Sunday, May 14, 2017

Russian Manicure Part 1 - Video reviews

If a nail trend has ever given me the willies, its the Russian Manicure (a.k.a combined manicure, Korean manicure, machine manicure). The effect is clean and stunning....and almost always not something that is within scope of a nail tech's license. Having said that, I will say that there are certain parts of the technique that are useful and can be done by a well trained nail tech without damage to the client. But there are other parts of the procedure that literally amount to minor surgery. Lets break this down.

First, a side note. Lets remember throughout this that the eponychium is living tissue and should never be cut. From the book "Nanotechnology in Dermatology":
"The skin bordering the proximal nail plate is called the eponychium. It does not end at the nail plate, but instead folds back underneath to create a tight seal which prevents pathogens or contaminants form gaining access to the matrix area... [It] serves to help protect and cushion the matrix. This tissue is often mistakenly confused with the cuticle... The cuticle is a vital part of the seal that protects the matrix from pathogenic invasion, which explains why this area should be treated with care when manicuring."
Back to our regularly scheduled post:

In the first video, they are using a variety of bits to "clean" the cuticle and eponychium.
  • First, a fine small diamond cylinder bit is used to remove visible cuticle stuck the nail plate. This could be okay, as long as the bit is very fine and care is taken to not over file. There is quite a bit of "dust" on the nail when they do this which is nail plate dust. I don't think that bit is very fine.
  • Second, a needle bit with a blunt edge is used and they instruct you to go "as deep as possible" into the nail grooves. My problem here is that they start pushing under the eponychium to "clean" the cuticle - and in the process are breaking the seal that the eponychium gives to the nail matrix.
  • The third bit is a corundum (stone) bit - which is porous and not disinfectable. You would need to use a new bit for every client. They are using it to smooth the nail plate. This is the third time they have gone over the same area around the sidewalls and eponychium of the nail with a rapidly spinning bit. I don't care how soft the bit is, at this point you are starting to take layers of the nail off.
  • Fourth they use a tiny diamond football (or bullet) to go over again to go even more deeply into the nail folds.
  • A round diamond bit is used to clean raised skin (they keep calling it cuticle but its really living tissue). They also use it to file down the hard, dry skin at the corner of the nails. That makes sense to me, its the same as filing calluses on the feet .

Even worse is the video where they do the same manicure but add scissors. They say that there are 2 instances that you need to use scissors - the first is when your client has "damp cuticle" and is too elastic to get with the machine and the second is for new techs who are not comfortable using the round bit.
  • In this video they show a client with healthy eponychium that is a bit overgrown. They first dry out the moist eponychium with baby powder and then push back the stuck eponychium, (again they keep calling it cuticle, which is wrong)
  • They then use the diamond bit to remove cuticle on the nail plate (which they keep calling pterygium, which is also wrong) and to push up under the eponychum that they pushed back in the first step. Their goal is to raise that eponychium off the nail plate in order to be able to grab it with scissors later. They use the same bit along the sidewalls
  • They powder the skin again to dry it and then use a scissors to cut off the raised eponychium., This is the part where I can't help but cringe.
  • Next they are using a corundum (stone) bit to remove the cuticle that is leftover on the nail plate and smooth the nail plate. Again these bits are porous and not disinfectable.
  • They next use the round diamond bit along the edge where they just cut off the eponychium to further raise the skin "for later cleaning" and then file any raised skin off using the same bit as well as filing down any hard skin on the sides of the nail.
  • They use another corundum (stone) bit to smooth the skin around the nail. 
  • Then they push back the eponychium with a pusher again. How much trauma can this finger withstand??
What are your thoughts on these procedures??

Part 2 of Russian Manicures -  the Consequences and Experts Weigh In coming soon!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

My answer to Quora post: What are the drawbacks of wearing acrylic nails?

I frequent as a means to try to do my part in busting myths about nails. (Sigh, it really does feel like an uphill battle sometimes.) I thought that it would be good to share my response to this question here as well 🙂

All images are not mine and were taken from Google images.

First, a disclaimer: as a licensed nail tech, I truly believe that any type of artificial nail can be worn without damage or infection if done correctly. I’ve worn nails for over 20 years and neither I nor any of my clients EVER had the issues I am going to describe below. TLDR at the very bottom
OK. The first drawback is the lack of education in the nail industry. You are more likely to find a poorly trained (or even untrained and unlicensed) nail tech than you are going to find one that is well-trained and knowledgeable about the science of nails. Even nail techs who are licensed are only trained in the basics, so you need to look for one who is not only licensed (in the US, other countries may not have licensure) BUT also has a lot of continuing education under their belt Just having a license is not enough.

Untrained/under-trained nail techs often do not understand the chemistry of nails. They don’t understand (or care) that mixing product brands and being sloppy with application (liquid all over the skin) can lead to overexposure and can cause allergic reactions or dermatitis in their clients. Once a client becomes allergic to products, they can never again wear artificial nails because almost all of the various products we use are chemically related. (Some are chemically different, but who wants to go through this every time they try a new product just to see if it doesn't happen again?)

Damaged natural nails. Nail damage is not inevitable when wearing artificial nails. Acrylic itself does not damage the natural nail. Improper application and removal damages natural nails. And untrained/under-trained nail techs are almost always just following procedures that were taught to them by other untrained/under-trained nail techs. When applying acrylic nails, the tech only needs to use a very fine file to gently break up the blocks of oil n the nail There is zero need to shred or etch the natural nail with today’s advanced acrylic products. But an untrained tech doesn't know that so they use a coarse file or an electric file with a coarse sanding band to remove layers of the natural nail (makes me cringe to think about).

Then when they file the top of the acrylic nail or do a fill, they are improperly using an electric file again at the wrong angle and they cut into the the natural nail causing “rings of fire”which you can see through the acrylic in this pic:

And then when nails are removed, they are either picked or pried off, which brings layers of the natural nail with it:

Bad removal vs good removal: (not my image, got it off the internet :))

MMA. This is a post unto itself, so I will try to be brief. MMA is an illegal (the FDA says it is hazardous and deleterious when used on nails) acrylic nail liquid that is still used in cheap nail salons because it is so cheap. It doesn't stick well and REQUIRES rough etching of the natural nail (thinning and damaging it) to get the product to adhere. But once adhered, it is overly hard and attaches too rigidly to the natural nail - meaning if you break a nail, instead of the acrylic breaking, it tears your natural nail off the nail bed. It is also extremely hard to remove and so most salons who use it will pry the acrylic off the natural nail, further damaging it MMA is the reason the myth that acrylic nails damage the natural nails still exists. (Gross pics follow)

Unsanitary salons: Fungus is not something that is destined to happen with acrylic nails, but it can happen if the salon you frequent is unsanitary. So can other infections such as mycobacteria , pseudomonas, and even Hepatitis.

So yes, there are risks with wearing artificial nails if you go to a nail tech who is poorly trained (and sadly, its something like 80% of nail techs that fall into this category)

Monday, May 1, 2017

Once and For All, UV Lamps are SAFE

In November, 2008, a study was published that claimed that UV Nail Lamps caused cancer. In this study two healthy women with no family history of skin cancer developed melanoma after repeated use of nail salon UV lamps. Of course, the internet grabbed on to this story and ran with it. The problem is, the study was faulty. First of all, the sample size was 2 people. Two. Both who live in Texas - which, if you don’t know, is a very sunny southern state in the US. The study also made faulty conclusions based on the UV output of tanning beds, which are significantly stronger than the UV output of nail lamps and they assumed the UV-A energy exposure from nail lamps would fall within the estimated range determined to be potentially carcinogenic.
Since then, at least three additional studies have been completed, all coming to the conclusion that UV Nail lamps are indeed safe.
The Lighting Sciences study in 2010 concluded that “UV-B output is less than what occurs in natural sunlight and is equal to what a person could expect from spending an extra 17 to 26 seconds in sunlight each day during the two weeks between nail salon appointments” and “UV-A exposure is equivalent to spending an extra 1.5 to 2.7 minutes in sunlight each day between salon visits, depending on the type of UV nail lamp used.”
In December, 2012, The Massachusetts General Hospital /Alpert Medical School at Brown University study concluded that "Nail lamps are safe for over 250 years of weekly manicures, and even then there would be a low risk of skin cancer”. They also concluded that “Although some sources of UVA and UVB contribute to the development of KCs [keratinocyte carcinoma], UV nail lamps do not appear to significantly increase the lifetime risk of KC. Dermatologists and primary-care physicians may reassure patients regarding the safety of these devices.
Testing by Sayre and Dowdy in July 2013 found that found that UV nail lights were even safer than expected. “All of the various UV nail lamps submitted for evaluation were found to be significantly less hazardous than might have been anticipated based on the initial concerns raised…” They also confirmed that UV nail lamps are NOT equivalent to tanning beds or indoor tanning lamps, largely because nail lamps use vastly different types of UV bulbs which produce different ranges of wavelengths with significantly lower intensities.
In addition, “The study demonstrates that UV exposure is so low that a worker could put their hand under a UV nail lamp from this study for 25 minutes each day without exceeding established internationally accepted safe limits or ‘permissible daily exposures’.”
In numerous interviews and research, Dr. Sayre has stated that the use of UV nail lamps does not contribute to the risk of getting skin cancer and that the emissions from UV nail lamps are safer than that of natural sunlight.
In 2013, The Skin Cancer Foundation put out an official statement that “even the most intense of these devices presents only a moderate UV risk – a far lower risk than that presented by UV tanning devices”. Of course, to play it safe, they still recommend sunscreen, as they do with any UV exposure.

So, in conclusion, UV lamps are completely safe. There is no evidence that these lamps cause cancer and there has never been a cancer case proven to have come from these lamps in the 30+ years they have been in use. You may wish to mitigate risk by wearing sunscreen if desired.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Dip Systems - take 2

If you read my previous post, you would see that a major con of “Tip & dip” systems is that they just do not last as long as acrylics or hard gels. I don’t mean they don’t last as long between appointments – that, of course, depends on nail prep and the growth rate of the client’s nails – rather, they tend to break down after a few fills as nail resin is not cross-linked and therefore is very porous and susceptible to moisture and the environment. They crack and yellow and need to be removed periodically and reapplied.
Young Nails SlickPour System

Since my last post on the subject, the trend seems to have shifted in the use of these systems to be not so much an alternative for acrylic or hard gel nails, rather they are now being touted as an alternative for Gel Polish, something I am finding very interesting indeed.

Basically, techs are now soaking off and re-applying a whole new set at every appointment. They are not using tips and they are using colored powders instead of the traditional clear or pink and white powders.  Personally I think dip systems are much better suited to this type of application then the “tip and dip” acrylic alternative method that has been pushed since the 1980’s. 

Only time will tell if this usage of the dip system will finally make it a staple in the nail industry or if it will once again fade away only to be resurrected a few years later as the “latest and greatest new thing”.

Tell me - how do you use dip systems? 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Business Basics: Professionalism

The contrast between my life in the beauty industry and my life in the business sector is astounding. I used to work in a Human Resources support role for a Fortune 500 company in their Organizational Development department. In that role, I was exposed to training and expectations for their high level executives. The expectations for business professionals is vastly different from how the majority of beauty professionals act nowadays - and its not that beauty professionals have a less important job by any means, its that business and the importance of professionalism isn't even touched  in the beauty industry unless you take a rare advanced training beauty business class.

Look, I get it. This is a creative industry. You did not go to school for business because its too stodgy/ boring/{insert adjective here}. Except you DID go into business - the beauty business.   


Professionalism is a set of character strengths and values directed toward high quality service to others through one's work. It encompasses the skills, knowledge and behavior that you use at work and that you present to the outside world as a beauty professional, even if not at work . Let me repeat that - even if not at work.   If you are representing the company in any capacity - even just talking about where you work to an acquaintance -  your behavior will be judged in relation to your job.

Professionalism isn't how you look, it's how you behave.  It's saying what you mean, doing what you say, and getting the job done.  People who act professionally are regarded better by both peers and clients, make more money and are seen as experts in their chosen field.   People who act professionally are valued by their company. Professionalism establishes boundaries to clients. It promotes respect and minimizes conflicts.

Of course, how you look still matters. Being neat and clean is important in order to look professional. What would you think if you went to a doctor who was wearing a sloppy, stained sweatsuit and had matted, messy hair? Your opinion of their professionalism - and probably their competency - would go down and you might even be uncomfortable seeing them.

Characteristic of Professionals - in ANY Industry

  • Neat in appearance - while professionalism is a set of behaviors, appearance still matters, ESPECIALLY in the beauty industry.
  • Polite and well-spoken but not cocky
  • Reliable
  • Competent in their role and always striving to become experts in their field
  • Ethical
  • Organized
  • Accountable for their actions - they admit their admit mistakes and correct them and don't try to blame others
  • Maintain poise - they keep their calm in difficult situations
  • Respectful of others - customers, superiors and co-workers alike

Professionalism is important, even if you do not work for a Fortune 500 company. By maintaining professionalism, you will go further in your career, make more money and be regarded as an expert in your field.  Its a win-win situation!

Unprofessional Behavior

Unprofessional behavior happens, but a true professional will strive to not let it happen and to minimize issues when it dies happen (to them or someone else in their place of employment.

Unprofessional behavior can include:
I love this picture! from LinkedIn

  • Being late or skipping work.
  • Discussing taboo topics or your personal life
  • Swearing
  • Being defensive
  • Being unresponsive
  • Being disrespectful
  • Not keeping promises
  • Blaming other people
  • Being fake
  • Lying and stealing
  • Poor communication
  • Arguing in front of clients
  • Insults, verbal comments, or criticism intended to belittle or berate others
  • Verbal outbursts
  • Conduct that can be considered harassment or discrimination
  • Verbal or physical threats of violence, retribution, or lawsuits
  • Any of these examples

I highly encourage you to keep reading and researching on the subject of Professionalism and even take a class if you can. It is an extremely important piece of making a viable career that is not talked about often enough in this industry.

Resources and References

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Business Basics: Communicating with Clients

This is your new mantra: Clients are not your friends.  They pay you to do a service.  You are a professional.

Acting professionally isn't just about how you carry yourself while at work, nowadays with social media, it is also about how you carry yourself in your online presence.

Social Media

Clients are not your friends.  They pay you to do a service.  You are a professional.

Social media: noun; websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or participate in social networking. See: Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Tumbler, Snap Chat, Periscope, Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit, LinkedIn, blogs, et cetera, et cetera.

Social media has made it so easy for an average Nail Tech (or any one else) to market themselves quickly, cheaply and effectively.  For a small business, or even an average technician looking for clients, social media is an amazing invention that allows free, instant self promotion. However, it is that "instant" piece that gets people into trouble. Always think before you post! I have seen nail techs post the most unprofessional things on their business pages. From one person who literally posted that they were looking for a surrogate to have a baby, to another who posted a meme that was taken as anti-religious and who lost a lot of religious followers due to that single post. And many, many more who post negative things about other businesses, people, their baby goes on and on. Your personal life and professional life should NEVER be intermixed in your social media.

Spelling and Grammar Count!

A professional social media page needs to be proofread. Misspellings and poor grammar bring down your professional image and credibility.  I know typos happen to the best of us - but if you do not know the difference between your and you're or too, two and to, look it up before you post something. It may sound trivial, but it absolutely brings down the image of you as a tech, the image of the industry as a whole and perpetuates the "nail techs are just dumb people who can't hack a real job" myth.  Poor grammar and spelling comes across as unprofessional and gives the impression that you don't take your role seriously.  In the business world, you will never see an advertisement with misspellings or poor grammar because that would present a very poor image of the business.

Similarly, proper punctuation and capitalization show professionalism just as much as proper grammar and spelling.

Social Media is Advertising

As I said above, in the business world, you will never see an advertisement with misspellings or poor grammar because that would present a very poor image of the business.  Social media is your advertising platform, treat it as such. There is an entire profession of people who do nothing but craft advertisements and marketing campaigns. If you are going to compete with corporate salons who use professional marketers and advertisers, you need to act professionally on your business social media pages. Period.

Text Messages

Clients are not your friends.  They pay you to do a service.  You are a professional.
No one is saying you can't text your clients - in this day and age more and more clients prefer to text over calling for an appointment. The main thing is that you set boundaries with your clients.

If your lawyer or doctor or dentist texted you at 11 pm "smh. I SAID I would get you in on sat. you hv to lmk when"  What would you think?  Not very professional, right? Personally I would find a new lawyer/doctor/dentist if that happened.

Ideally you would have a separate phone number for work, but if for some reason you cannot do this, you will need to learn to manage your work texts.
  1. There are many services that you can set up to take online and make text appointment reminders.  Yes they have a service fee but it may be worth it to you to save your sanity. Acuity Scheduling is one and is only $10 a month  and Appointment Tell is a service that reminds clients via text, email or phone message and may also be helpful if you don't need a full scheduling software ( I am not affiliated with them, nor have used them, just pointing out these services exist).
  2. Use Google Voice - you can get a second phone number that forwards to your cell/home/work phone and you can dictate hours in which to receive calls and texts.  Use that phone number for clients.
  3. Make it very clear on your business cards/websites/social media that clients can text your phone during business hours only (of course there will always be clients who don't read or care about what you put out there...)

In Your Chair

Clients are not your friends.  They pay you to do a service.  You are a professional.
Having said that, yes you will sometimes have actual friends in your chair.  And some regular clients become very close with you after years of seeing you.  But in your chair, they are clients.  They are paying you to do a service.  You need to wear your "professional" hat and put the "friend" hat away for later. Yes, you can be friendly but keep in mind that topics of conversation in any workplace should not start a debate or invoke strong emotions.  Politics, religion, your health, your finances, risque jokes, sex and sexuality, problems in your relationships, gossiping about coworkers...all of these are majorly "off limits".  I realize it is hard when the person sitting across from you has know you since grade school, but remember this is your career, not your living room, and if you work in a salon or spa with other people anyone could overhear you.  Keep it neutral.

By keeping your place of work professional, clients will respect you.  Once you start becoming too informal, they start to think you are friends and should give them discounts.

Say it with me now: Clients are not your friends.  They pay you to do a service.  You are a professional.

You can do this!

References and Resources:

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Myth of Solar Nails

In the 1970's the Nail Industry was an unregulated industry and most nail technicians used MMA from dental supply houses to form acrylic nails. One day in the late 1970's, a patient of Dr. Stuart Nordstrom, a dentist from California, remarked that the product that he was using to prepare temporary caps for her teeth smelled like the product that was used on her nails (called "porcelain nails" instead of "acrylic nails" back then). This sparked Dr. Nordstrom to develop SolarNail, the first acrylic nail product formulated to be thin, non-yellowing and strong. Which lead to his company - CND (Creative Nail Design) being formed in 1979.

Over the years CND has innovated and produced better and stronger products and the original SolarNail Liquid was discontinued. However, Radical SolarNail - a much improved version of the original SolarNail liquid - still exists. "SolarNail" remains a trademark of CND.  In the early 1980's SolarNail became synonymous with Pink and White French acrylic nails due to a marketing campaign done by Creative Nail Design. The marketing said that SolarNails were better than regular Acrylic/Porcelain nails because they were formulated specifically for nails (or something like that).
Notice Solar Nails on the menu :(

Fast forward to today. There are salons that still advertise "Solar Nails" as being "better" than acrylic nails. This is referring to the very old marketing campaign I mentioned above which said that said that SolarNail was superior to the MMA acrylic commonly used at the time. It was superior at the time. The thing is, they didn't really highlight that SolarNail was a brand of acrylic. They were trying to differentiate themselves from the thick, yellow, horrible acrylic or "porcelain" nails of the time. And it worked.  CND has a habit of marketing themselves as something different - take Shellac, which is a brand of gel polish made by CND. It is gel polish, but their marketing campaign is such that it calls itself a hybrid and claims to be something completely different than other gel polish. Chemically, there is a bit of difference between Shellac and most soak off gels, but that doesn't change the fact that as a product category, its just gel polish.

Unfortunately, CND's marketing works so well that to this day, there are people who believe that SolarNail is a completely different product from acrylic nails.

OK, so what have we learned?

  • SolarNail is acrylic nails (remember, Liquid + powder = acrylic)
  • SolarNail is an old, discontinued brand name of acrylic from CND
  • Solar Nails almost always mean Pink & White nails, though almost never mean they are using SolarNail products (being discontinued and all).
  • Clients are very trusting and believe salons that tell them Solar Nails are a thing.
  • Salons that use the term "Solar Nails" are stuck in the 1980's and/or are knowingly misleading clients. Is this the type of salon you want to patronize?


The Problem With Social Media "teachers"

Eep! I just realized it's been over a year since I have posted anything!  Ah, life tends to catch up with you doesn't it? Well I have tons of post drafts just waiting to be edited and I hope to start geting them out there for you soon!

Just a few years ago, we had to rely on books and in-person teaching and an occasional online forum (hi,!) to learn and collaborate with people.  Social media is amazing and the ability to share ideas, learn, network and more is there at the click of a mouse button.  Instagram is a fantastic place to see other tech's work. YouTube has a proliferation of videos on "how to do nails".  Facebook has groups galore with nails as the subject. It can be the best place to learn new things. Or the worst.

I follow a number of people on Instagram and YouTube - online nail "celebrities" - and am appalled at the number of problems I see being shown in the short videos they post. And so many of them are offering classes - even though they have never trained to teach and are using outdated and potentially harmful techniques.

I am not saying don't use social media, just to take what you see with a grain of salt. Over filing the natural nail, too much liquid and mixing product lines are all things I see online way too often. As an informed tech, it is up to you to do your research, know what is acceptable and what is not  - and when you see a tech online doing amazing nails - except they are slopping monomer all over the finger and mixing acrylic brands - you can take the good ideas that you see and leave the bad techniques.

Do what you can to keep this industry safe and healthy! There is no point pointing out to the tech that they have a bad habit or were poorly trained - you will get called a troll and there will always be people to stand up for them no matter how much you make sense  (been there!)

Keep Learning!!