Natural Nails

It's Only Natural

By supplementing the natural manicure with nail and cuticle care, massage, aromatic oils and lotions, and good old-fashioned client service, salons are attracting a loyal clientele.

Natural is a hot buzzword. Although the word doesn’t have any genuine chemical significance, “natural” products and ingredients are perceived to be safer and healthier. Natural is really a marketing term, and it is as much a description of style as anything else. There is nothing more pure or wholesome about a regular manicure than applying tips, except in the perception of clients. But as any marketer worth his salt will tell you, natural sells products and services. So how do you take advantage of this fashion? By giving your clients what they want.

Nancy Massey’s clients almost exclusively receive natural nail care in the form of regular manicures and pedicures. Massey used to work as an independent contractor at a salon in Redondo Beach, Calif., that primarily offered overlays and extensions. When she moved to a salon a few blocks away, Curl Up & Dye, where she is the sole nail technician, she decided to encourage her clients to have natural nail care services. “You hear more and more stories about the danger of some products. My own nails looked so bad when I took off my acrylics that I decided to keep my nails natural. Now I tell my clients how nice their natural nails can look if they take care of them properly,” Massey says.

Even if your regular manicures only make up a small portion of your total services, you still shouldn’t dismiss this essential service.  When your clients who wear acrylics or other overlays decide to have their artificial extensions removed, their nails are going to need extra care. This is where you take over. Be sure to have treatments on hand for salon service and for the client to take home. Educate yourself on the products made especially for post-artificial nails.

“I tend to talk clients out of getting extensions. I tell them how nice their own nails could look with regular manicures and treatments,” Massey advises. “There are exceptions; I have a couple of clients who have really thin nails who like to wear extensions.” Massey is proficient in acrylics, gels, and fiberglass, and attends shows to keep abreast of products and trends. “But natural is what most of my clients want,” she says.

The Healthy Angle

Jessica’s Nail Clinic in Los Angeles promotes natural nail care as a healthy concept. Sappho Baltazar, director of education for Jessica’s and a nail technician at the salon, says that with the salon’s natural manicures, technicians “make as much money as they would doing artificial nail services.” The term “clinic” fits what the technicians do there: They analyze the clients’ nails, categorize them as either dry, brittle, damaged, or normal, then treat the nail with an appropriate product. Each customer gets a customized manicure.

Deborah Ann Wood , salon director at The Works in Walled Lake, mich., says, “Natural manicures are becoming more popular, in general, I think, because people are more concerned about the environment, recycling, etc. People are turned off by the odors from extension products.”

Natural Sells

If you think you can’t make as much profit with natural nail services as you can from acrylic services or other higher-priced nail extension services, think again. First, many clients, for whatever reason, simply don’t want artificial services. Second, natural nail care, in its full incarnation, means more than just a manicure.

Kassie Hadfield, a nail technician at Products & Professionals at Westminster, Colo., says that natural manicures and men’s manicures are becoming more popular in her salon. “Nails have been getting attention on shows such as ‘20/20’and ’60 Minutes,’ so more customers; are coming in. You know, the shows mention that the average professional should get her nails done twice a month.” Hadfield’s manicure consists of filing, shaping, and soaking the nails. The client then gets a hand massage, aromatherapy and a hot wax treatment.

Massey’s specialty is pedicures which can bring in a hefty profit. Almost all her clients receive both a manicure and a pedicure once a month; many clients come in for a weekly manicure. “I make as much money doing a manicure and pedicure as I would doing a set of acrylics,” she says. The manicure-pedicure service averages an hour and 45 minutes. The manicure alone takes 45 minutes because Massey uses a special file buffer, and moisturizer regimen that takes a little longer but achieves better long-term results . “I encourage my clients to take home a special moisturizer that I use and sell. When they come back a week later, I can tell it they’ve used it or not.”

Debi Barnes, nail technician and salon manager at Nail Junction in Las Vegas, Nev., says, “We don’t push our clients to get one kind of nail service over another, but I personally think natural nails are better.” Barnes offers reflexology, hot oil treatments, and simple nail art designs as add-ons to her regular manicure. Because the salon’s clients have low incomes, higher priced add-on services such as salt soaks don’t fare well. Says Barnes, “We give our clients what they want.” And thta keeps them coming back.

Naturally Glamorous

Natural nail clients, though ultimately concerned about the health of their nails and overall health in general, still want glamorous nails. Great-looking nails can be achieved when clients get regular manicures, use at-home maintenance products, and get hand skin care. Hand skin care services you can add on to the service include paraffin wax baths, salt soaks, and healing lotions. And, natural nail clients love pampering. Offer massage, aromatherapy, and any skin, nail, and cuticle treatments you think would benefit your client. In short give your client what she came to you for in the first place: a service that made her feel good about her nails and herself and an hour of pure bliss.

One of Wood’s top-selling services is the natural manicure, which includes a cleanser, a pH balancer for the nails, a moisturizer, a hydrating lotion, and cuticle oils. “All the products are takehome. The scents and massage are very relaxing,” says Woods. Her natural manicure clients are professional men and women who want healthy, great-looking nails, but don’t want them really long.

 Where to Get Natural

Several companies offer natural nail care products and services. Products include cuticle-softening treatments, nail treatments, and skin-softeners and rejuvenators. Have these on hand to retail to your clients for at-home use. Additional services such as aromatherapy and hand and foot massages are taught in continuing education courses around the country. Get certified so you can start offering these services to your clients.

 Put Your Best Hooves, Er, Nails Forward

Horse hoof conditioners are getting popular outside the stable as part of a natural nail care routine. Women who were using hoof conditioners on their horses found that their own nails and cuticles were getting stronger (the hoof conditioner is massaged into the horse’s hooves with the fingertips). The word spread, and women flocked to horse care suppliers to buy huge jars of hoof conditioner. Straight Arrow is one company that markets the hoof conditioner. One of its more popular items is Hoofmaker, which retails for around $9 for a 32-oz jar. On a recent trip to a local feed store, NAILS editors found six brands of hoof conditioners. The conditioners range in size from 4-oz. to quart jars, and are priced from $4 to $13. Protein, aloe, lanolin, coal, tar (it cures fungus, say veterinarians), and medicinal additives are among the ingredients found in the conditioners.

Though at least one company says its conditioner is 100% safe to use on humans, some companies are repackaging and/or reformulating their products for the beauty industry. One such company, Aloe’s Advantage, added allantoin and vitamin E to its hoof treatment. Hoof to Nails, and repackaged it in purse-size ¼-oz and ½-oz. sizes, and 4-oz. and 8 oz. containers.

You can expect to see more clients asking for the horse-hoof conditioner-based products, according to Jim Plogg of OrigiNails which recently purchased Aloe Advantage. Women like the idea of “going back to nature” to achieve beauty results. When you promote natural nail care, you can attract the sort of client who wouldn’t normally walk into a nail salon. You can also keep your clients who have decided to reject extensions and overlays. And you can increase your service profit or your regular manicure-only clients by offering pedicures and natural manicure add-on services.

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