Katie Barnes
Katie Barnes

Chrome pigments: A troubleshooting guide

By Katie Barnes | 26 June 2018 | Expert Advice, Feature, Technique

Katie Barnes Chipped Chrome

Educator and award-winning nail technician, Katie Barnes, offers tips on making chrome pigments last on nails, should you experience issues…

The chrome nail trend is ever-popular and while most nail techs have tried the technique, not every one applies the products correctly. Each product and brand may have slightly different instructions and application techniques, so always follow these or get in touch with the manufacturer if you aren’t sure.

There are so many effects you can achieve with chrome by using different base colours and even applying coloured glass gel over the top. Remember – chrome nails will look different depending on the lighting. They are most intense in the sun under LED lighting, and the effect is weak in fluorescent lighting.   

There are several tools you can use to apply chrome such as a disposable eyeshadow brush, makeup sponge, or a silicone tool. Try to avoid using your finger to avoid contamination and oils from your finger coming into contact with the product as well as avoiding skin contact and potential skin irritation.

Here are my top tips for some troubleshooting issues techs may experience with chrome:

Chipping & peeling

Less is more when it comes to chrome powder and a little goes a long way. When you apply it to the nail, do so sparsely and firmly and polish it in until you achieve a shiny mirror-like effect, rather than apply it like a typical pigment or glitter. When you begin to achieve the look you want, turn your applicator or brush to its clean side, and buff for a little while longer. If the chrome powder goes on too thick, it will leave sparkly particles. This excess product can prevent a thorough cure, which can be why it chips or peels. Use a soft fluffy brush, such as a make-up brush to dust off any excess.

It is paramount to ensure you cap the free edge to ensure you are encasing the chrome pigment sufficiently, otherwise the nail could be prone to chipping. If you aren’t sure how well you are applying your top coat, be safe and apply two. You can also use base coat over instead of the first layer of top coat too as some find this more effective. 

Chrome not adhering

Once you have applied your non-wipe top coat over your colour of choice, do not touch the surface – even though it is a non-tacky surface, you can transfer oils from your skin which may affect how the adheres.

If you over-cure the top coat in which the chrome is being applied onto, then the chrome will often just rub straight off and not adhere. Always follow manufacturer’s instructions on the cure times and do not cure for longer.

No mirror-like effect

Chrome must be applied on top of a cured layer of non-wipe top coat. If applied directly onto a colour or a tacky layer, a mirror-like effect won’t be achieved. If the top coat isn’t sufficiently cured, quite commonly on the thumbs if the client hasn’t positioned these correctly, you will also experience this issue. Choose a good quality chrome that is very highly pigmented, with the smallest micron size and the fewest fillers to achieve the best effect.

Just as glitter must be cosmetic grade, so must chrome. Some cheaper versions are made differently and again, will act as a pigment and not a chrome so need pressing into the sticky layer. A good quality chrome pigment works well because it will not blend or bleed the powder, losing the desired mirror like effect.

Top coat issues

Pitting, dents or wrinkling in your top coat or chrome occurs when your top coat is contaminated with chrome pigment or even glitter, dust and other containments. If you have a top coat specifically for chrome and it is running low, it may also be too contaminated leading to service breakdown and one of the other issues above. It is paramount to get into the habit of wiping your brush clean on a soft wipe or tissue before putting the brush back in the bottle after it has touched chrome or glitter to avoid this contamination. This issue can also occur if the top coat is applied too thinly as some as designed for a slightly thicker application.

Always remember that eye protection, gloves and a mask are recommended to be worn and thoroughly washing hands after application, when applying chrome powders to avoid eye irritation, inhalation and possible skin irritation.

Happy chroming!

Love Katie B x