Natural Nails

The Not-So-Basic Manicure

With extras like paraffin and hand massage, natural manicures can be as profitable as extensions.

Natural nail care has existed, in one form or another, for thousands of years. And, up until the early ‘70s, most women cared for their own nails. Then acrylics debuted, soon followed by wrap and gel systems. These products fulfilled women’s dreams of length, strength, and beauty.

Yet, as always, trends change and now the pendulum has reversed. Natural nails are currently in vogue, due in some part to the dictum of consumer fashion magazines, but also because of the focus on the environment. However, “naturals” doesn’t have to mean “done at home.” A nail technician who can appeal to non clients “natural” sensibilities with a value-added natural manicure may find herself with more clients than she knows what to do with.

Nails complete a person’s total look. The trip to the nail salon also fulfills a psychological need for pampering. Natural nail care clients may not be bursting through your salon’s doors now, but that may only be because they don’t know what you offer. Many women think of nail salons in terms of artificial extensions and overlays. To them, a natural manicure means pushing back the cuticles and applying a coat of polish, nothing they can’t do at home. But by augmenting your basic manicure with pleasing extras like hot oil treatments or paraffin dips, it can be so much more.


The basic manicure is the foundation for all the nail services you offer. One cosmetologist who specialized in nail care likens it to professional hair care: “If you don’t offer the basic cut, you’ll never get perm and color clients because they first come in for that basic service.”

A regular manicure overhauls and maintains nails – conditioning, shaping, moisturizing, and beautifying – but it has the capacity to be more than a treatment. It also can become a psychological necessity.

Because we spend more and more time communicating with each other by phone, computer, and fax, personal communication has become more valuable. As you face a client across the table, you may be the only person to touch your client that day. For her, this service may be just as mentally beneficial as it is physical.

The natural manicure focuses on a gentle touch and a firm grip. The time your client spends with you is an escape from an often hectic outside world. With practice, almost anyone can perform a basic manicure at home, but doing it herself doesn’t allow her to relax and enjoy the personal attention.

With this in mind, don’t forget those “extras” on your menu. Incorporate some, or all, of these add-on services into the manicure, and you’ll increase clients’ dependence on you while you increase each service ticket. While some women may resist visiting your salon for basic nail care and polish, they’re guaranteed to be hooked after their first extrasensory experience with one of these services.

Aromatherapy’s history goes back thousands of years. Aromatherapy is the use of fragrant oils distilled from flowers, herbs, woods, resins, and spices for their physical and mental therapeutic value. The oils are said to nurture, soothe, and sanitize the nail.

Give clients a treat by mixing a few drops of the fragrant oils in a carrier oil – such as sweet almond, grapessed, or canola – for a relaxing massage. Aromatherapy can be done as an add-on service or you can incorporate it into the basic manicure.

Hand facials use the same procedures that you use for a regular facial. The procedure rejuvenates the hands, combining skin and nail care.

Start by deep cleaning the hands and arms just past the elbows. Next, exfoliate the sin. Follow with a mask, or skip to the toner. Finish by massaging a moisturizer into the hands and arms. No client will be able to resist this service because the results will be obvious, especially to clients with dry skin.

Hand facials provide an ideal opportunity to increase both service and retailing profits. Clients will want to take home the products that help keep sin fresh and moisturized. Hand lotions, creams, and cuticle oils are a must after this service. Schedule an additional 30 to40 minutes to the manicure for hands facials.

The of thumb for pricing most add-on services is generally $1 per minute that the service takes. So for a hand facial you’ll charge an average of $35 (test your market to see what it will bear). Suggest this service as a pre-season conditioner or an anytime pick-me-up.

The hot oil soak is a popular twist on the sudsy warm water soak. Substitute heated hand lotion or oil for warm water. This service is especially satisfying to clients who suffer from dry skin because the warm lotion soaks deep into the skin and the benefits last for several days. Take into account additional product when pricing this service.

Hot mitts help hands absorb moisturizers and oils. Shape, soak, do any cuticle work, massage hands and arms, and then put the client’s hands in the warm mitts. Work on one hand while the other is in a mitt so you aren’t inactive during her warm-up. Or, insert both her hands and use that time to prepare for your next client.

The basic hand massage, when done thoroughly, keeps hands and fingers flexible, relaxes the client, stimulates circulation, and helps moisturize the skin. A hand and arm massage (don’t forget dry elbows) should be a part of every manicure. This is definitely one service a client can’t do on herself, so you’re sure to bring her back with this one. You probably won’t charge for a shot massage incorporated into the manicure, although you could charge for a manicure service that included an extended massage.

Apply moisturizing lotion to the hand and arm and let the client relax her muscles (aromatherapy oils may come in handy here). There are many massage techniques, but a gentle, firm circular motion using both thumbs will leave her asking for more.

Paraffin dips can be part of a “deluxe” manicure package. Paraffin baths were originally designed as a therapeutic treatment for arthritis patients. The deep heat and sealing of the wax helps soften skin and restore elasticity. The effects linger for several days, and may last longer if the client regularly applies a good hand lotion. Moisturize clients’ hands and sip them several times in a paraffin bath until a ¼-inch wax glove forms. Cover the hands in plastic and insert them in mitts. Remove the wax gloves after approximately 20 minutes.

Reflexology is a method of pressure-point massage of the hands and feet, said to relieve tension in other parts of the body. When these points are massaged by a trained reflexologist, stress and tension may be reduced. There are adherents of reflexology who claim that reflexology can also improve blood circulation and stimulate nerve impulses.

This service requires training, and classes are offered across the country to teach technicians this add-on service. Again, the $1-per-minute rule applies.

With just a few of these add-on services, the basic manicure is not so basic anymore – nor are the profits. Create your own manicure packages and write service recommendations for an individual client’s needs based on her nails’ condition, skin type, and lifestyle. This personal service demonstrates your professionalism and your technical knowledge, making your services indispensable for the client. Do make sure your package manicures are balanced so you can apply uniform pricing and appointment lengths. Otherwise clients may ignore a recommendation in favor of a less expensive or less time-consuming service.


Despite rumors to the contrary, natural manicures can be a profitable service in any salon. The average charge for a basic manicure is $8 to $15, depending on your location. A maintenance manicure should only take 30 minutes, which translates into$16 to $30 per hour. The average artificial extension fill costs $15 to $25 for an average 45-minute service, which often creeps to an hour. So gross profits for these services are in the same range.

And, the natural manicure client is more likely to purchase maintenance products regularly. You might suggest nail strengthener, hardener, nail and cuticle treatments, base and top coats, ridge filter, polish, polish remover, glue, cuticle oil, hand lotion, fine-grit files, and a buffer.

Another advantage of natural manicures is your own decreased product consumption. A natural manicure costs you an average 75 cents per client in products; wrap fills cost about $1.78, and acrylic fills $1.94.

All fold, you can make a comparable profit doing a natural manicure. If you work smarter, not harder, you can see the potential profits. Do two manicures per hour instead of one. Refine your technique and book manicures closer together. Promote and sell retail products. Schedule polish changes between manicures. You can charge $3 to $5 for a polish change, which takes 10 to 15 minutes. If a client doesn’t need a manicure each week – and some won’t – alternate her appointments with a pedicure.


Every person with nails is a potential natural manicure client. But your job is to go out and find her.

“Nail care is one of many elements people need to consider when examining their image,” says Dominique Isbeque, vice president of Looks Consulting International in New York. Nails convey a wealth of information about a person’s grooming habits and personal style, she says. Nail shape and length, polish color, and ornamentation all say something about personality – things other people subconsciously hear.

Care’n Mooney, owner of Care’n Creations Image Consulting, agrees that most people don’t realize the role their hands play. “Total image is self-esteem,” she says. “People have no idea what hands do for them. They think of them as tools.

“The well-finished hand is like the shine on the shoes,” asserts Mooney. “It’s amazing how eyes will go to whatever part of the body that’s out of harmony.”

Mooney, also a nail technician, says public awareness of nail care needs to be heightened. If you promote regular nail care as a “natural manicure” you’ll find clients who feel good about justifying the time and expense – even if the cost is the same as artificial services.

Identifying natural nail clients may not be a challenge, but drawing them in may be. According to most technicians we spoke to, the potential client is a professional. Her image is important to her but she isn’t fully aware of the role of her nails.

Since professional men and women are an ideal target market for natural nail care, seek them out in the business world. Prepare yourself before developing contacts by defining and polishing your presentation. Write a definition of natural nail care, describe the entire service, and define its benefits.


Introduce yourself to these prospective clients with a letter. In your letter, explain briefly your purpose (something like “The Finishing Touch: Caring for Natural Nails”). Then describe your introductory offer – for example, you could host a one-hour seminar on natural nail care for business-women that covers shape, length, polish color, home maintenance. In your letter, focus on how your service will enhance the business-woman’s image.

You can also team up with a hairstylist and esthetician and expand the seminar to the total look. A local image consultant might also be interested, and covering other topics will increase your authority (and chances of being contacted).

 You might ask office managers at larger companies in your area if you can post flyers on the employee bulletin board. On the flyer, describe your seminar and invite all interested people to attend. Hold the “Professional Evening” seminar after hours. Invite other technicians to participate. Work out referral details among yourselves and enlist their help in the planning stages to relieve you of some footwork.

If local business organizations express disinterest, or you find the task too daunting, start by contacting local professional organizations. Most organizations are interested in speakers and seminars that offer self-improvement ideas for their members. Men’s organizations may be reluctant to hear your ideas at first, but men are becoming increasingly receptive to beauty services – nail care, hairstyling (as opposed to just haircuts), and skin care.

One market segment often over-looked is prospective business-people. Local colleges and universities offer seminars on every imaginable subject during each term. Contact student services centers and offer to host a seminar. Submit a detailed plan, and don’t give up if you don’t get an immediate response (state-sponsored schools especially are notorious for red tape).

With a business-like approach, high-quality workmanship, and marketing diligence, there is no limit to the number of client you can attract with your natural manicure services. Don’t limit yourself.

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