Think about your clientele for a moment and chances are you’re bound to have a few older clients among them. According to NAILS Big Book 2003-2004, 26% of your clientele is over 46. Now think about how you cater to them. Are you treating them any differently than you would your regular clientele?

Catering to an older clientele makes sense. After all, women born in the 1930s and 1940s grew up in a time when keeping themselves well groomed was the norm. Not only that, research has shown that the older women get, the more time, energy, and funds they devote to beauty services.

A nail tech plays a vital role in an older client’s beauty regimen. Not just because they pamper them and help complete their total look with a beautiful set of nails or a French pedicure, for example, but also because nail care can be a necessity for some of these clients.

As a person ages, foot care becomes critical, and lack of regular, proper maintenance may result in conditions that require medical attention. Because older clients can be at greater risk for infection due to medical conditions, a poor pedicure done at home could compromise their health. And when it comes to their hands, many older clients start facing that age-old dilemma: aging skin on the backs of their hands, complete with brown spots. As a result, older clients truly need professional care for their hands and feet.

Incorporating age-defying treatments such as skin lighteners and exfoliators to their services can help older clients care for some of these concerns.

Although most older clients prefer soft, subtle polish shades, some of them may be more than willing to try out new nail art designs or even an airbrushed French manicure. Other extras you should think about including in their services are warm electric mitts and booties and warm lotion, paraffin dip, and aromatherapy treatments to soothe their senses.

And while you may not be able to diagnose a problem, it is important to be able to recognize an ailment — such as fungus — when you see one, that will require medical attention. Consider working in tandem with at least one medical expert. Then, when you recognize a condition that requires medical attention, such as thick toenails or heavy calluses, you can suggest that your client make an appointment with a medical specialist or family doctor.

When working on an older client, always begin with a consultation. Make notes on any medical conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, varicose veins, or medications they’re taking. Emphasize the importance of regular visits to you and stress how important it is for them to maintain their nails at home in between visits to you.

We’ve put together a handout you can give your older clients. The handout gives them tips on caring for their hands and feet at home. Not only will having them take care of themselves at home make it easier for you in the salon, it’ll also make their hands and feet feel that much better.

At-Home Care for Aging Hands and Feet

1. Keep yourself well-moisturized. As you age, your skin begins to thin and becomes dry, so it is especially important to keep your skin well-hydrated. Apply a collagen-rich lotion that absorbs and penetrates into the skin daily on hands, feet, and any other part of your body that feels dry.

2. Visit your nail technician regularly. Don’t let too much time go by between nail appointments. Visit your nail technician at least every two weeks for a manicure and at least once a month for a pedicure.

3. Keep your nails well-protected. Just as skin becomes thin and dries out with age, nails tend to become more brittle. Protect them from the damaging effects of the sun by applying a top coat with a built-in sunscreen. And don’t forget about polish, which helps protect nails as well. Moisturize nails and cuticles with a daily dose of cuticle oil. Your nail tech may also recommend a moisture-replenishing nail treatment.

4. Maintain a youthful glow. As we get older, it’s not uncommon for brown spots to start appearing, especially on our hands. And all those years in the sun can make hands look more wrinkled than you’d prefer. Ask your nail tech for a skin-lightening treatment you can use at home, which will help diminish the look of age spots. Also, don’t forget to apply sunblock to protect your delicate skin from the harsh effects of the sun.

5. Take care of your feet. Toenails receive daily abuse through ill-fitting shoes and moisture. Always dry your feet well and check between the toes for cracks and dryness, which allow bacteria to grow, increasing the risk of infection. If you are not able to look at your feet, ask a spouse, family member, or close friend to check to make sure there are no visible problems. Use a nail brush and a mild scrub to gently remove build-up and dead skin cells from your feet. If your feet are susceptible to infection or perspiration, apply talc containing cornstarch or baking soda. Cotton socks will also help to absorb moisture and draw it away from the foot area.

6. Take your hands and feet for a dip. Even if you’re not scheduled for a nail appointment, you may want to stop by the salon for a quick paraffin dip, especially if you suffer from arthritis or have very dry skin.

7. Baby your nails. While you should leave most of the work for your nail technician, you can file your nails at home. Always use a fine-grit file, which can range from a 240-400 grit, and gently file in one direction. Never file nails in a back-and-forth motion, as this can cause your nails to fray and split.

8. Keep bacteria away. Half of people over age 65 suffer from fungal infections on their feet. Help prevent them by using an antimicrobial cuticle oil and base coat to protect against yeast, fungus, mold, and bacteria.

9. If you’re sick, stay at home. If you have a contagious skin or nail disease, wait until it clears before visiting the salon again. If symptoms persist, make an appointment with a dermatologist.

10. Know what you have. Allergic reactions to nail products are uncommon, but it’s important to be able to detect if you have one. Allergic reactions are characterized by redness, itching, and swelling, or irritation around the eyes and mouth. Call your doctor if you develop any of these symptoms.

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