Ah, the nail salon. For some it’s a (bi)weekly ritual that is a two-fold source of a confidence boost and self-care/relaxation necessity. I was one of those women who frequented my local salon for the convenience. I am fortunate enough to have a salon that is literally in my backyard. Unfortunately, I was never totally satisfied with my experience there. It is run by a Vietnamese family: husband, wife, daughter, and others. My mother prefers this place, so I’d go with her from time-to-time (especially if she was treating!). However, I always got the husband and he NEVER seemed to care about making my nails look their best, despite my complaints. I’ve had this problem in other salons as well. Years ago, I went to this quaint boutique shop in a nice neighborhood. The first experience was amazing! Unfortunately, the woman who did my nails the first time was pregnant and by my second appointment was out on maternity leave. So, I had another tech. She was awful! I rightfully complained to the manager and was expected to pay full price even after her attempt at correction was poor as well. My solution was to never return. Then, I found a place that I liked. It was close by and had many techs which meant more convenience. This became my go-to and it worked fine until my finances shifted and I gave up the luxury.
This year, I decided that I needed to ramp up my look and ended up at the last place I frequented. Not much had changed (except the price increase). Then I noticed that I was not getting the best service. It also became a hassle for me to get a different tech every visit. No one did their work the same way and my complaints were different every time. Eventually, the language barrier (that resulted in services I had not actually requested), poor attention to detail, rushed service, short-lived results and subsequent nail damage turned a gift to myself into an anxiety-inducing disappointment. I took a step back and thought about what I wanted and where else I could go and get it.
For historical background, I first got into getting my nails done in high school circa 1996. At that time, acrylic tips and airbrushing were essential so that’s what I did—to my detriment. My nails have always been very thin. They don’t break, they tear. So while tips gave me a different kind of nail, removing them destroyed the little that I began with. So, I swore off nails. It wasn’t until my early 30s that I decided to try acrylic on my natural nails thinking it would be less damaging. I was wrong. Finally, I tried gel polish and was satisfied. So, all my experiences above were with gel polish alone but the condition of my nails when I left the last shop was very similar to what it was when I stopped getting acrylic tips in high school. As I was trying to figure out how to keep up this more polished feminine look, I remembered that I had an untapped resource.
For years, I knew of a black woman who had her own shop but it was more expensive. This was honestly my biggest deterrent though I knew she did great work (a manicure costs the same as a mani/pedi). However, I also remembered that she did not use the products that local shops use. She is also certified in many different aspects of nail health and foot care (even for diabetics and other unique health issues). So, because I was again able to afford such things, I made an appointment. I loved that I could do so online (and even pre-pay!). The only downside was convenience. I was now dealing with a one-woman show, not a shop full of techs able to get me into a chair in minutes. Despite that, I still wanted to see if this experience was worth it. I came to her with damage and explained my frustrations. From there, she educated me on why I was having problems and what she could do to make it better. She took her time and we were able to communicate. That made all the difference. One important nugget she shared is that many times, salon techs are not using the complete system that was designed for the products they use. They sometimes alter (dilute) the products or co-mingle products from different systems. She was able to find a simple solution to hardening my nails that did not require acrylic and the end result was also far superior to what I had been getting. She also uses only one brand of products called CND. It’s not something you can just go and pick up from the store and I’m told the formulations are designed for healthier nails and are less damaging. She made some really good points about how as women, we question a lot of other processes that are performed on other body parts but not our nails. Ladies, we all know how particular we are about our hair!
On a recent visit, we got into a long conversation about nail health and many of the dos and don’ts that are not widely discussed. Now, I want to take her everywhere with me to inform all my girlfriends about healthy nail care! My final point is this: ask questions and demand quality care from those you are patronizing. It’s for your own benefit!