot replace a professional course, we aim only to show - both professionals and their customers - what a combined manicure looks like and how it differs from the standard treatment. But you, dear stylists, if you are interested in this topic, then be sure to take a course with a professional and do not try to do it yourself at home, because it's not worth it.

E-file and mani

An e-file machine is an irreplaceable tool in any nail salon that can help you to perform the perfect manicure, and at the same time it can be an evil tool that can file trough your skin to your bones or deprive you of your nails forever. The device operates at a speed of 0 to 30 thousand revolutions per minute. The rule is that the smaller the bit, the higher the e-file rotation. And the same way around - the larger the bit, the lower the milling machine's rotation. It might seem that lower revolutions means lower risk of nail damage - so, as a starter, it's better not to overdo it with speed. However, this is not the best solution.

With too low rotation, you won't file any product or get rid of dead skin. Also, you can overheat the nail plate, tear the cuticles, or in a hardcore case, make a hole in the nail plate. The milling machine should work exactly with the rotations that a particular bit requires. There are no exceptions to this rule.

Except of the size of the bit, what's also important is its grit. At Indigo we have diamond embankment bits with 3 different grit types:

the ones with the red strap are the softest, with blue they have the medium grit - and they are used most often, and green is the strongest.

How to match the perfect bit for a manicure?  

It's impossible to memorize that for this styling at point A you'll use bit 1, at point B, bit 7. E-file use requires ongoing control over what we're removing at this exact moment and how it goes. Filing gel will differ from filing an acrylic gel, or gel polish that was once applied will differ from the one that was infilled 4 times. It's the same with cuticles. Some are very delicate and sensitive, and some hard and less susceptible to injuries.

You should also remember that over time the bit's grit roughs up - mainly due to frequent use, but also can be an effect of disinfection and sterilising. So, in the course of time, the bits become less and less sharp. This is another reason why you cannot predict which bit we will use - you just have to feel at hand.

Note! Tools that are put wet into the autoclave will rough up faster than they should. Always remember to dry them before sterilising them. Cleaning the bit with a metal brush has an impact on its fast corrosion - it's better to use a rubber brush.

Although matching the bits for the customer's hand is an individual thing, there's one bit that almost always works. Most Indigo educators and Indigo students use the bit. It's got the shape of a cone cylinder, that makes it possible to do two things at once: removing the cuticles and pushing them back as with the cuticle pusher.

Combined manicure scissors - how to take care of them?

Another tool we'll use is scissors. The basic selection criteria are the length of the handle and the blade curve. We choose those that lies conveniently in our hands. This is a very delicate tool that needs to be looked after in a specific way. We must remember, blunt scissors are not suitable for anything - they will tear the cuticles. We must, therefore ensure that they remain sharp as long as possible:

  1. Combined manicure scissors are for cuticles ONLY. To keep them sharp, we do not use them to cut forms or free edge - for this purpose, we use tools with a thicker blade.
  2. Putting the scissors back on the table, we always put them blade up. Such a thin blade is grounded with high precision, and even their weight can deform it.
  3. When disinfecting tools, we strictly stick to the time given on the biocidal liquid. If it's 5 minutes, we wait 5 minutes - not 10 minutes, not 15. Extending this time can cause premature corrosion. This applies to all tools that we disinfect.

Another product that is useful when performing a combined mani is a Cuticle Remover. We will apply it onto an already prepped and e-filed cuticles, but not yet cut with cuticle scissors.

Note! When dealing with wet cuticles, it's much harder to see where the live part begins, i.e. the eponychium, which must not be touched with scissors.

Gel polish removal and e-file cuticle prep

  1. We start by removing the old product. If we don't want to remove all the product, use Bit no.1, called an eraser. It has a red rim, so it's the most delicate grit. It removes the colour just like an eraser.

We place the bit in the e-file handle, making sure it's inserted right to the end. If we do not pay attention to it, at some point the milling head may loosen, and it will no longer hold the bit precisely. As a consequence, the handle will vibrate, and this will cause discomfort.

When removing the product, we set the speed to more than 20,000 per minute. Too low a speed will result in heating the handle or stopping the bit during work.

We start removing the products from the centre of the nail, working with the middle of our eraser. One way movement only - from top to bottom, from the cuticles to the free edge. We drive the bit from top to bottom, pull out and return to the cuticles. We must not lead the bit from the bottom up.

The pressure is gentle and equal. Pressing too hard against the surface can damage the nail or bend the bit.

Moving to the left side of the nail, we work with the tip of the bit. And in the same way - moving to the right side of the nail, we work with the end of the bit.  We only remove the product until we get rid of the old colour layer. If there are any air pockets, remove these as well. We never remove all the product off the nail, because what remains on it acts as a protective armour for the natural nail plate.

  1. What we didn't remove with a milling machine, we remove with a file. When working with a natural plate, 100 grit is too sharp and can tear the natural nail, that's why we only use a more delicate 180 grit side of the file.
  1. We shape the edges and shorten the nails if necessary. Nail shortening depends on two criteria: customer's preferences and the construction of a natural nail. For example, if the nails grow downwards, then we gently shorten them, build them up with a slightly thicker amount of product at the free edge and file off from below.

Interesting fact! The nails on the index finger almost always grow more downwards than the others. If this tendency is strong, sometimes it's faster to remove the whole products and extend it again than to correct its shape during infill.

  1. The next step is smoothing and matting the surface with 100/180 or 180/220 buffers. The choice on when to use 100/180 and when to 180/220 depends on the condition of the customer's natural plate. During work, we observe what's happening - whether there are air pockets or not - and we choose the 'recipe' for the perfect styling.
  1. It's time for the cuticles. The golden rule is: We always work against the tide. What does this mean? The milling machine has two working directions - forward and backward. If we would like to work with milling current, the milling bit will slip and will not file the surface - so our work will not make any sense.

The first bit we reach for is the bestseller as mentioned earlier - no.9, which can handle any type of cuticles - even those that are attached to the nail plate.

Our first task is to create an angle between the cuticles and the nail, which will facilitate further stages of work. The set speed of the milling machine is from 10 to 15 thousand per minute.

The e-file bit should be placed parallel to the nail fold at the cuticle and nail. We drive the bit forward and sideways, the so-called sweep motion.

  1. The next bit must have a sharp end, because we will use it to make a space for the colour right under the cuticles. We have 4 bits to choose from: Cuticle 1 and 15 and Cuticle 2 and 11. You can reach for one of them straight away or separate it into two stages.

The speed should be set to more than 15 thousand per minute. We need to remember that we work against the current. We divide our nail in half, and at the forward rotation, we file the right part of the cuticles. We change the rotation to the back and get to the left part of the cuticles.

To speed up the work, it's best to do all the right halves and then all the left halves in one go.

We work with a very sharp bit at very high speeds, so we literally brush our cuticles with the tip, without pushing the bit forward. At this point, we have just a few millimetres from the matrix.

  1. When the surface for the colour is ready, we reach for a rounded bit to clean the nail fold and nail plate from micro epithelium. The surface must be perfectly clean. Here, we also work against the tide, doing the right or left part of the cuticles in one go.
  1. We apply cuticle softener to our prepped cuticles - Cuticle Remover will let us to cut cuticles that are placed deeper. After the product has dried, the cuticles will shrink - and go back, which will give us an even better visual impression.
  1. We wait 2 minutes. With a tissue, we remove the product from the first finger, immediately cutting out the cuticles. Note that the lower blade hides under the nail fold and the upper blade is directed gently towards the nail. We cut the cuticles in one smooth motion to avoid burrs. We move the elbow to allow this smooth movement.

Only after we finish cutting the cuticles on one finger, we remove the product from the next finger, and move straight to cutting.

Combined manicure - step by step gel polish application 

  1. After we removed the cuticles on all fingers, we ask the customer to wash their Cuticle Remover is a slightly oily product, which requires careful removal before applying anything else.
  2. We remove the remains of the greasy film from the nail surface with purple Cleaner.
  3. We apply a properly selected primer.
  • Apply acid-free primer the same way as the gel polish and do not wait until it evaporates. It leaves a slightly sticky layer that acts like a double-sided tape.
  • Apply the acid primer in a minimal amount, spot wise and wait about 2 minutes until it evaporates completely.

Which primer to choose? It depends on the customer's nail plate. We usually use an acid-free primer. If the customer suffers from excessive sweating of the hands, or has hormonal problems, it's worth reaching for the acid primer. You must remember that it contains methacrylic acid. Therefore, it's no longer a double-sided tape, as in the case of the acid-free primer. It works based on a physicochemical reaction, and you have to be careful to apply the right amount and not to damage the nail plate or cause air pockets.

  1. Before applying the base, we lift the cuticles with the pusher (they had time to fall during nail prep) and we assess the condition of the nail - whether we will build it up or not. W apply the first thin layer - like a traditional nail polish - and cure.
  2. Next, we brush the base over the whole nail plate and add a bit more to the UNCURED surface of the nail - we apply a bit more in place of regrowth. Gently stretch the base with the tip of a brush towards the free edge. To level the ideal C curve, we can turn the nail upside down and wait for the base to level itself.

Note! During curing, we check whether our customer holds the hand straight in the lamp. Hands are always gently rotated to the outside - that's why "straight" means a bit against the natural position. It's worth remembering and making our customers aware of obtaining a perfect C curve.

  1. Before applying the colour, we use the pusher to lift the cuticles again.
  2. We do not apply the first layer of colour close to the cuticles, but just a little further. We don't need 2 layers of colour close to the cuticles.

A thin, single layer perfectly combines with a double layer over the entire length of the nail - and at the same time protects us from a visible transition when the nail starts to grow.

We start painting from the inside, go to the right and then to the left. We apply the colour close in the cuticle area with a pushing motion. We remember to apply the same amount of product, so that the layer is of similar thickness at each point. Cure for 30 seconds.

  1. Before applying the second layer of colour, we lift the cuticles again with pusher.
  2. We apply the 2nd layer of colour in the same way as the first one - once we've done this, it's time to drive under the cuticles.
  3. With a thin brush for ornaments - e.g. NailArt 004 we push the colour under the cuticles, while holding them with the other hand by pulling the nail fold. We take on just a little more of the colour to the brush. If we take on too much, the gel polish will flood the cuticles. Cure in a lamp for 60 seconds.
  4. We apply the top in a thin layer, remembering the ideal light line. If we see that the line breaks down, we add a minimal amount of the product - preferably with a thin brush.
  5. If the light reflects perfectly on the C curve, we put the hand into the lamp for 60 seconds. After curing, wait about 30-60 seconds for the top to cool down.
  6. To finish the treatment, we apply a bit of the cuticle oil on the nail fold, and we press it gently with the thumbs, pulling it down to come back to its position. And voila - the colour really looks as if it sprouted from under the cuticles.