Some nail technicians assume that natural manicures are unprofitable and not worth their time because they charge less for this service than for extensions or overlays. The path to profits, however, lies in you technical efficiency and the value of your add-on services.

Review each step of your technique to determine where you can cut time or be more productive. For example, if you put out all the necessary products and implements beforehand you will eliminate the interruption of getting up and down as you search for things.

You can – and should – expand your basic manicure service with add-on services such as paraffin dips, reflexology massages, hot oil treatments, hot mitts, and hand facials. Remember, most clients do not get manicures because they’re a less expensive service, but because they want natural nails. These add-on services can double, and possibly triple, your gross profit from the manicure. Hand facials, for example, add 30-40 minutes to the manicure time, but they increase the service ticket by approximately $35.

Start the appointment by greeting the client and escorting her to the sink to wash her hands. Show first-time clients how to gently remove debris from under the nails and around the cuticle area with a nail brush. Eating and smoking should be prohibited at your station or you’ll defeat the purpose of sanitizing the area.

Set out fine-grit files, edging them first so you don’t cut the client’s cuticles. Use a fine-grit file because it won’t stress the natural nail, and unless you will be shaping the nails, you won’t need a heavier grit file. Do not use anything except a buffer on the surface of the natural nail.

Lay out all products you’ll need and put away items you won’t be using so your table remains uncluttered. Use a clean towel for each client, covering it with disposable towels if you wish. You’ll need the following products for a natural manicure: clean towels, disposable towels, polish remover, fine-grit files, cuticle cream, manicure bowl, cuticle pusher, moisturizing soap, warm water, nippers, hand lotion, nail treatments, cuticle oil, base coat, top coat, and polish.

For those special, not-so-basic manicures, you’ll need a few more products on hand. Try these products for an “extrasensory” service: warm moisturizing lotions or oils for a moisturizing treatment, hot mitts, paraffin system, aromatherapy oils, facial products.

1 Remove old polish, making sure all traces are gone. Swab the nail in one direction, away from the cuticle to prevent polish from smearing on the skin and getting under the cuticle. If polish is resistant, hold cotton on the nail plate for a few seconds before stroking. This dissolves the polish, making it easier to remove.

2 Assess the condition of the nails. Any deep breaks, hang nails, torn cuticles? Are the nails irregular in length? If, for example, two nails are drastically shorter than the rest, the client may want the other eight nails shortened. Or, you can suggest tips for a uniform look on the two shorter nails if she wants to keep the length. And test the strength of her nails: Weak nails should be kept shorter and shaped square or in modified ovals.

3 Using a fine-grit file, shape the nails on the first hand. File in one direction only to avoid creating ragged edges, which tend to split. Do any necessary repair work now. Silk wraps are often needed to repair a break or tear. The wrap us very thin and will cover the break until it grows out. Use a fine butter for any work on the nail surface.

4 Rub cuticle cream on the cuticles and place the first hand in a warm, sudsy water soak. Expand the basic manicure by substituting hot oil or lotion for water. Hot oil soaks are especially beneficial for clients with dry skin or ragged cuticles because the skin absorbs heated lotion very well. Five of ten minutes soaking in warm lotion will leave skin soft for days. Or, add a few drops of aromatherapy oil to the soak for a pleasant scent and therapeutic value.

5 While the first hand is soaking, shape the second hand’s nails and do any repairs needed there. When finished, remove the soaking hand and gently pat it dry. Put the second hand into the soak, and repeat steps three and four on the second hand.

6 Rub in more cuticle cream and gently push the cuticles back with a cuticle stick. Don’t exert too much pressure on the nail plate or you may damage the matrix. Cuticle clipping is generally not recommended, but some technicians find that new clients’ cuticles are so overgrown that they can’t avoid it. If it is necessary, use a light hand. Gently clip any hangnails so they don’t tear, and remind the client to apply a topical antibiotic to ward off infection.

Now remove the second hand from the soak and it dry. Repeat step six.

7 This step is probably the client’s favorite: the massage. Familiarize yourself with basic massage techniques and relax clients while working moisturizer into hands and arms. Make sure you include the elbows in the massage as this area tends to be dry and flaky. Do hand reflexology if you have the training.

8 The crowning pleasure should be the paraffin dip. You’ll get clients addicted to a manicure that includes a warm paraffin dip. While the client’s hands warm and absorb the moisturizer, use the time to prepare you station for your next client. Or, schedule polish changes for this time. Use your time wisely, but make sure the client doesn’t feel neglected. And remember, she’s helpless while her hands are encased in paraffin. (See “Proper Paraffin Procedures,” page 64 in the October issue for paraffin dip instructions.)

9 Scrub the nail plate clean, making sure there is no oil or lotion on the nail plate. Apply a base coat, making sure you get under the nail and the free edge. Let the base coat dry thoroughly and apply your first coat of polish. Let this coat dry for at least one minute, then apply your second coat. Finish with a top coat, again painting underneath and across the free edge. This added touch helps protect the polish color. Instruct the client to apply a top coat every day at home for maintenance.

Don’t let your client leave before making sure she has the necessary maintenance products. At the minimum, she needs a file, base coat, polish, top coat, and cuticle oil. For starters, fill a durable plastic or vinyl bag with base and top coats, polish, travel-size polish removers and quick-dry, and a fine-grit file. Ask your distributor about home maintenance packages or create your own. Write down for the client how and when she should use the products, and stress what her role is in maintaining her beautiful nails.

Help the client gather her belongings and book her next appointment. It’s also a nice touch to escort her outside and unlock her car door so she doesn’t damage her fresh polish. And don’t forget, “Thank you, I’ll see you again next week.”

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