Nail Tech Talk: Lauren Mitchell of Phenomenail Wales
By Callie Iley | 25 March 2023 | Feature, Tech Talk
After leaving her job as a horse riding instructor due to a life-changing diagnosis of an invisible illness, Lauren Mitchell of Phenomenail Wales opens up about how becoming a nail technician helped her regain confidence and purpose.
“I had acute onset Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension, known as IIH, so I went completely blind within a two-week period and had to have emergency neurosurgery only two days after diagnosis,” Lauren remembers. “I have a VP shunt, which is like a permanent lumbar puncture.
“I’m now partially sighted, and my sight fluctuates depending on the pressure in my head. I also have tremors. Some days are worse than others. Before I did nails, I was a riding instructor, but my illnesses destroyed my career. I had to give up my horses as I was too ill to take care of them.”
“It’s so difficult with an invisible illness. People don’t see your daily struggles. With IIH, everything is in soft focus, and my depth perception isn’t reliable. Straight lines aren’t always straight and sometimes objects disappear altogether. There’s a constant rushing sound, and pain that is indescribable, yet people think it’s just a headache.
“After having neurosurgery, I completely changed,” she shares. “I forget words now. Simple words are on the tip of my tongue, but I just can’t quite reach. I was in a very dark place for a very long time, and I lost so much self worth and confidence in myself.”
“Without sounding soppy or cliche, this job has saved me and given me purpose again, and it’s happiest I’ve felt in years.”
Having trained with Glitterbels’ deputy head of education and Hertfordshire educator, Jennie Nippard, and nail artist and Glitterbels ambassador, Chilla of Zara Nails, Lauren now works from her home-based salon in Neath, Wales, offering a range of nail services.
In the salon, she offers gel polish, builder gel in a bottle, acrylic extensions, silk/fibreglass extensions, and nail art, including character art and 4D designs. Lauren also creates custom-made, reusable press-on nails. Her most popular treatments in the salon are acrylic nails with a design, or builder gel. Lauren has also noted the popularity of nude shades and blue tones with clients.
“An average day in my nail life starts with double checking my appointments and looking over any inspo pics my clients have sent over on WhatsApp. I start setting up and begin welcoming clients, always checking throughout each service that they’re happy with the shape, colour and design so that I can adjust if need be.
“I’m not necessarily the fastest tech in the world. I’m still fairly new to the industry and I’d rather have things done right than rush,” Lauren explains. “I clean down and have a decent break in between the next client. I get very fatigued due to my IIH, so I try not to overload myself with too many appointments.”
“Day to day does vary for me despite my routine. I have my appointments in Booksy, an appointment book and an appointment board to help me, as repetition helps me retain information,” she says. “My headaches and sight have to be dealt with on a day to day basis, and I try to get as much downtime between clients as I can.
“My magnifying glass is my life saver – I couldn’t be without it! Depending on the service, I only do 1-3 clients a day. As much as I want my business to make money, that’s not why I’m doing this. I love doing nails and it has been so good for me to feel like I’m a part of the world again.”
Lauren cites her accolades as the highlight of her career. “It’s such an honour to have all of these award bodies thinking that I’m worthy enough to be a finalist in their awards. I’m hugely grateful for this. Mastering acrylic is a close second highlight for me.”
Her background in teaching inspires her to one day pursue education in the nail industry. “I would truly love to go back into that field and become a nail educator, but it’ll be much later in my career.”
“I love working in the nail industry because of how amazingly supportive everyone is. I’m honestly overwhelmed with how encouraging everyone has been. My educators have been fantastic, even when I have my mini meltdowns,” Lauren laughs. “The people on Glitterbels support pages are huge cheerleaders. I can’t sing their praises enough.
“The advice I would give to techs dealing with IIH or a similar illness is to take baby steps, but always forwards. You are not alone and you are definitely worthwhile.”
“Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t do something today – there’s always tomorrow to try again.”