In their own words, and from their own experiences, nail technicians tell us how they see the nail industry in the ’90s.
I got my license at Don’s Beauty School in San Mateo in 1983 when I was 25 years old. I started in a little hair salon and I sat in a corner. No one told me what to do or how to do it. It was up to me to find clients and the products I needed. I went to a couple of hair and nail shows, and I would stand at the booth and watch them do nails. Then I would go back to the salon and try to do what I had seen.
The nail industry has grown up since then. Now we’re not just a little space in a hair salon; nail service is a multi-billion dollar industry. It’s respected as a career and a sought-after service by clients. We’re not just manicurists, we’re nail technicians or hand beauty specialists. Products and techniques have also changed for the better since I’ve been out of school. Pink powders, white powders, thinner tips, backfills, and drills … all are new since I started. You have lots of products to retail to clients, including home care products.
One concern I have is about nail technicians who are just out of school. I don’t want to knock the schools, but they’re behind the times in techniques. They also don’t teach students about business skills, customer service skills, positive attitudes, or even appropriate attire for an interview! I co-own a booth rental salon, so we can’t really tell renters what to wear. However, if I tell someone that in order to build a business, she must dress appropriately, she will listen. These technicians want to be successful; they just don’t know how. I think that even though the nail business is booming, schools still focus more on hair. I don’t know if this will ever change. But that is why I teach and consult, to provide “postgraduate training.”
I was very flattered to be chosen as the model on this month’s cover. We all know nail technicians aren’t always decked out with big hair, long nails, and pink lipstick. I think it’s time we disprove the stereotype and show the world how professional we really are.
Stephanie Bricker, co-owner
Tips Nail & Image Center
Redwood Shores, Calif.
In the nail industry as in our daily lives, everything changes. Over the past 25 years as a nail technician, I have seen many long-needed improvements. At the same time, I have seen changes that: actually have hurt the nail profession. When I came to America from Czechoslovakia, I was a trained textile chemist, but the language barrier kept me from immediately pursuing a college degree here. Aware of my flair and interest in colors, my mother suggested I try the nail care profession. I found my skills as a chemist were well-suited to the dynamic nail industry.
Teaching nail technicians how to choose and use the best products is one of my goals. Nail technicians show their clients they are cared for by considering their needs foremost and by listening to what they say. Technicians should take the lead with clients by discussing which nail shapes will compliment their hands and informing them about trends and colors that will be most flattering.
Sometimes the “good old days” aren’t everything that we remember, but there are classic traditions that may well serve nail technicians and their clients today. Manners and neatness are often overlooked in our hurry-up world. I tell nail technicians to ask clients how they are and to remember their clients’ color preferences and special nail problems. I provide some special elegance by serving beverages in real china instead of in foam and paper cups.
I developed my Elana line when I saw a need for natural products that don’t contain possible allergens. High-quality products may be a little more expensive, but if a nail technician carries fewer products, she can afford to buy quality.
Reading the latest nail and fashion industry materials and attending seminars at tradeshows give us the tools to become professional nail consultants. Most clients will really appreciate knowing that they can rely on their nail care consultant to be up-to-date on industry and fashion changes that inevitably come along.
creator of Elana Nail Products of Beverly Hills,
Beverly Hills, Calif
The one thing that stands out in my mind is that as I have grown as a nail professional, my passion for the business and my desire to learn more have re-hounded to my clients. As I expect more from myself, they expect more from me. Even my new clients who come to me by referral know that I give nothing but my best effort. If I learn something new, I can’t wait to share it with my clients.
I have also realized that we have become the therapists of the ’90s. We are expected not only to turn out a fabulous set of nails, but do it with a steady hand while hearing about some pretty stressful things in the clients’ lives. Then we realize how lucky we are to practice our art and earn a living working for people who appreciate us so much.
In the 10 years I have been in the industry, it has changed much with its new products and new techniques, but the best thing about being in the nail business is how it has changed my life — a wonderful job in my own business and the ability to meet new challenges. I look forward to going to “work” every day. How lucky can I get?
Debt Waszut, nail artist, technician
Pinky’s Nail Salon, Charleston, S.C.
In 1985, when I started out in the nail industry in Canada, I found the hardest part was finding someone to teach me. After searching for a few months, I found a teacher in a hair studio, who charged me $500 for a watch-and-learn session. After placing a local ad, I opened a room in my home and started a salon.
In the early ’90s, the nail industry began to explode. The movement of discount salons from the United States into Canada was making growth difficult. We realized that if we did not expand, we would go out of business. We knew we had to offer more, such as a great location, parking, and a unique decor as well as other services to weather any pricing wars that may occur. Our nail salon and day spa provide state-of-the-art services from tanning sessions to all nail applications. We are also a regional agent for a cosmetic surgery hospital.
The challenge for Canadian nail salons is to operate consistently despite the lack of industry standards.
I look back at those days when I just started my business and can honestly say it gave me a living, but doing what I enjoy every day has given me a life.
Angle Coey, owner
The Polished Image
Brampton, Ontario, Canada
The ’90s if a great time to be a nail technician. Even though I have only been in the business for a few years I have seen a lot of positive changes for the nail profession. There is much more training and education available now, with a wider range of courses to take. Electronic mailing lists and on-line computer chat groups are great ways to communicate with and learn from other nail technicians all over the world. I feel now we are being looked at in a more professional light and taken more seriously in the beauty industry When I started most people still would say, “I’m just a manicurist.” Now it seems everyone is referring to themselves as a nail technician, which to me sounds much mere professional This is a great career to have now for these of us who want to continue their career while raising a family, since you can choose how long and what days you would like to work.
Other great things about being a nail technician in the ’90s are making people feel good about themselves and the fact that you can let your creativity show in many ways. By putting nail enhancements on a nail biter, you create something that didn’t exist before. There are now more types of competitions to enter ranging from natural nail makeovers to fantasy nail art, Entering competitors is great because even if you don’t win you still learn how to improve your technique.
One of the challenges I see nine ’90s is more competition with other salons. This is because the industry has grown and is still growing. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing. It just makes me want to become more educated, so that I can be a better nail technician. If the industry has grown and changed this much in only a few years, I can’t wait to see it in the year 2000
Jennifer LeVan, nail technician
Sachet Salon, Reading Pa.
When I graduated from beauty school in 1986, I did not know much about our industry. I was taught a skill that became my new job. I never thought my new job would become my new career or profession.
Right after graduating, I attended an eight-hour workshop on sculptured nails. It was wonderful to be able to work on your techniques with a real professional. I learned early on how important tradeshows are if you want to stay on the cutting edge of the industry. Throughout the years, I’ve seen many more manufacturers and distributors join the industry. In the beginning, very few of them had anything to offer you after the sale. Now, most reputable companies have education, consultants, and toll-free numbers. This has been the most important change for me. Being able to get all the education I want has helped me educate my clients and offer new services.
When MSDS information became available, it took some of us awhile to figure out what it meant and how important it was for our clients. The need for stronger sanitation awareness became the focal point in the late ’80s and early ’90s. This was crucial for our health and our clients. I believe awareness has been responsible for nail technicians becoming more strict with their own sanitation regulations, and it helps us to be recognized as professionals.
Some landmarks come to mind for me. In 1990 the Nail Manufacturers Council was established; also, our industry’s first Fact Book came out; to this day, I use it like a bible. In 1992, I remember bringing home a UV dryer from a nail show, and my customers went wild! This was also the year the Nails Industry Association was established. A couple of years later our terminology started changing — now there are “nail enhance ***” and “maintenance appointments.” In 1993, I saw photos put on nails and pink and white nail styles *** back in a big way. White French *** and polish that dried in minutes ***came out in 1994.
Bigger and better nail shows and sore education have helped nail technicians serve the public better. Where will this industry go? If you keep up *** in education, you will go straight to the bank.
Jan Owston, nail technician
Tresses by Twins, Reno, Ncv.
Since graduating from European Touch School of Nails 10 years ago, I have seen the nail profession change tremendously. I received excellent instruction but found hat no one really had the answers to my questions. After I became licensed, everything was a “learn as you go” process. I took a course that taught me application of acrylic nails and we basically learned how, but there was never any hands-on experience. That took place on the job; and it’s scary to learn on customers.
After taking a few years off to have children, I found that the nail industry in the ’90s has more education available at the nail schools and through seminars. Classes are always on my mind, and I’ve taken it upon myself to research products and chemicals used. I feel there are more resources available but we are still lacking in educational opportunities in the industry. The industry has changed from those having their nails done only for a special occasion to those having manicures done weekly. Nails in the ’90s have moved right up there with having one’s hair done regularly. To remain competitive you must study and take advantage of the products that are available.
Julie Schneider, nail technician
T.J’s of Oconomowor, Oconomowoc, Wis
Looking out from our MCM Studio Barbershop window from the Gone With the Wind era until 1991, we have been fortunate to view many changes in both the film industry and the cosmetic industry. We are still considered authorities on the basics of manicuring and proper nail styles for films because of our longevity, perspective, and foundations in correct techniques and procedures.
In the days of Louis B. Mayer, contract stars of both sexes were required to be well-groomed both on-and off-camera. The success of the studio depended on it. The slogan was “Perfection to the fingertips.”
Manicuring today has grown into a large portion of the beauty salon business and even stands by itself as evidenced by the increased presence of nails-only salons. Some excellence is still rewarded; however, the overwhelming array of products to achieve the varied current styles has brought both creativity and confusion. Nail fashion seems driven by the latest method for quick and easy maintenance. Good grooming seems to be lost in the glitz.
While I was addressing a recent cosmetology graduating class, a young graduate asked if we could predict the future in our field. We replied that nail professionals seem to be returning to the basics. They are requesting more education and products that are time-tested. Today’s technicians are emphasizing techniques that maintain and restore healthy, strong nails. It appears that we are once again entering a time when hands across the table provides the manicurist and client a treasured opportunity to meet and exchange ideas on the all-important finishing touch to good grooming.
Beatrice Kaye, founder,
Ha Hirsch, president
Beatrice Kaye Cosmetics,
Los Angeles, Calif.