I have noticed an increase in news stories, internet articles and comments from clients about cut price nail salons, the ones where a full set is so much cheaper and they appear to be popping up on every corner with american names, you all know the ones I mean.

What I have been reading has not been complimentary towards them and I guess there is a need to educate the public as to why they are so cheap.

What are the differences between the cut price salon and the one doing a full set for possibly double the price of the cut price salon? All the articles I have been reading all focus on the same concerns, no matter whether the article is from the USA or Europe or Australia.

At a salon that charges a higher price, you will usually get far better service and personal attention, there is no queue out the door (that is not because they charge more, it is because they schedule their clients effectively), they use quality products, their salons are clean, welcoming and relaxing, their staff have all been trained by professionals or have attended a nail tech school and they use good quality professional products and hygiene is usually at the top of their to do list. For these important extras I would not hesitate in paying extra. Read the article about salon hygiene to understand why this is not an area to scrimp on.

From personal experience and information available I will list why the cut price salons are cheap in price:

  1. Their staff generally do not have the qualifications that staff in a higher priced salon do. The staff have very little english and are trained by the person they sit next to. We had a nail tech who used to work here and she did her training at a nail tech school in Footscray, she told me that when she was there she was the only one who could speak english. There was a man there training as well and he would go home at night to teach his wife what he had learnt, they had both been promised jobs in a nail salon, so here you have one with qualifiications (maybe) and one without.
  2. MMA – banned for use in Australia for cosmetic use in amounts larger than 1%. There are two types of monomer that used to be used on nails here and in the USA, MMA and EMA. METHYL METHACRYLATE (MMA) was banned in the USA years ago because it is dangerous to your health. It can cause respiratory problems, it can cause severe skin reactions and more. MMA is manufactured in China in a big way and imported into Australia. MMA is a 1/3rd of the price of EMA, it sets like concrete and can not be soaked off, it has to be drilled off. MMA does not adhere well to the nail plate to they have to file off the top layer of the nail to get to the softer layer so that the MMA has something to adhere to. It has to be put on the nail quickly because it starts to set quickly, to do this a large brush is needed and it is laid down on the nail in one step and not the usual 3 stage process used when using EMA. MMA has a strong fruity smell that lingers and you can often smell it when you walk past a salon using it. When you go in for a refil to be done, MMA stinks when it is being filed down, nails done with EMA do not smell, they can be soaked off in under 30 mins or filed off with a nail file and not an electric drill. Ask the salon for their MSDS (material safety data sheet) to ensure they are not using this illegal product on your nails. If they refuse to supply one, walk out and report them to the health department. If the do supply one, look to see who the manufacturer is and if METHYL METHACRYLATE is on the list of ingredients. But even that is no guarantee you will get the truth because another litte trick that is used is they buy the MMA is drums and refil brand name bottles with it, so then you will have to rely on your nose.
  3. Have you also noticed how the clients are rushed through the nail application process? This client in, client out leaves no time for hygiene, cleaning the working area, their own hands, your hands, nothing, your health is being put at risk again.
  4. Why do they all wear masks? They say it is for the dust, so why aren’t you offered a mask as well? The general consensus is that it is because they use MMA and by wearing the masks they are not breathing in the fumes constantly.
  5. You will also notice that they don’t replace or clean files between clients – not good!

A few years ago I went to a cut price nail salon to get my nails done (in a hurry and couldn’t get to my local salon). This CP salon was in Melbourne city, not the cleanest place I have seen, paint peeling off the walls, they didn’t speak much english and dirt on the floor, but I was in a hurry and there was less information available then about hygiene issues and MMA. They used MMA on my nails, when I went to my usual salon it took 2 hours to get it off, a mix of drilling and soaking, when we did get it off my natural nails were ruined, they were soft and yellow (another good indication MMA had been used). We decided that I would have to live with my nails like that for a while because putting acrylic on again would not help them. It took 10 months for my nails to come right and gain back the strength and length they had previously. Never again.

Did you read my article on Salon hygiene where I said at the end there was anther story. It was about the trainer/nail tech operating in that training school we visited. We questioned her about her qualifications, she told us that she had a Cert IV in nail technology (nothing else, just nail techology). We asked where she did her training and she told us that she trained at this same city salon I had been to (I didn’t let on that I had been there and knew exactly what it was).? The truth was she had no formal qualifications, the person who owned the training facility had no idea about this area at all, we queried her again about her qualifications and she was adamant that she had a Cert IV from this salon – not possible. And here she was training a lady who had her baby in a pushchair next to her, on how to use a drill, we asked why she wasn’t teaching her how to file the acrylic down and soak it off, she said because drilling was quicker, the reality was, she only knew how to drill because the salon where she was trained used MMA and it could only be drilled off. She had no idea that the acrylic could be soaked off or filed off with a low grit foam file.? The nail tech with me, who has been a trainer at one of Melbourne’s top nail schools was seething, but what could we do? And the way she was training this lady was the way she was trained in the cut price salon. It was a continuation of teaching bad habits. In hindsight now, I wish we had asked for a copy of her training manual, but I don’t think there would have been one because the lady she was training had no books or paper with her to take notes on.

But sadly because the nail industry is not regulated in Australia anyone can work as a nail technician. Don’t be afraid to ask your nail tech where they did their training and what qualifications they have, if they have their certificate on show, even better as it will show you the name of the school they went to and you can easily check to see if the school exists. Ask them what their hygience procedures are, after all you are paying for this service and you need to ensure that your health and wellbeing is not at risk.

The most important issue is your safety. Do not be afraid to ask questons and if you feel the answers do not sound correct – leave. Speak to your friends and ask where they get their nails done and who they would recommend.

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