Glycolic peels, waxing, mud masks, seaweed wraps, salt scrubs, massage ... all this with a manicure? You bet. The growing spa market has expanded the role of natural nail care far beyond the simple shaping and polishing of the nail plate. Clients are now up to their elbows in treatments that exfoliate, hydrate, soften, and condition the hands and feet.

It’s no surprise clients love the transition from nail care to hand treatments —but what about you? The spa trend has given many nail techs their first taste of skin care, and more than a few are loving it — so much that a small-but-growing number have gone back to school for their esthetician’s license.

Gina Israeloff, a nail technician and esthetician at Danielle Spa for Beauty & Wellness in Bonita Springs, Fla., was one of the first. She earned her nail tech license 18 years ago, and just a few years later went back for her esthetician’s license and expanded her business into skin care and permanent cosmetics.

“Like any artistic person, I got bored doing one thing,” Israeloff says of her decision. “I felt like I needed different avenues for my creativity. It’s also been very satisfying personally to know that I can help people in many different ways.”

She believes clients also benefit from her diverse background. “When I look at a woman’s hands, I look not just at the health of her nails but also at the tissues on her hands and arms and elbows, her feet and legs,” she says.

Clients not only appreciate Israeloff’s holistic view of their hand and foot care, but are coming to expect it. “There is a definite trend toward total body wellness,” says Melinda Taschetta-Millane, associate publisher/editor of Skin Inc.

“People are realizing that spa treatments are not just for pampering anymore,” she says. “This is opening up new doors for the industry in the areas of holistic health, healthy aging, and even nutrition and fitness.” Even if clients don’t expect you to do it all, they’ll expect you to be knowledgeable.

An article in the November 2001 issue of Working Woman puts forth the idea that specialists in the workforce are an endangered species. “As companies look to squeeze more productivity out of their workers, and as team-based organizations become the rule, the ability to bridge boundaries becomes critical,” says Working Woman. Editors hypothesize that tomorrow’s workplace will be dominated by workers with at least two areas of expertise, such as biologist-engineer or accountant-lawyer.

May we suggest you add nail technician-skin care specialist to the list? “Dual licenses allow you to meet your clientele’s changing demands for services,” says Nina Ummel, owner of Ummelina International Spa in Seattle.

Three of Ummelina’s 13 specialists are licensed to do both skin and nails, and Ummel knows it’s no coincidence that they have the highest client demand. “Not only can they service clients who request both services,” she says, “their nail clients tend to book facials, and vice versa.”

“A dual license can only help a person become more marketable, due to the value of that person’s level of expertise,” agrees Taschetta-Millane. “It, also adds credibility, not only to the person performing the treatments but also to the spa itself.”

Skin Care: Growing up Beautiful

The line between nail and skin care blurs the most in the spa setting, where the demand is highest for natural nail care. And demandis high. According to the International SPA Association, the number of spas in the United States has grown 21% each year for the past five years.

This growth has created a strong demand for estheticians. According to Alan Shinall, director of admissions for Atlanta-based International School of Skin and Nailcare, the current boom in skin care is reminiscent of the early days in the nail industry. “Now, 80% of our students are in skin care,” he says, “and 80% of the services requested in our clinic are skin care.”

If you thought spas were just a passing fad, many suggest thinking twice. “I think people need to look good and feel good, particularly when things are bad,” says Catherine Hinds, founder of the Catherine Hinds Institute in Woburn, Mass., in response to the suggestion that spa services may not stay in the budget in a tightening economy.

“I’ve been in this industry through war and several recessions — the oil crunch in the ‘70s was the worst — but people came even then because they needed to be touched,” she says.

In Hinds’ view, the uninitiated still may view skin and body treatments as luxuries, but people are increasingly realizing the lasting, tangible benefits of the services. “In Europe, all women are raised getting facials regularly,” she says. “They know it’s an essential service.” As American women learn the value of it and educate their daughters, Hinds believes professional skin care will become as essential and basic of a salon service as a haircut. (In fact, she’s counting on it, having recently opened a spa in upstate New York since retiring from the day-to-day running of the school.)

Skin and Nails a Natural Mix

Estheticians perform a variety of services, ranging from facials, to body treatments (scrubs, wraps, polishes, masks), to waxing, to lymphatic drainage, to microdermabrasion. Ummel, herself licensed to do both skin and nails, believes an education in skin care — which includes a heavy emphasis on skin structure and chemistry — not only offers expanded career opportunities, but enhances your value as a nail technician.

“The key to result-oriented treatment is analysis, and they become even more qualified to analyze the skin on to hands and feet,” she says. “And I believe in Oriental diagnosis, which means are analyzing the hands, feet, and face, which requires the training in skin care.”

A dual license also has practical benefits for you and the client. “I feel consumers are coming back to natural nail care in droves, and they want that service with other services,” Hinds says.

“It’s a valuable integration,” she says, “You can start off with a hand treatment and apply the mitts, then do the facial and leave while she has a massage. Then you come back and finish the manicure.”

Ummel believes anyone who’s interested in expanding her knowledge I and who enjoys the skin care aspect nail care will thrive as an esthetician is it really for you?

Angie Gross, a nail technician an esthetician at Salon Red in Decatur, advises taking a cue from what you most about doing nails. “Nails and care are both procedural, but artificial nails are also about creative application whereas treatments depend on pre and chemical knowledge.” In her opinion, nail techs who love sculpting color and design would probably happiest with the makeup aspect of skin care. On the other hand, the more “scientific types,” as Gross describes herself, are well-suited to skin care.

“Skin care is based in science, and you have to understand science before you can understand skin,” agrees Hinds. “We’re becoming ‘dermal hygienists’ in the sense that what we’re learning about how ‘dead skin’ functions is an enormous break though to prevent the appearance of aging.

“Science is learning to stimulate collagen production with microdermabrasion and the benefits of low-level peels in the skin where wrinkles aren’t yet written,” she continues. “We’re just starting to learn how vitamin C will allow people to look great at age 100. We didn’t know all that before.”

Variety Is the Spice of Life

All other reasons aside, dual licensees say they love the variety and the chance to better educate clients about their skin care. As Israeloff points out, she gains great satisfaction from knowing that what she teaches her clients now about their skin will show 25 years from now, long after the polish fades.

Jean Smith, a nail tech/esthetician, got her skin and nail care licenses at the same time because she and a cousin plan to open a salon, and she wanted diversity. She calls herself “the pedicure queen,” but she’s also worked actively to build a loyal facial and waxing clientele. “There are still a lot of people who haven’t had a facial or a pedicure, and if they trust us to do their nails, they’re more likely to try these other services,” Smith says of her clients. “I offer a minifacial to those who aren’t sure.”

Gross, on the other hand, started off with her cosmetology license, but spent the first 10 years of her career doing nails, including a 2-1/2 year stint in a discount salon. She first became interested in skin care a few years ago when she had a hard time rebuilding a nail clientele when she moved to Atlanta.

“I found I was getting bored,” she says. Working in a spa owned by a dermatologist and his wife (a nurse), Gross became very interested in the microdermabrasion and laser hair removal services. “I did a lot of training with the estheticians, and I got addicted to doing facials,” she remembers. “It really made me think a lot because at that point I had an associate’s degree in marketing and was examining what I wanted to do with my career.”

Skin care won out. “The industry is crossing barriers by working with dermatologists and plastic surgeons,” she says. “Services are focusing on how luxurious you can make the pedicure and how ravishing the hands can look. It’s all started coming together.”

Gross took some advanced training classes in skin care and makeup, and spent lots of time studying the textbooks used in the basic esthetics course as well. Her efforts have paid off. The day before we spoke, she learned Salon Red made the local newspaper’s “Best of Atlanta 2001” list for manicures and bikini waxing —both of which are services exclusively done by her at Salon Red.

Israeloff and Smith share the opinion that skin care isn’t a natural fit for everyone. “Nail services are very paced treatments, and your entire demeanor is different,” Israeloff says. “Much of skin care is about an exchange of energy. I think the most successful estheticians are the ones who have an inner peace and calmness and who want to share themselves with others,” adding that she never could have done skin care in her 20s.

Smith agrees, adding that she doesn’t like to do manicures, preferring to make a connection with her clients through touch rather than talk.

Like nail techs, many estheticians choose to specialize. Shinall says many nail technicians pursue skin care licensing to be able to do facials and waxing. Others prefer to focus on body treatments, and some concentrate exclusively on makeup. (“CNN hires a lot of our estheticians as makeup artists,” Shinall says.)

Gross says she specializes in hair removal and facials, but she also enjoys “dabbling” in makeup. “One day I’ll go into services like microdermabrasion, but that will be a progression,” she says.

Back-to-School Basics

While salons may welcome dual licensees with open arms, most won’t pay for you to go back to school, so make your investment a wise one by doing some legwork upfront. As with nails, most states dictate not only what schools must teach, but they set minimum hour requirements in what are considered key areas.

Still, you’ll want to know what they years, and that they have to adhere to a certain standard,” he says.

It’s one thing if the student has a public clinic, but find out how many people visit in an average month. For example, Shinall says they average 750 clients a month, which means students get a lot of hands-on experience.

Some states also allow apprenticeships as an alternative to in-school training. While Israeloff herself went to school, she endorses apprenticeships as long as you know the person has not only the necessary depth and breadth of knowledge to share, but will make a good teacher and will stay the course.

Shinall, on the other hand, advises against it. “I have seen so many cases where the relationship didn’t work out and the person sponsoring the apprentice didn’t turn in her hours, so she had no way to prove what she had done. And, you’re only going to learn what that one person knows.”

After-School Activities Build Success

Whether you apprentice or train in a school, Taschetta-Millane advocates that every new esthetician finds a mentor. “What better way to learn than by developing a professional relationship with someone who is established, respected, and admired for her work?” she asks.

Many spas also provide on-the-job training in both product knowledge and services. Heidi Young is the newest esthetician at Ummelina, having finished her skin care course just a month before we spoke. She says she’s happy to have at least a month of in-salon training in front of her before she begins booking facials on her own. “There’s a lot more I want to learn,” she admits.

Young, for example, is already educating her nail care clients about skin care and letting them know about her new services. She anticipates that many clients will book a facial with her, but she knows it will take time.

Israeloff agrees. “For every 50 people who sit in your chair for nails, only five are interested in making improvements to their skin.”

There are ways to speed up the process a bit, however. Gross, for example, recommends hair removal and waxing as good transitional services. “You have to share with your clients and talk to them about skin care while you do their nails,” she says.

And all of those hand and foot treatments you’re doing will provide tangible proof of the benefits. Once clients see how a glycolic treatment peels years off their hands, they’ll be much more receptive to hearing about benefits to regular facials.

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