Salon Design

How Technicians Take Care of Their Own Nails

It isn’t always easy to keep your own nails looking nice when you’re constantly removing polish and filing nails, but here are some tips to try.

One of the everyday challenges a nail technician faces is keeping her own nails looking nice while constantly working on clients. Removing polish and filing all day threaten the beauty of a technician’s set of nails. And, because clients expect their nail technicians to have perfect nails, a nail technician has to learn how to protect her nails as she works.

Over the years, Maggie Boyd, owner of Avante Nail Studio in Barrington, III., has mastered many techniques to protect her nails at the salon.

Boyd’s philosophy on removing nail polish is that she doesn’t, at least not on a regular basis. “My clients pay me to put polish on, not remove it,” she says. The majority of the time, Boyd’s clients remove their own polish. “If I do remove polish, I squeeze a lint-free napkin between my two fingers to protect my own polish.” Boyd also applies a top coat regularly to keep her own nails looking shiny.

Cindy Fairchild, owner of Fancy Fingers N’ Toes in Tucson, Ariz., is a lot rougher on her nails at home than at work. “I’m a lot more conscious of them at the salon,” she says, especially if they look nice.”

When removing nail polish, Fairchild puts the cotton between her first and second knuckles. “If it’s at the end of my fingers, it will ruin my polish,” she says.

Fairchild believes that if you’re careful when removing polish, you really don’t need to use any type of protection, like gloves. “I don’t think a technician should wear gloves unless she is sensitive to chemicals,” she says.

Sharon Parker, owner of The Nail Detail in Tampa, Fla., uses an orangewood stick wrapped with cotton to remove clients’ polish so her own nails don’t come in contact with the remover.

Like Boyd, Carole Hook, owner of The Nail Gallery in Overland Park, Kan., has her clients remove their own polish. As for filing, “When I first started doing nails about 10 years ago, I would file off the nail on my index finger on the hand I was holding the client’s hand in,” she says. “Over time, I started holding my index finger further back and down from the file, so the file doesn’t hit it anymore.”

Once in a while, Hook would accidentally file the skin off her thumb on her right hand. “Now I use a rubber finger protector over my thumb,” she says, “which also helps protect me because some of my clients are cuticle pickers and a small amount of blood can form around their cuticles.”

Lori Waggoner, owner of Nail Fetish in Burbank, Calif., uses a pump dispenser for remover and has learned to hold the cotton just right to protect her nails. “I’ve been a nail technician for 12 years now,” she says, “and have learned the proper way to hold a client’s hand to protect my nails when filing or performing other services.”

Through trial and error, technicians develop their own technique to protect their nails while filing. Some technicians place manufactured slip-on handles over the end of the file, while others wear nylon finger protectors when filing. Make sure you don’t use regular adhesive tape, though, because the glue will adhere to your skin and nails.


With all the battering a nail technician’s nails take, regular manicures or fills are a must. While some nail technicians prefer to have someone else do their nails others practice self-maintenance.

 “I try not to do my own nails,” says Fairchild. “After you’ve spent all day doing everyone else’s nails, doing your own nails is a chore.” Fairchild usually has one of the technicians at her salon do her nails.

Waggoner does her own nails, but not all in one sitting. “I’ll fill about three or four nails a week and repolish about once a week,” she says. “I don’t do a complete fill at one time because it’s too time consuming.”

Parker also does her own nails and says that even though it’s hard to find time to do them, you need to work it in.

Having nice nails is helpful as far as selling your service, says Fairchild, who has a new set put on about every six weeks. “With first time clients, it’s really important to have a nice set of nails for a professional image,” she says.

Hook agrees: “It’s important to maintain good nails, especially for new clients. If my own nails look bad, why should my client trust me with hers?”

A nail technician’s image determines the type of client she attracts, says Boyd. “I will experiment on my own nails before I’ll try it on a client to know if it will work,” she says.

Waggoner believes it’s important to keep her nails looking nice because she’s found that her clients frequently follow her trend. “When I wear my nails short,” she says, “they want their nails short, and when I wear my nails long, they want their nails long. If i don’t take care of my nails, some clients may interpret that having nice nails is not important, so they will no longer get their nails done.”

Overall, the general consensus among nail technicians is that having a nice set of nails is important for maintaining a professional image. Incorporating simple habits and practices into your daily routine can help ensure the upkeep of your nails on and off the job.

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