Need a quick-and-easy pick-me-up in your profit margin? What you need is an add-on service with very low overhead that requires little to no extra floor space and little additional education. Reflexology will fit that bill.

Has the idea crossed your mind that something like reflexology is another service that will increase the personal, hands-on contact you have with your clients so they will keep coming back to you? While other hands-on treatments, such as massage therapy and acupuncture, are viable services, they are not as uniquely suited to nail professionals is reflexology.

If you love giving pedicures as much as your clients love getting them, you could score big points with your existing pedicure clients and big bucks in your cash register by doing reflexology – the art and science of manipulating nerve endings in the hands and feet to pinpoint stress and relax clients – to make their experience in your pedicure chair even more worth their while.

There are countless other reasons why one might find the path of reflexology to be another one for a nail business to flourish.

The reflexology industry is experiencing growth: The NAILS 1994 Fact Book shows that reflexology was the fifth most commonly added service in 1994, and 10% more salons offered reflexology in 1994 than did in 1989. Whatever your reason for adding reflexology, you need a course of action to lay the groundwork necessary to offer the service. This guide should give you, the reflexologist-to-be, a basic plan of what you need to do before you put up your reflexology shingle.

Step 1: Educate Yourself

With the education and experience you have as a nail technician, a good portion of what you will need to know to practice reflexology you already know. You know the art of touch you need to use when caring for nails and the surrounding tissue; you know how hard or far you can push on certain parts of the human hand and foot. You already know how sensitive the tissues of the hand and foot are, and just how far you can go when performing parts of various services without causing pain.

Now you can get right to business: learning what reflexology is, how to apply it to your clients either as part of a service or as its own treatment, and what products and items you need to do reflexology.

Learning about reflexology usually involves a one- or two-day course. The length of the course depends on the organization offering the education. A beginning course on reflexology will cost you under $300 on average, and that fee typically includes a lecture, hands-on instruction, take-home reference materials, video refreshers, and a certificate of completion to show that you fulfilled the requirements of the course.

Please not that with any of the courses you might take on this subject, certification is granted by the instructing organization, not by a state board. There is very little government regulation of reflexology, and most state boards do not recognize certificates of completion for reflexology education as a license to perform the service or as having fulfilled any sort of state requirements.

Currently, the Texas state board is considering a requirement for a 130-hour certification course. Nevada requires a reflexologist to display certification, to perform the service in a room separate from other services, and that reflexology cannot be combined with any other services, including pedicures. Florida requires that reflexology instructor also be licensed massage therapists. And, the states of New York, California, and Georgia have reflexology regulation before their state boards for consideration.

However, the field of reflexology is growing, and you should be aware that regulation elsewhere could be on the way. Holding a certificate of completion from a reflexology institution could be used to “grandfather you in” and protect our right to continue practicing should your state decide to require certification.

Aside from the legality of certificates of completion, tangible proof, such as a certificate showing that you have learned at least the basics of how to perform  reflexology, does hold value even if it means very little to most state boards. It is valuable proof to your coworkers and clients (and future employers) that you care enough about the quality of your service and have learned from experts how to properly perform the service you are selling. Also, some reflexology schools require proof that you completed the beginning classes before you can move on to advanced classes.

Reflexology education abounds. Look in the Education section of NAILS for seminars near you. You also can find courses in reflexology taught at trade shows, or you can have a class scheduled at a salon in your area if you have a group of interested learners who are willing to participate and pay the tuition. Look in the NAILS 1994 Fact Book for companies that offer training.

Because the work of reflexology is done strictly on the hands and feet, there is no need to bring anything else with you to the class.

Can you perform reflexology, a technique that involves firmly manipulating clients’ hands and feet, if you have long nails? Yes, but it depends on the method you are taught. Some companies teach methods that use the tips of your fingers, which can be difficult if you have nails that extend beyond the end of your finger, while others have modified standard methods of reflexology to accommodate long nails. These schools teach you to use the sides of the thumbs and knuckles instead of fingertips to do the work. If this is a concern, check with the school to find out if long nails are acceptable before you sign up.

Step 2: Adding Reflexology to your Service Menu

In a nail salon, a logical way to offer reflexology is as part of the services you already offer. Michele Grant, educator for Digits International Institute of Reflexology and owner of her own salon, Nails of Art & Body Spa in Austell, Ga., suggests adding 20 minutes and $20 to a hand service for reflexology and 30 minutes and $30 for a foot service. That works out to $1 per minute for reflexology, which is the going rate.

To encourage clients to indulge in your newly found skill, make the service accessible. A common method of attracting current clients to reflexology is to give free “samples”. During a manicure, you can tell your client about this great seminar you attended and how you are now a certified reflexologist. Give her a brief explanation of what reflexology is a short demonstration of what she can expect from the full service. She will undoubtedly notice some kind of result; some people claim that the effects of reflexology are similar to an all-over body massage. That is an extreme example, but reflexologists say that a free sample is often the ticket to an instant sale.

One of the great advantages of reflexology is that you can do a great job with almost no additional supplies or equipment. Once you have been trained, the only thing you need to stock is an appropriate oil or lotion. You can add fancy oils and mood-creating devices, but to get the able rolling all you really need to deliver the service is a slippery, non-petroleum-based oil or lotion. Creams don’t work very well, says Grant, because they are absorbed by the skin and quickly become sticky and tacky. They don’t allow your fingers to glide over the skin easily, which is an important quality of the service. Some gel-type lotions warm a bit once they are on the skin and turn oily; these are excellent. Look for them from your distributor or in health-food stores.

After you have built your reflexology clientele and have some money to invest in your business, you can think about making the service even more luxurious for your clients. The pedicure service is well-suited to add-ons. As a treatment that is offered to relieve stress, reflexology is a salon natural. In her salon, Grant offers the client a blanket, a heating pad, dims the lights a bit, and uses aromatherapy oils in crock pot to create a calm, comfortable mood. “Reflexology is the chance for the client to concentrate on how the treatment feels. If I can help to take her mind off other matters, as well as keep her from being distracted, the treatment will be more effective, she will enjoy it more and get more benefit out of it,” Grant explains. You can offer the client a headset with her choice of music so she can tune out distracting salon noise. The smell of aromatherapy oils are a soothing alternative to common salon odors.

Another item you need for reflexology but should already have on hand is a disinfection system. Even though you won’t be using any implements that may break the skin during reflexology, you still need to disinfect both your hands and your client’s hands or feet. The sanitation procedure you normally use before and during the nail or pedicure service should suffice.

If your business develops to the point where you have some reflexology-only clientele, don’t get lazy about disinfection. Although transmission of disease is difficult, ailments such as colds can be transmitted by dirty hands.

If you don’t already ask your clients for a medical history before nail services you ought to start the practice when you begin to offer reflexology. Grant says that a client’s medical history can assist you in tailoring her treatment. Although not a doctor, Grant advises nail technicians to use common sense and to be careful with certain clients. For instance, it is not a good idea to work the reflexology point that corresponds to the uterus of a pregnant woman. Stimulus to that area, she says, has been known to cause cramping in the uterus. Another example would be to avoid the heart area of a client you know has a heart problem. It is a good idea to keep an up-to-date medical survey on file for all of your clients; seek help from a massage therapist or physician if you don’t know what questions you should ask.

You could work on a client’s problem areas with the intent affect its respective organ or body system. A client with tension headaches may find relief when you work the corresponding area on her hand, and another may experience sinus pressure relief if you know she has pain there.

You will learn in your reflexology education that the effects of reflexology are in no way cures for ailments you, as a reflexologist, have “found”. Reflexology is not a form of medicine and it is impossible and inappropriate for a reflexologist to give a client any kind of medical diagnosis. What you may be able to do is “feel” that a particular area of your client’s body is not in balance with the rest of her body. You will feel “something,” a tender spot, in a certain area, but because there are various things that an organ or system can be afflicted with, what you feel in the hand or foot is only one of many possible symptoms that could be a result of a real disorder. Make sure that you have a firm understanding of what you can and cannot do as a practitioner when you get your reflexology education, and ask as many questions as possible.

Step 3: Get Good and Stay Good

Once you have learned how to perform reflexology and have your “practice” established, you are not quite done. Although you may practice reflexology no your clients on a regular bases, it is easy to let your technique slide. As with any skill, bad habits can sneak in.

The key to staying on top of the game is to practice and take refresher courses. Use the reference materials that came with your first reflexology seminar to keep your technique up to par. Practice shouldn’t be limited only to paying clients; work on your family and friends to really develop your touch.

Some reflexology schools grant seminar privileges to their graduates either as part of their original tuition or for a small fee. Take advantage of every opportunity to be as expert as you can; not only will your clients respect you more for it, but they will also eventually pay more for it as you become more effective and they receive more benefits from their treatments.

Reflexology is an additional service that involves little risk to the nail technician or salon owner considering it. The costs are minimal, with the initial investment of education being the largest cost of all. Even if you spend as much as $300 on tuition (this is a high-end estimate, too) and $50 to begin with on reflexology-oil and extra sanitation items, you can pay for everything with less than 12 treatments added on to pedicures, or less than 18 treatments added on to hand services. If you love giving pedicures as much as your clients love getting them, you could score big points with your existing pedicure clients and big bucks in your cash register by doing reflexology.

By Julie Sparlin


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