Looking for the next trend in natural nail care? Tucked amid the art galleries and shops on South Congress Avenue in Austin, Texas, selling everything from vintage clothing to toys to unique furniture, Charon Bolin’s Salon specializes in natural beauty from tip to toes — on Tuesdays, at least. Because that’s the day Dominique Strauss books Ayurvedic manicures and pedicures.
True to Ayurvedic principles, Strauss believes in nails au naturale—”no nail polish, no acetone — nothing with petro-chemicals,” he asserts.
“My services center on Ayurvedic analysis and aromatherapy and reflexology,” he explains. “Clients leave with an old-time, high-luster buff on the nails.” And, if they really get it, they take with them a renewed focus on adding luster to their health and inner beauty as well.
As Strauss explains, Ayurveda is a Sanskrit term meaning “the science of daily living.” The holistic approach to health, beauty, and longevity has been practiced in India for several thousand years, says Melanie Sachs, a certified Ayurvedic lifestyle counselor and author of Ayurvedic Beauty Care. And, she says, while Indians recently have turned from Ayurveda in favor of Western medicine, Westerners are increasingly turning to natural, holistic alternatives like ayurvedic practices.
Sachs, who co-owns Diamond Way Ayurveda in San Luis Obispo, Calif., travels the country educating and consulting with spas on Ayurvedic principles and practices.
Ayurveda focuses on establishing and maintaining balance in the body and mind to prevent disease and prolong life. “Traditional Ayurveda fits quite well into modern models of holistic healing concerned with a broad view of the total health of the individual: physically, emotionally, and spiritually,” Sachs writes. “What Ayurveda offers to these models beyond its own techniques is a deeper awareness of how the body and our experiences are a microcosm of the greater universe and the relationships in the interaction between our inner and outer worlds.”
Strauss first became acquainted with Ayurvedic principles more than seven years ago while living in Santa Fe, N.M. Already intrigued by holistic principles, he came across an Ayurvedic cookbook. He cooked, he ate, and he saw living proof in himself.
In the meantime, on a professional level Strauss nurtured his clientele’s growing interest in natural nail care. He pursued advanced education in aromatherapy and reflexology and slowly— and quietly— began to incorporate Ayurvedic principles into his services.
Now, Strauss has taken what he sees as the next step in his career by resigning his position as nail department manager at a popular Austin spa to specialize in Ayurvedic nail care, aromatherapy, and reflexology at Charon Bolin’s. And from the interest the Authentic Nail Care Method course he offers through his company, Aroma-Vision School for Essential Oil Education, has received, Strauss knows he’s a leader rather than a loner.
Ayurveda: “Science of Daily Living”
Strauss and Sachs both emphasize that Ayurveda is much more than a philosophical approach to enhancing natural beauty.” [Ayurveda] is a science of daily living that includes a vast library of knowledge on physical exercise, nutrition, herbology and pharmacology, massage, and even surgery, psychiatry, and meditation,” Strauss explains.
According to Ayurvedic principles, three basic constitutional elements, called doshas, govern all human physiological and psychological functions.
“They are the invisible forces that orchestrate all the functions of the body, thus shaping how we look, how our metabolic processes function, how we respond to different surroundings, even how we think and feel,” Sachs writes. Each of the doshas has characteristics associated with it that manifest in the body and mind as particular qualities, she continues. For example, Vata is associated with dry, cold, irregular, rough, and quick. Pitta, on the other hand, manifests as oily, hot, intense, and fluid, while Kapha is oily, cold, heavy, stable, dense, and dull
Each individual is born with a unique combination of doshas that shapes her constitution and temperament. “Kapha people are grounded in every way like the broad-shouldered, friendly people we turn to when crisis hits,” Strauss describes. “Kaphas are solid, thoughtful, and calm, but are probably not very spontaneous.
“Pitta is the type-A person who can work until dawn, debate continuously, and never leaves anything in disarray,” he says. “On their best behavior, Pittas are warm, intense, smart, direct, good leaders, and perfectionists.
“Vata people, on the other hand, are light, moving, changing, restless, lively, energetic, and inconsistent,” he continues. “Think of the absent-minded professor—a lot of energy, creativity, and mental action. Healthy, balanced Vatas are flexible, creative, dynamic, enthusiastic, and energetic.”
Typically, Sachs says, one or two doshas dominate, in some unique blend, in a person. There is no inherent good or bad mix. However, a person’s inherent doshas “make-up” is continually influenced by everything from diet and lifestyle choices to variables such as climate and emotional atmosphere.
According to Ayurvedic principles, an imbalance in an individual’s doshas is the underlying cause of all physical, mental, and spiritual problems.
Ayurvedic treatments are designed to return these doshas to a harmonious balance. Accordingly, Ayurveda focuses on causes rather than symptoms, with treatments specific to the person rather than the disorder.
“Practitioners of Ayurveda assess the conditions of the individual as a whole and match their recommendations to each individual’s unique constitution and temperament,” Strauss says.
The Beauty of Ayurveda
Sachs emphasizes that Ayurveda encompasses a set of guiding principles as well as traditional treatments to optimize health, and, as a consequence, beauty. “There are definitely specific Ayurvedic treatments, but they’ve only been defined as people, over time, have applied the principles in a particular place and time,” she explains. “It’s very legitimate to apply the principles in a modern context”
In Ayurvedic Beauty Care, Sachs speaks to both salon professionals and their potential clients, providing an overview of Ayurvedic principles as well as guidance on how to incorporate the principles into your lifestyle through diet and exercise. She also provides in-depth guidance on daily home beauty routines as well as specialized practices such as aromatherapy, massage, and skin care.
According to Sachs, traditional Ayurveda treatments don’t address modern nail care. “The information [on Ayurvedic nail care] tends to be a little spotty,” she admits. “I think someone interested in offering Ayurvedic nail care should learn the principles and begin applying them in what they do.”
At a minimum, a study of Ayurveda can offer technicians tremendous insight into body types and personalities. “The name of the game is providing clients the most optimal experience,” Sachs says. “The better you understand body and personality types, the better you can customize the services and your touch.”
Sachs recommends introducing clients to Ayurvedic principles with a series of questions, starting with a query on whether they are familiar with Ayurveda. “Then you can talk about the different body types—Kapha, Pitta, and Vata,” she says. “Ask if they have any interest in knowing what their body type is.”
For nail clients interested in learning more, Strauss has developed a quiz to help his clients determine their dominant doshas. “People like questionnaires, and they’re curious,” says Sachs, who also provides a skin-care Dosha quiz in her book.
Nailing Clients With Ayurveda
Sachs explains that the condition of the nails reflects the condition of all body tissues. “The solutions for problems with the nails must start by addressing the balance and nourishment of the whole system,” she states. She illustrates the connection with numerous examples in the book For instance, she writes, “Brittle nails show low iron or vitamin A, unbalanced thyroid or kidney function, and poor circulation.”
According to Sachs, the nails are influenced not only by the overall health of the different body systems, but by the body’s electromagnetic energy meridians. “If a particular nail has problems, look for a corresponding imbalance in the organ whose meridian is associated with that finger and nail,” she writes. For example, the thumbnails are an indicator for the brain, while the little finger is an indicator for the heart and female reproductive organs.
The nails also can be reflective of the dominant dosha, she continues. Vata-type nails tend to be irregularly shaped and prone to brittleness, while Kapha nails are more likely to be square, thick, and strong.
Sachs says, it should be this: “You’re doing more than simply caring for the nails. When you touch the nails, you affect different parts of the body, so realize the benefits of massage and know that the quality of your touch and care are very important.”
“Hand massage works deeply by stimulating acupuncture points and energy meridians that run through the hands to the tips of the fingers,” she explains. “And ... the hand has areas that are associated with the various organs and systems within the body.”
In Ayurvedic Beauty Care, Sachs provides detailed instructions for hand massage techniques. She provides similar recommendations for care (including recipes for foot soaks) and massage of the feet.
Strauss has blended Sachs’ teachings with his other learnings to develop his Ayurvedic Manicure and Ayurvedic Pedicure. “Clients have been very interested and receptive,” he concludes.
Editor’s note: Dominque Strauss has incorporated a segment on Ayurvedic nail care into the Nail Care Specialist Training class he teaches through his Austin-based company, the Aroma-Vision School for Essential Oil Education. Here he shares step-by-step techniques for his Ayurvedic Manicure and Ayurvedic Pedicure Before attempting these services in the salon through. Strauss emphasizes technicians need at least a solid grasp of Ayurvedic principles and the different doshas. It also required advanced technical training as Ayurvedic beauty care also is ground in essential oils massage, and reflexology.
To start the service, invite your client to choose the “singular note” essential oil from those best-suited for her dosha (see “Creating a Custom Blend With Essential Oils”). Then, you choose the best blend balance, which requires weighing not only the final scent but the attributes of each oil to formulate a blend that best meets her individualized needs. Diffuse a blend balancer with the preferred dosha scent(s). For example, for Vata you can diffuse 3 drops of bergamot with 2-3 drops of the client’s preferred scent of rose absolute/
Then begin the service.
STEP I: Mix 3-6 drops of preferred singular note into a quarter-size amount of an unscented hydrating mask. Apply to arms, elbows, and hands.
STEP 2: Apply small dabs of your preferred brand of unscented cuticle cream and hand lotion and her dosha-specific infusion to all cuticles. (Create the infusion by blending 2-3 drops of the client’s preferred scent with 2-3 drops of the blend balancer in 20 ml of a carrier oil such as sesame.)
STEP 3: Wrap the hands and forearms in plastic file. Then cover with heated dry towels.
STEP 4: Prepare the client’s aroma blend in a tincture or roller-ball applicator by filling the applicator halfway with massage base, adding 6-10 drops of her preferred singular note(s), then adding more base until the container is full; roll upside-down in plans to blend.
STEP 5: Briefly massage the aroma blend on her temples, behind her ears, and on the sides of her neck.
STEP 6: Remove towels and plastic wrap.
STEP 7: Gently push back the cuticles with a steel pusher; then apply her custom-blended infusion to all cuticles. Using a new birchwood cuticle stick, lightly push back the cuticles once again. Then gently clean under the free edge.
STEP 8: Have the client cleanse her hands.
STEP 9: Nip cuticles as needed (and as allowed by state board regulations). Take care to remove only what’s necessary.
STEP 10: Mix 3-6 drops of a singular note(s) with an unscented hydrating lotion and massage into hands and arms. (Knowledge of reflexology or acupressure points is ideal. See Ayurvedic Beauty Care for pointers on hand and foot massage techniques beneficial to Ayurvedic beauty treatments)
STEP II: Prepare nails for a high-luster buff or enamel application and finish.
STEP 12: Make retail recommendations for home-maintenance items.
STEP I: Prep the foot bath. For whirlpool spas, add 3-6 drops of the client’s preferred singular note(s) to a blend balancer. Agitate the water to distribute oils, and turn on jets. Do the same for a traditional foot tub adding one of the following for texture orange slices or peppermint leaves for Kapha; dried lavender or rose petals for Pitta; rose petals or lemon slices for Vata.
STEP 2: As the feet soak, remove the left foot and apply a smoothing body polish mixed with the preferred singular note(s) over the foot and lower leg. Massage as if you were working with a lotion. Return the foot to the foot bath and rinse. Repeat on the right foot.
STEP 3: Remove feet from bath wrap individually in towels, and place on foot rest.
STEP 4: Unwrap the left foot and remove old polish. Apply her custom-blended infusion to lower leg, then massage into her foot.
STEP 5: Clip and/or file toenails –Apply cuticle control and drops of her dosha’s infusion to cuticles. (Create the infusion by blending 2-3 drops of the client’s preferred scent with 2-3 drops of the blend balancer in 20 ml of a carrier oil such as sesame.) Rewrap the left foot and repeat the process on the right foot.
STEP 6: Unwrap the left foot and perform cuticle maintenance and callus removal. Repeat pm the right foot.
STEP 7: Apply 3-6 drops of singular note(s) blended with a quarter-size dollop of an unscented hydrating lotion alternately to each foot. Wrap both feet in plastic film, then follow with a layer of hot, wet towels over-wrapped with dry towels.
STEP 8: Apply two drops of a blend balancer for that dosha on a hot, double-folded towel Invite the client to apply it to her forehead or face as a compress.
STEP 9: While she enjoys the compress and leg mask, prepare her aroma blend in tincture or roller-ball applicator (Fill the applicator with a massage base oil, add 6-10 drops of singular note(s), finish filling with base, then cap and roll upside-down in palms to blend.)
STEP 10: Apply the aroma blend to her wrists and briefly manipulate her wrist and hands through some stretching exercises to encourage relaxation.
STEP 11: Remove the towels and plastic from her feet, then remove the compress, Add 3-6 drops of her preferred singular note(s) to hydrating lotion; massage into her lower legs and feet.
STEP 12: Prepare nails for high-luster buff or enamel application, and finish.
STEP 13: Make retail recommendations for home maintenance.
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