Natural Nails

The New Age of Natural Manicure

Today’s natural nail care client wants a lot more than neat cuticles and polished nails. She wants a service that fits her healthy lifestyle---one that takes care of her nail problems and makes her feel good all over.

The movement in the United States is toward physical and mental wellness, which means people are eating better, exercising, eliminating stress from their lives, and learning to take care of their bodies so that they’re not only beautiful, but also healthy. People recognize the link between feeling good and looking good. And for many, feeling good means going back to basics.

What this means for the nail technician is that clients have come to expect that professional nail care is part of their total wellness---proper care helps improve the skin and nails, and the pampering service helps eliminate stress. The nail technician who incorporates relaxing techniques such as aromatherapy, reflexology, and skin conditioning treatments into her basic manicure will find she can do natural manicures exclusively if she wants to.

Meeting all natural manicure clients’ needs---from nail health to overall well-being---means taking a new look at the basic manicure. All the nail technicians NAILS interviewed say they start with a good manicure or pedicure, then get their clients on a home maintenance program, retailing nail care items they believe in. In addition, all augment their services with procedures to enhance the healing by relaxing the client.

Enhancing the natural manicure also means increasing its service price. A luxurious natural  nail care menu complete with a retail program is very profitable, and can even be more profitable than artificial services. Adding aromatherapy to a manicure increases the price by $2 to $3, for example. You can charge $1 a minute for reflexology and as much as $10 for a paraffin treatment, especially if you add a few drops of aromatherapy oils to the wax.

Says Debbie Elledge, a client at Nailage in Ann Arbor, Mich., “To stay in business, you need to offer more than just a basic service. The emphasis now is on alternative care and alternative medicine. The trend of the future is toward feeling better.”


To promote your natural manicure service, target the clients who will benefit most from it. Disenchanted artificial extension wearers, nail biters, and clients with strong natural nails will leap into a program that lets their own beautiful nails show through.

Creating personalized service especially for these clients is easy if you put yourself in their place---or rather, put yourself in each client’s place. A good basic program may be modified to suit just about any client.

Heidi Zwicky, a nail technician at the Crescent Hotel spa in Dallas, performs only natural manicures. “Most of my clients are at the end of the road as far as what they can do with their nails,” she says. “They’ve had tips, wraps, acrylics, overlays, everything on their nails. They always apologize for their nails. Unfortunately, they’ve ripped the product off themselves, or if they’ve gone to a manicurist, often even a manicurist won’t be gentle.”

Zwicky starts these clients off with a “real good manicure,” which lasts about an hour. She spends a lot of time on the cuticles before shaping the nails and massaging the hands and says that clients are amazed at how much better their cuticles can look in one hour. Clients go home with a nail strengthener and instructions to apply it once a day.

In addition to strengthening their nails, Zwicky helps clients relax by doing reflexology on their hands or feet and using music and a citrus essential oil in the air to create a soothing atmosphere.

Nail biters who want to improve their nails want a natural manicure service that will heal the damage they’ve done to their nails. “I have a Nail Biters Restorative Program on my menu,” says Linda Chollar, owner of Nails by Linda in Little Rock, Ark. “I get them using an at-home treatment system and I get them in for weekly manicures. They can be helped. Many people who used to be nail biters have gotten long nails. Nail biters do not need to feel helpless.”

Chollar uses a three-peat nail treatment system that strengthens weak and damaged nails. She offers reflexology and aromatherapy treatments, and she decorates her salon with fresh flowers and posters that promote natural nail care.

Newcomers to nail care, including men and children, will probably start with a natural manicure rather than artificial extensions. “I haven’t seen a lessening of extension clients, but I have seen more men and women who have not been caring for their nails see it is essential to care for them. I think it’s partially due to the fact that there are more women in the work place. Being well groomed has to go all the way to the fingertips,” says Chollar.

Nail technicians design a routine that best suits the particular client. Some technicians get their clients in once a week for half an hour, others see natural nail care clients once or twice a month.

 “I don’t think clients need a manicure once a week, I think they need a manicure once every three or four weeks,” says Judith Yaklin, owner of Nailage. “They can have a polish change between manicures. If they use a cuticle cream and push the cuticle back every day, they’ll have nice natural nails. I charge more for manicures [than the average salon], but my clients don’t have to come in as often and so in the long run it’s less expensive for them.” Yaklin says 80% of her clients are natural manicure clients.

Joan Fenner, owner of Image Maker in Blue Island, III., and a manufacturer’s educator, likes to keep everybody on a two-week regime “to nip any problems in the bud,” she says. And Zwicky has her recovering nail biters come in once a week.

However often these nail technicians see their clients, all teach their clients to take care of their nails at home using salon-purchased products. “In order for her natural nails to grow, a client needs to do about 80% of the work,” says Yaklin. Selling home-care packages is a good way to increase profits from retail, and natural nail clients will buy them. “Sixty-five percent of my first-time clients go out the door with a retail purchase,” Fenner says.

Nail care packages should include at least a nail strengthener and cuticle cream, but there’s no reason not to package some extras, such as a file, nail polish, a buffer, hand lotion, or aromatherapy oil. You may even want to put together customized packages for clients with dry skin, nail biters, men, and kids.

Besides offering customized manicures and specialized home-care packages, give some thought to how you can personalize the natural nail care service for each and every client. Just as you choose a nail shape, length, and color to suit the client’s individual style, you should also adapt each natural manicure service to fit the client’s personality or mood. For example, find your client’s tender spots and work them out with reflexology. “My clients like to see their nails and toenails look pretty, but they keep coming for the reflexology,” says Teri Beintema, a nail technician and reflexologist at Jeffrens Scruples Hair and Nail Studio in Las Vegas. “I give a very thorough service, but they look forward to how they’re going to feel when they’re done.” Chollar customizes each manicure by charging a base price and then providing a la carte pricing for additional services.

Even your promotions should seem personal. Chollar brings clients back because she does “a lot of little things. I follow up with thank-you cards that welcome them to the salon,” she says. “I have some cards that have a discount coupon at the bottom. If they come in with their card, they get a discount. It’s quite effective. Even if it’s 10% off, people appreciate it.” Chollar also sends birthday and referral cards. When she meets new people in the salon, she may give them a “reflexology handshake” to acquaint them with her skills.

Target potential client groups when you’re revising your service menu or sending a direct mail piece, but above all, make the effort to know each of your client’s individual needs. Personal service is the classic mark of a natural manicure.


Touches like fresh flowers or lots of green plants, potpourri, and soothing music go a long way to enhance your salon’s natural image. This image extends to participating in such things as recycling or environmental events.

 “You have to go the whole yard with natural nail care,” says Kerri Hess, an instructor at the Premier College of Cosmetology in South Bend, Ind. Clients who see that you care about healing the planet are more likely to believe in your commitment to heal their nails through natural nail care.



Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils for beautifying and healing. Nail technicians use these oils to treat skin problems and to influence a client’s mood. For example, jasmine, rose, or chamomile oil help moisturize dry skin, while basil, bergamot (extracted from citrus rind), or lavender can clear oily skin. The smell of rosemary is energizing, marjoram is calming. A variety of essential oils can be mixed to produce the “healing” or feeling a nail technician wants to evoke.

 “Aromatherapy has both psychological and physiological benefits,” says Hess. “Psychologically, you smell the aroma and it makes you feel a certain way. Peppermint is uplifting, for example. Physiologically, you apply the oils to the body and they have healing qualities. All oils have benefits. Rosehips has a cleansing action that works on the vascular system, black pepper increases circulation, and geranium is an analgesic, almost like aspirin. Essential oils are the closest to the natural oils in the skin, so they penetrate.”

Essential oils can be used several ways. A diffuser mists them into the air, where the aroma lingers several hours. A drop or two of essential oil can be mixed with what’s called a “carrier oil” during a massage. You can use products that contain aromatherapy oils or mix them with lotions. An aromatherapy candle adds an elegant, fragrant touch to a manicure table or pedicure unit.

 “When you do aromatherapy, you try to incorporate it into whatever the client’s needs are,” says Chollar. “If they have dry skin I add lavender or geranium to the manicure soak. I may have an essence in the massage oil. It’s a good way to introduce aromatherapy and reflexology.”

A new aromatherapy treatment is called a harmonic balance. “The harmonic balance process uses a custom-blended oil that you apply to the client’s left hand,” says Yaklin. “The client rubs her hands together and breathes in the essence three times. It takes about five minutes, but the effects last 10 days. Clients will come in for a polish change and a harmonic balance.”

Promoting aromatherapy isn’t difficult if you’ve got a diffuser. Clients will comment on the fragrance, giving you the opportunity to introduce the add-on. Or, while you’re giving a potential client a reflexology service, add some aromatherapy oil. “You may pick up an oil, rub it into your own hands, then give the client a massage. Tell her, ‘I’m using oils on you that have a calming effect,’ and introduce her another to aromatherapy,” says Chollar.

Clients will pay an added $2 to $3 for an aromatherapy manicure or pedicure. “Nail technicians can introduce it the first time at the regular price,” says Hess.

If you’re thinking about incorporating aromatherapy into your services, it’s wise to do some reading and take a few courses. Or you may start with products containing essential oils before you experiment on your own, as some essential oils are expensive.


I can take away headaches and cramps,” says Susan Caouette, a nail technician and reflexologist at Merle Norman Cosmetics in Wagoner, Okla. How? With reflexology, a method of applying pressure on points in the hands and feet to stimulate healing in other parts of the body.

Beintema says, “Reflexology is a temporary stress and pain relief system. It’s a great service to add because it brings the nail technician increased revenue beyond the regular manicure and pedicure. And two, it makes clients loyal because there are so few places to get reflexology.” Beintema says 50% of her clients come in for pedicures with reflexology.

While most clients enjoy reflexology because it’s relaxing, some have found relief from pain. “I offer 30 minutes of reflexology by a massage therapist,” says Zwicky. “It can be relaxing, but the idea is to break up any crystallization and send the message to the corresponding part of the body to heal itself.”

When you’re trying to heal a client, the salon environment must be a relaxing one. “When I do reflexology, I put the client in a comforting atmosphere,” says Chollar. “I take my clients into the massage room and do reflexology on their feet and put paraffin on their hands.

 “The neat thing for a nail technician who practices reflexology is that she can introduce herself to other people in the salon, say who she is and what she’s doing,” continues Chollar. “Introduce yourself with a handshake and start the introduction---‘sponge’ the hand, use a few reflexology techniques, and talk about it while you’re massaging her hand. It gets her attention, and generally you can book an appointment right there.”

Caouette finds it easy to pick up clients. “When they sit down, you can tell that they’re stressed. Just rub their hands a bit and they’ll settle right down for you,” she says. While giving a pedicure, Caouuette often gives clients a hint of what they can expect from a reflexology session. “I’m massaging anyway, so I hit a few extra points. The client will say, ‘That feels good; can you do more?’ and I say, ‘That’s a different service. That’s reflexology.’ You’ve already picked up another client,” she says. Chollar keeps a reflexology chart and an aromatherapy chart under the glass at her manicure table.

Caouette offers specials to new reflexology clients. She usually charges $25 for 25 minutes of hand or foot reflexology, but she reduces the price to $15 for specials. “There’s no set price, but you don’t want to be too cheap,” she says. “You should aim for a dollar a minute with some of these add-on services. I live in a small area, but I get it.”

If you’re thinking of learning reflexology, look into a few classes. You can be certified in as few as four hours, but becoming an expert requires a working knowledge of anatomy and physiology and plenty of practice.


A hand or foot facial involves the same process as a regular facial: exfoliate and moisturize. “The critical part is the exfoliating,” says Yaklin. “I’m trying a new product to help older clients get rid of age spots.” Yaklin’s hand facial consists of exfoliation, a reflexology massage, and a moisturizing paraffin dip.

Yaklin also offers clients a four-step exfoliation pedicure. She sloughs dead skin only and does not cut the skin. The first stage uses eight essential oils and mineral salt, the second uses energizing or calming oil, the third stage is an oil of algae soak, and the fourth stage is an exfoliation soak and scrub consisting of walnut oil and Japanese sea salt. Exfoliation is followed by reflexology with massage oils, a paraffin dip, and polish.

Paraffin dips and hot mitts are excellent treatments for dry skin or for use after exfoliation. For a paraffin treatment, the hands or feet are coated with lotion and then dipped into warm paraffin several times. Plastic gloves or booties are placed over the wax, and the hand or foot is wrapped in a towel or placed in mitts or booties similar to pot holders. The warmth of the wax opens the skin’s pores and allows the lotion to penetrate. Originally designed as a treatment for arthritis, the paraffin dip is great for older clients.

Hot mitts work like paraffin: Oil is applied to the hands, which are placed in plastic gloves and then inside the heated mitts. The oil then can penetrate the skin for a long-lasting conditioning treatment. Try heated booties with pedicure clients.

Each service has a low set-up cost, is easy to learn, and is a naturalaccompaniment to a basic manicure or pedicure.


While clients may love a natural manicure, many don’t mind helping nature out or having a less-than-natural look. Here are some ideas for natural nail care clients who want something extra:

Finger and toe waxing. The cost for this service can be $5 to $7 for fingers or toes, and it takes only minutes.

Nail Art. If you handpaint designs, you can add a craftswoman’s touch to a perfect manicure. Try a seashell, a flower, a bird, or even scenery on these nature-loving clients. If you airbrush, offer clients a choice of designs---the more adventurous client may enjoy a palm tree, a toucan or giraffe, or tiger stripes.

Nail jewelry. A shimmer through a clear top coat can be as appealing as the shine of gold through water. Because natural nail clients may wear their nails shorter than artificial nail wearers, polish-secured nail charms (rather than post-secured charms) may be their best bet. Stock small, simple designs that can dress up or lighten up a client’s look. Find hearts, roses, daisies, or single gems.

Polish French manicure. For some clients, clear polish isn’t enough. Use pink and white polish isn’t enough. Use pink and white polish colors to make perfect smile lines and a dramatic color contrast.

Silk  Wrap Repair. A client who’s proud of her naturally long nails may be upset if one cracks or breaks. Offer her a silk wrap repair that will keep her 10 nails a consistent length or help stop a crack. You may even want to retail her an emergency repair kit---just be sure you give her professional advice on home repairs.




Making salon nail treatments available to clients is not only a valuable service, but it also helps increase the nail technician’s revenue and makes working on the client’s hands easier. Following are some kits to consider making up for your clients:

Basic Nail Care Kit: cuticle oil or cream and nail strengthener

Men’s Nail Care Kit: cuticle oil or cream, clippers, nail file, and buffer

Beach Kit: pumice stone, nail file, nail color to match this season’s popular swimsuit colors, top coat with UV inhibitor, and moisturizing lotion with sunscreen for elbows, hands, knees, and heels---all packaged in a waterproof bag.

Working Woman’s Kit: sample-size bottles of subdued but elegant colors, sample-size top coat, nail file, and small bottle of hand lotion---if you package it in a small cosmetics bag, she’ll be able to leave it in her desk

Child’s Nail Care Kit: clippers, nail file, cuticle cream, clear or pink polish, easy-to-apply nail decals

Nail Biter’s Kit: large bottle of nail strengthener; large tube of cuticle cream; a nail file so they can smooth, instead of chew, rough edges; instructions for daily nail care; and a photograph of how the client’s nails are going to look in a month or two

Foot Care Kit: pumice stone or pedicure wand, thick moisturizing lotion, toenail clippers, nail file, and bright red or pink polish.

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