It's a hot-button issue so we asked nail techs and manufacturers alike for their feelings on selling professional products over the counter to anyone.

"No. How we, as a manufacturer, help the salon professional make it (and remember that if the salon professional makes it, we make it) is in the area of services and the sale of homecare products. The sale of homecare products is perpetuated and locked in through services and the education of that client. She has to know that these products prolong the life of the service she gets in the salon. The home-care products must be tied to the services. This is how the whole industry can grow.

If we give up on the professional to carry that message, it leads to divisiveness in the industry. Nail technicians will stop trusting us as manufacturers. They can’t compete and succeed if they have to compete with retail channels. If their clients can get the same products at another outlet, the product loses its value.  Jan Arnold, President, Creative Nail Design Systems, Vista, Calif.

Why not? I’d rather my clients buy the products I use on them, even if they buy them over the counter. If I’ve got product A on them and they go and put product B on top of it because they can’t get product A, the combination of products really ends up more of a hassle than anything else. As it is, they can access whatever they want if they’re determined enough. And if you’re really good at what you do, it doesn’t matter if they can get it; they’ll come back to you anyway. Kris Mickels, Nail technician, House of Richard, Azusa, Calif.

Absolutely not. The word “professional” indicates that professionalism involving education and knowledge is behind how the product is used. Only a professional knows what kind of nail a particular product should be applied to. The reason there are different types of products is because there are different types of nails with different needs. Professionals are called professionals because they know how to properly apply the products. It is the professional who will help the client to bring out the very best results from a given product. It takes a lot of education in chemistry and technique to do it right.

Just like prescription medicine, which requires the professional recommendation of a doctor, it takes a beauty professional to give an accurate recommendation to achieve the look a client wants.

Professional products sold over the counter can never realize their full capabilities, because the lack of product knowledge and background will detract from the product because it will be applied incorrectly.  Judy Gilman, Vice president of education, The Davidson Companies, Laurel, Md.

It depends on the product. IBD recognizes and supports the licensed nail technicians as the professional, so we, as a company, think professional products should be for professional use only. Professional nail products should not be sold to the mass market. Theses products are developed and formulated to be used by licensed nail technicians. They are the ones who have been trained to use them.

For maintenance, certain products such as adhesives are sold in salons, over-the-counter, and in retail outlets. They are recommended by the nail technician to be used between salon visits.  Melinda Sigal, Marketing director, IBD, Gardena, Calif.

Heavens, no! It takes away from our business. If you can buy professional products over the counter, why go to a professional? It’s like anything else; if you don’t know what you’re buying or how to use it, it’s not going to work anyway. Hopefully, if you go to a professional and buy professional products, they’re guaranteed and hopefully the professional will teach you how to use them properly. I personally stand behind my products 100%. If they don’t like it or if it doesn’t work, they bring it back. You can’t really do that at a store.  Jacki Kidd, Nail technician, Debutante, Declo, Idaho

Sure, as long as they have proper instruction on how to use the products. Yes, you can purchase products at Thrifty or Payless, but people who want a professional job are going to come to a professional.  Ruth Thomas, Nail technician, Beachcomber Salon, Manhattan Beach, Calif.

Absolutely not. People get a hold of acrylic and they think that they know what they’re doing. Their nails get horribly messed up…and then they pass the word around saying, ‘Oh, acrylics are awful for your nails,’ because they don’t know what they’re doing. Doris Hamman, Nail technician, Spirals Hair Studio Salon, Henderson, Nev.

Professional products should be sold in professional environments, because we know what the chemistry really is. And they’re misrepresented if they’re sold in drugstores because people who work behind drugstore counters don’t have any idea what the chemistries are; they don’t know what’s involved. Professional products should not be sold in environments where there are no cosmetologists. People may buy a product that has nothing to do with their needs, just because it looks good or because someone tells them to buy it. That doesn’t mean it’s fine-tuned for them. I think that professional products should be sold in a professional atmosphere only. Why do you need a doctor if you can just X-ray yourself? If you know how to take out your appendix, then you don’t have to go to the doctor. It doesn’t mean you’ll do a good job. A professional has the experience. I would hope I know more than someone who doesn’t do this everyday. Nail polish is probably not a problem, but the liquid-and-powder systems, the gels, and so on, should not be available in a drugstore.  Andrea Freed, Owner, Chic Technique, Austin, Texas

Clients are not trained properly on how to use the products, but they’re going to come back to me to fix whatever happens. It doesn’t really affect the industry.  Jill Henderson, Nail technician, Hair Haven, Bristol, Conn.

An emphatic no! We have gone to school to use these products, and I feel that that is exactly where they should stay. Not only that, there’s a lot of very serious chemicals in these products that I don’t think people should be using unless they are trained properly to do so.

I think it could have a big effect on the industry, although I think that often people think that they can handle the products themselves and are quick to find out that it’s not that easy. There are already some professional products being sold that way.  Patricia Kestner, Cut-Ups Hair & Nail Design, Chehalis, Wash.

You’re putting professional products in the hands of non-professionals and they could do more damage to themselves than good. I don’t think it will have much effect on the industry; I just believe that professionals should be dealing with the products. I’ve actually had a lot of clients who have used these products and made a mess [of their hands], and come to me to fix it. They think it’s easier than it looks. For example, one woman I know purchased an acrylic powder that they sell as a 1-2-3 step package. She came in with the stuff all over one hand, she obviously couldn’t do her opposite hand. She was just a mess. We had to take the stuff off her hands, and it was all over her cuticles. I think it’s the same with hairstylists who get a lot of people walking in with their hair fried from perms they tried to do themselves.  Pamela Richard, Owner, The Polished Nail, Waterville, Maine

No, I don’t believe so. If they’re not properly taken care of, the nails and cuticles may be damaged. You have to be very careful [with these products]. It defeats the profession when products can be sold over the counter. They’re no longer professional products. I don’t believe that the average person has knowledge enough to handle professional nail care, especially artificial nails, without possible damage.  Richard Bredvad, The Gentle Touch by Richard, Manitowac, Wis.

Of course not. People could buy it and do it themselves, even though they would not do as good a job, and they’d mess up their nails. It’s not good for us. But people tend to do that; if they see what you’re using they’ll go buy it anyway. — Penelope Hoyt, Nail Technician, Nubian Sisters, Laurelton, N.Y.

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