Ten years ago any nail tech would have called you crazy if you said you were opening a salon that offered only natural nail services. Today, successful natural nail salons are servicing a growing clientele, and most are doing it with very little marketing.
Natural nail clients: pesky purists or profitable possibilities? From nurses who long for the security of their standing fill appointment to students educated in holistic care, the number of women demanding quality natural nail care services continues to grow. And then there are the men. We’ve turned a corner in the industry, and the male market is ready to be taken seriously. Finally, take a look at the neo-client: mini-divas ready to celebrate birthdays and fun days with their chicky-chicks over manicures and quasi-champagne. Salons offering natural nail services are ready to give them what they want.
We’ve selected a few of the very successful salons to highlight. What sets them apart is not that they offer a great manicure — that’s the goal of every nail tech — but these salons offer only natural nail services. No acrylics, no gels, and no wraps: nothing artificial.
With limited avenues to show off their technical prowess, you might wonder how one natural nail technician distinguishes herself from the next. Judging by the salons and services profiled here, the answer is with an extraordinary dedication to healthy nails and client education, coupled with services that are meticulously performed, highly pampering, and oh-so appealing to the senses.
Salon Name:Le Crème Spa
Signature Service:Le Crème Manicure
This $15 manicure treats clients to the soothing smells of either eucalyptus or lavender while their hands are being massaged with warm cream. A stimulating sage-peppermint salt scrub is used to remove dead skin before hands are moisturized with lotion to leave them feeling silky smooth. The 25-minute naked (unpolished) manicure is the baseline service. Clients who have more time can add a 10-minute massage, which may be a temptation because all manicures are performed while clients lounge in overstuffed chairs. If the day calls for indulgence, clients can opt for the Fleur de Lys manicure, which includes a hand soak made by adding lemon, cucumber, lime, and grapefruit oils to warm water. A cucumber and sea salt scrub is included with this manicure, which ends with a grapefruit lotion application. More indulgence adds nine dollars to the cost, bringing this 30-minute manicure to a reasonably priced $23.
Salon Name:Atir Natural Nail Care Clinic
Signature Service:Four-Part Program
Like a maintenance program recommended by a chiropractor or dietician, the founder of Atir Natural Nail Care Clinics espouses natural nail care as a way of life. With the goal of educating clients on proper nail maintenance and treatment, owner Rita Gregory has opened 33 units of her nail clinic all over the United States. Atir clinics have become a successful nails-only franchise business in an enhancement-dominated industry. The secret to her success is not only in her nail care program but also in her staff-training program. Techs are given a 900-page training manual and must attend an intensive two-week nail college. Once trained, techs are ready to educate clients about the four-step program that produces beautiful, healthy nails. The four-part nail care program includes moisturizing the skin, performing maintenance and care, protecting the nail plate without damage, and making the nail beautiful: Hydration, Maintenance, Protection, and Glamour. With the posted price for a manicure at $19, Atir clinics offer competitively priced services to clients, while boasting an exclusive line of European products.
Salon Name:Heart’s Content Nail Spa
Signature Service:Natural Nail Manicure with Homemade Scrubs
Manicure scents change seasonally at Julie Ann Gee’s salon, where clients are treated to all-natural, homemade products such as a brown sugar scrub or a sea salt scrub. A one-time acrylic nail client, Gee opened her own nail spa after she became a licensed nail tech two years ago. While she enjoyed the artificial nails, the opportunity to educate clients on natural nail care prompted her to open the nail spa.
She chose “spa” because from the moment clients walk in, they enter a spa experience. Soft music and candles help them relax before their service begins. Clients’ hands are soaked before they are pampered with nail and skin treatments. Gee’s claim to fame is her homemade recipes for scrubs, masks, and lotions.
This fall, the service menu features a Hot Coffee Manicure and a Fallen Leaves and Cider Pedicure. The one-hour manicure begins when clients steep their hands in coffee-scented brew and is followed by a complete nail and cuticle treatment. Next, they experience a coffee-ground scrub, which exfoliates dead, dry skin. A soothing mask is applied next, and it ends with a Mocha Mint massage. Clients enjoy coffee or cider during their $35 service.
Salon Name:Clare’s Heart Natural Nail Spa
Signature Service:Sweet Mango Manicure
With real bits of organic mango, this $10 manicure surrounds clients with the sweet smell of fresh fruit while they enjoy this competitively priced service. Jessica Bernard says the manicure (or the same-named pedicure) begins with a soak made from a blend of water, milk, and oils. After clients’ hands, or feet, have been softened by the oils in the warm bath, they are treated to skin and nail treatments made by mixing the best of each manufacturer’s products. Finally, clients’ nails are shaped, buffed, and polished and left not only moisturized, but also protected and beautiful.
Clients come in for Bernard’s special manicures once a week, or every other week. She says clients return because she educates them about the health of their nails, and because she offers a salon that is committed to sanitization. She’s proven she has a formula for success: Soon Bernard plans to expand her business to a different location, calling her new salon Clara’s Hands.
Salon Name:TLC Nails
Signature Service:The Spa Manicure
Owner Tammy Howard says she’s been doing nails for nine years but opened TLC Nails two years ago because she saw the demand for natural nail services. Howard says she has no problem filling her book (her appointments are scheduled seven months out), even though she charges $25-$28 for her standard manicure, The Spa Manicure. The service, which clients enjoy for 45 minutes, features a warm-towel wrap on the hands before a relaxing massage.
Howard says she creates “the whole atmosphere” for her clients, including an unrushed, peaceful experience from a tech who has a passion for growing healthy, natural nails. The secret to her success is uncompromising quality, which has her clients talking. In the two years since she’s opened, Howard hasn’t spent any money on advertising. Her salon was not even listed in the phone book.
Salon Name:Jessica Nail Clinic; Jessica from Sunset
Signature Service:Jessica Deluxe Manicure
The Godfather (Godmother?) of natural nail care, Jessica Vartoughian pioneered the natural nails-only salon concept. Her one-hour manicure includes heated gloves that “steam” the hands to open the pores and allow cream to penetrate and moisturize the skin. All attention is given to the gentle treatment of nails and cuticles. Nail cultivists, as they are called at Jessica’s clinic, are taught how to file nails so that they will not become rough as they grow, and they are taught how to treat, polish, and seal the nail so nails remain beautiful for 10-14 days. The salon strives to use the most innovative products; their newest addition to the Jessica line includes a technique that is formulated not simply to make nails stronger but also to make them more flexible.
In addition to nail treatments, clients’ hands are given special attention. During a manicure, guests will receive a collagen treatment on the hand and a massage. When asked why clients would pay $30 for a natural nail manicure at her clinic instead of paying only $10 or less somewhere else, Vartoughian answers, “It’s what we do and how we do it. We are worth it; $30 is nothing.”
Salon Name:Lush Life Nail Bar
Signature Service:Milk and Honey Manicure
Using Cuccio Milk and Honey Body Butter and its complementary scrub, techs at Lush Life Nail bar offer clients a lower-arm treatment every time they perform their popular 30-minute service. For $25, clients are given a soothing, hydrating treatment on their hands and nails.
Co-owner Jill Yeager says Lush Life natural nail services set them apart from other nail salons for a number of reasons. Because there are no gel or acrylic products, clients immediately notice the absence of any chemical smell when the walk through the door. Clients are greeted by the natural smells of the lotions, including the almond-scented drying spray, and their natural nail experience begins. Another favorite service among regulars is the Simply Mani, a dry manicure that takes 25 minutes and includes a massage, cuticle care, filing, and polish for only $15.