Salon owner, educator, former Scratch columnist and award-winning nail stylist, Katie Barnes, reveals how to tackle common characteristics of damaged nails…
One of the most challenging roles we play as nail technicians is the role of repair man or woman. We all have clients who come to us with weak, thin and damaged nails seeking guidance and an instant resolution. However the damage was caused, whether it was via improper application and prep, improper removal or just neglect and abuse, clients often expect their nail tech to be a magician that can make the damage disappear instantly. This may be possible, when dealing with neglected nails that just need some TLC and a good manicure but when more severe damage has been caused repairing this can take time and dedication from both client and tech.
There is a fine line between playing repair man and doctor. While we may have a good idea of the issue, as nail techs we cannot diagnose nail disorders or conditions and there are times when you will have to refer your client to their GP.
What caused the damage?
Firstly, you need to get to the route of the damage:
- Does the client bite or pick their nails and/or cuticles?
If so, unless they break this habit, any repair work that you create will be wasted. Clients can be culprits of biting nails or skin, picking or have a habit tic which is a deformity that occurs when they repetitively pick or push back their cuticle. It is important to sit down with the client and offer a thorough consultation to figure out what will work best for them. Ask questions about triggers, if they’ve ever been able to stop along with general nail condition. These are all significant things for us technicians to know in order to tailor a realistic rehabilitation program that suits each individual client.
- Was the damage caused by improper application or removal?
If this is the case, how severe is the damage? Would putting enhancements potentially cause more damage or would it actually help protect the nail and help the client grow out the damage? If the client comes to you with very thin nail plates with exposed nail beds, you should not touch these until they have healed. The nail bed is living tissue and nail products should not be applied to living tissue. Sometimes, an enhancement is the best solution on damaged nails as it can protect the nail from any further damage.
- Could it be caused by a medical condition or nail disorder?
Any abnormalities on the nail can be the sign of a nail disease or disorder but can sometimes indicate an underlying medical condition. In this case, always refer your client to their GP if you or they have noticed their nails have changed in colour, texture, shape or thickness and there isn’t another reason such as improper treatments or abuse.
Aftercare is paramount
As well as the tech providing the service correctly and professionally, further damage will only not occur if the client also takes care of their nails at home by following your home care advice and sticks to regular maintenance appointments.
While the solution you offer may not always be the answer the client wants, their natural nail and skin health and your professional reputation is important and you must stick with your gut instinct. If ever in doubt, refer your client to their GP first.
When dealing with damaged nail clients, the transformation in these nails and confidence boost this can give those clients is exactly why we choose this career. They appreciate your skills like no other client and the journey you go on with that client can be extremely rewarding.
Love Katie B x