Monday, October 31, 2011

A Yelp Review for Yelp is not a big hit here in the South Valley... at least not yet. But then, it's only been in the last few years that my fellow Visalians seem to have come to fully embrace the Internet at all.

I discovered Yelp accidentally several years back while Googling myself... Yes. I know it sounds dirty. I think Google did that on purpose when they chose their name.

Nevertheless, as a small business owner, I realized that the Internet was the future of customer referral for my type of business long ago. I've been working hard to maintain a strong web-presence for as long as I, myself, have had Internet access. It actually drove me nuts for many years that my customers seemed so non-plussed about the Internet at all. But-- THANK YOU STEVE JOBS!-- as soon as the iPhone hit the market, I saw a distinct change in attitude toward Internet use among the people I see and talk to IRL every day.

So, occasionally, when I have a little extra time, I Google myself-- just to make sure I'm findable.

And so it was that a few years ago I discovered And that's how it all began:

When I stumbled across Yelp, I had already closed my Court & Walnut location and gone back to a booth rental set up at Attitudes Salon. When I did this, I forwarded the land line phone # to my cell phone for a month and made sure to point this out in my outgoing voicemail message so that callers would take note to change their contact # for me. Then I cancelled my account with the phone company and have used my cell # as my primary business contact number since 2007.

Unfortunately, this meant that I was initially unable to claim my own business with Yelp!

There are a lot of "peer review" style sites out there in cyberspace and many of them simply add listings from the local telephone records-- I assume that's how Yelp had a listing for The Art of Nailz to begin with. But since the number on file was the land line number, I had no way of claiming my business listing because they were unable to verify my claim by calling me.

I looked through Yelp's site and sent off an email to their contact info-- to no avail-- so I simply wrote a review for the business.

Oh yeah. I know. I'm not supposed to do that! Oh NO! Ok... well, I've read through Yelp's TOS several times now and it doesn't really say "YOU CANNOT DO THIS" so much as they repeatedly use the term "we discourage this..." at any rate, I wanted to let anyone who came across the listing to at least know what happened to the business.

Then I added the salon where I was working at the time, wrote a review for the hair stylists, and happily nodded every time one of my co-workers said they'd gotten a new client from Yelp.

Then I moved to my current location. I created a business profile on Yelp, still had that lost-in-space listing from my old location, and-- since I have a new land line (for the credit card machine)-- Yelp created a new listing for the "new" business.

So I had, essentially, 3 listings. Stupid. But I was totally unable to get ahold of anyone at Yelp to take care of it.

Until they decided to contact me.

Naturally, all they really wanted to do was sell me advertising. Which left me in a frustrated, exasperated state of hysterical laughter and simultaneous irritation and incredulousity (that's a word, isn't it?)  I did manage to finally get someone to condense all 3 listings into one page. BUT NOW, the 4 reviews-- and I'm willing to just count the 3 legitimate reviews from people other than myself (from that first listing, remember?)-- are "filtered."


Well, apparently I'm not the only person who has experienced the Yelp Review Filter and been left with the feeling that I've been groped by a toothless stranger on a bus-- because it's obviously such a common complaint that they've seen fit to include a significant discussion of the issue in their FAQs.

So... I have been looking for a way to review Yelp itself. So far, I haven't figured it out. So I'm just gonna do it here:

Yelp sucks. Like Communism: it's better in theory than in practice.

I WANT-- desperately want-- to love Yelp. I think it's such a great idea. I like the idea of  peer review sites. I like the idea that my clients have a place-- a place that gets noticed-- online to talk about how great I am. I even-- gulp-- like that the clients who don't think I'm great, can voice their opinions as well. It gives me an opportunity to "listen in" on what people think of my and my business. That's extremely helpful to me when it comes  to deciding how I do business.

I also like the idea of Yelp as a consumer. I like being able to look up a new doctor or a restaurant or salon and find out what people in the community think of them.

Because, let's face it, the marketing that businesses do for themselves is all about us telling you how great we are! And sometimes we are great, but not for the reasons we think, and sometimes we're not as great as we think.

Ok. So... I also totally get the concept of the Review Filter. I understand where the Yelp-masters are coming from when they talk about trying to weed out "fake" reviews. Yeah, we can review ourselves. Disgruntled employees can review their companies; people can review their competitors, their ex-girlfriend/boyfriend/spouses' businesses... there are lot of opportunities for people to leave less-than-accurate reviews and ratings that unfairly tip a business' reputation pro or con. And Yelp can't send a duly appointed representative to each and every place/person to check up on it-- not to mention that duly appointed representatives are generally (still) human beings and are subject to persuasion too.

And I get that Yelp doesn't have (and probably doesn't want) the manpower to individually read and assess each review on the site to determine if it should be posted or not.

So, in essence, I get that Yelp built a fancy piece of software to crawl their site and review reviews. And so, I get what Yelp is saying about the filtering process.

What I don't get, don't like, and think is stupid, is that they've "filtered" ALL my reviews. And I'm not sure I think that makes sense. And not just for me, personally, but in other cases for other people dealing with the stupid too.

I think, maybe, the Filter should "think" to not hide ALL of a businesses' reviews. That's crap. All 4 reviews were made by separate people, from separate accounts, using separate IP addresses, so the Filter shouldn't be thinking they're duplicates.

Hopefully my reviews will eventually be un-filtered again and show up on my business profile. But, in the meantime, Yelp is a review site. How does it make sense to essentially "erase" ALL the reviews a business has accrued?

Especially in an area where the site is just starting to see regular use? Doesn't it make sense that Yelp would want businesses to have reviews? No one wants to keep checking your site for reviews if there are never any reviews.

Is this because I laughed at your advertising prices? .... oh sure, I read that in the FAQs too, all about how Yelp doesn't "punish" businesses for not advertising with them... but, ya gotta admit, seems coincidental.

I don't pretend to be Good Will Hunting-- I can't "reverse engineer" the fancy algorithms that are used to determine credit scores, or Yelp Review Filtering. But I wouldn't be surprised if some of the variables used for the filtering process are the number of overall reviews any particular person has written overall, the number of reviews a business gets within a certain time frame-- like if I get 20 reviews all in one day, it might be because I told people to write me a review and I'd give them each a cookie for doing it-- and ratings, like, if I get 27 reviews and they're ALL 5 stars, maybe that makes the Filter think, "hmmmm, I wonder if she's bribing them with cookies?"

But, like I said, Yelp isn't big here yet. In fact, after my conversation with the Yelp rep about their ludicrous ad prices, I spent the next 2 days asking everyone I spoke with if they'd ever used Yelp-- overwhelmingly the response was "What's 'Yelp?'" And my hair stylist said she only knew about it because I wrote a review for her.

People don't love constantly being required to register for a site and set up a profile-- I guess, eventually, we'll all be able to use our Google or Facebook accounts to sign in for ANY site-- but so far, Yelp isn't playing that game, but Yelp requires you to create an account and log in in order to write a review. That's more effort than many people want to make. And yeah, I tell people all the time to write a review for me--  I never tell them what to say, I don't want to bake cookies to bribe people. I'm not trying to sway the results, just introduce people to the site.
I have hopes that Yelp will figure out a more accurate filtering process. I expect that Yelp will eventually see far more use here in Visalia. And, as long as they continue to play nice with Google, Yelp will grow and prosper. But I am ticked that they now tell me that my business "has no reviews" just because they've been "filtered" shouldn't mean I go back to square one altogether!

But-- I'm not going to bother to keep posting reviews if the reviews I write are going to get trapped in a filter. And my clients aren't going to write reviews for me if their reviews are going to get hidden. And I'm not going to keep encouraging people to use the site if it's going to end up that their efforts are for naught.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Myth of "Solar Nails"

I hate to bust anyone's bubble, but there's no such thing as "Solar Nails." Well... then again, maybe sort of...

Fortunately, none of the salons in my backyard are trying the old "solarnail" farce, but it has become SO prevalent throughout the country-- and even several other countries-- that it's really worth discussing!

I realize that I'm getting old. As in officially a "grown up" now-- which has its own ups and downs that go WAY beyond the nail world! But let's talk nails!

Back in MY day, we didn't have a little nail salon on every corner offering cheap-ass nails with no appointment!

Acrylic nails didn't really become affordable for the average person until the early 80's, and many folks my age probably doesn't really remember anyone they knew actually getting nails until the mid-80's.

You had to get out the phone book, look through the yellow pages, and start calling salons to find out what they charged and when you could get in. Most salons charged somewhere between $40 and $60 for a full set, and $25-30 for fills. No one did pink and white nails, and EVERYONE did handpainted nail art!

Very few nail techs used tips back then. Tips were what they pulled out and dusted off when they had to put a set of nails on a really bad nailbiter.

So you pretty much called back the cheapest salon and tried to get in THAT day! Which was almost never possible, so you either ended up making an appointment and waiting for your nails, or you chose a salon that charged more, but could get you in sooner.

Well, 20-some years later, there IS a salon on every corner offering cheap-ass nails without an apointment. They slap on some tips and use a fat-ass brush to throw some clear acrylic down on top, they file it fast and airbrush you on your way out the door. The technique is almost universal, no matter what salon you go to, no matter what city you live in.

Except, after awhile a lot of people who were going to these places started noticing that these nails LOOKED cheap. They turned yellow, they were crooked, and several of us old-school perfectionists that still take pride in our work were referring to them as "chicklet" nails because they often lacked an arch in the middle of the nail and it looked like someone had just pressed a big ole chicklet onto the nails. Yuck.

Now they do something called "Solar nails." "Solar nails" differ a little bit from salon to salon, town to town because "solar nails" is a made up name to describe a technique-- not a product-- like Rockstar nails, which we've heard my rant about!

In most cases, "solar nails" are pink and white, and carefully shaped and squared off, and many salons actually sculpt "solar nails" on top of forms old-school style, instead of using tips. OR they use a white tip with a clear or pink acrylic overlay.

The problem is that there are SO many girls getting their nails done now who are too young to remember the good ole days! Many girls have never stepped foot into an upscale salon, or been to a salon where they had to make (and were expected to keep) an appointment! And even if they are aware of such salons-- it's probably some boring, expensive, hoity-toity place where their moms or grandmas go.

Awhile back I was hearing a lot of people referring to "solar nails" as "new." They aren't new! They're JUST pink and white acrylic nails! Same as I've been doing since before I even got my license!

They aren't fancy, they aren't new, they aren't special, and they aren't different from acrylic! They are still acrylic, they are just pink and white acrylic.

And acrylic isn't SUPPOSED to turn yellow!

Basically "solar nails" is just a marketing gimmick. It allows these salons to compete with upper scale salons by stepping up their quality. It also allows them an opportunity to make more money by differentiating services.

And let's face it... these people need to make more money! Com'on people! Really? You think $15 is a fair price for a full set of nails? Even if it only takes half an hour, by the time they cover the cost of products and overhead associated with the cost of doing business, they don't even come close to pulling in minimum wage! All too often, many of these salon workers are working in situations that most of us would consider sweat-shops.

I-- and many state regulatory agencies-- have some issues with the sub-standard business practices and disregard for public and worker health and safety, but beyond that, it's just a shame that so many people are out there working so hard to make pennies on each dollar earned.

Anyway... my point was to help everyone understand the truth behind "solar nails." That they ARE ACRYLIC NAILS, not something different, better, or special.

Acrylic, btw, is still an excellent scuplting medium for artificial nail enhancements. It remains the cheapest, and the most durable product available. Acrylic products come in a staggering variety of colors, and quality of product. Just because one product turns nasty yellow colors, or gets brittle, or lifts on you, doesn't mean that ALL acrylic will. There is a BIG difference in products, and not all acrylic is the same.

One more thing: there is a product manufacturer named "CND" which stands for "Creative Nail Design." CND has been manufacturing nail products for decades now. They produce very high quality products for the professional nail industry and you can see their ads in many of the fashion magazines.

CND makes a product called "Solar Nail." This was their big selling acrylic line in the 90's when I got into the biz. Now they make "Retention +," "Moxie," and "Radical Solar Nail," among other lines. "Solar nail" remains a registered trademark of CND. It is the name of a specific line of acrylic-- and it is almost never the type of acrylic used in salons that offer "solar nails."

Now you know. Don't get duped. Choose a salon that knows it's stuff and is willing to talk about it! These are CHEMICALS that are being applied to your fingers! You deserve to know what's in them and how they work!

Them Ain't Gel Nails

There are few things that come across my desk (metaphorically AND literally) that make me wish I could afford a multimillion dollar national advertising campaign to tell everyone the TRUTH. If only there was some way to get the word out....

Oh yeah... I have the INTERNET!

My little blog may not always be that interesting, and it may not get all the attention it deserves, but I get enough public and private comments on some of the entries to know that at least a few folks read it. Hopefully those few folks will advise a few more folks to read it, and so on and so on until enough people get the information that I can rest assured that all is right with the world once more.

People, I hate to break it to you, but GEL nails are done with GEL. Gel, as in gelatinous, as in jelly. It's called "gel" because it's a GEL.

Gel nails are absolutely, positively NOT made with liquid and powder.

There are some products out there that call themselves "gel" that do not use a UV lamp. These are made with cyanoacrylate resin-- same stuff as Crazy Glue-- and I guess the resin IS sort of a gel, so calling them "gel" isn't really wrong.

And you can add powder to gels. Like, sprinkling on a little acrylic powder for added strength. It's arguable as to how effective this is, but some folks feel like it makes a difference.

But gel nails are NOT made by dipping a brush into a liquid and then into a powder like acrylic. This is acrylic. The liquid is called "monomer" and the powder is called "polymer," when you mix the two together you create a polymer resin that is applied directly to the nail where it hardens ("cures" is the proper term) into a hard plastic polymer. Voila! Acrylic.

Gel nails are created by brushing an oligimer directly over the nail and then exposing the gel to Ultra Violet light, which reacts with a photoinitiator in the oligimer (gel) which starts the chemical reaction to cure the gel.

Gels come in a bunch of different viscosities (thicknesses) and there are few different chemical compositions of gels on the market as well as different systems by different manufacturers who have different directions for applying their products. So although one salon may use a gel that is squeezed out of a tube, while another salon uses a gel that is in a little pot, and one salon may use the same gel for every layer while another salon has three different gels for three different layers... the main thing to know is that GEL IS NOT A POWDER!

It is true, I know of at least one company that produces a product that they call "powder gel." Sorry, no such thing. Powder is not a gel. Gel is called gel because it's a gel.

There is such a thing as a light cured acrylic. Liquid and powder that are combined like acrylic, but use a photoinitiator as a catalyst, instead of BPO (Benzoil Peroxide) in the powder, like a traditional acrylic.

I know I know I know! It gets SO confusing! That's why it's been SO EASY for salons all over the world to rip their clients off by claiming to be offering a premium service such as gels when they are really just plopping down the same old acrylic and charging you double!

And if you think YOU have been getting ripped off just because you never took Organic Chemistry don't feel too bad just yet! Most nail technicians never took Organic Chemistry either! Most of us have NO CLUE about the chemistry behind our products! And even the top notch gals I hob-nob with in the industry can get overwhelmed when we start talking science. Especially when there's SO MUCH of it to try to understand!

And here we are, trying to cram a doctorate degree's worth of chemistry into our heads while also making room for physics and microbiology! And we're trying to do it all within the 2 weeks we have before our client shows up for her next appointment so we can answer all the question she has about her nails!

Meanwhile, not only are we trying to understand the basic science of what most people consider an artistic field, but we also have to sift out the difference between what is fact, vs what is marketing from product manufacturers who want us to use their products.


It's enough to make ya want to just work at Starbucks... except Starbucks won't let you have your nails done.

I just wanted you to know what gel really is. How to determine if you are getting what you are paying for, because it seems that a lot of salons out there are charging extra for something they aren't doing!

Oh yeah, and gel nails are done with gel. All gel. You can brush the gel on over a plastic tip, or you can scultp gel onto the nail with a form, but the entire nail is made of gel. Some gels are thick and can be sculpted on all at once, many gels are thinner and work better if they are built up layer after layer... but all the layers are done with gel. Not an acrylic nail with a gel topcoat.

Gels come in a bunch of colors, like polish. They can be done in pink and white, all clear, colors, or even mixed up with glitters for Rockstar.

Gels are still a premium service in the United States. Many schools don't teach gel techniques and most state boards don't require it on their practical exams.

Gels require a very different technique than acrylic for application. It seems like it would be as easy as polishing the nail, but it's really not. I found that out the hard way myself!

Also, gel products are, on average, 3 times more expensive than acrylic products. So yeah, they cost more, if you find a salon that doesn't charge more for gel, tip your nail tech a little extra-- cuz she's short changing herself.

Really?! You Want a FISH Pedicure?

By now you MUST have heard about the infamous "fish pedicure." Some salon back east (that's what we say in CA, "back east," it means I've forgotton exactly which eastern state this is in and I'm too lazy to look it up just now) has started offering pedicures that involve sticking your feet in a tub of water with a bunch of small fish that EAT the dead skin off your feet.
Yes. You put your feet in an aquarium and the fish EAT the dead skin off.



Live fish.... your pedicure soak.

My boyfriend thinks this is a FABULOUS idea and if we were made of time and money, we would buy a ticket and hop on a plane and go "back east" to this salon so he could have these fish eat all the dead skin off his feet.

Meanwhile, the professional industry is AGHAST at the notion! Seriously, I have seen few things that have shocked and disgusted my colleagues like this fish idea.

Nevertheless, just the other day, a fellow nail tech posted to one of our professional forums that she was starting to get REQUESTS for fish pedicures. The calls are starting to come in as the public hears about it-- they want to know if we offer it, when will we offer it, and how much will it cost?

Thing is, most of us are ICKED OUT by the idea of the fish pedicure and we have NO intention of offering the service.

The problem as most of the pros see it is that we can't figure out how it can be considered sanitary? State Boards (the government agencies that typically regulate the salon industry) across the nation have been issuing more stringent rules for disinfecting pedicure equipment in the wake of a slew of infections resulting from poorly disinfected pedicure spas, improper disinfection of implements, and illegal use of Credo blades. (Illegal in many states-- basically a razor blade in a plastic handle used to "shave" off calluses-- WRONG on so many levels! Don't make me start a whole new blog!) One woman has actually DIED as a result of an infection that she developed after a botched pedi!

So here we are, with all these nasty nasty infections breaking out because there are so many people out there doing sub-standard work for customers who don't know any better (btw-- it is NOT "just nails" and the worst that can happen is you DIE! So start demanding higher standards from where ever you get your nails done!) when along comes FISH!

Ok. Here's where I was until about 5 mintues ago-- I can't help but admit that the idea of paying someone to have fish eat the dead skin off my feet DOES ick me out.

Problem is, I really can't say why. I think the fact that these fish exist is WAY COOL. These fish evolved (unless you don't believe that-- then I guess these fish were created...) JUST to eat dead flesh. DEAD, not living tissue. They live in places where animals come to bathe-- scientists call them "doctor" fish, but in reality, they REALLY ARE "Spa" fish!!! How cool is that?! And there's not really any reason they can't give humans the same spa treatment they give hippos.

So why is it icky? I have NO trouble going swimming in lakes and rivers. I've put my hand in the aquarium before-- usually to make sure the placostomous is just hiding out in the little ceramic tiki hut and hasn't keeled over in there-- but still, not afraid to touch fish.(and, if you're a Hitchhiker's Guide fan-- I SO WISH I could get a Babble fish to stick in my ear! Not icky at all!) And these little spa fish don't have teeth at all. They can't hurt you. They are probably SAFER than any other rasp, file, pumice stone, and ESPECIALLY razor blade for removing callouses.

So, I spent my last week thinking, why NOT use these fabulous little fishees to make our feet baby soft?

I'll tell you why.

Because I can't buy jalepenos. THAT'S WHY! Because there's a guy who is SUEING Walmart because he bought some jalepenos and then he got SICK. (insert whining voice.)

Because a few weeks ago we couldn't buy TOMATOES. Because people were getting sick, and nobody knew what was causing it but everyone who was sick had recently eaten salsa-- so a bunch of people thought it must be the tomatoes. So the FDA started testing tomatoes. They didn't BAN tomatoes. NOOOOOO!

Our friendly grocery stores and restaraunts VOLUNTARILY stopped selling/serving tomatoes. They didn't put up a warning sign and give us the opportunity to make an informed desicion to take responsibility for our own actions and possible consequences thereof-- NOOOOO! They just stopped selling/serving tomatoes.

After 800+ cases of salmonella St. Paul, and a bazillion tested tomatos that weren't contaminated-- the FDA proceeded to scratch their heads and said, "Hmmmm, maybe it's the peppers?" And proceded to start testing peppers.

Suddenly the tomatoes were back on the shelves but now I can't buy any *&!ing peppers!
And this morning I read a story in the newspaper that some guy is sueing Walmart because he bought some jalepenos and then got the dreaded St. Paul Salmonella.

After reading the FDA's website about the recent salmonella outbreak and the facts about salmonella in general... it turns out that every year about 4,000 cases of salmonella are reported and confirmed in the United States, with approximately 400 deaths occurring from the infection each year.

Meanwhile, this particular strain of Salmonella-- the St. Paul type-- has, last time I checked, resulted in over 1300 cases with only ONE DEATH that was only PARTIALLY attributed to the salmonella! That's right... the only person who has died after being infected with Salmonella St Paul already had terminal cancer. Which means that the type of Salmonella bacteria that we normally see 4,000 cases of in an average year has about a 10% fatality rate! But this far rarer strain of St. Paul Salmonella has a less than .001% fatality rate but America is so freaking germophobic and sue-happy that it is keeping me from making an informed choice to go ahead and buy jalapenos.

And THAT is why you shouldn't get a fish pedicure! Because what's going to happen when someone gets an infection because they put their feet in an aquarium with those little fishees and their little FISHEE POOP when they had a busted blister, or hangnail on their baby toe, or a small cut where they scraped an ankle or stubbed a toe?! and heaven forbid they're diabetic! or turn out to be allergic to the fishes!

It's hard enough for the government to regulate our industry, and there are many within the industry (myself included) who believe the government has no business trying to regulate the beauty industry-- That they are out of their league and that they shouldn't be responsible for policing an industry they know nothing about. But our culture is growing progressively unwilling and consequently unable to take care of itself, expecting the government to play nanny to them and keep them "safe." Safe from whom? Ourselves and the consequences of our own poor decisions?

Folks, there is NO way to completely disinfect any sort of tub where you are putting your feet in the same water as fish. Even if these poor little fish are getting dumped into a new tub with each new service (and how traumatic do you think that is for the little critters?) with fresh water for each client... those fish poop. And there's no way to potty-train fish. And poop contains bacteria... and bacteria can cause infections. How do you expect the regulatory agencies to respond to this?
Because some day, SOMETHING is going to go TERRIBLY WRONG, and the same people who are lining up today for fish pedicures will be clambering to join a class action lawsuit against the same business they have patronized for years; seeking legislature to protect others from the same service they are RAVING about today!

If you want a fish pedicure, fine. Just own up to the fact that it doesn't take an ichthyoligist to realize this might not be the best plan for smoothing those calluses, so if something goes wrong don't be too quick to find an attorney because maybe some of the rest of us still want jalapenos!

(originally posted at on 8/20/08)

MMA Is Not For Nails

MMA is an abreviation for Methyl Methacrylate Monomer. It is a chemical compound. MMA makes acrylic. But NOT the kind of acrylic you want on your nails!

MMA is dental acrylic. It's what they make fake teeth and crowns out of. And even dentists are starting to use other chemicals now because MMA is just so gosh-awful bad for you!
It's also used in industrial applications-- they use it to hold concrete together and to glue tiles to cement floors. This stuff is STRONG.

Back in the early days of acrylic nails it was the only stuff available. We got it from the dental industry. But it didn't take very long at all before it started causing problems and by the early 70's (that's right, acrylic nails have been around THAT long!) so many women had suffered allergic reactions to it and/or had major trauma to their own nails because of it that the FDA got involved.

The FDA reviewed the complaints it was receiving, did some research and declared MMA to be a "poisonous and deleterious substance" under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (which was initially put in effect in 1906.)

So the FDA said, "This cannot be used for nails" (well, I paraphrased that actually) in 1974 and it was supposed to be taken off the shelves!

By that time a lot of companies had already figured out that acrylic nails were going to be BIG and they didn't want to lose all the money that was sure to be had in the industry-- and they didn't want to see the industry fail either-- so they found alternatives.

Now we use EMA (ethyl methacrylate monomer: one letter makes a BIG difference in the molecule!)

EMA creates a more flexible acrylic that is more likely to break under stress. The molecule is WAY huge compared to the MMA molecule-- which means it can't penetrate the nail plate and is far less likely to cause allergic reactions.

Unfortunately, MMA is still available because it gets used for so many other things than nails. And it's cheap. CHEEEEEEAAAAP. A gallon of MMA can be found for about $15 where a gallon of cosmetic-grade EMA goes for over $200. That's a big difference!

So if you've ever looked around and seen those banners for full sets at $15 and wondered why they were so cheap when the nice salon up the street is charging $65 for a full set? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that one out.

So what's so bad about MMA?

Well, I really didn't know much about MMA until I got fired from a job back in 1995 for refusing to use it. I ended up down at the library for hours researching and making photocopies. And let me tell you-- this stuff is illegal for GOOD reasons!

First off, if you work with it long enough you will inhale a lot of the vapors that evaporate off the liquid. This gets into your body and slowly poisons you. Possibly to death, since it can cause pulmonary edema-- build up of liquid in your lungs. Now that IS a worst case scenario and to my knowledge no one has ever died from MMA poisoning in a salon environment.

But what it DOES do is cause a bunch of problems with your brain and central nervous system that is classified as "brain dysfunction."

It can cause loss of memory and dementia. It can cause nerve damage that will make your fingers and toes go all numb and tingly. It causes birth defects-- specifically causes spinal cord issues in fetuses.

Most clients will never have to worry about these things because they just aren't exposed to MMA often enough or long enough to inhale that much of it. But if you ever wondered why all those people are wearing masks?

Sadly, wearing a paper dusk mask will NOT prevent you from being poisoned. The vapors penetrate those masks and go right into your lungs. The masks just keep the dust out. (and, btw, a lot of techs wear dust masks because of the dust, so don't jump to conclusions! But if EVERYONE in the salon is wearing one AND their acrylic nails are dirt cheap? Get suspicious!)

What YOU (the client) have to worry about is the chance of developing an allergic reaction. The molecules in the monomer (remember! Monomer is the liquid-- and it's the only place where MMA is a problem) are so tiny that they can get into your skin and soak through the nail plate. This means your body is more likely to notice the foreign substance and revolt! Which is essentially what an allergic reaction is.

I see a LOT of people who develope allergies to acrylic. And what kills me is that so many people working in my industry don't have a CLUE about chemistry. So almost everytime they assume the problem is caused by the primer and will try to switch products.

This doesn't work. Sometimes it helps for a fill or two, but eventually I end up with a new client who can't wear acrylic and thinks I'm a goddess because I have stuff that is hypoallergenic.
Allergic reactions show up as itching, swelling, redness, and little blisters all around the nail.

Take a look at that photo.

That's a nail with MMA. OUCH! Notice how the nail itself is still in excellent shape? But the natural nail has been torn off the nail bed? That's the big problem with MMA. It's so strong it doesn't always break, that's why the FDA got so many complaints!

Women were getting their nails torn off their nailbeds! Then they were getting infections, some of those infections were going all the way down to the bone in the finger and then they had to have part of their finger amputated!

This is all the more a problem in salons that don't bother disinfecting properly. They just keep using the same drill bit and the same files and the same buffers over and over and over until they wear out! They don't even bother WASHING them between clients! Let alone DISINFECTING them according to the LAW!

(did you know that California does not recognize disinfectable buffers and files? They make us throw them out after each client! No. It is NOT legal in California to keep files and buffers to reuse on the same client! It's like a Q-tip-- once it's been used it has to be thrown out! You can't wash it, and you can't even use it on the same person again!)


You can show this blog entry to as many people as you can! The more people understand about getting their nails done safely, the better!

Written by Maggie Franklin, posted at 

Finding a Good Nail Tech in Your Town

How many times have I run into someone who tells me that where they live there AREN'T any nail salons where English is the primary language, or that there AREN'T any nail salons where they live that disinfect, use top notch products, etc.

Look folks, this just isn't true. I spend hours online networking with other professionals who are constantly saying that they are having a hard time building a clientelle because the consumers in their area don't CARE about a clean salon, or a nail tech who speaks English, or uses high end products and offers high end services...

So, how is it that Group A can't seem to find Group B?

So here are some things to think about next time you go looking for a good nail tech:

A. If you want clean, professional, knowledgeable, and talented-- it's going to cost you. There is a REASON that some nail techs charge $65+ for a set of pink and white acrylic nails when there's a salon on every corner with a banner on the window advertising a new set for $19.99. These two services are no more the same than a Hyundai is the same as a Mercedes Benz.

I do not understand how people who know the difference between the clothes at Walmart and the clothes at Nordstrom's can't seem to make the same connection between a 20 dollar set of nails and a 65 dollar set? --and believe me! I'm using that $65 figure as a baseline for an upscale set of nails. Depending on where you live, a high end nail tech might charge anywhere from $50 to $150 for a set of nails!

By the same standard, I've seen low end salons advertising nails for as low as $9!!

According the newest data available (Nailpro Essentials, 2008) the AVERAGE PRICE for a new set of tips with overlays is $41 in the U.S. And the AVERAGE PRICE for a new set of Sculptured Pink and White Acrylics is $48. If you are paying considerably less than that, you are receiving considerably less than average work-- and considerably more than that typically represents considerably higher than average work.

Some adjustments need to be made to account for what might be "average" in your area, of course and there are always some exceptions to the rule on both ends of the spectrum-- but I trust you aren't stupid and can figure that much out for yourself.

B. Once you come to terms with the fact that you aren't going to be able to get really GOOD nails for the cost of a McDonald's happy meal, you'll need to come to terms with the fact that you are going to have to schedule an appointment if you want some quality time with a quality nail tech.

We do business the old fashioned way; we develop a relationship with our clients. We like to know who's coming in, we like to make sure we have reserved the appropriate amount of time needed to do your nails the way you like them, we learn your name, we want to know about you-- tell us who you are, how many kids do you have, where do you work, show us pictures of your grandkids (but please don't bring them with you.) We hope you like your nails, please let us know if you have any problems with them, and we hope to see you again.

Many of us are in demand-- even when we claim we are slow (like I have been lately) it can be difficult to put a claim on a piece of our time. Especially if you require an appointment after 5 p.m. So call in advance and be prepared to wait a couple of weeks, or be placed on a waiting list that might mean waiting several months before you get in! If you are able to schedule appointments during regular business hours, it'll increase your chances of getting an appointment sooner.

C. Be prepared to commit to your appointment.

We don't have you schedule an appointment just for fun! This is a RESERVATION. By scheduling an appointment, you are entering into a verbal contract to receive a service in exchange for payment. We agree to set aside a specified time period in which to perform that service. Once that time is reserved, we can't give it to anyone else. So if you default on your reservation-- we don't get paid. This is just like booking a hotel room. You have a certain amount of time to cancel that reservation, but after a specified point, you're credit card will be charged for the first night's stay even if you don't show up.

Many high end salon professionals have cancellation policies. In most cases, there is a minimum amount of notice required to cancel or reschedule an appointment. 24 to 48 hours is common. If you don't give enough notice, the salon professional will probably expect you to pay a fee. Usually the fee will be equal to the cost of the service that was scheduled.

Don't get all huffy about this. Just like the hotel that charges you for holding that room even if you don't show up-- it is not our fault that you were not able to keep your end of the agreement. We were there, with time set aside, waiting to give you a great set of nails. If you "forgot," "totally spaced," or just plain decided to blow us off-- it is unfair to expect us to cheerfully reschedule you and take the risk that you will deny us the opportunity to work for a living again.
Most salon professionals will take emergencies into consideration-- I once had a client miss an appointment because her husband suffered an aeortal hernia and had to be airlifted to Stanford University for emergency surgery... I let that one slide. On the other hand, I have had clients remember to call to cancel their appointments while they were IN THE EMERGENCY ROOM awaiting emergency surgery!

Believe me! when a 16 year old can call her nail tech to cancel her appointment because she has had an ovarian cyst rupture and needs emergency surgery, it will NOT bode well for you to expect me to overlook my cancellation fee because YOU decided to go shopping with your sister but didn't bother to let ME know you wouldn't be getting your nails done.

D. You will have to look for us.

The vast majority of high end nail techs are working in high end salons. Possibly fancy day spas. Possibly in home-based salons or even alone in small studios. We are not (usually) located in the mall. We are not (usually) in strip malls. We do not advertise our services with faded neon-colored banners, or window decals of 1980's style Nagel prints. You will not stumble across us accidently by walking into the salon next to your local laundromat.

If you are looking for a high end nail tech, you might start by inquiring at your high end hair salon.

You might start paying attention to the nails of people you see daily. When you see someone with really nice nails, ask her where she has them done. Ask questions. Are you looking for someone who speaks English well? Are you looking for someone who does gel nails? Who does full acrylic instead of using tips? Who does nail art? ASK.

Google probably knows: I have a friend in Denver who does nails, one of her clients found her because she asked Google for "the best nail tech in Denver."

E. Pay attention to what Google tells you.

Google (or any other search engine) may not link you directly to a nail tech's or salon's website. For instance, Google refuses to link to my own website. The ways of Google are mysterious and I can't figure out why it doesn't like my site but Google will link to several sites that are about me. Including this blog. [edit 10/25/12: This blog was originally posted on Myspace in 2008. My website was originally located at/hosted by lycos/Tripod. I have since moved the hosting to Blogger and the site Googles very well.]

Even if the links aren't directly to websites that are interesting to you, they may tell you a lot about a particular nail tech or salon. Do the search results link you to articles from industry trade magazines? Isn't it a good sign when a nail technician has been featured in magazines for other nail technicians? Are there links to local newspaper articles? Community involvement?

F. Don't just look for pictures.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a nail tech can do awesome nails and still not be at the top of her game. I've seen great talent that used products with MMA, didn't disinfect-- or never bothered to change her disinfectant in the jar! (yuck) And techs who did great nails, but routinely cut their clients, and used the same files and buffers (non-disinfectable items) over and over on client after client.

G. Find someone you can communicate with.

I hear many people complain about nail techs that don't speak English--Some of the best, and most respected, talents in our industry don't speak English all that well. I certainly hate to think that anyone would walk away from a great nail tech just because English wasn't their first language-- but it IS important to be able to communicate with anyone who is performing a service for you! This goes well beyond speaking the same language however!

I cannot believe how many times a new client has sat in front of me and complained that her previous nail tech never did her nails the way she wanted. Many times the previous nail tech has been someone who speaks English fluently, but didn't bother to pay attention to what the client was asking for, or didn't bother to clarify what the client asked in order to be sure they were on the same page.

Once you know what it is that you're looking for, it'll be easier to find it. We're out here! Just don't go visit your aunt's nail tech 2 states over and complain that there's no one like her where you live until you've actually looked!

I'd Like to Ask a Favor

The beauty industry has really gone through some changes in my time. And not all those changes have been for the best.

For one thing, I learned to do acrylic nails by sculpting them on forms. The only time anyone pulled out plastic tips was for nail biters. Most people who did nails in the 80's considered tips "cheating." But these days, that's all you see!

It's not unusual at all these days for me to have clients who have never seen forms! Sometimes they freak out a little when they see me pull them out, they don't know what they are! Once I explain it and they relax, they almost always end up preferring sculptured nails.

This is because there are a lot of cheap nail salons out there these days that use tips to cut corners. They just grab a plastic tip and slap it on the nail and then throw some acrylic over it and take your money. They don't put much effort into producing a quality set of nails and they don't take pride in their work. They are in it for the money and they make their money by working fast so they can fit more people into the day.

These salons are new too. Visalia has only had them for about 10 years now. But they spring up fast and spread like wildfire. There's one in every stip mall, every shopping center. They are highly visible and easy to find. But why people think that the one in Mary's Vineyard is going to be any different from the one in Packwood Creek is beyond me. Can't you tell they are all the same type of salon?

They advertise cheap rates and don't take appointments. Just like Supercuts isn't much different from The Perfect Cut-- same type of salon, just a different company. Yet I see people all the time who try every single one of the cheap, walk-in nail salons in town before they get on the internet and find my website.

This is different too. Back in my day we had the yellow pages. There weren't any nail salons that did nothing but walk-ins. Some places might take walk-ins, but only if they had time, which was rare.

We had to get out the yellow pages and start calling salons and find out when we could get in.

We made appointments.

People understood appointments better back then. They were just more common, so maybe more people understood that if you made an appointment-- you kept it. OR, you called in advance to cancel it.

This is probably the single greatest frustration I have with the changes I've seen in my business.

People don't know what appointments are anymore. Oh sure, they'll call and make one. But then they just blow it off without a second thought. It doesn't matter if they just decide to go somewhere else, or decide not to get their nails done, or if something comes up and they can't keep their appointment... problem is, they don't tell me.

So there I am, waiting on you. Sitting at my desk with my implements all disinfected and set out, looking forward to meeting someone new. Getting to know my new client and getting a chance to introduce someone to a different type of nail service. A service that is clean and safe, that doesn't hurt, or destroy your natural nails. And a nail-lady who actually cares about who you are. Who wants to have a conversation with you and get to know you.

But you've never met a nail tech like that before, you don't know that I'm sitting there waiting just for you because you've never been to an upscale salon before. You figure that if you don't show up, I'll just take who ever's next in line.

But there IS no next in line, not until my next client is scheduled for her appointment. Because I set aside that time just for you.

And I happen to be self-employed. I make money by doing nails. If I'm not doing nails, I'm not getting paid. I have to do a certain number of clients each day in order to make enough money to pay all my bills. If you make an appointment and don't keep it, then I just sit around, not making any money.

It's hard not to take that personally. I mean, I know you don't know me and you may not have known that you are costing me an opportunity to make a living by not keeping your appointment-- I really do try to remember all this and cut you some slack. But I'm sitting there at my desk not making any money and that gives me a lot of time to start thinking about all the changes I've seen over the years-- and it's just so hard to believe how we, as a society, have gotten so lazy at being courteous to one another.

I mean, back in the day, if you had a flat tire on the way to the salon, or your kid got sick and you had to go get them from school, or your doctor appointment took longer than you expected-- it was reasonable when you called the salon the next day to explain why you missed your appointment. But NOW ADAYS we all have cell phones. Even 5th graders have cell phones! There's just no excuse anymore for not being able to at least send off a quiet text message to give us a head's up when an emergency pops up.

But emergencies are few and far between-- what really bugs is how many times someone just doesn't show up. Just blows me off. Like it's no big deal. Like I don't matter and my time means nothing. And if I call up and politely say "Hey, you missed you appointment today..." that person is SO SURPRISED to hear from me! Like it never occurred to them that by making an appointment with me, I may have been expecting you.

Well, I was. I was expecting you. I cleared my schedule just to sit down and chat with YOU and do YOUR nails. And when you don't show up and you can't even bother to call me or text me to let me know you can't make it-- My feelings are hurt. My feelings are hurt and my bank account is hurt. And I really like doing nails. I'd like the opportunity to do your nails. I don't want to have to find a "real" job. I want to make a living doing nails.

So, next time you call up and make an appointment. Keep it. Or at least call to cancel it. And I don't mean call to cancel it when it's 6 minutes before you're supposed to be there. That's just weak. Call and give a day's notice. At least call the morning of. Just like you were calling in sick to work or school.

OMG! And that's another thing! If you have a nail appointment at 6 o'clock in the evening, DO NOT call me at 5:30 to tell me that you are sick! And then try to get my sympathy by telling me that you are so sick, in fact, that you did not even go to work that day! If you KNEW you were too sick to go to work at 7 a.m. that morning, WHY didn't you call ME right after you called in to work?

Waiting until half an hour before you are supposed to be sitting in front of me is just rude. There is NO WAY that gives me enough time to call someone else and offer them your spot. It takes at least a couple of hours to allow someone else enough time to find out that I had a cancellation, make arrangements for their kids or finish up with what they are doing, and drive to the salon. At least 2 hours. So don't wait till the last minute to cancel.

You can avoid a lot of hurt feelings by just remembering to call me at all, and I'll cut you some slack if something comes up at the last minute-- but if you cancel or reschedule everytime you make an appointment, that gets old. It gets old, and it means I can't rely on you. And if you reschedule all the time and you only give me a few hours notice everytime, that's very stressful and eventually I'm going to learn to stop reserving time for you because I know you'll just reschedule.

So have a little compassion for the people you do business with. You sit with us every few weeks while we hold your hands and listen to you share your ups and downs. You come to be part of our lives and you expect us to pay attention to you and be supportive.

Please return the favor.

The Truth About Minx Nails

So... the thing is, that I have a really hard time selling stuff.

I have to be 120% convinced of everything I say in order to sell something.

So I didn't jump on the MINX bandwagon when it first rolled through town a few years ago. The stuff just didn't seem all that interesting at the time.

Then a buddy of mine who does nails in Houston, TX jumped on that same bandwagon and she can market socks to snakes if she needed to! So Athena start telling everyone over at the Nailtech Mailing List how AWESOME Minx Nails are and how much she's lovin them and how popular they are in her neck of the woods!

So Athena is so into the Minx game that she gets all her colleagues on the networking list all fired up too! So a ton of us start reconsidering our initial thoughts on the product and we run out and invest in the stuff.

So here I am, with about a hundred sheets of Minx and a shiny new heat lamp sitting at my station, waiting for the world to beat a path to my door for this hot hot hot new trend.

Except-- I have the dangedest time selling the stuff. Even to people who call me specifically asking for it!

For one thing, Minx is more of a retail item than a service. Sure, I have to apply it, but I don't create it like I do acrylic or gel enhancements.

For another thing, it's really hard to describe what it is. So I see a lot of confusion in people who have seen it on tv or the internet. A lot of people think it's some sort of revolutionary new enhancement product that is a going to be a great alternative to acrylics; which it is so not.

And it's pricey. It costs me an arm and a leg for each sheet, once I factor in the time and skill required to apply it, it's the same as getting a full set of acrylic nails. But it rarely lasts as long.

And that is where my love for Minx breaks down.

I just can't justify spending the same amount of money on something that will last a week as for something that will last 3 weeks.

Visalia does not have a hoppin club scene. This ain't Hollywood. It's not Miami. It's not Houston. I can totally see how a more ubanized area would have a higher demand for this type of product. If I was headed out to the clubs on the weekend and needed the ultimate look for my nails to match my outfit, I'd be all over Minx.

I think Minx is perfect for proms and special occassions where you want to sport an awesome look for your nails without the commitment to enhancements.

I'm so not going to tell anyone that they don't want Minx! I just want my clients and potential clients to know exactly what it is! I HATE seeing dissappointment in a client's face, and I hate taking the fall for a disappointing product-- like I'm screwing someone over because they thought they were getting something different from what they asked for. So here's the scoop:

Minx is a sticker. That is the absolute most basic, plainest language description I can give you. It's just a vinyl sticker. It's pre-cut into a nail shape and there are 9 or 10 sizes on each sheet. They get put under a heat lamp and warmed up to soften the vinyl so that it can be stretched and molded to the contours of a nail. Once it's pressed down on the nail and carefully fit around the cuticle area and into the sidewalls we let it cool off for a little bit.

Then I use a very fine file to gently file off the excess vinyl at the free edge. Yes. This takes skill. It has to be done very carefully so the vinyl doesn't shrink back from the free edge. It has to be done just right so the vinyl doesn't fray where you file it.

It stays on the nails about a week. If you're really good at not playing with it, then it could last longer, but most people end up picking at the edges and once it starts to lift up on an edge it'll just peel right off. On the toes, however, it lasts forever! I LOVE Minx for toes!

One thing that Minx has going for it is that it's the only way to get a true chrome effect on your nails! No polish, paint, or Rockstar glitter has quite the same effect as Minx. It really is cool looking, there's no denying that much!

So if Minx is what you want, then I'll be more than thrilled to book that appointment for you! I just want to make sure you know what it is before you're sitting in front of me saying, "Oh, that's all it is?"

Polymer, Polycrylic, Polly-wanna-cracker, Plastic Nails...


I about sick and more than a little crazy at the unspeakable amount of ignorance regarding the use of the prefix "poly" that runs rampant through out the so-called "professional" nail industry.

Y'all are killin me here! Seriously!

Since it seems, after a good 10 years already, that a significant number of my colleagues largely refuse to educate themselves on the subject; the best I guess I can do is try to put something out there that reaches the masses.

Before you buy into any manicurist's rant regarding "polymer" or "poly-crylic" nails and nail products-- PLEASE, take a moment to look up the definition of "Polymer."

Did you click on that link? It takes you to the Wikipedia entry for "polymer." Now, I know a lot of teachers and college professors won't let you use Wikipedia as a reference source if you're writing a paper-- but, trust me, it's an accurate enough article to give you a real understanding of what the word "polymer" really means. And, if you read it, you now know that "polymers" are types of molecules that make up a lot of different types of materials-- including ALL, that's right! ALL-- artificial nail enhancement products. Even polish. Or "lacquer," or "enamel," or whatever you prefer to call your favorite pigmented, brush-on nail paint.
The word "gel" gets thrown around rather haphazardly in and out of the professional industry.

The primary problem with the word "gel" as it pertains to nail enhancement products is that it doesn't really refer to any specific type of polymer. The word "gel" just refers to any-- that's right, any-- nail enhancement product that is a gel.

You know. Gel. As in gelatinous. Jelly-like.

The majority of the pros concur that real gel nails are created by coating the nails with multiple layers of viscous liquid (viscous= thick. For our purposes here, that's close enough) that must be cured by being exposed to ultra violet light. Which means that the product is already in a jelly-like state when it leaves the factory. No components must be mixed to create the "gel." UV gels can come in all kinds of containers, from pots or jars to squeezy tubes to polish-type bottles, but if they are UV gels, the container will be opaque. (Opaque means that light cannot pass through it-- as in, you can't see through it.) The containers have to be opaque because sunlight and even regular lightbulbs (especially fluorescent light bulbs) emit ultra violet light-- so if light can get through the container that the gel is in, it will thicken and eventually harden in the container.

I hear ALL THE TIME from people who have been duped by unscrupulous salons that claimed to do "gel" nails, but really just slapped on old-fashioned acrylic (liquid and powder) and sealed it with a gel topcoat.
REAL GEL NAILS are done with EVERY layer in gel. Gel is never a powder. It can't be-- since the whole reason gel is called gel is because it's a gel. Remember?

BUT sometimes you hear the term "no light gel."

"No light" gels are really just nail glue. Usually a thick nail glue, but still nail glue. Which isn't even really "glue" since true glue is made of processed protein and nail glue is made of cyanoacrylate resin-- same as Crazy Glue.

Most pros don't consider these "resin" based products to be true gels, but since the term gel only refers to the physical properties of the product, it's fair to call it "no light gel."

But the thing that makes me CRAZY is how many techs are out there selling their preferred UV Gel product as NOT BEING GEL! And go on and on about how their product is a "poly-"something-or-other.

Folks. I'm here to testify. Their "polymer" or "polycrylic" products ARE gels. Why? Because it's in a gelatinous state.

And what's more-- other gels ARE TOO "polymers!" In fact: traditional liquid and powder acrylics ARE POLYMERS! and "no light gels" ARE POLYMERS! and all uv gels ARE POLYMERS! and nail varnish/lacquer/enamel/polish-- all polymers. and nail glue-- also a polymer.

At least, the resulting, cured products are polymers.

Oh yeah. ALL ARTIFICIAL NAIL ENHANCEMENT PRODUCTS are also acrylates, and all acrylates are types of plastic.

Yes. There are some differences in the chemistry of certain types of gels. That's the problem with such broad usage of the word "gel," since it only refers to the physical properties of the products, there a lot of different chemical formulas that qualify.

And part of the problem is that the companies that manufacture nail products market their products in misleading ways-- they tell the manicurists who use their products that the product "isn't a gel because...blah blah blah" or that their product is different/better/new because it's different/better/made with magical unicorn pee...

Sorry. Did my disdain for companies that intentionally use misleading information to convince licensed professionals of their outright LIES start to slip through there?

Yeah. I am going to have to take a stand and claim that some of these companies are intentionally lying to us-- they have chemists making their products. I cannot, for the life of me, wrap my brain around the concept that a PROFESSIONAL CHEMIST who has GONE TO COLLEGE and OBTAINED A DEGREE IN CHEMISTRY could possibly develop a gelatinous polymer designed to use as a fingernail product and honestly NOT KNOW that it's an acrylate, let alone a gel.

Unless there's something I'm REALLY SERIOUSLY missing in the MSDS. (Material Safety Data Sheet-- very cool piece of paper that list ingredients and lets you know what to do in case someone drinks the product.)


So. I'm not sayin' that there aren't different chemical formulas for all the different types of polymer nail products out there. And there ARE many different formulas for gels. In fact, UV gels are booming in the industry right now and they keep introducing more and more new formulas to the market!

We now have "traditional" or "hard" UV gels that will not soak off the natural nail with solvents-- but have to be filed off the nail. We have "soak-off" or "soft" UV gels that can be soaked off with solvents-- and even then! Some "soak-off" gels soak off very easily and quickly, while some take a really long time. We have gel polishes now-- and there's even different formulas of gel polishes!

It really does boggle the mind to try to keep track of them all.

If your nailcare professional chooses to use a particular formula of gel product with claims that it's not an acrylate, or tries to tell you that it's not a gel or that other gels aren't polymers-- well. These are buzz words and marketing terms that indicate that your nail tech probably doesn't quite grasp the concept of polymers in general. But that doesn't mean her product isn't good. In fact, many of these products are great and I know a lot of people who love them...but then again, I know a lot of people who love other types of gels too.

In the end, it's going to be up to you whether or not you decide to stay with that tech and her product. And that comes down to whether or not you like that tech and feel safe with her, and whether or not you like the way your nails look when she's done with them and whether or not you like the way product wears for you.
I just want everyone to know the true meaning of the word "polymer." That way, you can make up your mind about how much you like a product without thinking it's better or worse for your nails based on erroneous marketing.

Remember-- there are some VERY smart folks doing nails out there! And there are some of us who are very knowledgeable about the products we use. Then again-- there are also a lot of people who only repeat what they get told by their sales rep.

It's up to you to educate yourself in order to protect yourself and get what you really want. And education starts with listening to more than one side of the story and then making an informed decision about what you believe.

It's Not "Fungus"

Let's discuss those green spots underneath your nails...

First and foremost: it is NOT "fungus." That yellow/green/brownish discoloration is a sign of a bacterial infection caused by a little cootie called "psuedomonas aeruginosa." The bacteria lives in water and soil and is very very common in our environment.

Secondly: I can't guarantee that you won't get it. But I DO take special precautions and do everything in my personal power to make sure you won't get it from me.

When you arrive in the salon, I require you to wash your hands using soap and water. This is the first, and most basic, step in making sure that we get started with a clean work surface (ie, your nails) and even if you don't dry your hands thoroughly I will make sure that they are dry before I begin my prep routine.

I know many (I feel safe in actually saying "most") people have never been asked, let alone required, to wash their hands prior to a nail service. In fact, I once had a client who insisted that I didn't know what I was doing because she had not only never been required to wash her hands prior to service, but had actually been refused service because she once arrived at the salon after gardening and voluntarily washed her hands when she arrived! The technician told her that since she got her hands wet, the tech could not do her nails.

Allow me to assure you that this is not the case. Many states have regulations requiring both parties to wash their hands prior to service. And trust me, simply washing your hands will not do anything to negatively impact any product's ability to adhere to your nails. Especially not when followed by proper preparation of the nail plate.

I simply cannot believe that in our germophobic culture where people refuse to push a grocery cart without first wiping it down with a Clorox wipe, that these same people are offended by having to wash their hands before having their nails done.

After you wash your hands I begin services by carefully prepping the natural nail to receive whatever product you choose. This procedure includes a thorough scrubbing with a 99% isoproply alcohol (rubbing alcohol) solution-- and I mean "scrub." I use a nylon brush that has been disinfected in a hospital-grade, EPA-register disinfectant and stored in a dry, dust-free cabinet. This allows me to be sure to thoroughly saturate the nail plate with the solution, making sure to get into any nooks and crannies that could be missed by merely wiping with a cotton pad.

This solution acts to further sanitize the nail plate, remove dust, and dehydrate it to make it more compatible with further prep products that we'll be applying.

Then I apply a nail plate "dehydrator" or "pH balancing" solution. (Different product manufacturers have different products and different labeling.) These prep products dry out the nail plate and make it easier for primers to get a good grip on the surface of the nail plate.

Then we apply primer.

"Primer" used to mean a methacrylic acid solution with a very low pH factor. These primers are still around, widely used, and perfectly fine when used with caution by a conscientious professional. They are highly acidic and should NEVER touch the skin! Contact with skin tissue can (and will) lead to chemical burns.

But many products today are used in conjunction with "protein bonder" or "non-acid" primers...

They are still technically "primers." Technical lingo often gets quite confusing and as specific words and terms develop negative connotations, their usage becomes heavily debated and their true definitions often get confused: A "primer" is anything that is used to "prime"-- or prepare-- a surface for another product to adhere to it.

Nevertheless, whether I apply a traditional acid primer or a protein bonder, that goes on after the dehydrator.

Then I apply the enhancement product.

Acrylic, gel, silk wrap, powder glaze, UV polish-- whatever enhancement service you have chosen.

Once the product is applied and set, then you can relax some. At this point, we have done pretty much all we can to ensure that the application process has been completed with complete attention your health and safety to preserve the integrity of both your natural nail and the enhancement that we have applied.

I never re-use my files, buffers, or those little sandpaper arbor bands on my drill. In fact, in the state of California, it's not even legal for me to reuse those items-- not even on the same person! It's like reusing q-tips or toilet paper-- it doesn't matter if it's on the same person, some things are just meant to only be used once. These items are made of porous materials and even if I put them in the disinfectant, it doesn't guarantee that all the cooties can be killed, so we just throw them out.

All my metal and nylon implements get disinfected according to the state regulations.

I don't even re-use the terry cloth towel that I keep over my lap to keep the dust off my pants (like that even works anyway!)

I work very hard to make sure that I do not contribute to any possible infection!

During the preparation and application process I can get quite snippy with my clients. This is not personal and I have been fortunate that most people seem to understand where I'm coming from, and I'm always happy to explain myself: You need to sit still, facing the nail table (and your nail technician) straight forward. You need to keep both hands on the table. I am working on both hands, not just one, even if I'm only holding one at a time.

It is imperative that you not lean on your hand, brush your hand through your hair, stick your hand inside your purse or your pocket for any reason, or try to eat with your "free" hand. Anything-- and everything-- you touch between washing your hands and the end of the application process is a potential source of infection. Oils, makeup, hair products, and miscellaneous cooties can contaminate the nail plate and lead to service break down.

"Service breakdown" equals "broken heart" to your nail lady. It means that all my hard work to build beautiful enhancements and all my diligence to ensure that those enhancements are built on a clean, properly prepared foundation-- has gone to $&*! It means that there is now an increased potential that those enhancements will begin to lift from the nail plate and that moisture will build up in that space where that nasty bacteria can colonize; leading, of course, to those green spots on your nail.

And that's just speaking of what I can have any hope of controlling while you're here in the salon!

Aside from this, there is the added concern of what the heck you do with those beautiful enhancements when you're out of my sight.

In a perfect world, clients would wear their enhancements in perfect balance with their nail bed (free edge not longer than 1/2 the length of the nail bed;) they wouldn't wear flared or "duck feet" tips that not only mean extra weight at the free edge, but also mean more area of the free edge to get caught or hit on things; and they wouldn't insist on so many embedded embellishments (glitter, confetti, jewels, etc) that the free edges are so thick that, again, they are too heavy for the nail bed to provide anchorage for them, and that they lift from the cuticle area or sidewalls under impact, instead of breaking clean.

Also-- in a nail tech's perfect world-- you would never flail wildly, drum your fingers, tap your nails, add or subtract keys from your key chain, slip when opening your car door or setting your parking brake, put fitted sheets on your bed, take clothes out of the washer or dryer, play fetch or Frisbee with your dog or children, text message on any phone that doesn't have a capacitive keyboard, type, get in fights, or get blind, stinking drunk and simply not have a clue what you did... basically-- your nails would never come in contact with anything.
But it's not a perfect world. Fashion-- not just nail fashions-- aren't always practical, and right now those flared tips are in. And it isn't realistic to expect all my clients to stop working, texting, driving, or essentially going on about their lives-- just because they got their nails done.

So, with all this in mind, here's some advice:

Acrylic takes approximately 48 hours to fully cure. That means that even though I can file on it after about 3 minutes, it's still not entirely "hard." Most cracks and breaks actually get started within the first day of getting your nails done. People walk out of the salon and start banging their nails against all sorts of surfaces. Most people aren't even aware of how often they hit their nails against things. Not being aware of this makes it much harder to avoid it, but try to pay attention to the tips of your fingers! You paid good money to have your nails done, now treat them with some respect and go easy on them.

Cracks usually start inside the nail and work their way out. We've all hit a nail and not broken it, right? But that doesn't mean that the impact didn't cause a fissure in the product-- deep inside, especially during that all-important first 48 hours of application. Once a fissure has started, it will eventually develop into a visible crack. With luck, your nails will grow out and that compromised portion will be filed off before it becomes an issue-- but when you see a crack in the nail, or your nail suddenly "pops off" even though you "didn't even hit it," remember all those times you hit your nails against the table top while you were talking with your hands!

Even invisible, microscopic cracks can let moisture and bacteria in.

If you begin to see green spots (or yellow or brown or black) under your nail-- it's lifting. No exceptions. Something went wrong somewhere along the way and the product has let go of the natural nail and there's a point of entry that has allowed bacteria to get into that space.

While this is not a cause for panic, it does need to be taken care of. You need to kill that bacteria! And the first step to doing that is to make sure that space is dry.

I personally recommend getting the product off the nail as soon as possible if you see any discoloration. And I don't mean by sticking it in your mouth and ripping it off! That just jacks up your nail. Not to mention, this is a bacterial infection we're dealing with, and while a little green spot on your nail isn't something to freak out about-- that same bacteria can lead to some pretty serious consequences if you get an infection elsewhere in your body. So keep it out of your mouth.

Once you get the product off your nail, wash it with soap and water, douse it in Bactine or Peroxide, take your hair dryer to it and make sure it's dry.

Now, here's the hard part: the green spots won't go away. The discoloration is a stain in the keratin of your nail that's caused by a by-product of the bacteria. It is not the bacteria itself. So even after you kill the infection, the discoloration will remain until the nail grows out.

Yeah, you could file it off. But you're just filing down your natural nail, which isn't really doing your nail any good.

And you'll need a doctor to clear you before you can get your nails done again. Because nail techs aren't allowed to treat infections and we're not allowed to work on anything that shows signs of infection or open wounds.

The best thing you can do is help me take care of your nails. I only see your nails once every couple of weeks, you see them everyday. So first off-- pay attention to them. Treat your fingertips delicately and avoid excessive pressure against your nails and fingertips to help prevent stress fractures in the product.

Keep your nails clean, and make sure you take the time to dry your hands and nails thoroughly when you wash your hands.

Use cuticle oil every day: the only time oil makes your nails lift is if it's left on the nail plate when product is applied. When product is applied over a properly prepared nail plate, there is no point of entry for oil or cooties to get between your nail and your nail enhancement. But cuticle oil every bit as important in maintaining the integrity of your nails and cuticles as moisturizer is to preventing wrinkles around your eyes.

A high-quality cuticle oil is made entirely of botanical oils-- contains no mineral oil-- and will keep both your natural nail plate and the surrounding skin tissue properly hydrated. This prevents the skin and nail from drying out, causing those tissues to shrink and pull away from the enhancement product. Dry skin is the number one cause of lifting and cuticle oil is your best defense against it. You don't need to get all greased up, just a tiny drop on each cuticle and then massaged in will do the trick!

Get your nails done! There's a reason that 2 to 3 weeks is what we recommend between fills. It's not just a way of making more money. In fact, I'd love it if all my clients came in once every 4 weeks, that would allow me to see more clients! But 4 weeks is too long to wait. You nails grow about 1/4 inch every month, and as they grow out, they change shape slightly. Nails bend and flex as they grow, some curl up, some flatten out, but the product isn't as flexible as the natural nail and it can't bend and flex very much.

Modern products have made great improvements, but 3 weeks is still about the limit of any product's ability to grow out with the nail before it starts to give.

Getting a fill (or rebalance) is like having the oil changed in your car: you're supposed to do it on a regular schedule in order to prevent things from going catastrophically wrong down the line! It's preventative maintenance, so don't wait until your nails are lifting or broken to have them done, by that time it might be too late.

If you do happen to break a nail or one starts lifting or you see a crack-- treat it with an antiseptic, just like it was a skinned knee or a broken blister. Take precautions to prevent an infection from occurring. Use your hair dryer to make sure the area is totally dry and then seal it with a tiny drop of nail glue-- or remove the product entirely-- until you can get to the salon for a professional repair. And by "until you can get to the salon" I don't mean until your next appointment in two more weeks. I mean ASAP. And if you can't get into your regular nail tech for a proper repair, then either go to another salon for that repair, or take the product off the nail and just wait it out till you can see your regular tech.

Glue is not your friend. It's a last resort sort of thing. And it'll do more harm than good if you don't make sure the nail has been sanitized first; you'll just end up sealing that bacteria in.

Remember: Psuedamonas A. is in most soil and water and other moist environments. And by the time you see a green spot, it's already too late. So make sure you're taking care of those nails, and treat cracks, lifts and breaks like they were open wounds. Clean them, dry them, and sanitize them and I'll never have to tell you that I can't put product back on that nail until the spot is gone or a doctor tells me it's ok.

And once again: I can't guarantee you won't get it, but I do my best to make damn sure you won't get it here.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A new website?

I have had my professional website hosted by Lycos since the 1900's. I love that I can access it anytime, anywhere and that I don't have to pay someone else to build and maintain my site for me: someone who doesn't know, care, or understand my business or give a rat's ass about it. I love that I can just bust into the site and rearrange and update whenever I need to, instead of sending off the edits I want to aforementioned "doesn't give a rat's ass" guy so I can wait for him to get around to updating my site for me-- and then bill me for however many hour he claims to have spent on the task.

Yeah... I might be a tad bit of a control freak. But then again, I think it only makes sense to exert a little control over your own business.

At any rate, after almost 13 years, the Internet has really grown up. I'm actually still quite fond of my host site over at Lycos and I'm not exactly ready to pull the plug on my website there. But since Blogger/Blogspot (what IS this place called, anyway?) has given me the option of adding static pages to a blog which essentially gives me the option to tie in all the same info from my website with a blog, I thought I'd give it a try and see if it turns out to be a good fit or not.

So here ya go: This is now the official Art of Nailz blog and quasi-website. Super easy to manage and maintain.

My original "Fish With a Bicycle" is still here too, but I'll be transplanting several of the nail-related posts from there to here for the benefit of those who wander search engines in desperate search of answers to nail-related questions.

For the time being, I'm going to leave my URLs (artofnailz dot everything and nailsbymaggie dot everything) forwarded to the original site, so if you've come this far and are still wondering what I'm talking about: check out, compare the two sites and then let me know which one you like better and why.