If you would prefer to hear this blog as an audio recording, press play below!
This is not a ‘how to’ for the rebalance procedure. I will have a future blog with pictures and video where we discuss specific techniques to overcome challenges when rebalancing, in this blog I’m talking about the ‘Theory of Rebalancing’. Wait, WAIT! Don’t go! Please stick with me, this is faaaar more interesting than it sounds, and as far as I am concerned, possibly even more important to understand than the techniques themselves. I reckon this is the one single subject I am most passionate about in the entire nail industry! So hear me out. I will make this worth your while.
If you don’t do Enhancements yet, please also keep reading! Some of the barriers to getting into enhancement services will also be addressed herein.
There were many factors that resulted in our nail salon business becoming and continuing to be so successful. My Mum and I started in a tiny little shop just the two of us in 1997, and when we sold the business in 2012 we had 8 employed Nail Professionals, 3 Beauty Therapists, were in a much larger premises across the street and enjoyed a loyal, regular clientele to die for.
My own regular clients had, for the most part, been coming for 10+ years, a few for as much as 14 years, right from when we first opened the little shop and I was sitting doing non-stop Liquid & Powder wearing black lipstick wearing my own nails the full length of the tip.
How we made our clients feel was above and beyond anything, the most important factor in the success of our business, that is something that transcends the nails themselves. I’ll tell you honestly, we didn’t always achieve perfectly beautiful nails to the highest possible standard that lasted well in those early years, but the clients kept coming back anyway, they persevered with us while we climbed a steep learning curve. This is going to sound a bit woo-woo, but I am deadly serious – if you want that kind of loyalty, you have to actually love your clients, and in turn they have to love you, so you better take every opportunity to demonstrate how much you love them, and how lovable you are. Every time you don’t it is a missed opportunity to grow your business and have a better, well rounded, happy life.
Anyway, I’m going off at a tangent. You didn’t come here for life coaching. Let’s talk about Nail Enhancement Maintenance. In-fill, back-fill, rebalance, call it what you will. Other than love, the most key factor in our success was mastery of the Enhancement Rebalance. CND™ defines a Rebalance as
“An Enhancement Rebalance is a systematic way of maintaining balance and beauty as the natural nail grows.”
I.e, it’s how to make sure your client’s nail enhancements look and feel perfect 365 days a year without ever having to remove and replace them, unless we want to. The key work we are doing is putting the apex, the highest point when the nail is viewed side on, back in the perfect place from a structural point of view – half way between the cuticle line and the tip of the extension edge. When I explain this to Nail Pros I am often met with, ‘but I was taught I had to do a removal and new set every few appointments‘, or ‘but my clients prefer a new set so I don’t really do infills.‘ Or, ‘a rebalance is far more work and takes longer than doing a new set, so what’s the point in doing it?!‘ Whilst I recognise there are legitimate concerns that come from the Nail Pro’s own experience, I promise if they sat next to me for an hour while I Rebalanced one of my client’s I would be able to convince them that each one is these concerns is unnecessary and incorrect. Overcoming these pre-conceived notions of what is and isn’t possible in real life, on real clients could well be exactly what is needed to get your business to the next level. Regular rebalance clients are MUCH more likely to come all year round, like clockwork, supporting your business and bringing you steady, reliable income, regardless of the season. If you are doing full set, couple of infills, full set, couple of infills… you are far more likely to be at the mercy of the seasons. Busy at the busy times of year, cool, but panicking and unable to pay the bills at the two quite times of year in our industry (Feb/March & Oct/Nov). Your clients are motivated to ‘have a rest’ or ‘let their nails breath’ when they don’t have anything special coming up and know they are just going to have a removal and new set anyway, so ‘I’ll just hang off, thanks.’ On the other hand, if all they need to do is come to you once every 2-3 weeks, spend 45-60 minutes with you and as a result have beautiful, healthy, gorgeous nails 365 days a year, then why on earth would they ever choose to ‘have a break’?
Let’s talk about each of these Rebalancing myths one by one:
Nail Enhancements must be completely removed and replaced with a new set every few appointments.
This is SUCH an old fashioned approach. I can’t believe there are companies and colleges still teaching this in 2016! Well, actually I can believe it, because if you are using an enhancement product that doesn’t have great long term adhesion to the nail plate, one that always requires a primer for example, then chances are your client is going to experience ‘curling’ where the natural nail comes away from the product at the back, on the underside of the extension edge. Curling is excruciatingly annoying and it leads to your clients’ nails looking dirty and them picking and nibbling at them.
As well as products with poor long-term adhesion, another big cause of curling are well-less tips. Applying a new set using tips that have no ‘stop point’, the little ledge that snuggles around the natural nail free edge, inevitably means the clients natural nail will start coming away at the back as it grows out. A tip with a stop point takes a little more time and effort to apply properly, but remember, you only ever have to do it ONCE. In this brave new reality, after the first full set it will be rebalance after rebalance, there will be no more tipping.
No one likes curling, it looks and feels horrible and will definitely motivate a client to request a fresh set (i.e, you failed.) But here’s the thing, curling is not inevitable.
How to never get ‘curling’ – my Top Tips
If tipping, only ever use virgin ABS plastic tips with a stop-point/well and a contact area. As an educator, teaching proper tip application is time consuming, unfortunately many companies and training facilities have taken to using well-less tips on courses to save time and hassle. This means we have a whole generation of nail pros who don’t know how to apply a tip, and that dear reader, is appalling.
Chose an L&P or Gel Enhancement system with great long-term adhesion. If you are wondering how to find this out consider the following: If the company who makes the product advises a removal and new set every few appointments then logically, their products probably have poor long-term adhesion. If the company who makes your chosen brand doesn’t even seem to offer any advice on enhancement maintenance, run a mile. Run over the hills to the bosom of a professional brand who will support you as a professional with products that actually work.
Ensure your clients use oil on their nails every single day without fail. My favourite nail oil is CND’s multi award winning SolarOil. Daily use of SolarOil will keep the balance of oil and moisture right in the natural nail. When natural nails come in contact with water (10-15 times a day, right?) they swell and expand. When you take them out of water, the water absorbed by the nail plate quickly evaporates, so the nail contracts and shrinks. Now imagine for a second how that constant expending and contracting of the natural nail plate affects how well the product on top is adhered. If you are wearing enhancements now, turn your hands over and look at the underside of your extension edge. If the natural nail is changing in shape and size all through the day that’s going to have a real negative impact on how well it stays adhered to the product on top. Using SolarOil twice a day will MASSIVELY reduce the amount of expanding and contracting that goes on in the nail plate when it comes in contact with water.
TLDR: Using SolarOil every day stops curling.
Rebalancing it more difficult and more time consuming than a full set.
So I accept this is the case if you suck at Rebalancing, or indeed, suck at applying the full set. Every Rebalance is different. What each client comes back to you with in terms of service breakdown is going to vary depending how well they look after them, what they got up to since you last saw them, etc.. But overwhelmingly, the biggest time-consuming pain in the butt when Rebalancing, is getting rid of lifting. I’m not suggesting that it’s going to be possible for every enhancement client to come back to you with no lifting ever, but some should, and the rest should only get a little, now and again, on a nail or two. If the client returns with no lifting or curling (or just a teeny bit here and there), a Rebalance is a DREAM to perform! It’s quick, easy and deeply satisfying. It’s certainly faster and easier than any full set could ever be. I remember the first time I had a client return to me with absolutely no service breakdown after 3 weeks. I was 2001, I was 19 years old, and I cried real tears of joy and relief. It’s no coincidence that 2001 was the year CND™ launched the essential PREP product Cuticle Away…
Aside from removing avoidable lifting, another way Nail Pros waste time during a Rebalance is removing way to much product, and doing so in puzzlingly inefficient ways. I personally don’t use an electric file on any of my clients (and I’m not saying you should’t), but I’ve witnessed nail pros spend 2-3 times as long as I would to file prep a set of enhancements for a rebalance, both with hand files and electric files! So what on earth are they DOING? I’ll tell you what they are doing, they are removing perfectly beautiful product, just to reapply it, because of poor education, lack of confidence and out of habit.
How to make every Rebalance the quick, problem free experience of your dreams – My Top Tips
SolarOil must be used twice a day, every day. If you compare one client’s rebalance side by side with another client’s rebalance where one has been using SolarOil every day and the other has never used it, you will have two unbelievably different experiences. Especially with Liquid & Powder, but also with Gel, if the client has not been using oil every day, you will know by the 3rd stroke of your file – because it will be like trying to file into a brick. If the client has SolarOil’d every day, their nails are like a dream to file prep for the rebalance and the appointment will take half the time. All polymers benefit from lubrication, and this is what daily use of SolarOil is doing for your client’s enhancements (and natural nails by the way), it’s conditioning and caring for the very structure of the product, at a molecular level. Without lubrication, the nail enhancement is likely to become hard and brittle, far more likely to lift, crack and break. But even if it doesn’t lift, crack and break, it will still take at least twice as many strokes of the file to get through the product during a rebalance file prep. I speak to nail pros who tell me, ‘oh, that’s it, I’m going to have to get an electric file, I can’t cope with all this filing.’ Well, IF EVERY ONE of your clients are already using SolarOil twice a day and you still feel this way, that’s totally cool, go for it with my blessing. But if you have enhancement clients who never or rarely use SolarOil, and you are complaining about how long it takes to file down for a Rebalance – HELLO!!!! Seriously, I can not stress this point strenuously enough. SolarOil is not just some little extra retail product, ‘oh yes Mrs Client you should probably use that, it’s good for your skin, blah, blah, blah…’ No. Try this, look your client directly in the eye and explain, ‘while you are wearing a coating on your nails it as ABSOLUTELY essential that you use this oil twice a day. I’m going to show you how to use it, it will take you no more than 15 seconds to dab it on and rub it in. If you don’t do it you are far more likely to have problems with your nails. How about we set a little reminder on your phone? You’ll soon get into the habit of using it, and a great side effect of using it is that your skin all around your nails will also improve in health and condition also.’ Than you have to back it up. Any time the client has any problems with cracking, breaking or lifting, your first question, before anything else, is ‘have been using your SolarOil every day?’
Rebalances should be performed at regular intervals before problems arise. If clients go too long between appointment, their rebalance will be a nightmare.Your client needs to have a pre-booked, regular appointment slot for enhancement maintenance. ‘Oh, I’ll just give you a call when I think they need done.’ NO. ‘I’ll just file them down a bit myself and that way I can go 5 weeks, I’ll glue on any that come away.’ NO. Right from the first appointment you need to explain to the client that after 2-3 weeks they MUST return to you to have something done with their nails. ‘So Miss Client, in two weeks time you have two options, one is that you come back to me and I’ll remove the product and you’re nails will be back to exactly as they were when you walked in, in fact if anything they will be better and a little longer. The second option is to come back to me and I will perform a maintenance service, which basically means they will look brand new again and you can go a further 2-3 weeks. After that you have the same two options again. If you want to you can go on having your nails maintained for years, your natural nails will only improve in health and condition because they are protected by the coating and because you will be doing a little daily home-care. When you do choose to go back to just your own nails, that’s totally cool, but please don’t attempt to remove the product yourself, come back and let me do it so I can ensure your own nails won’t become damaged. I never charge extra to remove anything that I myself applied’.
How long a client goes between appointments is something you have to work out on a case by case basis. If I get a nail biter for a full set, I’ll book their first rebalance for 10 days time, and then again assess how long they can go till the next appointment based on how they cared for them and how fast they grew. It might be they go ten days again, but after that 2 weeks is sufficient, and after a couple of 2 weekly rebalances, maybe they can go 3 weeks. I have a few elderly clients who can go 4 weeks between appointments because their nails grow much more slowly. But regardless of who it is, I never have anyone go longer than 2 weeks between their full set and first rebalance. After that first rebalance, we can reassess how long they can go between appointments.
I know several Nail Pros who enforce this regular maintenance by charging more for every extra week the client goes. Set price for 2 weeks, add 30% for 3 weeks, and at 4 weeks plus it’s the same price as a full new set. This approach definitely works.
Get some brand specific rebalance education. If your client’s aren’t making to the first rebalance appointment with all 10 nails intact most of the time, then some further education of PREP and application is what’s needed, and there is no shame in that. If they are getting to the rebalance appointment in ok shape, but your just not sure what to do with them at that point, rebalance education is what you need. Even if your chosen brand doesn’t have a specific class for rebalancing (and by the way, alarm bells should be ringing if that is the case…), you can book rebalancing education on a one to one basis with an Educator representing the brand of product you use. I believe it’s essential that this education be brand specific, because different brands adhere in different ways and last in different ways. If even the educator for the brand you are using says, ‘yeah, you really don’t have much choice but to use an electric file and/or remove the nails and start with a fresh set every few appointments…’ – then you can say, thanks very much for that, I’m away to find a brand that makes enhancement products that actually work. Seriously dear reader, I’m not trying to be funny here, this is the bottom line. If it can’t be maintained continuously without having to be removed and replaced every few appointments then it’s rubbish. That’s it. There is no getting around that.
Rebalanced nails never look as nice, or last as well as a fresh set.
This misconception, above all others, drives me to distraction. Over the 17 years I have worked in this industry, especially in the dark days before SHELLAC™, but even to this day, 90% of my work on clients is enhancement rebalancing. And I must tell you, with deep sincerity, that my clients nails are far more beautiful now than they have ever been. When I get a new client, I can’t wait to get them a few rebalances down the line because I know that their nails, while still beautiful and fabulous at first, will be even more gorgeous looking and feeling once the natural nail grows out and we get them to the overlay stage. Consider logically the difference – Liquid & Powder or Gel as a COATING vs. Liquid & Powder or Gel as an ‘extension’. Even the word brings up a slight feeling of revulsion within me.
Ok, time out for a second. I just re-read that paragraph and I sound like a horrible, angry nail snob. (It’s definitely possible that I am) Honestly, I am not writing this with the intention of criticizing individuals, or to be mean about they way anyone chooses to run their business and create great nails their clients love. I just want to express how baffled I am, that anyone would choose to make do with a product (or poor technique) that has to come off every so often because it’s coming away at the back. Life doesn’t need to be that way!
But don’t I make more money if my clients get full sets more often?
No, you make less. Because clients who have to have a full set every few appointment, don’t come as often as clients who can have continuous maintenance. And if your clients don’t have to have a full set every few appointments, you can charge a little more for the maintenance appointment it’s self. Shall we do the maths?
Sammy charges £50 for a full set and £35 for enhancement maintenance. An average Sammy client comes once every 3 weeks for maintenance. Now, because Sammy is charging a premium price for the service to begin with, she doesn’t really charge extra for nail art, unless it’s something particularly time consuming. So an average Sammy client is paying £35 every 3 weeks, which = £606 over the course of a year. Seeing as Sammy’s client is regular and has gotten to know her so well she likes to buy retail products from Sammy as gifts, as a treat to herself not to mention the little extra she spends on essential home care items such as SolarOil. So lets take a very conservative estimate and say that this client spent £650.00 on products and services from Sammy in that one year.
Now lets look at Rosie’s business model. Rosie charges a little less than Sammy for a full set because she fears her clients will not pay £50 every few appointments, so Rosie charges £40 for a full set and £27 for an infill. An average Rosie client gets a full set, then an infill 3 weeks later and another infill 3 weeks after that. Now Rosie is performing an ‘infill’ she is literally filling in the growth area and putting a new colour over the top, so after 2 infills the nails look and feel pretty bad, they definitely need to come off and be replaced in order to look beautiful again. So Rosie’s average client gets a full set, then a couple of infills before getting another new set. The client loves Rosie and her nails to bits, so keeps this routine up religiously except for right after holiday times when money is a bit tight and she’s not really got anything on that she would need her nails done for, so she doesn’t come at all throughout February and March, or October and November. During that time, she is painting her own nails and using stick-ons. 52 weeks – 16 weeks = 36, so for 36 weeks of the year, Rosie’s average client is providing her with regular income. A full set plus two 3-weekly infills brings in £94 over a 9 week period. So for the year, Rosie’s average client has brought her £376. Even if this client spent the same amount on retail as Sammy’s client did, that’s still only £422.00 spent on products and services by Rosie’s average client.
So what is the actual difference here? Why should Sammy be able to earn more than Rosie? What is the difference? It doesn’t seem fair does it? Quite simply, Rosie is lacking 3 things that Sammy has over her;
– The education needed to be able to perform rebalances instead of infills.
– A product that performs well enough to be continuously maintained without breaking down.
– The confidence in her own abilities and worth to charge a premium.
So there you have it. You made it through another long, drawn out blog! Thank you dear reader for taking the time. Once again, please be sure that all of the above is my own personal opinion based on my experience and not necessarily that of any company or brand.
I’d love to hear your comments below or over on Facebook!
Thanks for taking the time,
I hope this was helpful!
Fee Wallace x
3 thoughts on “Nail Enhancement Maintenance?”
This blog has motivated me to do a rebalance class ay some point this year. I listened to it while folding washing. I actually laughed out loud at the ‘ then they must be rubbish’ comment, to which my 1 year old started laughing too. I love the audio feature. Another good blog 👌
Some great advice yet again from Fee I have just started my own nail business within a salon so I am still in the early stages, found this information a great help. This all makes sense would love to have you by my side ! Keep up the good work x