If you live in an area that experiences changing seasons, you’ve probably already noticed that your clients’ skin and nails change right along with them. Even in a climate that undergoes minimal temperature shifts, there are still big problems: In the arid climates of the West Coast, skin retains less moisture than in more humid climates, such as those found in Southeast regions. Researchers have even found a link between climate and the rate at which people age: Dry-climate skin enjoys less elasticity than in more humid surroundings and, therefore, develops fine lines and wrinkles more rapidly. There are many other ways in which temperature changes can affect your clients’ nailcare needs; in this Nail Clinic we examine the seasonal changes you experience and how to keep your clients’ skin and nails healthy in spite of harsh weather.
When the temperature drops and your salon is flooded with people eagerly awaiting the soothing, hot water in a pedicure tub, you know it's time for winter services. Most of the changes you see in your clients’ nails and skin this time of year are a result of chilly weather. “With colder temperatures, there is less humidity in the air, causing dryness,” remarks Ella Toombs, dermatologist and director of aesthetic dermatology at DuPont Circle in Washington, D.C. “And nails that are dry tend to fracture and break more easily.”
Your clients can easily protect their vulnerable nails through fall and winter by hydrating them daily with cuticle oil and even food-grade oils, such as olive oil or vegetable oil. “I ask clients to put olive oil on their toenails as often as possible to help with dryness,” says Diane Gibbons, 17-year veteran nail tech and owner of Diane Gibbons’ Nail Salon in Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts. “If the client has dryness around her fingernails and cuticles, I suggest that a few days before coming in for a manicure, she take off the polish, soak her nails in warm olive oil and really rub it in. Amazingly, olive oil is a great solution for dry nails!”
While nails are high on your priority list, don’t forget that skin is also susceptible to harsh winter conditions. To combat dry skin, offer hydrating manicures as well as retailing products that clients can utilize at home, like a thick cream. “The purchase of an item tends to promote use of it,” explains Barbara Reed, clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Colorado Hospital in Denver and dermatologist at The Denver Skin Clinic. Reed recommends that clients apply a thick cream, put on damp cotton gloves and cover hands with a plastic bag or plastic gloves to promote absorption; they can leave this on for a few hours or overnight. Toombs agrees that religiously applying a thick cream to hands, nails and cuticles at night before going to bed is an effective treatment. “This acts as a protective barrier—a sealant around skin—preventing moisture from being sapped. A product may not add moisture, but it will allow the body to keep what moisture it has,” she says.
Reed also notes that severe symptoms, such as skin cracking or redness, may require a trip to the dermatologist, so call your client’s attention to any skin issues that look out of the ordinary.
Dry skin during the winter isn’t always caused by cold conditions—it can also be a result of your usual routine. Hot water, though soothing, works against skin and nails by stealing moisture. In fact, winter dryness is often caused by the hot showers clients take in colder weather. “I don’t do water manicures at all anymore because I find that water causes nails to split,” shares MJ Sherer, owner of Nails by MJ in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Sherer offers a waterless, skin-nourishing manicure that starts with a cuticle oil application, then continues into a warm lotion soak. Next, she applies cuticle remover and gently pushes back cuticles, energizes skin with a scrub and finishes the pre-polish steps with a cleansing brush.
Sherer isn’t the only tech who finds that waterless manicures are a must in colder weather. Gibbons also provides waterless manicures during which she envelops the client’s hands in warm mitts to help the already applied oil or moisturizer penetrate deeper into skin.
Besides warm water, another seemingly harmless product—soap—causes drying and exacerbates any signs of dehydration on clients’ skin and nails. “You’ll want to use a non-soap cleanser during winter,” recommends Toombs. “Basically, anything that ‘suds up’ is a soap-based product, which can cause dryness.” Opt for a creamy, milky cleanser as an alternative.
In the Heat of the Moment
Once the chilly weather has blown out of town, warm weather paves the way for healthy nails; they tend to be more hydrated due to increased humidity and even grow more quickly in warm weather. For clients with normal or oily skin, summer allows you to put away the thicker creams and use lighter lotions instead.
“For summer, we gradually switch the thick lotion we use in winter to a thinner one, and we encourage clients to continue with cuticle oil application, but twice per day as opposed to three times in the winter,” relates Darlene Donovan, nail technician at Nail Creations at Bamboo Natural Beauty in Londonberry, New Hampshire. “No matter the season, I offer warm towels with a scrub, but this summer I am offering a ‘Cool Cucumber Wrap’ for clients who don’t want the heat.”
Some nail techs make more conservative changes during hot times. In the summer, Sherer’s services remain unchanged, but she skips the warm lotion soak unless the client’s hands are especially dry. Another minor change for the summertime is to end your services with an application of lotion containing sunscreen, as well as a layer of UV-blocking top coat, to protect skin and nails from sun damage.
Despite your best efforts, some clients will struggle with dry skin and nails year-round, so it’s a good idea to examine each client’s hands, feet and nails to determine which products and procedures are most beneficial. “I gear my services around what is right for the individual client,” says Gibbons. “I take extra care to examine the skin, and as I proceed with the service, I mention what I’ve observed and make suggestions.” While seasonal changes can certainly affect your clients’ skin and nails, it’s up to you to prevent some of the problems that detract from the results of your services, allowing your clients’ skin and nails to look picture-perfect year-round.
Tracy Morin is a freelance writer and editor based in Oxford, MS.