The much-ballyhooed baby boom generation has just turned 50. Newsweek heralded this dubious milestone with a cover story titled “The New Middle Age.” Which reminded readers that such icons of their youth as Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, and Mick Jagger are all into their fifth decade. Cultural scientists say that these aging Peter Pans have in common a love of rock and roll, a distrust of politicians, an inborn sense of entitlement, and, what makes them so interesting to salon professionals, a fear of growing old.

Plastic surgeon Dr. Mel Bircoll, who pioneered the cosmetic pectoral implant, a device that makes men’s chests look as though they’ve been bench pressing refrigerators, says there is an increasing incidence among the boomers of a rare condition called dysmorphophobia – the fear of looking ugly. Makes sense. What else explains the rise in facelift procedures (for men as well as women), the season’s longer skirts (what better way to hide swelling ankles and invading spider veins?), and the surge in toupee and treadmill sales?

What this cultural phenomenon means to the salon professional – nail technicians, hairstylists, and estheticians alike – is that there is a huge clientele segment that is willing and able to spend money to retain its youth and look attractive. Fifty and sixty-something professional women have not gotten to a high rung on the corporate ladder by showing up at meeting with ragged nails, a bad perm, and baggy eyelids. Getting these potential clients into the salon isn’t the biggest part of the challenge; they value appearance. Keeping them as regular clients is the challenge; they are as exacting and demanding of their beauty care professionals as they are of their secretaries and personal trainers.

The 1992 NAILS reader survey showed that 29% of salon that the average age of Americans has been getting steadily higher. But today’s older person can’t be classified by anything but her age. Today’s 50-year-olds aren’t necessarily slowing down and planning their retirements. In many cases, they still have young children and are on the fast track in their professional lives. What can be said of this potential clientele is that they know what they want, and topping the list of important qualities for the professional women we spoke to is convenience.

They want a salon that is close to their home or office, easy appointment scheduling, extended hours, and a variety of services available in one place. Although many of the women interviewed say it isn’t essential that they be able to get their hair and nails done at the same place (and the same time), most wistfully agree that it would be ideal.

Don’t be pigeonholed into thinking that older clients have no sense of fashion or adventure. Don’t let that cable-knit cardigan fool you; she may be just the person to try your new airbrushed French manicure. Offer your client choices. Don’t try to change who she is, but be aware that no one wants to do the same thing all the time, even when it comes to nail care. Most of your older clientele will probably keep their nails short, whether they prefer manicures or extensions. Keep things interesting (and keep her interested) by suggesting different services.

Dr. Norah Brand, a Southern California pediatrician, at first turned her nose up at the idea of a paraffin dip for her feet, but once she tried it she was converted. On her feet all day tending to patients and making round at the hospital, she looks forward to her pedicure appointments and dips.

Many older clients, especially those who may suffer from arthritis, dry skin, or other ailments associated with the aging process, respond well to paraffin dips, electric mitt treatments (hands and feet), and aromatherapy treatments.

If these clients are not currently getting pedicures with you, you’re missing out on a great income opportunity. The older person needs regular pedicures probably more than anyone. Years of high heels and other foot battering may have caused her toes to curd and become particularly sore. Also, aging toenails can harden and yellow and require constant attention.

By combining the hands and feet services, you can more than double the original service ticket. Critical to the success of the manicure/pedicure combo again is timeliness. Most women do not have two or three hours to sit while their piggies are pampered. Either schedule two nail technicians, one for each service, or choreograph a manicure/pedicure routine that lets you do both in an hour and a half. While the feet soak, for example do the manicure. Put the hands into warm mitts before polish while you do the feet. (If you intend to do both services, keep two sets of implements: one for feet and one for hands.)

Young Of Mind, Not Body

As with all your clients, always get a full history on older clients when they come in for their first appointment. You must be aware of any medical conditions that may performing certain services, as well as any medication they’re taking that will affect the product you intend to apply.

If she is under a physician’s care, you may want to ask her doctor if she has any special needs you need to be concerned about.

When performing services on an elderly client, warms podiatrist Marc Blatstein, stay away from procedures that may draw blood. Older clients have reduced resistance to infection. Because of this, you have to avoid anything that will break the skin; even be cautions of rapid filing.

Adds Blatstein, “Watch out for diabetes – it can affect the small vessels. Sometimes a diabetic may not even know she has the disease.”

Older clients may also have circulatory problems that indicate you should not do any type of massage. On the other hand, the client may be afflicted with non-vascular ailments and a massage would make her feel better.

Older clients may present with conditions not ordinarily seen in younger clients. Thickened nails are common. Thickened nails are common. Keep them filed down neatly. Blatstein also advises these clients soak in Epsom salts daily to keep the nails from becoming excessively hard.

Brittle nails are another common characteristic of aging hands. A warm water or oil soak prior to the manicure will do much to keep nails supple. Blatstein recommends that you be particularly careful trimming and filing these nails so that they don’t tear. It is best to keep brittle nails short. Many technicians also have found that acetone polish removers can dry out nails and suggest that you use a non-acetone remover.

The Minute They Walk In

Creating a salon atmosphere that appeals to the needs and creature of all ages may seem at times a schizophrenic task. If you intend to be a salon for any age or gender, stick to neutral colors, simple and comfortable reception furniture (as opposed to staying on the cutting edge of fashion), and soothing music and lighting.

Your older clients, who are often still working, will appreciate being provided all the same amenities your younger, high-powered clients are – such things as an available phone (even a fax), a variety of interesting reading material, and consistently fresh coffee. If you keep a style book of nail styles and hairstyles, put it on the reception table in view of waiting clients. Keep your polish palette at the front desk or on the reception table so clients can decide on their color before their service (which will eliminate time lost to indecisiveness at the service’s end).

Think of these little extras in the same way you look at the little extra services you provide: Isn’t that five minute hand rub just as essential to the natural manicure as the proffered coffee cup when the client walks in?

Endear yourself to this client by calling her a day before her scheduled appointment with a reminder (it’s not that she’s forgetful, it’s just part of superior customer service).

If your salon employs a receptionist, use her for this task. If you haven’t seen a client in a while, send a reminder card.

Don’t make assumptions about the aging client. Don’t treat her like she’s old. Although television sitcoms show older people as stooping, hard-of-hearing, and slight of sight, you know well enough that they really aren’t. Pay particular attention to the little niceties: Unless she tells you otherwise, call your client “Mrs.” Or “Ms”. Rather than by her first name. Use a gentle touch during your first services to ascertain her sensitivities. There is a saying: Be kind and gentle to the young, the feeble, the lonely, and the old, for some day you will have been all of these.

No Time on Her Hands

As critical as how you do what you do is to your success, is the speed with which you do it. Successful people, old and young, do not have time on their hands. If you promise a 45-minute manicure, it had better not run an hour. Be mindful of your clients’ schedules and you’ll earn their abiding loyalty.

Although a speedy service is important, especially for lunchtime business, clients don’t want to feel rushed. Brand schedules a pedicure appointment for one evening a month and has the routine down: “I pick up two Chinese chicken salads, one for me, one for her, before my appointment. Usually I only get a few bites before I fall asleep in the pedi-chair. My pedicure is one of my few chances to take a nap.”

You Can Count on Me

If you expect a client to remain loyal to you and your salon, you of course must be loyal to her. What this means is you must be reliable. Frequently enough, a nail technician will become so familiar with a client, and so confident of her continued patronage, that she will begin to let little things slip. This unreliability can take form in small ways: running a few minutes late for her appointment, asking her to get her own cup of coffee, leaving the restroom untidy; to serious: asking her to see another technician on her standing appointment because you’re too busy, rushing through her appointment because you’ve overbooked, spilling your guts to her because you’re going through some personal trauma.

Never use your time with this client to discuss the woes of your personal life. Although this rule holds for all clients, this particular client has a tendency to frown on people who cannot keep their professional and personal lives separate.

Approach every service with this client as though it were the first appointment, at which you were trying to impress her and win her as a regular client. Without being obsequious, you can earn her loyalty by your vigilance and earnestness. If the salon is always immaculate, you are always ready for the appointment, and your work is without flaw, you’ll be able to watch her grow old gracefully at your salon.



7 Ways to Market to Seniors (November 2009)

Ode to the Golden Girls (August 2009)

Caring for the Elderly (June 2008)

Tech Finds Rewards in Tending to Homebound Clients (June 2008)





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