If you know anything at all about fiberglass, the word itself should bring to mind the concept of strength combined with good looks. One obvious example is the Corvette, with its reputation for lightweight durability and style. Another example that may not be so obvious is Backscratchers. That's the company that brings fiberglass mesh to manicurists for use in protecting fingernails with the same durability and good looks that fiberglass lends to a Corvette.

It happens that the team at Backscratchers is uniquely qualified to provide a fiberglass product to the nail industry.

Jack Megna, president of Backscratchers, has been a licensed cosmetologist, instructor and beauty school owner for the past 25 years.

Michael Megna, secretary-treasurer, is a craftsman talented in design, building and the art of fiber-glassing. His background includes industrial machinery and construction, but through his family, he has been around the beauty industry his entire life.

Mona Townsend, vice president of the firm, is a licensed cosmetologist and instructor who has been in the industry for 22 years, with the last 12 years being specifically nail-oriented.

For a long time, Mona’s main concerns centered on safe, healthy nail care as it affects both technicians and the public. As an instructor at Jack’s school, Mona brought her concerns to Jack’s attention.

“It was Mona who pushed for a better way,” Jack said. “She was always looking for better products and testing them in the school. She persuaded us to create a better product.”

From past experience in working with fiberglass, Mike knew its positive features: lightweight, strong, durable, nonporous and resistant to temperature changes.

In mid-1983, Jack, Mike and Mona consulted with a chemist to work out formulas that would be safe for skin and nails.

“Obviously resins used in conjunction with fiberglass as we know it, are far too powerful and dangerous for skin contact,” they reported. “All of these components had to be chemically reduced to allow for safety to the skin. We then visited a fiberglass plant and became aware of the different levels of strength and thickness in the fiberglass materials. Our choice was based upon the sheerest and strongest of these materials. The end result was 70 pounds of strength per square inch.”

After an extensive period of development, the product was tested for a full year. Initially, Mona and Mike tested it themselves; then Jack allowed Mona to test it under a variety of conditions at his beauty college. In the process, they revised formulas, bottling and packaging until the product fully met their standards. And in the meantime, Mike’s knowledge of machinery was put to use in designing the machines used to prepare the Glass Glaze mesh.

In March 1984, the product was named, labeled and trademarked. By July 1984, Backscratchers Nail Care Products was incorporated. Since then the company has grown, forcing the staff out of its original 450-square-foot office and into a 3000-square-foot studio and warehouse located at 5931 Power Inn Road in Sacramento, California.

The demands of a growing company have kept Jack so busy that he spends more and more time as president of Backscratchers and less time as school administrator and secretary-treasurer of the school owners’ association.

Mike has made a transition from construction and auto body repairs as he gradually became increasingly involved in Backscratchers and product development. He is also in charge of setting up distributorships and marketing product. Mona is no exception, as her teaching experience has been applied to the creation of an education program for Backscratchers, training distributors and technicians in product usage.

Mona oversees an education staff that travels extensively, offering one-on-one instruction and group training. Because of her involvement with the product and with teaching, it was easy and natural for her to explain the main features and techniques of Glass Glaze, from preparation through completion and maintenance.

Preparation of the nails before application of Glass Glaze simply involves use of Hygienic Elegance an antiseptic lotion wash that Backscratchers manufactures exclusively for professional manicurists. Hygienic Elegance contains seven percent PCMX (parachlorometaxy-lenol), the highest concentration of this ingredient in any medicated lotion wash.

Washing with Hygienic Elegance moisturizes and conditions skin as it balances the pH of the system. Mona explained, “If the pH is balanced, then there are no problems with rejection of the product. You wash, then totally dry the nails; that’s all the preparation you need.”

She added that hot oil manicures or hot wax treatments are acceptable: “The product is nonporous, so there’s no worry about oil causing lifting,” she said. “But after washing with Hygienic Elegance, you just need to push the cuticle back off the nail plate. Use a plastic pusher so you don’t scratch the surface of the nail and scar it.”

When it comes to actual application, Mona advises technicians to apply the product very thinly. The first application in the procedure is the Stickr a bonding resin that has been modified for safe use on nails and near skin. A bactericide is incorporated into the resin, according to Mike, who pointed out that no primers are used with Backscratchers’ products, as they dry out the nails excessively.

By contrast, the resin acts to seal in moisture, which ensures stability to the natural nail, thus promoting healthy nail growth, according to Mona. “If there is no moisture, it’s like building a house on wet sand: When the sand dries out, the house is going to fall.”

Once the resin has set, a 240 grit file is used to draw dust gently from the product. At this point, artificial nail tips can be applied if the Glass Glaze is to be used as an overlay. If the product is to be used as a wrap, omit the tips and proceed to the next step.

The Kikr™ is pH balanced to 5.5 for compatibility with the Stikr, working together to speed drying time and create a nonporous product for the fiberglass.

When laying the fiberglass mesh onto the nail, Mona recommends always keeping it 1/16 inch away from all edges of the nail. “If it is laid too close to the edges, filing to shape the nail will also file away the support, and the product may lift,” she warned.

When it comes to filing, she says technicians have to learn not to work so hard: “Manicurists are used to filing a lot and working hard, but if properly applied, there’s minimal filing required with the Backscratchers’ product.”

Blending the transparent seam at the cuticle finishes off the application. From start to finish, the procedure can easily be done in one hour, Mona said, but a lot depends on the individual and how much she talks and pauses as she works. A seasoned professional, for instance, can wrap a set in as little as 20 minutes.

“It takes 20 to 30 minutes to do a re-glass,” Mona said, referring to fills. “It’s not the traditional process of picking away and replacing the area with more product. There’s no waste: Just add enough fiberglass mesh to balance out what is on the plate of the nail, blend in the seam and reseal it.”

Because the finished surface is nonporous, a base coat of clear polish is not needed “and ‘ridgefiller’ is not part of our vocabulary,” she stressed. “If a ridge filler is necessary, then the product was not applied correctly. And polish will not discolor Glass Glaze, so you can cut down on drying time by omitting the base coat.”

While explaining that nothing can penetrate or discolor the product, Mona also mentioned that the end result is transparent, so it works well for repairs, mends, wraps and tip overlays. “It makes a good extension too,” she said, “except that it is transparent and needs to be polished. It’s not white like the free edge of nails, but it makes a good extension because it’s so strong.”

However, Mona leans toward use of Glass Glaze in a natural nail care program in which the nail technician would apply tips with a Glass Glaze overlay until the natural nails grow out. Then the tips can be removed and the Glass Glaze can be used as a wrap to protect the natural nails and keep them long and strong.

Because Mona, Mike and Jack believe this kind of program is healthy for nails, the Backscratchers team is working to design their own line of nail tips for use with the Glass Glaze. “We’re concentrating on making the well portion of the tip totally transparent, but still strong,” Mike explained. “That’s still a ways down the road, though, because we won’t release a product until it’s perfected.”

It was this approach that led to the I gradual development of Backscratchers’ entire line, which at this point also includes Sheeer Magic silk wraps (100% China silk and totally transparent) and an array of abrasives.

“We designed everything to work together as a system,” Mike said. “Our Hygienic Elegance, our abrasives, the Stikr and the Kikr, the fiberglass mesh — it’s all one system. Recently added to this system is a non-acetone polish remover that we call the Stripr Other products we’re working on are a cuticle oil and a cuticle cream.”

Mike is also working to improve the smell of the Kikr, Because of the Kikr’s ingredients, a light odor is unavoidable. Mike and Mona both contend that the odor is non-toxic, it smells only on activation, and it dissipates quickly without lingering. Nonetheless, Mike is working on a pleasant fragrance that will cover up the original odor.

Until that product revision is completed, there is no need for salons to counteract the problem because it is minimal. In fact, both the odor and the dust are insignificant enough that ventilated tables are unnecessary, Mike and Mona agreed.

They also agreed that from this point on, “there’s nowhere to go but up,” as Mona expressed it. They report tremendous success of the product at trade shows, and after only 2½ years on the market, product use has spread nationally and internationally: Glass Glaze and other Backscratchers’ products are used in nine foreign countries.

Looking toward the next 2½ years and beyond, Jack, Mike and Mona are planning to add more products to the line as needs arise and new products are developed.

“I know the potential pains of growing too fast,” Jack said emphatically. “We’ll add more products as they are developed to our satisfaction, but Backscratchers will undergo a gradual process of growth: we’ll proceed cautiously.

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