Each time a client sits in a hairstylist’s chair, that professional takes into consideration the client’s coloring, face shape, and lifestyle before determining how to cut, color, and shape her hair.

The same attention to detail should go into every nail service. Not only does customizing the service enhance the client’s experience, but you may also be able to develop makeover services into an added revenue producer that also distinguishes you in a crowded market.

“Nail technicians need to diagnose what the client has and prescribe what the client needs,” says LaCinda Headings, an onychology instructor at Xenon International School of Hair Design (Wichita, Kan.) and NAHA nail makeover winner in 1995.

Headings teaches nail technicians a specific formula to determine ideal nail shape, based on the cuticle line, the free edge, and the sidewalls. “If a client has a square cuticle line, a flat free edge line and straight sidewalls, then her natural extension shape should be square,” Headings explains.

An artistic understanding of lines and shape also helps a nail technician built the perfect nail. Marti Preuss, director of nail services for Houston-based Hair Spa and NAHA nail makeover winner in 1994, says that doing nails is an art, just like sewing or painting. “Everything is made up of lines and circles,” she says. “The nail technician enhances the client’s nails by slightly adjusting lines, such as sidewalls, and circles, like the nail’s arch. Doing it well is an art and we really are nail artists.”

To give you an idea of the detail that goes into nail customizing and design, both Headings and Preuss examined a couple clients’ hands and made style, shape, and length recommendations. They took into account client age, lifestyle, and nail problems, in addition to their natural nail shape.

Client Profile

Age: 24

Activities: graphic design, sports, dancing, shopping, freehand drawing.

Nail Woes: very dry cuticles and varying nail shapes

  1. Apply an acrylic overlay to provide strength and flexibility to the pinkie and ring finger which are V-shaped.
  2. Twice daily applications of cuticle oil will feed the cuticle with much needed moisture while maintaining the flexibility of the enhancements.
  3. The middle fingernail is slightly crooked because of the “writer’s bump,” which can be corrected by applying a tip to follow the shape of the finger; not the nail.
  4. Pointed enhancements would add drama, especially considering the client’s preference for dark, vampy colors. Choose pink and white acrylics based on skin tone and to camouflage problems. For instance women with undertones in their skin need more natural acrylic colors. For pale nail beds, apply a bright pink to make the nail beds, apply a bright pink to make the nail look “healthier.”
  5. An active length with an oval or almond shape would lengthen the nails, yet follow the tapered shape of the finger and draw attention away from the width of the palm.

Client Profile

Age: 44

Activities: mother of one, hiking, gym, office and paperwork, professional meetings

Nail Woes: very dry cuticles, splitting, peeling, and discolored nails. The client’s natural nail shape is almost perfect as is, but the index finger looks slightly crooked from the middle knuckle to the tip.

  1. Use a nail strengfhener to seal in moisture. Apply cuticle oil twice daily to increase resiliency and to prevent further splitting and peeling.
  2. Discoloration of the free edge can be brightened by cleaning under the free edge every other day with a dental brightening toothpaste and a soft toothbrush, or by soaking in denture cleaner or nail bleach. To camouflage it, use an opalescent pink polish or do a French manicure.
  3. Use an AHA cuticle remover nightly to soften or prevent hangnails and cuticle overgrowth. Buff off peeling layers of nails carefully and protect with a nail strengthener or polish.
  4. To “correct” the crookedness of the index finger and nail, file the free edge following the direction of the finger’s growth (not the nail’s growth) and then apply a tip in the same direction. In this case, file the nail shorter on the outside and longer on the inside.
  5. Correct the split on the thumbnail with the application of a wrap or acrylic overlay.

Client Profile

Age: early 50s

Activities: office work, needlepoint, laundry, housecleaning

Nail Woes: weak, ridged nail surface, “tight” cuticles (ones that are hard to push back), ski-jump nails, leukonychia (white spots on the nails)

  1. Soften and push back the cuticles to permit healthier growth patterns. Apply cuticle oil daily to replenish moisture. AHA cuticle treatments can also be used.
  2. As we age, the nail plate becomes dry, weak, ridged, and prone to peeling. There is not enough oil and moisture present in the nail plate layers, and the nail plate cells do not contain enough of their inner material to flatten and harden as they did during youth.
  3. Applying hardening products actually takes away any flexibility of the nail and may contribute to its weakness by drying the plate out even more. Therefore, apply a nail strengthener to block the loss of oil and moisture the client experiences, especially when touching and working with paper.
  4. This client would benefit from tips, applied at a downward angle and overlaid with acrylic or silk or fiber to correct the ski-jump plate and add strength. A short length with a narrow taper will add length to the fingers and the nail plates and slim the fingers.
  5. A pale pink to opalescent beige polish is ideal. Dark colors will collect in the center of the well on ski-jump nails and make the color look darker and accentuate the already odd shape of the nail.

Client Profile

Age: 35

Activities: hectic family life, gardening, home repairs, cooking

Nail Woes: dry nails that separate from the bed, cuticles that crack, slightly fan-shaped nails.

  1. Applying a nail strengthener every other day; even over polish, will seal in moisture and protect the nails. Use a nail prep product before the first coat of polish to ensure adhesion.
  2. As the nails are slightly fan-shaped, a short rounded or oval shape enhances the length of the finger and gives the illusion of a longer nail plate.
  3. Apply cuticle oil twice daily to add moisture, condition, and to prevent brittleness and peeling. Resist products with formaldehyde and don’t remove polish too frequently which can cause drying.
  4. Buffing the nails to a high shine or painting them a delicate pink softens the look of the knuckles while brightening skin color. If this client decides on pink and white acrylics, use a regular white tip and a natural or peach nail bed color. In general, women of color do not look good with competition white tips because they are too bold for their skin tone.
  5. For this lifted nail, apply a treatment product that contains allantoin (a natural ingredient that helps to keep the nail attached to the nail plate).

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