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Nails 101: A Student Blog

Guest Post: A Student's Trip Report from ABS Chicago 2014

by Lucien Henderson | April 2, 2014 | Bookmark +

Having begun manicuring school a few weeks ago, I attended America’s Beauty Show in Chicago this year as a Student.  Clearly I was on a student’s mission: Get expert demonstrations of gels, acrylics, polish, and gel-polish.  My learning began on Friday night, when Holly Schippers (The FingerNailFixer) gave me an expert manicure. Holly then Empowered six of my digits, leaving four open nails for demos at the show. 

The nail exhibitors were scattered throughout the exhibition hall. (Click here to read more about that and weigh in with your opinion.) Many hair-product exhibitors had stages set at the booth’s edge…leaving their audience to crowd the aisles to watch. Working through the floor to find the score of nail product exhibitors is very challenging. It was a struggle to move through throngs of hairstylists watching glamorous and amplified stage-work — only to arrive at nail booths that stand in stark contrast. They have stages, we have carpet. They stand, we sit. They are amplified, we are muted. They have “platform artists” and we have “demonstrators.” We sell the steak, and they sell the sizzle. The nail exhibitors might consider upping their game, and show promoters should consider putting them all in one area.

The contrast between hair and nails begs many questions, and must have an impact on students. Do the cosmo students rejoice about the field they have chosen? Do the mani students question their decision? The ones I spoke with did, yet the odds favor the nail students. It’s a simple matter of supply and demand. Most cosmo students will never make it as a pro, and many will change focus from hair to nails. There are simply too many students set on hair, too many pros, and not enough chairs. Professional nail stylists are in demand. There are too few schools, too few students, too few pros and plenty of available chairs.

After visiting friends and touring the nail booths on Saturday, I was excited to learn on Sunday. Going for the dramatic, and knowing nothing about gels, I set my sites on Akzentz. I was thrilled that Gina Rinaldi-Silvestro was available to show me her expertise. She prepped my nail, and used a form to create a mini-stiletto nail with clear gel and dark glitters. She even garnished it with a bit of Empower sliver holo and finished with a gel top! I learned a ton, and love my vampire nail! Now that I did the fun drama first, I had to get to basic nail structure and health — so I had to get an IBX demo at Famous Names. Lucky again, Linda Nordstrom was available. She gave me a complete demo and a thorough explanation of the science behind this groundbreaking product.

With a freshly IBX’d nail, I hustled over to Essie to find AstroWifey doing demos. Ashley showed me how polish is really done with a fab bit of nail art from a springtime set of designs. Sunday ended with lively conversations with David Anthony of Valentino about the nail industry…barely managing not to disrupt the live broadcast of Nail Talk Radio we witnessed.  Side note, watching Braden Jahr and Millie Haynam execute NTR is truly impressive, they are true professionals.

Monday was the last show day and I still had two blank nails. One left open for an acrylic, and another for gel-polish.  Being somewhat familiar with CND’s methods, I kept checking the Young Nails booth, hoping to find Greg Salo available.  Persistence paid off! With his normal enthusiasm and bravado, Greg explained and performed his entire process. Using a form, he built a thin clear acrylic enhancement, added glitter, built an ultra-thin 3D white-acrylic flower and encapsulated in clear —  in record time. Thanks, bro! I find the conflicting processes fascinating: Etching vs. cleaning the nail plate, e-file vs. hand file, pinch vs. no pinch, etc.

With just an hour left before the show closed, I rushed over to Gel II to have my last nail done and found Hillary Fry of Solessence working there along with several other well-known artists. Hillary showed me how to properly apply their gel-polish, and treated me with a color-changing product with a bit of art flair. What a treat to complete the show!

All in all I had a great time, learned tons, and accomplished my little mission. Back to school I go!

— Lucien Henderson, Thousand Oaks, Calif., Empower Nail Art

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