As nail techs, our license limits us to servicing healthy nails. It’s against the law for us to diagnose or treat any condition, even if we believe we know what a client needs. However, at some point in every nail tech’s career, a client will arrive at the salon with a nail or skin condition she begs you to fix. It may be something as serious as onycholysis or onychomycosis, or it could be a more common issue, such as a recent cut or wound.

When this happens, your response is important. Don’t be tempted to practice outside the restrictions of your license. The client may say she would never sue you, but the issue is broader than a lawsuit. Your reputation, her health, and the health of your other clients are at stake. Protect yourself and err on the side of caution. If a client’s nails are not healthy, explain why you must refuse and refer. The conversation may go something like this:

You: When did you first notice a problem with your nail? Have you ever seen a doctor about the condition?

Client: It’s been here a long time. I haven’t seen a doctor, but my last nail tech just worked around it, so we should be fine.

You: I understand it’s tempting to cover the problem with an enhancement, but let’s work together to clear the problem so it’s gone for good. I’m going to refer you to a doctor I trust. She will look at your nail and determine if it needs to be treated or if it’s safe for me to service.

Client: Oh, no! I have a very important event this week, and I don’t have time to see a doctor. Please put a nail on it. I’ll sign something that removes any liability on your part.

You: Well, I appreciate you wanting to protect me legally, but, really, I’m doing this to protect all of us: me, you, and my other clients. It would be professionally irresponsible of me to ignore this problem. I will do what I can to manicure and pedicure around the affected area; in the meantime, let’s put a call in to the doctor right now to see when you can get an appointment. She’ll give me a release that confirms the condition is OK for salon services.

Client: Well, I don’t like it, but I understand.

First Contact

Every client should complete an intake consultation on her initial visit. During that time, the health of the nails should be determined, and the role of the nail tech should be explained. Even if a client has completely healthy nails, explain that should a situation develop, you will refer her to the doctor.

The intake form of The Junction Salon & Bar in Durham, N.C., includes this paragraph to explain the legal limitations of nail techs. Every new client reads and signs the form:

“Please note: Due to North Carolina State Board regulations, service providers cannot perform any services on clients with fungus, warts, or open lesions. Please understand if we decline a service due to any of these reasons. It is for the health and safety of our clients. Do these apply?”



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