Natural Nails

Catering to the Sports- and Fitness-Minded Client

Active, sports-minded clients put extra wear and tear on their hands and feet and need more attention than the average client. Learn to cater to them and help keep their nails and skin inactive working condition.

While athletes work hard to keep their bodies in tip-top shape, sadly, the same cannot be said for their hands and feet. While their bodies benefit from all of the exercise, their hands and feet are usually left to suffer. As a result, it’s not unusual to see an athlete with calluses, blisters, chipped or broken nails, dry cuticles, or chapped hands-among other problems.

A few years ago, it wouldn’t have been as common to see a pedicure tailor made for and athlete on a service menu. But with today’s health kick, it’s a whole different scenario. More than ever, women and men are hitting the pavement (and the slopes and the rapids). As a result, many enterprising saloon owners and nail techs are realizing the importance of offering specialized pedicures and manicures that help alleviate athletes’ most common ailments.

But before you start conjuring up a new service, make sure you understand what your athletic clients want and need from you. And, since athletes are that much harder on their hands and feet, it’s also important to know when to refer someone to a specialist who can deal with more serious foot or hand problems you may not be able to service.

A Healthy Perspective

Unlike you regular clients, athletic clients may not be as concerned about beauty. Runners, kayakers, and rock climbers are more worried about having their calluses reduced, keeping their nails short and neat, and relieving any soreness or muscle tension.

So while the manicure or pedicure technique you offer them may not differ from the regular services on your menu, you should definitely keep athletic clients’ needs in mind. In general, it’s important to keep their nails trimmed short to avoid injury, and skin should be well moisturized to lesson the likelihood of calluses and cracking.

While calluses should be tended to, they should never be removed completely since the provide a certain amount of natural protection, says podiatrist Johanna Youner.

Athletes are more likely to develop injuries or infections-especially on the feet, which tend to take a lot of abuse from pounding on the pavement and from shoe gear. It’s not uncommon for athletes to develop allergic contact dermatitis on their feet, for example. It can be brought on by the glues and dyes in athletic footwear and is compounded by sweating and friction.

It’s also not uncommon for athletes to suffer from white spots, pigmented bands, or splits and ridges on their toe-nails that don’t grow out.

Different types of sports mean different types of problems. People who participate in aquatic sports may suffer from brittle nails and dry cuticles brought on from all the time spent in the water. They may also suffer from plantar warts, which are transmitted by water and can be contagious, says Youner.

Rock climbers and athletes who use their hands may suffer from broken, chipped nails and dry, chapped hands. And basketball and tennis players may suffer from a different type of problem. “Basketball and tennis place higher stresses on the Achilles and the medial and lateral aspects of the foot, respectively,” says Youner.

Basketball players may also develop black heel, which looks just like it sounds. The skin on the heel turns black because of internal bleeding caused by a pinching stress from abrupt contact between the foot and a hard surface.

And a jogger with a longer second toe may experience a black toenail, which is a consolidation of blood under the nail from trauma. “A nail technician can help identify this problem and after the client had seen a doctor, the nail technician can keep the nail very thin so as to retard the development of fungus,” Youner says. “Fungus develops very easily in a traumatized nail, so extra care and possibly prophylactic treatment with a topical ingredient may help.”

You should be aware of the general health of your client’s hands or feet before each service. A podiatrist or dermatologist should examine open wounds or lacerations, unexplained bruises, popped blisters, athlete’s foot, or separated nails before you begin any service.

If you do decide to offer a service tailor-made for athletes, make sure the name and description make it sound like you mean business. Blairstown, N.J. based The Brass Rose Salon & Spa attracts clients suffering from abused hands with its Reconstruction Manicure. The description reads: “Hardworking hands deserve this very special service. This is an intensive treatment for parched, rough, callused hands. You are treated with our specially formulated French paste, containing mallow to soften and condition, grape-seed oil to moisturize, and calendula and chamomile to sooth.”

And Audrey Maxwell, spa supervisor and reflexologist at Vista Clara Ranch Resort and Spa in Galisteo, N.M., conjured up the Hiker’s Foot Therapy after noticing that hikers in the area would often visit the spa for a pedicure. The service features eucalyptus oil and reflexology, along with a soothing foot scrub and peppermint foot massage. The nails are trimmed short and are left polish free.

Train and Make Yourself Visible

Beside offering athletic clients a soothing massage or exfoliating treatment, you should also make an effort to educate yourself. “Subscribe to sports magazines so you can be up to date on information-and so your clients can have some appropriate reading material to enjoy,” says Patti Glick, a Cupertino, Calif.-based registered nurse also known as The Foot Nurse.

Of course, if you’re an athlete yourself, then you have a natural advantage. You already know the problems your clients are going through, so you can then to them with more care.

But if you’re not an athlete, then it’s important to read up on the subject matter-particularly nail conditions suffered by athletes Glick suggests nail techs attend athletic events such as marathons or 5K walks and talk to participants. “Ask them what their needs are,” she says. “Pass out flyers with a discount on their first manicure or pedicure to get them to try your services. Offer to make a presentation to their group.”

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