Natural Nails

Going Glycolic in Your Natural Nail Services

Glycolic hand and foot treatments give nail technicians a beautiful way to engender client loyalty, increase their average service ticket, and enjoy incredible retailing opportunities.

According to nail technicians in some of the top salons in the country, the hottest service for fall in the nail department will have nothing to do with the nails, and everything to do with the hands themselves. Glycolic treatments for the hands and feet — not so long ago considered a special-occasion treat just as a manicure or set of acrylics once were — are enjoying an ever-increasing popularity with clients, who are suddenly more aware that if their hands don’t look good, their nails don’t look good. Women (and even some men) happily pay a premium price — as much as $25 in some salons — for the 20- to 30-minute technique, which can be done alone, or as part of a manicure, fill, or pedicure service.

“In the spring we recommended it to clients as a way to get rid of the dry, cracked skin of winter, and this fell we’ll recommend it to help hands that spent their summer exposed to sun,” says Fabien Guichon, spa and nail director for Palatine, Ill-based Mario Tricoci Salons and Spas. “Clients love it.”

Skin care specialists note that the neck and hands are the first to reveal clues to a woman’s age. The hands, in particular, take a beating with exposure to UV rays, chemicals, water, soil — all things that damage and dry the skin, causing it to thicken, wrinkle, flake, and develop hyper pigmentation (those dreaded age spots). As baby boomers struggle to turn back, or at least slow, the hands of time, their growing interest in professional skin care services presents nail technicians with a great opportunity to offer services and home-maintenance products that beautify the entire hand — and increase their bottom line in the process.

Using Glycolic Acid Products...

As a take-home treatment:

Some companies make products with a lower concentration of glycolic acid (usually around 10%) so they are safe for client retail sales. In conjunction with the professional services they receive from you, explain the increased benefits clients receive from using at- home products between services. After all, you’ve already hooked them on using top coat and cuticle oil to protect their nails until the next appointment right? Be sure to offer to demonstrate how the products work as a discounted, add-on, or bonus service.

1. Tell the client to wash her hands thoroughly before she begins. Have her soak her hands in a warm, soapy bowl of water before she begins.

2. Next, she should remove her hands from the water and gently pat them dry. Some product lines will offer a stronger product for the cuticle area Instruct her to apply this treatment first and massage it into the cuticle area of each finger. She can use a cuticle pusher to gently push the cuticles back if needed. Have her use cotton wipes or tissues to remove any dead skin from each finger. Most formulas do not require rinsing, but be sure she follows the manufacturer’s instruction? Before proceeding to the next step.

3. Have her apply a thin coat of glycolic acid product and massage it into hands and arms. Again, most formulas do not require rinsing, but be sure to instruct the client to follow the manufacturer’s instructions before proceeding to the next step.

4. Apply a generous coating of moisturizer to each hand and massage the arms up to the elbows.

Make sure the moisturizer has an SPF of at least 15 because the service exposed fresh, young skin cells that are especially vulnerable to sun damage. Encourage clients to always apply sun protection regularly before going outside to protect their skin.

As a salon service:

After the manicure or fill but before polishing the nails, gather the products you’ll need to do the glycolic hand treatment Although systems vary generally you will need a basin filled with tepid water; clean towels, a glycolic acid product, an applicator brush, a timer; and a moisturizing cream or lotion.

1. Wash your hands and then have the client wash her hands

2. Prepare the hands by using the cleanser that comes with the glycolic treatment system. Have the client rinse her hands again and blot them dry with a tissue.

3.         Apply the glycolic add product to one hand using an applicator brush. Apply the product in a thin layer; more is not better: Using a smaller applicator brush, work the product around the fingers and cuticles.

4. Set your timer for the amount of time recommended by the manufacturer as soon as you finish applying the product You may need to shorten the time for fair- or sensitive-skinned clients While the glycolic acid is on the hands, watch for red patches or irritation. Tell the client that a warm, tingling sensation is perfectly normal and indicates the product is working, but that she should alert you to any discomfort she experiences — particularly a stinging sensation. While waiting for the first hand to process, apply the glycolic acid product to the second hand.

5. Next, rinsing the hand. With tepid water, neutralize the glycolic acid on the first hand. When the second hand is complete, neutralize the product on it as well.

6. Apply a generous coating of moisturizer to each hand and massage the arms up to the elbows. Make sure the moisturizer has an SPF of at least 15 because the service has exposed fresh, young skin cells that are especially vulnerable to sun damage. Encourage clients to always apply sun protection before going outside to protect their skin from the sun’s aging effects.

7. For a spa manicure procedure, many companies recommend following this step with a paraffin treatment Otherwise, polish the nails and finish the manicure.

Nature’s Big Helpers

Glycolic acid is one of a family of five alpha hydroxy acids, which are found in natural substances such as sour milk (lactic acid) and citrus fruits like oranges (citric acid).

Derived from sugar cane, glycolic acid is the most-hyped AHA, which product manufacturers attribute both to its ready availability as well as the fact that it is the most effective at peeling away dead skin cells. Lactic acids, on the other hand, absorb deeper into the skin and make ideal moisturizers.

As the skin ages, its natural ability to slough off dead cells slows, resulting in thickened skin that appears dry, wrinkled, and scaly. Glycolic acid works by breaking down the intercel­lular “glue” (or lipids) that binds dead skin cells together in the stratum corneum (the upper layer of skin). “By loosening the intercellular lipids, AHAs exfoliate more rapidly, leaving younger, fresher cells on the skin’s surface,” explains Barbara Salomone, CEO of Bioelements (Chicago).

And that’s not all they do. “The glycolic acid works its way down between the dead skin cells, and because not all of the cells slough off, those left behind are hydrated and give the skin a softer, smoother appearance,” adds Gin Mathews, national education director of Carrollton, Texas-based Glycolique Options.

“The more we study glycolic acid, the more we see the list of its beneficial effects increase,” notes Nicholas J. Daniello, M.D., chairman, department of Head and Neck/Facial Plastic Surgery, Westchester Square Medical Center. He also manufactures a line of skin care products. “Glycolic acid is a natural bleaching agent and, therefore, is a good treatment of skin discoloration. It is hydroscopic, which means it draws water to the area, plumping up the skin and thus alleviating fine lines and wrinkles. It removes the dead skin cells of the stratum corneum and actually thickens the lower level of the epidermis, called the stratum granulosum.

“Glycolic acid also stimulates the cells to produce both collagen and elastin,” Dr. Daniello continues. He cites one study published in the Dermatologic Surgery Journal that attributes the thickened stratum corneum to heightened collagen production, and another study that demonstrates a 24% increase in elastin after eight weeks of use of a glycolic acid-based product. This is good news because more collagen and elastin in the skin means softer, suppler, more elastic skin.

What the client sees is softer, smoother skin with an improved tone and texture. Fine lines lessen or disappear, and deep wrinkles soften and smooth.

How to Choose?

Not surprisingly, the past few years have seen an explosion of AHA-formulated products on the market. The products contain varying amounts of glycolic acid, which of course affects the product’s performance —hence consumer disenchantment, particularly with some retail products found in drug stores and supermarkets.

Deemed a cosmetic by the FDA, AHA-based products are not subject to safety or efficacy standards as long as they don’t claim to alter the basic structure or function of living skin. Widely varying product claims and differing formulations have led to much consumer confusion, but product manufacturers caution against making the mistake of thinking more is better when it comes to the concentration of glycolic acid: Too high a concentration can damage the skin. Concentration is also affected by buffers in the formulation, which neutralize the glycolic and the pH level of the product.

To further muddy the waters, pharmaceutical-grade glycolic acid is more pure than cosmetic-grade, say manufacturers. “If it says glycolic acid on the label, it only has to be 70% pure,” Mathews notes. “So if you have an AHA product that says it’s a 10% concentration, a product manufactured with a cosmetic-grade acid will be 30% less active than one formulated with a pharmaceutical grade because it only has to be 70% pure.” This is just one way consumers are deceived.

“The more important question than strength [indicated by the percentage of glycolic acid in a formulation] is the pH,” explains Megan Di Martino, president of Novitá Spa. The skin’s normal pH ranges from 4.5-5.5. The lower the pH of an AHA product, the greater the penetration of the product into the skin because of its higher acidity. By the same token, products with too low of a pH have the potential to damage the skin and nails.

The Cosmetics Ingredient Review Board conducted studies on products to determine the ideal balance of glycolic acid concentrations and pH levels of products. Its findings, submitted to the FDA as recommended guidelines, endorse salon-use professional products with a concentration of no more than 30% glycolic acid and a pH of 3. Products marketed to the consumer should not exceed a 10% concentration and should have a pH no lower than 3.5-4. However, manufacturers note that these are only recommendations, and they are not bound to follow them. By the same token, nail technicians are well advised to heed these recommendations so as not to damage a client’s skin or incur liability for a client’s injury.

Give Them a Hand

Promoting glycolic treatments is as simple as showing clients what their skin could look like, says Kathy Shumway, owner of Loria’s Hair Design in Sarasota, Fla. “I introduced hand treatments about a year ago by doing a complimentary treatment on one hand of each client,” she remembers. “The difference was so dramatic that I had some clients refuse to leave until I did the other hand.”

At Kathryn Marie Salon in Lauderdale by the Sea, Fla., owner Kathryn Lorenzini charges $15 for a glycolic treatment and a paraffin dip. Other nail technicians note that if you’re going to do a paraffin treatment, you can charge up to $25 for the service. They also note that selling a current client new services is much easier than attracting new clients to a new service.

“When I see a client sitting in the salon and I’m free, I’ll invite her over and do a glycolic treatment for her with no obligation on her part,” says Gloria Smith, a nail technician at Image 21 in Oak Lawn, Ill. “We go through the demonstration quickly, and if she doesn’t ask about it that day she will the next time she comes in. It’s absolutely not necessary to do a hard sell with this service.”

Smith and other nail technicians also note the incredible retail potential with glycolic acid products for home maintenance. “Most of the time clients say they love how their hands look and want the treatment for their whole body,” Smith says. “That opens the door to tell them about the products they can buy to maintain the look at home.” She adds that glycolic hand treatments also have helped build the salon’s skin care department because once a nail client sees the dramatic difference on her hands she wants the same for her face.

“My clients who get this service come back for it again and again,” Smith concludes. “It builds client loyalty because they can’t get it just anywhere.” And that, perhaps, is the best reason of all to offer glycolic treatments.

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