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Mani Monday: Nails in honour of the NHS

By Alex Fox | 13 April 2020 | Feature, Tech Talk

Kayley Cairns Nhs Nails

Multi award-winning nail artist and Scratch Stars finalist 2020, Kayley Cairns, speaks to Alex Fox about the steps she took to create extreme stiletto nails in honour of the NHS amidst the coronavirus pandemic…

Humbled, as we all are watching key workers dedicate their time to saving lives, nail professional, champion tech and educator, Kayley Cairns was inspired to create a sculpted tribute in honour and gratitude of NHS staff.

Based in Billericay, Kayley is the Essex educator for the Hazel Dixon Nail Artist Academy and has, in this guise taken her nail career to new levels under the tutelage of Hazel Dixon, who Kayley cites as a huge inspiration. With proof being in the pudding, Kayley scooped Division 2 Top UK Tech trophy, Art Winner of Winners Div 2 trophy alongside three medals at Nailympia London 2019.

“Having closed up shop due to the coronavirus pandemic, like many, I’d been feeling a little low and hadn’t even picked up my nail brush for a few weeks, as home schooling primary and secondary kids is tough!” confesses Kayley.

“I’d posted on a community page a request that I was looking for anyone with remaining PPE to donate. This post attracted comments from a few nurses, paramedics, carers saying what they were short of and noting their work conditions.

“It really humbled me to read posts from wonderful people who are risking so much in order to do their job and help the community as a whole. So, that evening, after clapping for carers energised me, I went back into the house, sat at my makeshift nail desk and began creating.”

“When I started I didn’t have a plan, but I knew I wanted to explore techniques I’d recently learnt on an HD Nail Artist Academy annual educator training event; so extreme stiletto was the starting point.

Shift, Shape, Sculpt & Form

“In order to practice the ‘HD Ultimate Extreme Stiletto’ technique, I dug out my extra long nail forms from Krista Paulitti – these are the longest I own! I decided to use acrylic; my favourite system as it’s more sturdy to file once set than the HD Eeeze Gel system. I didn’t prep my nails fully, as I didn’t plan to keep the stilettos on for too long. Instead, I pushed back the proximal nail fold and applied Minx coat (a clear wrap type coating that I can sculpt over and then peel off).

“One at a time (in order to prevent myself knocking the forms), I sculpted out each nail to the full length of the extreme form. I sculpted them in Cover Pink (HD Pro Silk Rose), as even though I was unsure of my design plan, it gave me freedom to do French if I decided.

“Personally, I find it easier to sculpt in Cover Pink, as it’s a clearer base for me to see what I’m doing, as opposed to when I’m using clear or sheer pink.

Nails featuring plasters at the end to protect while sleeping

“By the time I’d sculpted out the nails and rough filed them, it was late at night. With a preference to finishing nails on the hand, as they never go back and sit as flush against the nails again once they’re taken off, I decided to sleep wearing them, so I could decorate them the next morning. The ends were thin and very sharp, and I was so worried about breaking them and injuring myself in the night, I popped plasters over the ends for all round protection!

“After completing their shape, I mixed two airbrush colours (navy and silver) to create a medium-toned metallic blue and coated the nails, leaving one French. I added a soft ombré by making the blue lighter and darker across the nails.

“One thing I knew from the beginning was that they had to be blue, in homage to our blue army – the NHS staff and carers.”

When it came to decorating them I started with a blue base, with a French one popped in for variety. As I chose the NHS as a theme, I decided to pair white with the blue as the NHS logo is blue and white, starting around the smile line. With the French nail completed first, I then wanted to hand paint something on one of the plain nails using the same white and sugaring technique.

The NHS doesn’t have any symbols, just a logo – but I didn’t want writing on the nails. Currently, our healthcare workers are literally a lifeline for the country – so it made sense to incorporate that idea into the nails with their extra-long length lending well to the design.

“Since I’d heard of healthcare workers referred to as NHS Angels, and then there are those that have sadly become angels while doing their job, I was inspired to sculpt a wing. I started with a painted feather, but felt I wanted something more powerful, something that would stand out more. Recalling nails created by nail artist, Andreea Simone Ignat that featured in an issue of Scratch, I was inspired by her idea and created a 3D angel wing, which had much greater impact.

“I applied top coat to seal the colour using matte on the index and pinky and shiny on the others. For white detailing, I used HD art gel in Polar and sprinkled on Lecenté ultra-fine iridescent glitter before curing to create a sugared effect.

“To sculpt the wing, I began on form backing, to build most of it and then finished it on the nail to secure it and add final touches. To finish the nail, I embellished with Swarovski crystals.

“After finishing the nails, I spent half an hour trying to get a photo I was happy with. I found posing with nails this length is difficult, as it feels like each finger has a life of its own! I managed the shot, then popped them off thanks to the Minx Coat underneath. I’ll use them now as an example of the Ultimate Extreme Stiletto class, to inspire students that book on it.

“My clients also love to see extreme nails like these in the flesh, as they are fascinated by the whole other side of the nail industry that’s outside of the salon.”

Feeling Safe

While admitting that she doesn’t generally suffer with mental health difficulties per se, Kayley confesses that she can find herself feeling low at times and nail crafting acts as a tonic. “I know on occasion I do feel a bit low and I find that getting stuck into a nail project, be it a competition piece, or a good book, or even a jigsaw, clears my mind and relaxes me.

“I had promised my clients and students when we went into lockdown, that I’d keep sharing pictures on my social media to inspire them for when we all get back to work.

“Sculpting these nails was an homage to the NHS staff. It gave me a project to keep my mind relaxed and material to post on social media for my clients and students.”

Kayley closes by citing: “I’m so blessed to work with a team of international award-winning techs at the HD Nail Artist Academy, so it goes without saying that the whole team inspires me and to be a part of a group of women who help each other so freely in skill and business is a dream come true.

“Hazel herself inspires me as she is constantly pushing boundaries and looking for the next way to ‘wow’. I learn the most from being part of this team, as we have such a diverse range of strengths and everyone is able to support each other’s upskill in certain areas. I always watch our team’s Tuesday night Facebook Lives and from these I’ve picked up so many tips.

“Outside of the HD team, my nail idols are Rilana de Valk, Svetlana Baklanova, Tracey Lee, Edina Albach, Madelene Wolf and Barbara Újvári, to name but a handful!

“Each of my idols has a style or technique that I look up to, I love Tracey Lee’s creativity and no limit attitude, Madelene’s perfect pink & whites, Edina’s flowers and Svetlana’s gel painting.”

Kayley’s Extreme Stiletto Kit Bag

  • HD Pro Liquid & Powder (P&W)
  • Akzentz Bling on
  • Swarovski from Buestreak crystals
  • Lecenté loose glitter
  • Navy and Silver metallic airbrush paint
  • HD Pro art gel – Polar
  • HD Topcoats in Matte it! and Shine it!
  • Krista Paulitti Extreme Forms

Follow Kayley on Facebook and Instagram.