Client Health

Something to Talk About: Nail Biters

One satisfying aspect of being a nail tech is the before-and-after experience we see on every set of hands. But what happens when the transformation isn’t dramatic — or even beautiful?

When clients who are severe nails biters come to the salon to get their nails “fixed,” they risk being disappointed with the results. Often even enhancements aren’t powerful enough to transform nibbled nails into a masterpiece. It’s our job to help reset expectations. That conversation could go something like this:

Client: I can’t wait for my nails to look better; I just can’t seem to stop biting them.

You: They’ll look better soon! You know, nail biting isn’t always just a bad habit. People with anxiety are often powerless to stop the destructive behavior without getting help for the root problem.

Client: I don’t think that’s my issue. I can go weeks without biting my nails. Sometimes they even look good. But then, all of a sudden, I start again and end up with the mess I have now.

You: OK, great. But even though this isn’t something for a counselor, I’d still like you to commit to a nail-recovery program. We’ll focus on the health of your natural nails as we break this recurring habit. At the end of four weeks, you can decide if you want to continue with natural-nail manicures or if you want enhancements.

Client: Natural nails? I was hoping for fake nails so my hands would look good today.

You: I’ll do it if you insist, but I advise against it. Here’s why: If I put enhancements on while you’re still in the habit of picking, it’s likely you’ll pull the product off. That’s going to cause even more damage to your nails, which are already in pretty rough shape.

Client: So what are you saying? You want me to come in and just get a manicure every week?

You: Yes, a manicure every week and some at-home care. I sell a wonderful oil you can rub into your cuticles; we don’t want the rough skin to tempt you. If you find you start picking your nails on day-five, come back early. Clients typically don’t pick at their nails when they look pretty, so we want yours to be in perfect shape these first few weeks. I’m going to use a nail-growth polish as a base, but finish with a terrible-tasting top coat, which will help you develop a negative association with biting your nails.

Client: I’ll be honest. I wanted to leave here with long red nails.

You: You’ll get there! But today, let’s use a light, neutral color. Our goal is to keep them clean and “quiet,” so they don’t catch your attention and taunt you to taste them.

Client: Now that you mention it, I have damaged my nails from picking off gel extensions. It’s probably a good idea to get a natural manicure.

You: I think you’ll be happier. The truth is, when natural nails are this short, enhancements don’t look good anyway. A sculpted nail can only double the length of the nail bed. Your natural nail is so short, the enhancement would barely reach the tip of your finger. It’s going to be better this way. Believe me, you’ll notice a big difference in just one week.

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