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I had a client who is a runner, and her toenail was on the verge of coming off. What should I do?


I had a client who is a runner, and her toenail was on the verge of coming off. She wasn’t in any pain, but she wanted to try to have it look nice for an upcoming event. What should I do?


I’ve actually had this happen to several clients (mostly runners) over the years and each situation is slightly different, depending on the circumstances and how attached the old toenail still is.

Normally, when a toenail is half off and a new one is forming underneath it, you can hear a hollow sound when you tap on top of the old nail with an orangewood stick. I visually check under the free edge to see what the attachment status is, then I check around the sidewalls, and then back at the cuticle.

If you can’t see or hear that the nail is on the verge of falling off, then I recommend leaving it alone. Eventually it will shed. I’ve pedicured many clients with toe injuries like this, but the worst one was full of blood under the toenail and it was pretty juicy, and I suggested she show it to a doctor. 

But judging from the photo (no blood, pus, inflamed skin around the nail), I’d remove the polish, gently clip the free edge and file it if I could. If it was about to come off, I’d have the client remove it herself. I do not want the liability problems, nor do I want to cause the client pain by me trying to remove it. If the skin is tough enough underneath, you can sculpt an acrylic, but in this case I’d go with trying to keep the nail for the event.

Keep the foot out of the pedi water, remove polish, and fill in the lifted part with a thicker resin, then gently buff the nail and polish with more neutral colors so it won’t be as noticeable. Warn the client that the nail will probably shed in a couple days.   — Jill Wright is the owner of Jill’s - A Place for Nails, in Bowling Green, Ky.

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