Stroll along the aisles of any drugstore while on your way to pick up a prescription or buy a notepad and you’ll wander into the nail care area. What was once a small area dedicated to press-on tips with fast-dry nail glue and gaudy nail polishes is now an ever-expanding supermarket of nail care. There is almost nothing that you’d buy at a professional beauty supplier that you couldn’t find at the drugstore of you were interested in doing your own nails. All the basics are there: acrylic kits, gel kits, white blocks and microbuffers, and every treatment and nail color imaginable.

Women have been doing their own nails since long before you and I came into the pedicure, and just as the products for professionals have improved, so too have the products for the amateur.

But look closely at the items available for consumer use and you’ll notice a blurring line of distinction between the products you use in the salon and the ones these home-based would-be manicurist are using. Clever packaging and heavy-hander marketing are making drugstore products look more like professional salon products.

“The choice of nail professionals” is the slogan on one box that includes a full set of tips, glue, a file, and a powder for the overlay. “Salon Brand Files” is written on the side of a bucket of $2 nail files. They look like the ones you use in the salon, with the same colored cushion center.

The message being delivered: It’s the products, not the nail professional’s expertise that you need to do salon-quality nails. These “salon pretenders” want your customers to believe that they can do their own nails in the privacy of their own homes as well as you can do them in the salon. Surely every one of you has lost a client who believe that all she needed were the same bottles and jars and tools you use and she could save $30 you were charging her every other week.

But what’s not on the instruction of these great pretender products is that there are more important “ingredients” to a great nail service that can’t be bottled or package. A nail technician has been to school, and whether you’re in a state that requires 60 hours or 600, it still more than is required to put on the so-called “professional choice” of product. You’ve also got experience and you know what to do if the product gets on skin or spills on the floor. You know how to customize the product to the unique fingernails it needs to fit on. But best of all, you work with two hands, which is more than can be said for the person doing her own nails at home.

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