Savvy Salon Service
Though it’s possible for clients to safely take off gel-polish at home following the manufacturer’s instructions, many techs find in-salon removal increases client satisfaction and loyalty. “I strongly believe that gel-polish removal is a job for the professional in the salon. When removal is being performed by a trained professional, the client will be able to relax knowing that the right products and techniques are being used to ensure there is no damage to the natural nails,” says Kelly Melanitou, an international CND education ambassador.
To encourage the client to add the time to her appointment, make the removal process as luxurious as your other services. “I usually allot half an hour for the removal process, turning it into a spa-like service. Removal should be part of the overall experience, not just something that needs to be done before the service actually begins,” Melanitou says. “Give your clients a reason to look forward to the removal and not just the application or the final result. This will also prevent them from wanting to remove it themselves at home and then come to the salon with damaged nails looking for a miracle. The nail professional can also charge premium prices for this kind of service.”
Scheduling Safe Removals
To ensure the removal process is a pampering experience, make sure you allow plenty of time. One tip is to ask each new client at the time of booking what product she’s currently wearing on her nails, then add 10 minutes to the manufacturer’s removal time estimate when you write it into your schedule. Some techs who’ve successfully encouraged their clients to return to the salon for gel-polish removal offer their timing tips below:
“The front desk or nail professional should consult with the client when scheduling a gel-polish removal service to determine the brand of gel-polish she has on her nails. If the nail professional is using a gel-polish that has a fast removal time like that of CND Shellac (eight minutes), the removal service will take 15 minutes or less.”
— Kristina Saindon, CND education ambassador
“I allot an additional 15 to 20 minutes for removal time. This ensures the product comes off completely without having to be pried off.”
— Starr Rooks, La Palm regional educator
“Techs should allow 25 minutes for removal. This includes five minutes to greet and wrap, 15 minutes for soaking, and five minutes for cleanup. If the tech allows a little more time than this, she can efficiently book another gel application or other short service during a removal.”
— Lauren Breese, new product development, OPI
“Compared to my manicure clients, I schedule an extra 15 minutes. Compared to the clients who used to need fills/rebalance, the time is the same. With new clients, I schedule an extra 30 minutes. That covers the consultation and extra time just in case it is a product that takes longer to get off. On the rare occasion I have a pedicure client with gel-polish I schedule an extra 30 minutes.”
— Lydian Flash, Austin, Texas
Upsell the removal by combining it with a luxurious hand treatment, says OPI’s Breese. After hand washing and sanitizing, Breese recommends this protocol:
1. Shape the client’s nails.
2. Apply Manicure by OPI Skin Renewal Scrub to the client’s hands, then massage the hands to relax the client while removing her dull, dry skin. Rinse the scrub off with Manicure by OPI Effervescent Soak.
3. Apply Manicure by OPI Rejuvenating Serum to the client’s hands.
4. Saturate OPI Expert Touch Removal Wraps with Expert Touch Remover and wrap the client’s nails.
5. Insert the client’s hands in Expert Touch Salon Mitts, then wrap the client’s hands in warm terrycloth towels.
6. After 15 minutes, remove the towels, mitts, and wraps, then gently push off the gel-polish with a manicure stick. The gel-polish will easily come off and the client’s hands will be soft and glowing.
While You Wait
To make the 10-minute or so wait while the client’s nails are wrapped worth her while, nail techs offer these clever diversions.
> Proceed with the client’s pedicure.
> Add heat for relaxation. (Bonus: Heat speeds up the gel-polish removal process.) “I heat up a rectangular rice bag in the microwave for three minutes while the client is soaking,” says Monica Lykins of Nancy’s Beauty, Tanning, and Nail Salon in Arcanum, Ohio. “I place the bag in its beautiful cover, then put it on my client’s hands to finish off her soaking. My clients love the soothing heat on their hands.”
> Schedule the client’s next appointment and follow up on any discussions or concerns from the previous visit (such as asking how she liked the retail product she purchased). If this is the first time the client is having her gel-polish removed properly, explain to her the benefits of a safe removal.
> Perform a paraffin dip. “I dip my clients’ hands in paraffin to warm the hands and product for quicker removal. Clients love it, especially in the winter months,” says La Palm regional educator Lauren Koontz. “I just make sure the foil wraps are on tight before dipping.”
> Treat the client to a relaxing drink, such as a glass of wine or a custom-blended coffee, and a magazine.
> Offer a 10-minute massage, such as a relaxing hand arm massage or a seated shoulder and neck rub. “Try massaging the arms and hands (excluding fingertips, of course) for four minutes each if using CND Shellac Nourishing Remover for an eight-minute removal process,” says Candice Bertolini, a CND education ambassador. “You can also apply a treatment to the tops of the hands, whether it be an anti-aging treatment or a masque or heavy cream for dry skin, and wrap in hot towels leaving the fingertips exposed.”
> Offer a quick add-on service, such as an eyebrow wax.
> If you have an available pedicure spa chair, let the client relax and enjoy the massage features of the chair. “I tell them they are welcome to move to the pedicure spa chair,” Flash says. “Turn on the heat and massage and just relax.” You can also move them to a seat in front of a television. (They’ll still be able to work the remote with wrapped nails.)
> Indecisive clients may need the whole 10 minutes to choose their color.
The Price Is Right
Though some techs find success in charging a separate price for gel-polish removal, if you truly want to encourage clients to come into the salon and not remove the product at home, it’s best to build the price of removal into your gel-polish application service price. “I have had great success by including removal in the price of the service. That way, I am assured clients will come back to receive proper removal and maintain a healthy natural nail,” Saindon says. Of course, if you’re providing additional services during the downtime (such as an eyebrow wax or neck massage), you should charge accordingly for that optional upgrade.
For clients who want gel-polish removal only (without a new application), the techs we spoke to charge between $5 and $15 for this service. You may want to list this price as an a la carte option on your menu, then let clients know that if they get a new color applied, the removal cost is already included in the service price — similar to how a hair salon may have a separate price for shampooing hair only when it’s not part of another service, like a haircut.
One exception is if the client is donning product that takes longer than gel-polish to remove, such as acrylics or hard gels. In that case, you’ll want to charge at least $10 extra for your additional time investment. Flash finds that sometimes a client thinks she is wearing a gel-polish but, after a failed extended soak-off period, it’s revealed that she’s really wearing a hard gel. Flash is up front that “if it takes longer, it costs more,” she says. “I will sometimes do it for less, or not charge the extra. The client is made aware what the price should be and that I am charging less because I really want to help them get their nails back in the condition they should be.”
Safe Removal Tips
If you’re routinely removing gel-polish in less than eight minutes, there’s a high likelihood you’re causing damage to your clients’ nails by prying off the product. Gel-polish should come off easily with no scraping or fighting with the product. Here are a few pointers to try:
>You can soak the client’s nails in a bowl of acetone or the manufacturer’s brand of gel-polish remover, but many techs and clients prefer to apply the acetone to a cotton ball or remover pad, then wrap that around the client’s nail to lessen the drying effects of the remover on the client’s skin. Either way, take the manufacturer’s recommended soak-off time as a minimum. If the gel-polish isn’t easily coming off after that time, you’ll need to re-wrap and try again after about five minutes.
>Most gel-polishes require you to “break the seal” before applying acetone. To do this, gently file the surface of each nail. If the client states she’s wearing a brand that doesn’t require this step but the gel-polish isn’t coming off, you may want to try breaking the seal anyway. It’s not unheard of to find a client is wearing a different brand than what she thought she was wearing.
> To save time, consider hiring an assistant to help with removals for all of the techs at your location. She can remove the seal and wrap the client’s nails while you’re finishing up the previous client. The extra bookings you can fit in with this help may justify an assistant’s salary. Alternately, you can try working in tandem with another tech.
You might also like: “Avoid Nail Damage With Proper Gel-Polish Removal”