Friday, September 30, 2011

It's NOT "Fungus"

NOTE -- This blog was posted by Maggie Franklin ( I've only changed certain things to reflect Oregon law (since she lives in California; some rules of Cosmetology differ state to state) & my own thoughts/notes. Those changes are in italics. Thanks, Maggie!

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.

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 either 99% isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) or CND's "Scrub Fresh" (a pH balancing solution). (side note: Maggie scrubs using a nylon brush, allowing her 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. I *WILL* be doing this from now on.)
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, 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.

In the state of Oregon, files can be reused IF they are marked "sanitizable & disinfectible", and you actually do so properly (cleaned with warm water & soap, and scrubbed thoroughly with a nylon brush, rinsed, disinfected in a hospital-grade, EPA-register disinfectant, rinsed again, allowed to air dry while covered to protect from contaminates, and stored in a dry, dust-free cabinet). I DO NOT reuse toe separators, those cheapy flip flops I give you after a pedicure because you forgot yours, or those little sandpaper arbor bands on my e-file. (California law will not let you reuse any porous item, even on the same person.)

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

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 (I have yet to be asked to do these); 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 (if my clients want them, I'll do them... but I don't have to LIKE it!). 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 (standard polish -- 24hrs). 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. Wear gloves when working with these things (gardening, dishes, etc)! 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, September 28, 2011

New Blog...

For those who are new to this blog, I decided to separate my "personal" stuff from my work stuff (well, on my blog, anyway), so that those friends/family that don't want to read about my work-related junk won't have to. The previous four blogs were cut & pasted to this one, and deleted from that one. Now, it's on to newer things...

First, let me introduce myself to my new readers: I am Dana, and I own ARTISTRY OF THE NAIL in Portland, Oregon ( I rent a room (I refer to it as my studio) in an old, converted home downtown at a full service salon -- SALON SHIBUMI. I love the owner and all the ladies with whom I work. I have been a certified (Oregon doesn't call it "licensed") nail tech since April 2004.

I am a mother of one (almost 12yo girl), whom I refer to as Princess to protect her identity. I am also the stepmother of two -- my SS is 18 1/2, and my SD is 16. Both currently live with their mother, but my stepson may be moving out on his own soon. I have been married to their father since April Fool's Day, 2004 (just three weeks before graduating Nail Tech school).

In this blog, I will be sharing only things work-related... funny stories, things that irritate me, new services, interesting/related articles, etc. I may also share a photo or two periodically. I have set this page up so that all comments must be approved by me before they'll post; it's a *PUBLIC* page, so please watch the language. Thanks!


Originally posted November 30 2010

Since May of 2010, I have created a YELP page, maintain my contacts at three local beauty supplies, and participate in many discussions via FB, beautytech, and NAILS magazine. I have switched over roughly 90% of my longtime clients to Shellac, and more than doubled my clientele (almost all of which have found me on CND's website). I also am currently doing the salon owner's nails as well as one of our hairdressers, and have told the others to "get their butts upstairs".

This gel/polish hybrid has taken off, and there are now many more brands on the market. I have tried OPI's version; downsides are: comes in a pot, have to stir before every use, have to scuff up natural nail, and takes a little longer under the lamp. I also want to try Gelac (by ibd), as they have many more colors available, come in some glitter shades, and will be readily available at one of my supply stores (I hate ordering pro products online). I also have the new lamp (5-finger = less time in my chair = more clients per day) on order, but it probably won't be in until January...

I also recently got a job offer from CND... They want me to be an educator for them in the Northwest. I turned it down. It would entail a lot of travel, and a lot of teaching others, but very little time to actually work on clients in my salon. I am not ready to give that up, yet. I asked them to revisit the offer in a year; we'll see how I feel then.

In the meantime, I love my job. Oh, and Princess recently wrote a paper for class on what she wanted to be when she grew up. She surprised me and wrote about how she wants to be a nail stylist, "just like my mom". I made her promise to get her business degree first (career change, number one...)!


Originally posted September 19, 2010

A long-time client, who turned into a friend a few years ago, Pam, lost her 14 month battle with pancreatic cancer last night. This is the same disease that took my MIL three and half years ago, but Pam was younger and fought harder. Pam also had a lot of friends & family surrounding her.

Her husband, Ben, is obviously devastated, as are their three grown boys, et al. I cannot imagine the pain her family is feeling right now. I can only hope that when the time comes, our own family & friends are willing and able to help me through Ace's death &/or vice versa.

After Pam was diagnosed, I was the first person to push her to do everything she could to make sure her family knew what her wishes, personal as well as financial, were... I encourage all of you to make sure your estate planning is done, completely, as soon as possible. As hard as it is, imagine how much more difficult it would be on your family to figure out what you wanted...

R.I.P., Pam.

Bring It On

Originally posted August 15, 2010

For over six years, I have been working part time (my choice); self-employed as a nail tech at a small, but upscale, salon in the SW area of Portland. Marcy was mom's nail tech, but was planning on leaving, so asked mom to have me come by to talk to her once I graduated. The weekend after I went to Salem and got my certifications, I did just that.

Marcy and Heidi were both there, and basically gave me tests similar to "practicals" we did in school -- an acrylic with tip, a sculpted acrylic, one hand manicure, and one foot pedicure. I guess I passed; we all shared the space (we each worked two days/week) for the remainder of their tenures. Heidi was newly pregnant, and Marcy was thinking about going back to school for a nursing degree.

By the end of the summer, Marcy had started nursing school, so turned her clients over to me. Then, by mid-November, Heidi had been placed on bed rest, so I took over for her, as well. Thank goodness because I was working for a "beauty supply" (one which sells to anyone, but gives discounts for professionals), and DID NOT like it AT ALL! My biggest complaint was that I was instructed to make stuff up if I didn't know the answer to a customer's question! Secondarily, the boss didn't like that I didn't want to work there forever... um, duh (especially at $8/hr)? I have a nail technology degree; of COURSE I'm going to want to use it!

Anyway, by Thanksgiving that year (2004), I was working 5-6 days a week, but still only part time hours. When I wasn't actively working in the salon, I was either out marketing or downstairs trying to drum up business from the hair clients. Within a year, I stopped actively marketing and I no longer hung out at the salon unless I had a client. By this point, I had enough clientele to meet my expenses, and then some.

Over the years, my rent has gone up a few times. To compensate, I've taken on a few more clients. Currently (not counting the time off I've been taking to babysit contractors), I work about 15-20 hours per week. This leaves me to spend a good amount of time with my family. I like it this way, and this works for our family dynamic.

Back in March, I started reading about a new product called Shellac. It's made by CND and is a gel/polish hybrid (goes on like polish, but cures under a UV lamp; your nails are completely dry at the end of your service). In April, I started talking to the managers of the two main supply stores where I shop; neither had heard of it yet, but took a handful of my business cards and promised to call as soon as they got it (as well as to hand them out to people looking for a nail tech in SW Portland - easy marketing).

Shellac was released May 5th. On May 6th, I got my calls, and went to both stores; picking up most of the collection of colors, two each of base & top coats, and a few other things I needed to start offering it to my clients. Little did I know it would take over the nail industry!

After release in a few other countries, CND discovered the product had so exceeded its greatest expectations, that there was now a hold on supply stores' ability to order (not just backordered; they actually couldn't order at all). CND then suspended release to more countries, and sent out a letter to their customers (visible on the website) stating that they were amping up production on current orders.

There's been a couple of updates since then (I've also gotten my salon listed, with me as a contact, as a Shellac salon), and, since I am on my last bottle each of the top & base, I am getting antsy. I have enough to cover my current Shellac clients for at least another month (they're coming in every two weeks), but won't take any new Shellac clients until I get more product. I'm already scheduling into September...

About a week ago, I decided to change my voicemail to reflect this new policy. I've also been reading industry-related blogs and any other information I can get my hands (well, fingers) on. In THAT process, I came across a blog of a woman by the name of Maggie. She is just a few years older than I am, but has been a nail tech for about 20 years. Reading her blog has inspired me to flex my creative muscles.

I started with layering different colors of Shellac on those willing to try (as well as Princess). I then tried a set of "Rockstar" toes (on myself -- "Rockstar" just means glitter added to either acrylic or gel) -- easy enough; just messy. Princess then asked me to do two different designs on her nails -- one hand with ladybugs (which I've done for years), and one with piggies (new, but simple enough).

All of that has led to this: I ordered some new products, and storage containers for the new product (S&P shakers from Tupperware work great for glitter), from EBay. I also bought a few things from my local supply store. My goal between now and the end of the year is to work on my hand-painted art (especially themed nails), "Rockstar" skills, and make my pink & whites better (I do fine with acrylic, but P&W gels take practice).

Once that is accomplished, I will update my brochure for the new year, adjust some of my pricing, and make postcard-sized pamphlets to hand out (our hair stylists also offered to put one in their mirrors, so their clients can see the new stuff I offer). I'm ready to take on more, younger, clients; I think they need me!

Oh, and I decided "nail tech" just doesn't say enough about what I do... My new title: "Nail Stylist".


Original Post Date -- 4/24/2009

I haven't blogged about work-related stuff, yet, so bear with me. I have a client/friend, MW, who is the bookkeeper for the salon I rent space from. She, the salon owner (PH), and I made a deal three years ago: I would do MW's nail services, and PH would let MW deduct the cost of those services from my monthly rent. Good deal all around, if you ask me...

I get a deduction of roughly $120 from my rent cost every month, but MW is having hip surgery next month. That $120 is going away starting in June (probably ending in August, but we're not sure of recovery time, though, so that may change). And, since I don't have my certification for working in people's homes, I won't be doing them for her at all while she recovers. Luckily, those are busier months for me at the salon, so I shouldn't be hurting too much...

Yesterday, she came to me for a fill (she gets GELS on her fingernails) and a pedicure, but they were in such bad shape that I ended up just taking them off and giving her a nice, soothing manicure with her pedi. She left with slight changes in her next two appointments (next fill is now a Mani, and next fill/pedi is now a spa-Mani/pedi), and I left knowing I can make her look as nice as possible before she has this surgery.

I know a lot of people think what I do is for the frivolous and well-off... And, in most cases, that's probably true. However, there are a few of my clients who have medical conditions (physical as well as mental) and for those, I feel I'm giving them something to keep their spirits up, no matter what else life throws at them. Women, especially, are judged for how they look. These women will always, as long as I'm around, have beautiful hands & feet. And, that, my readers, is important to their mental well being. Happy people heal faster, too!