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  1. SIMPLY SALON NAILS: Revisiting nail anatomy

    By Katie Barnes | 21 November 2017 | Blog, Business, Expert Advice, Feature, Nail Techniques, Training


    Salon owner, educator, former Scratch columnist and award-winning nail stylist, Katie Barnes, serves up insight on nail anatomy…

    As a professional nail technician, it is paramount that you familiarise yourself with all parts of nail anatomy to ensure you are offering your clients a professional and thorough service.

    Understanding the purpose and growth of the nail

    The function of the nail is to protect the outermost bone of the finger or toe, the fingertip, and the surrounding soft tissues from injuries. The fingertips contain a lot of sensory endings that allow us to distinguish touch, pain and temperature. As these nerve fibres are very sensitive and fragile, it is important to protect these. The underside of the finger is fleshy and the nail covers the pad-like topside. The nail plate is designed to crack or break off under pressure or upon impact to act as a shock absorber so the nail bed and nerve endings should be exposed to minimal damage only.

    The cells originate in the matrix and move forward towards the fingertips. When they first become exposed from under the cuticle, the cells are soft and spongy and only harden and keratinise when exposed to the air. This usually takes several days. The nail continues to grow forwards in the shape and width of the nail bed. When the nail plate extends beyond the hyponychium, this becomes the free edge. It is important to have a free edge as this ensures that all the nail bed is covered and therefore protected.


    The cuticle is the strip of hardened, ‘flakey, dry’ skin found on the nail plate, above the eponychium, at the base of a nail.


    What majority of people consider the cuticle is actually the living tissue, the eponychium. It acts as a barrier to prevent pathogens from entering the soft tissue. The skin fold that ends at the base of the nail plate. This area should be treated with care. Infection can occur if the matrix seal is broken.


    The hyponychium is the tissue under the free edge of the nail that seals the nail plate to the tip of the finger. This acts as a seal to prevent pathogenic bacteria from entering the finger. Some client will have a condition called ‘extended hyponychium’ where this skin protrudes the nail plate and tip of the finger. You must treat these clients’ nails with care as this can become painful if the nail is filed too short.

    Nail bed

    The nail bed is located under the nail plate. It starts at the base of the nail (matrix) and extends through to the free edge. Like all skin, it is made up of dermis and epidermis. The nail bed contains thousands of blood vessels that carry food, oxygen, and nutrients to the fingernail.

    Nail plate

    The nail plate is what we class as ‘a nail’. It has a densely packed surface, made of keratin. Several layers of dead, compacted cells cause the nail to be strong but flexible. These cells are not living, they are keratinised. The pink appearance of the nail comes from the blood vessels underneath the nail; the nail plate itself is translucent. The underneath surface of the nail plate has grooves along the length of the nail that help anchor it to the nail bed and to keep the nail growing in the correct direction. The purpose of the nail plate is to protect the living nail bed underneath.


    The lanula is the visible part of the matrix that resembles a half moon and should be treated with care as the cells have not yet fully keratinised. It is white in colour and opaque. 

    The Nail Folds (Lateral & Proximal)

    The nail folds protect the nail matrix. The proximal and lateral nail folds are part of our skin. The skin does not end just there; it folds at the edges and continues beneath. The continuing skin acts as a protective barrier, it protects and seals the matrix against bacteria and dirt that is common within our environment.

    Nail matrix

    The matrix is the root of the nail. This area is not visible; it is hidden and protected by the proximal nail fold. The matrix produces keratin cells that make up the nail plate. As more and more cells are produced the older ones are pushed outwards and flattened, all this pushing and flattening results in the cells losing their original white plumpish appearance. They eventually become transparent and become part of the nail plate. The width and thickness of the nail plate is determined by the size, length, and thickness of the matrix, while the shape of the fingertip itself shows if the nail plate is flat, arched or hooked. The matrix is the most important feature of the nail unit. Damage to the matrix can cause permanent damage to the appearance of the nail.

    Love Katie B x

  2. Katie Barnes on why not to say ‘Chinese salons’

    By Katie Barnes | 12 December 2017 | Blog, Business, Feature, Tech Talk


    Salon owner, educator, former Scratch columnist and award-winning nail stylist, Katie Barnes, addresses the issue of non-standard salons and incorrect terminology – with a helping hand from CND educator, Anna Lee

    Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Many technicians and clients are guilty of referring to non-standard salons as ‘Chinese salons’, ‘Viet salons’ or ‘chop shops’.

    It is more than likely that the people in these salons may not even be Chinese at all. Whatever the race of the workers, no salon or technician should ever be called by their ethnicity or defined by it. Just because a particular race runs a nail business, it does not automatically make them non-standard. By referring to these salons like this, makes us the uneducated ones.

    This kind of generalisation can also be offensive and detrimental to the career of those professionals in the industry from East Asian heritage who are fully competent, well-educated techs. Some of the most knowledgeable, talented and professional technicians and educators of Eastern Asian culture have had to constantly battle against these stereotypes to get where they are. So, next time you think about referring to your local discount salon in this way, take a moment to think about your industry peers. While I appreciate the world has gone PC crazy, as a professional technician we must be factually correct and fair to our peers and educate those who are unaware.

    What is a non-standard salon?

    A non-standard salon, often known as NSS, should never be automatically defined by race. It is not just a salon that uses products that have not been designed for the nail industry; it is a salon that does not follow standard procedures or practices, which any technician or salon, regardless of race could fall into. It mostly, will not comply with just one, some or all of the following:

    • health & safety
    • sanitation and hygiene practices
    • legislations
    • good and safe working practice
    • using products only designed for the nail industry
    • poor communication; client consultation and lack of client care
    • no care for the client’s natural nail

    A non-standard salon may also:

    • falsely advertise services and products
    • hold no or limited qualifications in the treatments they are providing
    • not follow employment legislation
    • not hold insurance
    • fail to pay taxes
    • run money laundering operations

    Our role as professional nail technicians, as well as to enhance and care for the natural nail, is to follow rules and legislations to provide a safe and hygienic environment for our clients to receive their treatments. As with every industry, there are good and bad workers. In the nail industry, there are all kinds of technicians from nail bars, salons, mobile techs, hobby techs, and self-taught techs and there are good and bad technicians in each and every one of these groups.

    A discount salon is not necessarily a non-standard salon and vice versa – just because a salon charges a lot, it does not inevitably mean that they comply with the above. I know many techs that work in what would be considered a standard salon, that are extremely unsanitary and therefore should be considered a non-standard technician.

    Absolutely, some of these non-standard salons may have East Asian workers, as much as they may have any other nationalities. Anyone can own or work in a non-standard salon irrespective of whether they are white, black or Asian.

    With the recent claims of modern slavery in nail salons and the sensationalised portrayal of the non-standard salon within the media, we shouldn’t tar everyone with the same brush, jumping on the race bandwagon again. This kind of non-standard practice can occur in any industry with race being irrelevant.

    With numerous YouTube tutorials and counterfeit products readily available online, it’s getting pretty tricky for clients and impressionable techs to know where to turn and who to trust. With anyone posting videos on social media, it has highlighted many techs working unsafely, where they are saturating the clients skin with monomer and using their brush to clean up the skin. A tech that puts their clients in danger of potential allergies and skin conditions is sloppy and unprofessional; demonstrating a lack of understanding of the chemistry and skin anatomy and therefore a non-standard tech.

    Yes, these ‘non-standard salons’ can be seen as competition as with in every other industry but rather just stereotype them and assume they are all from one race, educate ourselves and our clients. Look at your working techniques and environment and make sure that you stay the very best you can be and don’t ever slip into non-standard working practices.

    Love Katie B x