Natural Nails

Carol Shaw’s Natural Nail Techniques

If you are not offering a therapeutic program of natural nail care for nail biters or clients with damaged nails, you could be missing out on an important source of additional income and clientele for the salon.

In most salons, technicians successfully keep their clients happy by offering a services that includes sculptured nails, tips, wraps and basic manicures for average, healthy nails.

But if you are not offering a therapeutic program of natural nail care for nail biters or clients with damaged nails, you could be missing out on an important source of additional income and clientele for the salon.

If you stop and think about it, there are probably a lot of nail biters out there who would like to actually see the progress they’re making as their nails grow out, and other potential clients who for one reason or another simply don’t want acrylic nails or wraps.

Natural nail care and therapeutic manicures can be an excellent way to:

-          capture this segment of the market;

-          round out the range of services offered; and

-          increase income for the technician and salon.

A successful program of corrective and restorative nail care was created by Carol Shaw of Winter Park, Florida, whose salon was featured in a NAILS Magazine profile in February. In a second interview, Carol agreed to discuss her specialized services for natural nail care and to outline her program in more detail for the benefit of NAILS Magazine’s readers.

In this follow-up article, Carol tells what kinds of health-related questions to ask clients, and why those are important considerations. Next she talks about analysis of the nails and the actual manicure, including massage and paraffin treatments.

At-home products, in-salon products and psychological support round out the discussion.

For complete background information, please refer to the February 1986 issue of NAILS Magazine, page 59. As a brief recap, here’s how the program works:

Carol Shaw’s salon offers each client a customized program of six therapeutic manicures over a six-week period. A fee of $100 is paid up-front as an incentive for the client to follow through with the entire recommended program.

On the first visit, five more visits are scheduled as confirmed appointments. Any rescheduling must be arranged at least 24 hours in advance, and missed appointments cannot be made up.

These policies are established to create a psychological advantage for the client to successfully complete the program. This also sets up a routine that clients frequently continue with after the six-week period.

The fee of $100 covers analysis of the nails, development of a customized program for treatment and six therapeutic manicures (valued at $16 each), plus $15 to $20 worth of samples and products for at-home use.

“That $100 fee might seem like a lot of money to the client,” Carol confessed, “but if you compare that with the price of a full set of sculptured nails plus fills, they’ll see that’s it’s a bargain.” Carol continued, saying, “In the long-run, these clients will be happier when they finally have their own healthy nails.

“Most people need continuity, commitment and price to motivate them to stick with a program, but if the price is the main objection, a mini-program of three weeks might help a reluctant client get started,” she suggested.

After the customer fills out a standard client card, the technician asks a number of health-related questions. These pertain to the client’s general health, nutrition and any medication taken. The technician should make a note of factors that affect the health of the nail. For example:

-          Circulatory and heart problems can result in poor nourishment to the nail root and matrix as well as an absence of a healthy pink color in the nail bed.

-          If a client is diabetic, do not massage, as this can cause a problem with clotting of the blood. Nipping is also to be avoided on diabetic clients.

-          You should find out if the (female) client’s estrogen intake is high because hormones tend to deplete zinc levels in the system. Zinc is important for growing strong nails for both men and women, so a zinc supplement might help improve nails.

-          Antibiotics, such as tetracycline, affect the health of the nails and should be taken into consideration as a possible source of problems.

-          Even a virus from a few months ago can still affect the nails as they grow out, and the effects won’t show up until much later.

-          Allergies should be ascertained in advance so you can avoid use of any products the customer may be sensitive to. This is very important for the salon’s protection.

Try to ask as many specific questions as possible, as the answers can lead to the source of problems. But in asking these questions, Carol warns against the use of an actual checklist. “We don’t want to seem like we can treat their problems on a medical basis. We’re not doctors, even though we are well prepared to help and advise clients on a one-on-one customized basis as part of our role as nail technicians,” she explained.

In addition to various medical-related questions, there are also a number of nutrition-related considerations. As manicurists are well aware, diet and nutrition are important. However, most customers do not know how important it is in nail care, Carol pointed out. “A lot of people do not eat red meat, diary products or fish, resulting in a lack of protein, sulfur and zinc. Nail problems can also arise if the client skips lunch, is fasting or goes on sporadic diets,” explained Carol. She added that it’s important to find out how much water the client drinks. “Water affects dehydration of skin, hair and nails, and dehydration is a frequent cause of nail problems.”

Once again she cautioned manicurists to be careful. “We are not nutritionists, so we cannot recommend a diet or specific dietary supplements. But we can make clients aware of the source of their deficiencies and the need for exercise, water and balanced meals, all of which affect healthy nails.”

Analysis of the Nails

Through experience, manicurists develop a natural ability to analyze nails. Carol Shaw’s analysis for a customized nail care program begins by taking off the color, then touching the client’s hands. Feeling the skin can tell you immediately if there’s a problem with dehydration of the skin and, as a result, of the nails.

“The amount of water people are in on a day-to-day basis causes the nails to swell, then shrink. This accordion effect is a major problem with dehydration of the nails.” Carol offered this as a good example of how the source of a nail problem is not always internal or health-related; it may be external.

“The nail plate is porous and chemicals go through nails better than through skin,” explained Carol. “This does more damage than you think. We recommend using a moisturizer, lotion or cream high in lanolin before putting on protective rubber gloves and using chemicals. If no lotion is available, petroleum jelly will help.”

Getting back to the procedure for analysis, Carol suggested that a mirrored magnifying glass might help with examining the nails closely. This close scrutiny will reveal several things:

-          Brittle nails that are hard and inflexible beyond the free edge;

-          Peeling, when the layers separate and eventually break off;

-          Chipping and breaking, due to lack of moisture;

-          White spots, resulting from trauma, illness or a vitamin deficiency;

-          White flecks (not the same as spots), due to an injury or zinc deficiency;

-          Discoloration, such as after acrylics are removed or as a result of mold or yeast build-up;

-          Torn, ragged or bitten cuticles, especially on nail biters.

This analysis is done on the client’s first visit, at which time the manicurist can determine immediately what natural nail care program the client needs. The various programs might be for nail biters, damaged nails, dehydrated nails or soft/weak nails, among others.

At-Home Products

At this point, the client receives a printed sheet, explaining the basic problems and the program for natural nail care. The client also receives products to use at home and instructions for their use. Typically, this consists of a cream and an oil.

“We tell the client to think of the cream as a medicine they must use twice a day by massaging it into the matrix and cuticle,” Carol explained. “The oil is massaged in each evening before bed; it does not evaporate at night as quickly as it would during the day.

There are two types of conditioners that might be given to clients at Carol Shaw’s Nails and Skin Care. One is a cream with ANP, a derivative of horse’s mane, which is specially formulated for nails. Another would be a cream enriched with keratin. Either of these creams should be massaged into the cuticle and nail plate for two to three minutes, moving the thumb in a circular motion, then downward at the end of the nail.

These products are included as part of the $100 for the six-week program. When it comes to “home remedies” Carol does not generally recommend them in place of salon products.

“Baby oil is too oily and doesn’t penetrate well,” she pointed out. “Soaking nails in white vinegar will tighten the cuticle and will help with any yeast problems, but it’s mostly for sculptured nails and isn’t important in a natural nail care program.”

Carol continued, saying that warm vegetable oil might be good for soaking, and wheat germ oil and petroleum jelly are also good, but she doesn’t encourage home remedies. “We’ve been very successful with having clients use a nail revitalizer, cream and oil.”

After the analysis, and the explanations of in-salon and at-home care, the remainder of the first visit is spent on the initial manicure. Carol used the nail biter’s program as an example of the procedure she uses in a natural nail care program.

“We generally allow 45 minutes to an hour for each procedure ... but we need less time at first because there’s less to do. More time is spent on the massage and on instructions,” she said.

The Massage

“As we massage, we teach our clients how to massage properly when they use the cream and oil at home. We explain that sometimes new nails grow out in an upward direction and they tend to flare out. To correct this, we show the client how to massage products into the cuticle and nail plate for two to three minutes, moving the thumb in a circular motion, then downward at the end so the nail grows down.”

The rest of the massage concentrates on the reflexology points on top of the hand, down each finger, and on the palm, followed by a massage of the lower arm, up to the elbow.

Paraffin Treatments

The five to 10-minute massage is followed by the paraffin procedure. Carol likes to use paraffin that combines camphor and winter-green because of its therapeutic benefits; it’s frequently used in hospitals for burn patients. (Paraffin is also available in other formulations, such as with vitamin E and other herbs.)

Rather than dipping the entire hand all at once, Carol recommends dipping just the fingertips first for five dips. This allows creams to penetrate immediately and acts as a double sealer for the fingertips. Next, the hands are dipped several times, then wrapped and cooled down. Later, the paraffin is peeled off in one piece, like removing a glove.

The Manicure

“We use no water at all in our manicures,” Carol stressed. “Water causes nails to swell, expand, then shrink, and the effect is contradictory to what you are trying to achieve.”

Instead, she uses warm lanolin-enriched cream or a conditioning organic oil for the next step of the procedure. “This is when we pay close attention to the cuticle area,” she said. “We never cut the cuticle away because it serves as protection for the nail and acts as a sponge to collect moisture. We work to improve the cuticle through massage rather than cutting.”

Most nail biters have a thick cuticle that needs to be pushed back gently and gradually. For this, Carol prefers to use a pumice-like Hindu stick (as opposed to an orangewood stick) because it lessens the need for cutting. Next, the nails are treated with a conditioning organic oil.

NO color is applied, and no base coat is used on these early visits so that products can be massaged directly into the nails at home. Carol mentioned that clients tend to follow the at-home program because they don’t want to come in the next week without having done their “homework.”

With each consecutive visit, the client and manicurist can see the nail growth, and Carol pointed out that nail biters’ nails often grow faster and harder than expected because they have not been contaminated with chemicals.

Manicures for subsequent visits are similar, but with more trimming and more pushing back of the cuticle each time. After a few weeks, Carol may introduce a special cuticle conditioner, and more attention is paid to the nail plate as it grows and develops.

Later, if the nails are ready for polish, Carol uses products that specifically fit in with the client’s customized program. For example, she uses one base coat formulated for dry nails, a different base coat for brittle nails, and an extra strength base coat with protein for damaged nails. A nail revitalizer is applied first, followed by the customized base coat and two coats of color.

Oil-base polishes are thick and creamy, and take longer to dry, but Carol recommends them over thin, fast-drying polishes that contain water and can contribute to dehydration of the nails. The top coat sealer is also customized for dry or brittle nails.

In some cases, Carol might consider using a liquid wrap before applying color. Using a base coat of fibers, Carol applies it first horizontally across the tip of the nail. Then she applies it vertically from the base to the tip, creating a criss-cross effect on the free edge. This is followed by a ridge filler, which creates a smooth surface on which to apply color.

Because the acid in glue can dry out nails, Carol’s programs do not include silk or linen wraps. “But fiber mesh is good,” she said. “There’s no roughing up of the nail bed; you just clean the nail plate and use a special adhesive that has no acid.”

Cuticle solvents and removers are also avoided because of their drying effects.

Finally, the most important aspect of the nail biters program is the psychological support. “Nail biters need a lot of stroking, a psychological pat on the back to build their confidence,” Carol observed. “That in itself is what they need.”

You also need to set a realistic goal for your clients. The six-week program is just to get them started and established. Realistically, it will be two to three months before they begin to see a free edge above the tops of their fingertips. They should be aware of this so they don’t become unnecessarily discouraged.

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