Breaking through barriers of time, tradition and technology requires more than mere determination. It takes imagination, innovation and invention ... qualities that have come to be associated with Inverness Corporation.
And once again, Inverness proves its penchant for good ideas with the introduction of Nail Lab, a start-to-finish approach to nail care that incorporates new design concepts: Pre-Wraps® Nail Tips, a three-minute tip reinforced with Silkene® fabric to strengthen and anchor without a telltale transition seam; Controlled Stroke Automatic Filer that duplicates the natural movement of manual filing at 20 times the speed; contour files and buffers for faster, more uniform filing; a new glue prep and breakthrough adhesives ... all strictly for professional salon use.
The importance of this product group, according to Inverness, is that it enables a manicurist to apply a set of nails in 30 minutes and to perform other procedures in considerably less time than usual. This allows the manicurist to book more clients in a given period, thereby earning more money. It also gives the client more flexibility in scheduling an appointment, for example, during her lunch hour without fear of returning late to work, or on a Saturday without giving up precious time for family or social activities. Inverness maintains that these factors will have a significant impact on the manicuring profession.
Behind these ideas and products is Sam Mann, the founder of Inverness Corporation and an inventor well known for his product designs. In fact, his designs have appeared in New York’s Museum of Contemporary Crafts. He has been cited for several “Excellence in Design” awards by Industrial Design Magazine, and was selected as one of their elite “Designers in America” in 1972.
Prior to establishing Inverness Corporation, manufacturers of salon and beauty-related products, Sam had his own industrial design firm and was a consultant to a number of prominent companies, including Corning Glass, Westinghouse, GAF, Schick Electric and Helena Rubinstein.
While managing his design firm, Sam was on the lookout for an opportunity to launch his dream enterprise, Inverness. It was by chance, 11 years ago, that he passed the ear piercing center in a department store where a primitive device and “training studs” were in use. Sam went to the drawing board, and 10 months later had designed, patented and produced the Inverness Ear Piercing System, which is quick, painless and 100 percent sterile. The clincher was that the traditional studs used in other systems were replaced by a selection of designer earrings that currently includes 28 styles. Now Inverness claims status as the largest single manufacturer of ear piercing systems and dominates the market.
Following the success of this product, Sam studied hair removal systems and produced One Touch, a sophisticated home electrolysis system for consumer use, plus the Clean & Easy waxing system for professional salon use. Both products featured innovative improvements over methods previously available.
“After looking at the success of the waxing area, I got a comfortable feeling for the salon area, and made a decision to be more active, more aggressive in salon products,” Sam explained.
“The ability to innovate made me comfortable to wade in and do something, especially since the salon industry represents an open-ended opportunity for product development.”
Having determined that nails are a solid business area that Inverness should be a part of, Sam sat down and analyzed the entire process of manicures and application of nail extensions, looking for ways of making improvements.
Backed by a staff of uniquely qualified engineers, R&D experts, cosmetologists and educators, Sam created the Nail Lab concept and engineered the product from its inception.
“In the development of our line, we set up a salon in our facility and staffed it with licensed cosmetologists and manicurists,” Sam explained.
One of these licensed professionals was Lynn Parentini, who is now the director of product research testing for Inverness. In this capacity, Lynn evaluates products, recommends improvements and writes instructions for product use. In addition, Lynn works with the national training director for Inverness to design the curriculum for classes and to train distributors and other professionals in product usage.
Lynn joined Inverness when the firm was testing its Clean & Easy waxing system. Later she became instrumental throughout all stages of developing and testing the Nail Lab product group.
Sam explained that manicurists were brought into the in-house salon two days each week for a full day. “We had a steady stream of people in for nail care as we used the salon to test and refine the product,” he said, emphasizing that “It was of incomparable value to have the professional manicurists take us through this process of testing and refining the Nail Lab.”
From the salon at the Inverness facility, testing was taken next to cosmetology schools where the Nail Lab was tried out by students. “We tested the product at every level,” Lynn said, “including manicurists with one or two year’s experience, right up to professionals with 30 years of experience. We got good results from everyone. Because Inverness addressed many problems of the manicurists, even the novices got great results.”
So what is this Nail Lab ... this group of products that Inverness hails as “a remarkably efficient approach to manicuring services”?
As Lynn put it, “These are not just new products; they are new concepts.”
Developing new concepts is Sam Mann’s specialty, and he applied his background as an industrial designer to the manicuring trade. “Most beauty tools and appliances were designed out of necessity. And there’s been little real improvement over the years,” Sam stated. “Each time Inverness enters a market, we analyze a product’s design and efficiency. We improve, modernize and create a state-of-the-art tool that makes sense,”
Having developed a variety of products, Sam understood that products used in the manicuring industry are not unique to manicuring. As an example, Sam cited abrasives and adhesives: “The technical aspects of abrasives and adhesives are concepts used in lots of industries. There’s nothing unique in how to apply these concepts to nails that does not relate to knowing the technology of abrasives and adhesives. At Inverness, we looked at these things in basic terms and applied them to nails specifically.
“I decided to go back to the essential manicuring functions and noticed how manicurists work the nail. I looked at the medical aspects of nail formation, health and growth, and got answers to the problems of each area.”
Then Sam turned his attention to the nail itself. He considered both tip applications and sculptured nails, but decided against working to improve on either acrylic product or the technique.
When he studied application of nail tips, he discovered that “the technique is too much of an art and not enough of a science. It is difficult to do a flawless job, so I saw a need for a process that is easier, with a shorter learning curve so that students could create results as good as the professionals without a lot of time and practice. Rather than rely on the technique of the manicurist, it depends on the quality of the equipment and the process. Saving time and the quality of the finished job are built into the Pre-Wraps Nail Tips.”
First, the team at Inverness combined the qualities of silk and linen into a strong, durable fabric called Silkene. Plastic is molded around and through the Silkene at more than 100 tons of pressure, creating a flexible nail reinforced with a strong fabric core. The inner strength enabled Inverness to make the nail tip thinner in an attempt to make it feel lightweight and natural.
In addition, the fabric extends beyond the plastic tip, creating a smooth transition from the plastic to the natural nail and helping to anchor the tip. The fabric extension also provides a better surface for the glue to adhere to, for the purpose of adding to the longevity of the tip.
When it comes to glue, it was another case of Sam’s ability to analyze a product and improve on it, “To prevent fungus and lifting, you need better adhesion, so the answer was to improve adhesives that would work as a filler and an adhesive,” Sam reasoned. “I also wanted a product that would require no roughing up of the natural nails, so we developed a special nail preparation,” he said.
Thus, Inverness formulated its Strong Bond Glue Prep, which sprays away contaminants and preconditions the nail to better accept the adhesive. This means less glue is required, which makes the tips feel more comfortable and allows the natural nail to breathe, according to Sam.
The Inverness 10 Second Set Adhesive Gel is of a thick consistency to fill out any ridges and voids that might otherwise prevent complete bonding between the natural nail and Pre-Wraps Nail Tips, For extra fast drying and bonding strength, Inverness also offers its 5 Second Set Adhesive.
Once the Pre-Wraps are glued in place, the Silkene fabric becomes invisible, so clients can even have natural looking nails with clear polish alone.
Lynn noted that “You don’t need to apply anything else over Pre-Wraps Nail Tips, but if you want to, you can apply an acrylic overlay, dips or lamplight gels. Then follow the same maintenance recommended for that process,” she said, “But if you’re using the Pre-Wraps alone, maintenance only involves buffing, applying more glue, then buffing again before polishing,”
Reviewing the development of the Nail Lab, Sam said, “I looked at the whole process at once and defined the opportunities in each functional area. While watching nail applications, I noticed that it was time-consuming and there were difficulties with putting them on, getting them filed smoothly, and so on. This led to the concept of a machine.”
So Inverness set out to design an automatic filing machine that could fulfill the unique requirements of manicurists. One requirement was that the machine be comfortable for the manicurist to use, so the R&D team developed a handpiece that is much like holding a pen. Grooves were added for an easy, no-slip grip.
The handpiece itself is stationary, assuring maximum control, while the abrasive tip moves independently.
The Controlled Stroke Automatic Filer oscillates — moves back and forth — in a manner that duplicates the manicurist’s natural stroke. Sam explained that the reciprocating file will sit on the nail and do its job without fear of rolling off the nail and onto the cuticle, a problem with automatic rotary files, which tend to move on their own accord.
Lynn added that with the Controlled Stroke Automatic Filer, you can even file near the cuticle without harming the client. In fact, the oscillating motion acts to push the cuticle back, according to Lynn.
These are qualities built into the automatic filer specifically to make the technician more comfortable with the product. The machine was designed to be small because of limited space on manicuring tables.
Part of the plan was also to make it look simple. As with other products from Inverness, the expertise is built into the product. “Some people like a lot of knobs and dials,” Sam remarked, “but life is complicated enough. We made the Automatic Filer as simple as possible to give the technician the control she needs, then we locked the controls in the box and gave it to her.”
The clean, simple appearance of the Automatic Filer can be deceiving, so Sam pointed out two important qualities: First, the machine is housed in plastic, but it’s the same molded plastic that telephones are made of, so it’s definitely durable. Secondly, the attractive white and lavender box contains an extremely powerful motor. “It s not lightweight at all,” Sam noted. “It’s the same kind of motor used by the automobile industry for power seats, which can move a car seat with a 250-pound person in it. This motor will have a long life.”
Surprisingly, it’s a quiet motor, even at its highest speed — 1800 strokes per minute. The low setting quietly oscillates at 800 strokes per minute. “That’s 20 times faster than any manicurist can file,” Lynn exclaimed. “That’s a lot of hard work.” Work the manicurist no longer has to do if she uses the Automatic Filer. Lynn continued, saying, “We found that after using the machine, the manicurists are less tired; they feel better at the end of the day.”
In addition to using the machine in Inverness’ own salon and in schools, the firm tested prototypes of the Automatic Filer in several established salons, placing the machines at three stations and leaving three manicurists to file manually. The results confirmed Lynn’s contention that the Automatic Filer is something that should be at every work station.
Sam agreed. “The technicians without the machines clamored for them; they really wanted them. The difference in fatigue level and the quality of the job six hours into the day was remarkable — because they are not tired or bored, it definitely made a difference.”
The speed of the Automatic Filer cuts filing time significantly, increasing the number of clients a technician can handle in a day — and increasing the amount of money a technician can earn, according to Inverness.
This holds true for all manicurists, regardless of their particular specialties, because the Automatic Filer can be used for natural nail care, all types of extensions, wraps, acrylics and pedicures as well.
In addition to the time saved because of the speed of the filer’s strokes, time is saved as a result of the Nail Lab’s patented contoured abrasive tips. When Sam took a critical look at files and buffers, he concluded that if you put an abrasive product in contact with the surface of the nail, it should be the same shape as the nail and make more contact with the nail. This led to the development of the contoured file. Because it is shaped like the end result the technician is filing for, it is in complete contact with the surface that is being filed, giving a more uniform result that is smoother and self-blending.
For added convenience, only one side is contoured; the other side is flat for filing under the nail, the free edge and smoothing near the cuticle.
The concept of contoured files and buffers was implemented in two ways. First, for the Automatic Filer, files and buffers were made into tips that snap in and out of the machine’s handpiece with ease. Secondly, the contoured design concept was extended to manual files and buffers. These have a flexible plastic core and a foam cushioned layer that reportedly make them extremely comfortable to hold.
Lynn added that the contoured tips are easy to use in conjunction with the Automatic Filer. “If you can hold a pen, you can get used to it,” she said. “With the manual contour files, you need to learn only a couple of new techniques that are very easy.”
The next innovation came about as a result of the filing process. Sam recalled, “During development and testing of the prototypes, I became annoyed by the amount of dust that fills the air, and in the end, the manicurists’ and patrons’ lungs. This led to the idea of wet filing.
After first working with water, the R&D staff came up with the Inverness File N’ Buff Fluid, which contains glycerine and other lubricants. The benefits turned out to be more extensive than just keeping down the dust.
When filing with an abrasive, the grit tends to break off the paper and be free-floating, which causes scratches on the nail surface. Lubricating the file, Sam explained, flushes this grit away and prevents scratches that can cause stress points where the nail might split or crack.
Lynn added that no heat is generated with wet filing. In fact, when using the Automatic Filer, an unexpected plus is that the oscillating motion creates a draft that is felt under the tip as a cooling sensation.
Finally, wet filing also extends the life of the files. How long they last depends on what the manicurist uses them for and how much pressure she tends to apply, but in any case, they do last considerably longer, Lynn contends. And since they are designed for wet filing, they can be immersed in a solution of 70 percent alcohol to sanitize them. An ultraviolet sanitizer can also be used.
Having perfected the concepts and designs of these innovative new products, Inverness had yet another obstacle to overcome. As Sam tells it, “Not only did we have to develop the products, we also had to develop the manufacturing technique and the equipment in order to manufacture the products. We had to invent the technology for molding the plastic nail extensions around the fabric core ... we had to develop sample molds ... and make dozens of changes needed to refine the finished product.”
The same was true for the manual contour files and buffers as well as the interchangeable tips for the Automatic Filer ... to say nothing of the machine itself.
These projects explain in part why it took Inverness more than two years and more than a half-million dollars to complete research and development of the Nail Lab.
And the result of all that time, money and effort? More time, more money and less effort for the manicurist. Because Inverness sees the Nail Lab as a system that breaks the time and problem barrier, and therefore lifts the lid on potential profits.
The Controlled Stroke Automatic Filer with 15 assorted file and buff tips, File N’ Buff Fluid and jar, with instructions, is priced at $179. The Professional Kit with 200 Pre-Wraps Nail Tips, adhesives, glue prep and instructions is $30. Introductory kits, refills and other Nail Lab products are offered individually and in various combinations.