I love nails! I love everything to do with them — the shapes, the colors, the nail art, the gems, the glitters, etc. I would look at another person’s hands and think of all the possibilities for creating something beautiful. I loved sharing my obsession with other people to brighten their days just as having my nails done brightens up my day.
I started doing my own nails as a creative outlet. It was the perfect way to get some self-care time and it felt indulgent. I am a working mom of two and I didn’t want to spend the $40 to $100 or more on my nails every two to three weeks. I felt guilty at the thought of taking this money out of our budget and spending it on only me. So I did what many other people do — I invested in some nail products and started doing my own nails.
At first, it was regular polish. When I realized I was too rough on my hands and the polish chipped too much, I switched to gel-polish. I found the gel-polish alone to be too flimsy and decided I needed some strength, so I switched to hard gel overlays. When I didn’t like the upkeep of the hard gel overlays (I also didn’t understand them as well as I do now), I switched to dip powder. I found that I was very happy with dip powder, I loved all of the different colors and glitters. Dip powder provided the strength that I was looking for and they were relatively simple to maintain. By simple to maintain, I mean that I could purchase the liquid resins and colored acrylic powder easily, and I could shape my nails and the acrylic overlay with a hand file and a buffer block. I didn’t need to make a huge investment to have good results. But there is a learning curve to doing your own nails — my first dip manicure did not look as great as my nails look now. Don’t get me wrong, they didn’t look bad, but they needed more refinement than I knew how to do.
Then, I did what most nail DIYers do — I joined a Facebook group of nail enthusiasts. I had found my people! They were there sharing tips, photos, doing live videos on how to get great cuticle lines, etc. But it was clear that while these people were really trying to help each other, it was in some cases the blind leading the blind. I literally cringe when I see the too long debates of whether “greenies” are caused by bacteria or mold. Those debates about the “greenies” were the worst. They were full of people commenting that they were right and the other person was wrong, and how they are commenting from their experience. And then there were others who were recommending treatment. Ugh. Again, good intentions leading a poor decision. The truth of the situation is there was no way to be 100% certain what was going on with this person’s nail, but it made me wonder if anyone was really working to learn what they could or simply argue their point. A simple search on Google can tell the true cause of the “greenie” and many other nail infections. I learned that it was caused by the bacteria called pseudomonas and was likely the result of an improperly prepared nail plate or bacteria trapped underneath a lifted nail enhancement. Then a thought came to me, probably because of my medical background. “What if instead of arguing about the greenie after the fact, we could do what was needed to prevent nail infections?” I do my daughters’ nails, and I do my friends’ nails — I didn’t want to risk causing harm to them. What else was I missing that could unintentionally cause harm to another person by doing their nails? That was when I made the decision that I needed to educate myself if I was going to continue doing nails. I began looking for nail schools.
At the end of nail school, I knew that I would be able to test for and get a professional license. I also knew that I would be able to purchase the professional products that were not available to DIYers. I had already researched some professional brands and learned that in some cases their prices were cheaper than the DIY products available to everyone, and to be honest, I could not wait to get my hands on them. I once watched a YouTube video where two of my favorite nail educators collaborated and made a video of them using common DIY nail products. I remember one person said it was going to be rough using the brush for the acrylic nail, and I clearly remember the other person saying “this gel is awful!” And the reason why I so clearly remember that moment is because that is exactly the way I felt about that same hard gel — it was awful! The most impactful statement that they made together was that DIYers have it hard because they have to learn to use lesser quality products and do not have the support of the manufacturer most of the time. This made me even more passionate to find a good nail school.
I am a registered nurse by trade, and it is a wonderful career with many opportunities. I love the field of nursing, and will probably continue to be a nurse for many years. I work 40 hours a week and had to research how to fit nail school with my current schedule and extracurricular activities. All of the nail schools in my area were full-time classes, 40 hours a week. That option did not work at all for me. Very few schools in my area offered only a nail technology course, most offered the full cosmetology course. I looked at the local county technology centers and they offered nail technology courses twice a week in the evenings, but they required a full-time apprenticeship along with the nail technology classes. In my state, the apprenticeship program for nail technology was a total of 2000 hours in one year, and this was not possible for me already working a full-time job.
Then, I found a nail technology school that provided the course work and learning materials online and allowed you to schedule lab days to get the hands-on instruction and practice. At this point, I didn’t even care that this school was 90 minutes away from where I lived. I was delighted to find a school that offered flexibility for the people who could not commit to full-time instruction. I called the instructor with a few questions, and she was great. She was friendly, helpful, took time to answer my questions — it was everything that I was looking for in a nail school. I spoke with my husband about the school, and the fee, and I registered that evening.
For those of you who are professional licensed nail techs, and do not have a medical background, I applaud you. I was so happy that I already had bacteriology, anatomy, physiology, biology, and chemistry. I was surprised at how much detail was included in my instruction regarding the muscles and nerves of the legs, which muscles are responsible for the adduction of the fingers and toes, and what extension versus flexion meant. All I could think is “wow, this is way more detail than I thought was needed.” If I can offer any nail technology students that are struggling any hope, it is that you are not struggling alone. Keep reviewing all of the material, study with a friend if you can, and review your material even when you think you have got it memorized because it will only reinforce what you know.
I am just about done with nail school now. I was able to direct my own pace, and this was the perfect option for me. All that I have left is taking my written exams at the nail school, registering for the state written and practical exams, and passing both state exams. I am more knowledgable about nail shapes and nail health. I am excited for this new journey as a licensed pro, but I am also excited that I get to continue my education as a licensed professional. Going to nail technology school will open so many doors for me to further my skills, all the while allowing me to indulge in one of my favorite hobbies and make someone else’s nails look pretty as a licensed professional. I cannot wait to see where this goes!
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