These before and after photos of our client Rochelle's nails show the dramatic results you can share with clients in just a few weeks of salon care.

These before and after photos of our client Rochelle's nails show the dramatic results you can share with clients in just a few weeks of salon care. 

Have you ever met someone with truly awful nails whom you’d just love to get your hands on and make over? Even though these people normally don’t care about their nails, you know that with a few weeks’ worth of professional manicures they could be nail care converts. Doing nail makeovers can be not only enormously satisfying, but also a great promotional tool.

Getting these potential clients in the door is the first step. Friends or current clients whom you’ve already converted are great word-of-mouth promoters. Use before and after photos in a salon window display to get the attention of passersby, or use those same photos on a direct mail piece to new clients.

There are many potential nail makeover promotions. Offer the first consultation for half price the first Saturday of every month. Give current clients a reduced price on a service if they refer someone for a makeover. Offer a discount to makeover participants if they are unable to break a habit, such as nail biting, by a certain week.

Vicki Peters, NAILS Magazine Shows general manager and a 10-year nail technician, says that it’s important to stress to potential customers the difference between a salon manicure and a home manicure. “The salon service takes much less time, the polish is perfect, it dries faster, and it gives a client time to relax and be pampered, and everyone deserves such indul­gences,” she says. Self-manicures don’t usually include such important steps as a cuticle massage to promote nail growth. “Once a client gets past the initial discomfort, she gains confidence in you because you do a much better job than she does. You win her over,” adds Peters.

The average basic manicure costs $10.40. If your client sticks to a regular weekly appointment, the service should take no longer than 30 minutes, but you should sched­ule an entire hour for the first visit.

“You might run into a difficult patch where you’ll need extra time,” says Peters. “Spending extra time getting to know your new client won’t hurt either.”

Makeover manicure clients should keep a weekly appointment. If they do, they shouldn’t need much home maintenance beyond an application of top coat every other day. At the first appointment, Peters says, “I would explain each service, the products to be used, the effects they would cause, my expectations of each product and its wear ability, and give my service recommendation.”


NAILS Magazine looked for two people to cooperate in a five-session nail makeover. First we found Neil, a male in his early 20s and a chronic nail biter. He also does car maintenance and is often up to his elbows in oil, grease, and engine parts. “I’ve never thought much about my fingernails. Like most guys, I just keep them short and out of the way.”

The second client, Rochelle, is in her early 30s. She picks at her nails when they grow too long or get ragged. Rochelle has a destructive habit of unconsciously rubbing her thumbs until the cuticles or skin start to tear, at which time she picks or bites it. She’s very active and hard on her hands. “I break my watches and jewelry all the time,” she admits, “so you can imagine how hard I am on my hands.”

We recruited Vicki Peters to do the makeovers. When she first saw Neil’s nails, she was “horrified.” However, after she worked on them she admitted they weren’t as bad as she first thought, though his cuticles were rough and torn. The surrounding skin was red from the car work. “The nails aren’t in bad condition, they’re just not long enough,” says Peters. “We need to grow the sides out to get more of a free edge.”

Both Neil and Rochelle were given standard manicures, though at the first appointment both received a hot oil treatment. Throughout the sessions, Neil’s nails were buffed with a three-sided buffer and some oil. Peters filed his nails flat across the free edge to get his sides to grow out, as his sidewalls were very low. Neil’s nails were kept short.

Rochelle’s nails were also kept short, to 1/8- to ¼-inch long, as her lifestyle would not permit anything more. Peters also buffed Rochelle’s nails, particularly the thumbs where the ridges were thick. Peters realized she’d have to keep a close eye on Rochelle’s middle finger, as it had two vertical cracks and is the nail most vulnerable to breaking. Following the manicures, Peters gave Neil a mixture of cuticle oil and lotion to apply to each nail three or four times daily. Rochelle received cuticle oil to apply four or five times a day. Peters explained to our makeover clients how important home maintenance is to maintain the nails and stimulate growth.

You won’t be able to fix everything during that first manicure. Remember that it is only the first step toward healthier nails. “I could have picked forever with the nippers,” admits Peters of her two makeover clients, “and when I was done I still wasn’t happy with the results. The cuticles and the skin around the nails were the worst. The nails were in good shape to start with, healthy and strong.”

Don’t depend solely on your efforts to make over a client’s nails. Clients must actively participate in home maintenance as well as change their habits. Provide clients with home maintenance kits and praise them continuously on their progress, even following up with a phone call or two.


At the second manicure neither client needed a hot oil treatment because their nails had significantly improved. Peters had the clients soak in manicure soap. Neil requested another bottle of the cuticle oil and lotion mixture because he said the one Peters had given him “smelled like his grandmother.” Peters commented that the shape of his nails had already begun to change and that he hadn’t bitten his nails since the previous manicure. “I had no idea it would be so obvious,” says Neil. “Or that people really pay attention. I won’t ever go back to nail biting. I kicked a lifetime habit in one day.”

Peters was also pleased with Rochelle’s nails. Rochelle was applying her oil every day and trying to be gentle on her hands. It’s important to emphasize that well- groomed nails complete the person’s presentation. “A good manicure is like a good haircut or a good pair of shoes,” Peters explains. “It may be a small detail, but people notice when it’s missing or when it’s not well kept.”

Be flexible with new clients. Though you may prescribe a certain method of care, they’re not going to do it if they don’t like it. Listen to their reasons for not doing something and by to compromise. Likewise, if someone is simply lax about following a routine, encourage her on maintenance and comment on her progress. As Peters explains, “I think Neil was more faithful caring for his nails. However, Rochelle’s nails were improving. I believe in not messing with a good thing if it works, and it seemed to be working very well.”


Peters was pleased with Neil’s progress. His nails looked good and were shaping better. Neil says he can open a soda can and peel labels off paper with his nails now. Not everyone will want to subject their nails to such stress, but for those who never have had nails before, curiosity does come into play.

Rochelle’s nails were also holding up well — better than Peters expected. However, Rochelle was also going on vacation the following week, unintentionally throwing a loop into the system. How well would her nails hold up with 17 days between manicures? Would they return to their pre-manicure state or would she be able to care for them?

Peters also filed Neil’s nails shorter than usual because of the added week between sessions.


The original five-session plan may be longer than necessary for many makeovers, unless clients are unable to break habits such as nail biting. Peters felt that Neil had plateaued after four weeks, though she serviced him the following week as well. Rochelle, with the long lapse between manicures, suffered some setbacks, but overall improved a great deal. Her left middle fingernail chipped, and two other nails had cracks, but the others were in good shape. Peters put glue on the two cracked nails and filed them. She also fixed the chipped nail by cutting it back and reinforcing it with a fiberglass and tip overlay. Rochelle says she didn’t like the feel or look of the tip, but added that it was an option for those who want to keep their nails a uniform length.


“I’ll be surprised if they don’t keep up some land of maintenance,” says Peters. “I think they value how good their nails can look now Rochelle has a hard time not feeling guilty about taking the time to do something for herself. This project forced her to, and I think she enjoyed it.

“Both manicures surprised me with the results,” adds Peters, “because of the short time it took for the nails to respond. I never expected two nail abusers to look so good so quickly.”

Neil said that when he first started the makeovers he expected some improvement, but he was surprised at how quickly he was able to stop nail biting and how strong his nails became. “I’m not ashamed of them anymore,” he says. Neil says lack of time and money prevents him from continuing to get professional manicures, but he takes better care of his nails than he used to.

“I file where I used to clip and I try to keep their shape,” he says. He would recommend manicures to his friends who complain about hangnails or other nail problems. Neil also says that he now notices other people’s nails.

“My nails feel more like a part of me rather than something to be cut back and ignored,” Neil admits. “I feel more confident. The girl I was going out with commented that I had the cleanest hands of any guy she knew. And I’ve noticed that my nails have been growing in much stronger and faster than before the manicures.”

Similarly, Rochelle’s husband loved her nails. Rochelle also says she would recommend manicures to anyone who has tried unsuccessfully to grow their own nails. She says a technician’s personal atten­tion makes a big difference.

“Vicki filed my nails flatter on the top and just rounded the edges. It made my nails stronger. How would I know to do that if I was doing them myself?” she asks.

“I loved them,” she adds. “I’d sit there and just look at them because I couldn’t believe they were mine. I do like it when my nails are neat and healthy.”

Promote this “neat and healthy” attitude to clients trying nail services for the first time, and you’ll develop a loyal following and perhaps increase these clients’ interest in other nail services as well.

By Jennifer M. Sakurai. Photos by Annie Gorton

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