Caitlin Iley

Nail Tech Talk: Abi Hassan of Hot Wheels Nails

By Callie Iley | 15 July 2023 | Feature, Tech Talk

Abi Hassan Hot Wheels Nails Header

With a colourful nail art library & an equally bright personality to match, Abi Hassan, owner of Canterbury-based salon, Hot Wheels Nails, sits down with Scratch to discuss the importance of creating an inclusive & accessible salon space…

Abi Hassan

“When I was a little girl, I looked up to my older sister, who had completed her training in hairdressing. I remember thinking I wanted to do something like that,” Abi remembers. “I was focusing on training as an actor and then a psychologist, so I hadn’t had much time to consider following up on a similar pursuit.

“I never really considered working in the beauty industry except for fleeting thoughts at my nail appointments. I always found my nail appointments to be similar to therapy sessions, I was always made to feel safe to discuss all of life’s ups and downs.”

“Without the deterioration of my health to the point of being a wheelchair user, I wouldn’t be where I am today as a nail tech,” she shares. “I truly believe the universe slowed me down and gave me the time to pause and reflect on where, and more importantly who, I want to be.

“The preface to me completing my nail training was a conversation with my wonderful partner, who suggested I find some fun courses to do to get myself back around people, after a year of being pretty isolated. However, due to the effects my health conditions had on my mobility and energy levels, attending and accessing courses was extremely difficult as the world is generally quite an inaccessible place. I was incredibly lucky with my educator – she was flexible, made adaptations to her training location, and gave me the time to learn at my own pace.”

Abi’s educational journey has taken her to a variety of places, starting with creative beginnings at performing and creative arts school, the BRIT School, where she trained in theatre from the ages of 14-19 years old. Abi continued on to university, completing a degree in psychology, which saw her working as an assistant psychologist throughout the pandemic with the intention of becoming a clinical psychologist.

“My health began to decline at this point in my early 20’s, which was incredibly difficult, but it led to the training I completed with the nail tech who made me fall in love with getting wild and wonderful nails years prior. I trained in nail health, L&P acrylic, gel, builder gel, and my personal favourite, the e-file.”

“Moving forward, my intention is to continue my training to allow me to develop my current skills, and to branch into new areas. I have completed courses in transgender awareness and became a member of the Guild Green Salon Scheme to allow me to ensure my business aligns with my personal values. Additionally, opening a home salon made working all the more accessible, and being able to set my own hours has been so beneficial.

“My main priority when working with clients is nail health,” she reveals. “My most rewarding work has been with clients who had severely bitten, picked and damaged skin and nails. I adore seeing the confidence grow in clients who have initially messaged me asking whether providing a service for them would be possible. I stock a variety of products to suit each individual clients needs and offer personalised aftercare and check-ins.”

Abi’s signature nail style reflects her creative and colourful, artistic personality, and she often wears her own nails bright and bold to match. “I have had multiple clients at their first appointments tell me that I’m exactly who they thought I would, be based on my work,” Abi laughs. “I love having my own nails with the full works – colour, glitter and nail art. As a nail tech our nails can be our biggest advertisement tool; when people ask about or compliment my nails, I tell them about my work and show them my business page.”

“I would have to say rainbow nails would characterise my personality because I love colour and using as much of it as possible in all aspects of my life, from my wardrobe, to my nails, to the rainbow mural in my home. I’m also a creative thinker and I would say I have a strong and energetic personality.

“Coming into the industry, I was worried about not ‘fitting in’ due to my health condition, but I have come to find some truly wonderful nail tech friends who inspire me daily. I’m also lucky to have wonderfully creative friends, including the brand owner of Sitrin (@sitrin_fashion), a beautiful bright and fabulous knitwear line, who can really bring me back when I find myself creatively stuck.

“I also have colours I just love to use together when I need inspiring, like red and pink or the colours from the trans-inclusive lesbian flag,” Abi shares. “I get massive inspiration from clothing or accessories and things around me. I’ve done a set that matches a tote bag and another to match a rainbow bucket hat!”

Nails by Abi Hassan, created to match her clients’ funky floral tote bag.

Abi’s own experiences of inaccessible and non-inclusive spaces encouraged her to ensure her salon offered full inclusivity and accessibility as far as possible. “I think that as nail techs, we can all make changes to make our spaces more accessible and inclusive,” she explains.

“Some of the ways I incorporate this into my work include asking clients their pronouns and sharing my own at the beginning of their appointment, to ensure that I’m respecting their identity; asking clients if they have any accessibility requirements prior to their appointment, and ensuring I can meet these prior to confirming the appointment; being transparent about my space and any challenges a client may face, for example, I share my door measurements for wheelchair users; checking in with the client regularly on their comfort, and allocating time for breaks for clients who may need them; and I have a one-to-one salon space where I offer silent appointments, or the option to play music of their choice, ensuring the client does not feel pressure to maintain conversation and experiences a treatment in the way that they find the most comfortable and enjoyable.”

“As a community, we should be actively educating ourselves on diversity and reflecting on how we can support clients that may need adaptations to their appointment.”

“I’m a part of the Beauty Guild Green Salon Scheme and have pledged to continuously be mindful of the environmental impact of my work. The first step I took and continue to take to reduce my environmental impact is education and research. Secondly, I ensure all of my products come from brands that are vegan and cruelty free. The impact of using animal products environmentally and ethically is massive.

“I use the bare minimum single-use items, and when I do have to, I opt for recycled and recyclable options. I try my best to be innovative in ways to reduce single-use, for example, I give my nail clients the file I have used at their appointment and offer rewards for bringing it back for re-use at their next appointment,” Abi says. “I love upcycling furniture and décor for my salon – not only does this mean I am saving materials from landfill, but I get to enjoy the excitement of transforming things aesthetically, but also customising them to suit my needs.”

“There have been so many highlights in my career so far. When I completed my initial qualifications and had the realisation that I didn’t just want this to be a hobby or something to keep me busy, that internal shift into ‘I can do this’ was a huge highlight for me. Another was when I got an Instagram message from my first client asking how to book in with me, before I even knew how they could book in with me, and when a client told me their nails were the talk of their workplace and everyone looked forward to seeing their next set.

“Being able to finish a set of nails and as I take the photos pausing to acknowledge that I did these, and I love them was another big moment, and, of course, a massive highlight would have to be the opportunity to be featured in Scratch’s Tech Talk series and to share the ways I try to make my salon more inclusive and accessible.”

Reflecting on her future in the industry, Abi shares her hopes of continuing to speak out about inclusivity and accessibility. “I hope that sharing how I’m making my work more inclusive and accessible will inspire others in the industry to consider taking these steps in their own salons and workspaces.

“I hope to continue to grow as a business organically – I’m open to see where my journey as a nail tech takes me,” she smiles.


Follow Hot Wheels Nails on Instagram, here.