Business Management

The Nail Hub Podcast Transcription: Cornstarch Nails

In this transcription of The Nail Hub Podcast, Elizabeth Morris discusses how using non-professional items such as cornstarch in nails can affect the industry.

Welcome to The Nail Hub Podcast, powered by NAILS magazine where you'll find all the business advice, motivation and nail industry information you need to be a successful nail professional. I'm Elizabeth Morris and thank you for joining me today. I have no idea how these things get started, but I wanted to talk about this new thing I've been seeing, which is cornstarch nails. And I think this is an important topic to bring up because not only does it apply to this recent trend that's popped up out of nowhere, but it also applies to all litany of different types of things that we see in the industry, that include using more unprofessional products in a professional sense. And I think it's important to bring this up because, again, I like to always talk about the unintended consequences of the actions that happen within our industry and also how it has an effect on the long-term view of the industry from a business perspective.   

So, going back to this trend, if you haven't seen it, I have seen this everywhere. I've seen it on Facebook. I've seen it on YouTube. I've seen it on blogs. I've seen it everywhere. And it's not just something that DIYers are doing. It's also something that I've seen a lot of professional nail techs promote as well as a means to a cheaper end, which is getting around having to pay for what I am not sure are expensive products but at least getting around having to pay for products period and being able to use things that you can buy at your local grocery store to be able to do nails. So, whoever came up with this, who knows who it is, basically, the idea is, is that you can use cornstarch as dip powder. So, you can use nail glue and use cornstarch as the powder in which you dip your nail and create these layers of strength by using cornstarch.   

Now, I have yet to actually research how cornstarch compares to other professional nail products. But from what I do understand on the surface, is that professional nail products, in and of themselves, are a form of making polymers which are plastics. So, in some sense, whether it's acrylic powder or it's gel or it's some combination of the two, basically what we're talking about is plastic. And from what I understand, at a basic level, cornstarch is nowhere near a plastic. So it makes me wonder how strong can cornstarch really be and what really is creating the strength on the nail because the cornstarch really isn't bonding to anything, and it really isn't bonding to itself. And it's not creating a polymer network on the nail, and it's not turning itself into plastic. It's just cornstarch powder mixed with glue.   

Same thing goes for silk wraps, for example. Silk wraps add strength by means of adding layers of hardness to the nail, which I'm assuming is what cornstarch is doing. But the way that silk wraps adhere to the nail is either through gel or through nail glue. So, I'm assuming that the same thing happens with this cornstarch and I have not tried it myself. So, I will definitely reserve that for some of you guys that want to try this out. But the fact that it's cornstarch, to me, brings up a couple different issues. One is that I'm assuming that cornstarch, because it is a food and it's edible, has probably a faster breakdown than of an ingredient like acrylic powder that isn't made of edible ingredients similar to, like, if we used flour. I mean cornstarch is pretty dang close to flour. So, using flour to build up nails. I mean, these are edible items that really don't bond to any of our nail products. And I would assume that if you mixed anything with glue, you'd be able to make some sort of paste out of it that would dry and feel hard, and therefore, feel durable.   

But the question I have is, how does that behave on the nail over time? How does it break down? What does it do on the natural nail? And also since the only thing holding it together is nail glue, you know, I think, nail glue, in and of itself, is not a super durable product, although it can be mixed with other things, it has a very short lifespan when it comes to durability and how long before it turns brittle, turns yellow and needs to be replaced. So, I'm not quite sure what the point is. And I thought I'd bring this up because I have my own opinions on it. But I just don't quite understand what the point of this is. I mean, is finding out that you can use white bleached flour, you know, on nails really innovative? I don't know. I mean, I think that it's something that you can say, "Wow, it works," you know, similar to, for example, I see all these beauty regimens on YouTube that use all kinds of things. I mean, you can put avocado on your face, and egg in your hair, and mayonnaise on your hair. And there are always at-home remedies, which I think, you know, in and of themselves, might work because you're putting oils on your hair or your face, which are inherently moisturizing.   

But if I were a professional aesthetician, I don't think I would be putting mayonnaise or avocado on my clients' faces. Maybe some derivative of that, maybe some professionally formulated thing that includes similar ingredients. But I don't think I would actually whip out a tub of mayonnaise and be like, "Let's use this on you because it's cheaper and it's more effective." To me, I think there's a huge problem with going the route of the do-it-yourself way, especially when you're in a professional environment. And again, a lot of the YouTube videos I've seen are do-it-yourselfers at home doing this. But I also see quite a few people that... they're constantly, you know, even professionals in the industry, are constantly looking for cheap workarounds on things. And again, my mind always goes to, "Why can't you afford the products that you should be using," right? So, if I go to a hairdresser and they start using all kinds of weird made-up home remedies, I'm like, "Okay, that's kinda cool that you know that stuff, but how come you're not able to use really nice professional products? What's the issue there?"   

And also for you as a business owner, if you're not able to actually afford whatever professional products you'd like to incorporate in your business, to me that just... is a sign of bad financial health. It means that you're not actually doing the services in a way or charging for the services in a way that actually allows you to be able to incorporate those products. So, of course, there's a lot in that, which I've talked about briefly here and I've also taught a lot about in classes about how we charge for things and how pricing works and the fact that it's dependent on a lot of different factors. But I definitely don't think I would get a professional vibe from anyone who whipped out a box of cornstarch and some nail glue and proceeded to do a full set of nails on me. You guys might have your own opinions. But I wanted to also give you guys the opportunity to write in, especially below this podcast when I upload it on YouTube, to give me your insight into what you think about these kinds of trends because cornstarch is one, but I've seen all kinds of things. I mean, I have seen people putting candy in their nails. I have seen people, you know, mixing all kinds of things together to work them, you know, do a backwards work into, like, PolyGel.   

I have seen, you know, gum nails is what they called it on YouTube. I have seen people putting dead animals, you know, dead bugs in nails. I've seen marijuana in nails. I mean, at what point are we not being innovative and we're just being "tacky." I mean, I get it and people wanna be avant-garde and be someone who brings something new to the forefront. But does it really add any professionalism to our industry doing that? Does it really send people a message like, "Hey, we're professionals and we should be respected when we do stuff like that?" I don't know. I think, to me, it's a lot about shock value and it's, you know, something that becomes viral and then dies the very next day. And when I think of professional hair care specialists, I don't often see them putting marijuana in people's shampoo or putting dead bugs in their hair as a means to, you know, creating an expensive do. So, I think there's something inherently wrong with that. I wanted to definitely get your guys opinion on it, but to me, I'm always just shocked, which, you know, no pun intended, I'm shocked by the shock value of these things.   

But I'm always just shocked about the fact that people actually want to focus on this, instead of focusing on, maybe, improving their skill set, improving their business, working on the facts, you know, 'till they're able to actually afford the things that they want to be able to afford. So, instead of rising to the challenge of saying, "Hey, I'm a nail tech in this financial position with this available skill set. I can't afford premium products, so I'm gonna go to my grocery store and figure out how I can manufacture nail products out of stuff I can buy from the department store or the grocery store or the hardware store." Instead of looking at it from that perspective, I'm often awed by the fact that people don't rise to the challenge and go, "Hey, I'm not there right now, but I want to be. And I want to get there by any means necessary. How do I do that?" And look for help on those topics, rather than looking for help on, "How do I make my business as cheap as possible?" Because cheap is as cheap does, and I can't think of anything cheaper, in all aspects of the word, than cornstarch nails.   

So, not to sound pretentious but, to me, I just don't see the value in creating nails out of food. I don't see how it creates a professional image of our industry, and I definitely don't see how it justifies clients coming to us as nail technicians and paying top dollar for amazing services when we're basically telling them that this is something that they could whip up at home. And that's also one of the issues I have with some of these more simplistic nail services, is that something that takes zero skill inherently almost has zero value, which means you're basically just paying someone else to do it for you. And I guess there is a market for that but at the same time, me personally, I would rather be a nail tech that people come to because they can't do what I do, not because they can do what I do, but they just prefer not to. And, you know, that being said, I definitely would never want to use a product that my clients know that they can just buy in any store. And that's why I've always been against things like using things that are easily identifiable like blue shop towels from Costco as your table towels and, you know, different ingredients that definitely are not professional and clients can easily figure out that you're buying from a basic store, even though, you know, you can get professional items like, for example, I'll use wipes as an example, okay? Wipes.   

Every manufacturer on the planet sells their own wipes and they may be more expensive than buying, just regular gauze or regular wipes. And, you know, something like wipes. Yeah, 2x2 gauze versus, you know, somebody's branded wipes. Does it really make a difference? No. But when you're talking about using Brawny paper towels with the floral print on it that your clients can obviously identify is a Brawny paper towel or, you know, versus using a professional table towel or, you know, a professional item to cover your work area. I think it does make a difference. I think it sends a subconscious message to our clientele. And it's the same thing that I experience when I go get beauty treatments done, which is the moment I see something that, to me, I'm like, "Oh, that's something that I literally could have bought at my local store or my local grocery store." It's not that I start to judge the person, but subconsciously, I'm definitely thinking like, "Wow, they couldn't have, like, actually gotten a professional item that goes along with being an aesthetician or with being a cosmetologist or with being a massage therapist. They couldn't have bought something that's a little bit more upscale, just to give the client a little bit of a more cohesive and fancy experience that goes along with the price point."   

That's often what I think about it. And if I think about it, I know clients think about it. And it might not be every client who notices, but I definitely think, you know, there's a risk inherent with both using unprofessional products and allowing people to see that you're using unprofessional products. And there's also a risk with it because you're using something that isn't really intended for nails. Nobody made cornstarch so that we could use it to build artificial nail enhancements. It's for food. So, why are we mixing food in with professional nail products? That I just don't get. So, I wanted to see what your guy's two sense is on the matter. How do you feel about the more unprofessional products that you're seeing being used? I mean, I have even seen people using Gorilla Glue, instead of nail glue because they're thinking it's gonna be stronger than regular nail glue so they use hardware glue. They use Loctite, you know, or, you know, all kinds of things. I mean, I've just... I think I've seen it all. It's hard to even remember all of the examples of unprofessional items and tools that I've seen.   

But this cornstarch one, I think, takes it to a whole ‘nother level because I can just see people coming up with, "Oh, yeah. You can make nails out of baking soda and flour and, you know, all kinds of stuff". I mean, I just... I don't get it. And at the end of the day, you're just mixing any given powder with nail glue and of course, it's gonna feel hard and durable because the nail glue is drying on your nail with layers of stuff on it and it's gonna feel hard. But I don't think that that's really a viable service, nor would I ever want that to get out that we actually do stuff like that. And again, part of it is the DIY market with these people at home trying to get their hands on products that they just can't get anywhere else. And, you know, it is also one of those things where it's like, "How do we get these people to realize that that's not professional? How do we get them to realize that that's not necessarily safe? And how do we inspire these people?" You know, one of my thoughts, always with DIYers is, "How do we inspire them to want to learn? How do we inspire them to want to, you know, become a little bit more professional with what they're doing? And how do we show them the importance of being educated?"   

I don't necessarily think that licensing is the key because licensing, in this day and age, it doesn't really guarantee that you're a great nail tech and it really doesn't guarantee that you know any more than someone who has studied nails and taken continuing education classes. It's really just the state's way of saying, you know, we've vouched for these people, and we think it's safe for them to do nails. And also, you know, it has become a little bit more of a money-making strategy for a lot of different states and governments. But at the end of the day, I don't really think licensing is the key here. I think it's really about, "How do we bring these people into the fold?" You know, are they feeling so pushed out by the professional industry that they don't feel like it's something that they can actually work themselves up to? Is it because they just wanna dabble in nails, but they don't actually want to do nails? You know, where is their head at? And I'd love... I would love to get their feedback.   

So, there was a particular individual that I saw post on Facebook about these cornstarch nails. And I actually am going to reach out to this person and see if they would be interested in coming on the podcast because I would love to talk to this person and just find out where their head was at with this. And I'm definitely not there to criticize or anything, I just wanna ask questions. I'm very curious to know what the idea is behind these types of things and why they feel pressured to use things like cornstarch, rather than looking to see how they can learn more about how to do nails professionally. And it's not just about, you know, "Oh, I don't wanna pay to go to school," and all that because we all know that there's tons of education out there on YouTube and other platforms that, you know, you can learn how to do almost anything at this point without going to nail school. And there's also a lot of stores that do sell non-professional lines of, you know, liquid, and powder, and gel and all kinds of things.   

And so I don't think it's so much of a factor if they can't get their hands on the products or they can't get their hands on the information. I think there's something there about either creating that shock value, just for the sake of creating shock value or they actually think that it's thrifty to do stuff like that because, maybe, even non-professional liquid and powder lines are considered too expensive to them. And so they're looking for cheaper means or maybe they just wanna experiment. Maybe they truly are just wanting to dabble in things and see what it's all about. But in any regard, I would love to see what is up with this whole cornstarch trend. I'd love to hear your guy's thoughts and, again, how you feel about people using unprofessional products, food, you know, specifically different types of food. Because again, I have seen candy canes in nails. I have seen candy, period. I've seen marijuana, bugs, hair. Gosh. I don't know if you guys can come up with any other crazy ones that you've seen. If you've seen some wild ones, I'd love to hear it or see it. But to me, I just... I'm at a loss with this one.   

So, I hope you guys have some feedback for me to say what you wanna say about cornstarch nails. And I'd love to hear your feedback on, you know, where you think all this stuff is taking us. I mean, do you wish that people were focused on just gel or acrylic and picked one of the two? Do you feel like these systems that are oversimplified with dipping nails with glue, do you think it's damaging the professionalism of our industry? Or do you think it's a convenience? Do you think, "No, I actually love it?" It's quick. It's easy. It helps my business. I wanna hear what your thoughts are. You've heard mine. So, please, feel free to comment below, my YouTube video once this posts. And I am happy to see what you guys have to say. All right, that's all for now. I will talk to you guys later and, hopefully coming up soon, I will have an interview with the individual that I saw post all about cornstarch nails on Facebook, and we'll get to the bottom of how this thing got started. All right, thanks, guys. Bye.   

This is Elizabeth Morris signing off from The Nail Hub. This podcast is sponsored by NAILS Magazine, the professional nail industry's leading publication. Have a suggestion, question or concern? Send me an email at [email protected] And don't forget to follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter at The Nail Hub and check out The Nail Hub YouTube channel for more episodes and tutorials. Want customized business consulting, access to classes, amazing products and more? Visit thenailhub.com and check out all the wonderful things we provide. Our goal is to help you reach your ultimate potential. Thanks for listening, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

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