Nail cleaning, coloring, and adding extensions are some of the most in-demand services in the beauty industry. Both minor and adult customers are frequently visiting salons to improve and make their nails more visually appealing. Thus, it only makes sense that the demand for nail technicians in beauty salons is increasing.
A report says that from 2021 to 2026, there is a steady growth of the nail salon market globally, making the industry more promising for many aspiring nail technicians, at least in the next five years.
Becoming a nail technician doesn’t strictly need formal training or licensing requirements because most places in the world are not regulated. However, to build credibility and increase your chance of employment, especially in established brands, undergoing training, getting a certification, and in some jurisdictions, having a license are important.
But where and how do you start? To help you out, we’ll discuss what nail technology is, the areas of study it covers, its costs, and everything you need to know about the program below.
What Is Nail Technology?
By definition, nail technology is a method of artistically improving and styling nails for visual appeal. It involves using tools, beauty products, technology, and even creativity to enhance and design nails.
The nail technician works on improving people’s toenails and fingernails. Nail polishes, removers, cuticle conditioners, builder gels, acrylics, and colors are a few of the products nail technicians use.
What Is a Nail Technician?
A nail technician does the job of extending, improving, and designing nails. Their tasks include cleaning, coloring, and designing fingernails and toenails.
What Do You Learn in a Nail Technology Course?
A nail technology program mostly teaches about the basics of caring for and designing nails. But the most important part of the course is teaching you the three main nail systems, that is, acrylic, UV gel, and dip system. These are methods you’ll use to improve, design, or extend people’s nails. To better understand what they are, let’s discuss each in detail.
Acrylic nails are considered to be stronger and cheaper than gel nails. They are made from powder polymer and liquid monomer, which are combined to form a paste-like consistency, hardened, and attached to the nails. They are also formed into shapes with great thickness, length, and strength.
Acrylics last up to eight weeks but need a fill every 2-3 weeks. The only concern with this system is a fungal infection, which can happen when moisture is trapped between the natural and acrylic nails. Once this happens, acrylics should be removed as soon as possible, and customers should get medical treatments.
UV Gel Nails
Like acrylics, gel nails also add strength to natural nails with the help of ultraviolet light (UV) technology. They are applied similarly to nail polish in a few layers, with each layer application being set under a UV light. They add a hard yet shiny coating with great resistance to cracking.
What’s advantageous of gel nails on acrylics is they don’t cause damage to the natural nails. They don’t produce any odor and are more environment-friendly. The only issue with this nail system is the repeated exposure to UV light that can lead to skin cancer.
Dip Powder Nails
Dip powder nails are applied simpler than acrylics and UV gel nails. Nails are enhanced using a high-quality powder that can last for a few weeks. Each nail is dipped in a colored powder of the customer’s choice, with a repeated process until the desired pigment is achieved. Once the powder is dry, clear glossy polish is applied as the final layer.
The application process can differ per salon though, depending on how customers want the final results. Customers can even purchase a starter kit for this as a DIY beauty routine.
Aside from these three main nail systems, nail technology also covers other areas of study, such as:
- Public health and safety
- Proper hygiene, disinfection, and sterilization
- Chemicals and products
The skills you’ll learn may include:
- Safety and sanitation
- Gel manicures
- Nail wraps
- Nail sculptures
- Nail art
However, courses may vary depending on the school or institution that offers them. Let’s talk more about these areas of study in the next sections.
Public Health and Safety
In terms of public health and safety, nail technology includes the welfare of the staff, customers, and visitors. The responsibilities of the business owner and staff in a salon setting can include:
- Ensuring that a safe beauty shop environment is observed at all times
- Undergoing special safety training, like first aid and safe use of products
- Observing a comfortable temperature and environment in the facility, such as proper ventilation and minimal noise
- Understanding the potential risk of people with a weak respiratory system like those with asthma when exposed to chemical-based products
This set of public health and safety standards can vary from one area to another.
Proper Hygiene, Disinfection, and Sterilization
Proper hygiene, disinfection, and sterilization prioritize people’s safety from potential diseases and infections. Cleanliness aims to keep your hands, tools and equipment, and the facility clean at all times. Some of the basic cleaning activities are the same as what we usually do as part of our household chores but with extra care, such as:
- Proper handwashing (the recommended cleansing products, the proper way of rubbing the hands, the length of washing the hands, and others)
- The recommended type of hand towel and how to wash and store it
- The frequency of washing and applying liquid sanitizers on the hands
- The appropriate wiping of surfaces and sweeping of floors
Disinfection and sterilization is the higher level of cleaning observed in salons. These activities ensure that fungi, bacteria, and other harmful microbes are under control and the possible spread of diseases and infections can be prevented by following the best cleaning practices.
Toxic microorganisms can quickly spread on the nail tools, equipment, the entire facility, and even people if proper hygiene is lacking. This is why studying this aspect in the nail technology course is crucial. Guidelines for disinfecting and sanitizing can include:
- Proper use and disposal of single-use items, such as tissues, cotton balls, and gauze pads, and multi-use tools, such as scrub brushes and cloth towels
- Proper storage of individual packs
- What to do when body fluids, like blood, come out
- Product standards for the recommended chemical-based items for sanitizing and disinfecting
- The ideal equipment and technology for sterilization
These sets of guidelines still vary on the cleaning protocols issued by your local government for salons. It should contain a step-by-step process on the proper cleanliness, disinfection, and sterilization of the workplace and equipment used.
Chemicals and Products
Learning the chemical ingredients and products used for nail technology is associated with understanding the importance of public health and safety. Without proper knowledge of the products used, you’ll put a high risk of irritation or triggering allergies on your customers. This can lead to people complaining or even suing you and the business for not following the recommended products.
To avoid any risk of public safety, knowing the chemicals, products used, and their potential health triggers is important. The common chemicals used are:
- Acetonitrile for nail glue remover products
- Toluene for hardeners, polishes, and polish removers
- Phthalates for polishes
- Methacrylic acid for primers
- Methacrylate monomers for artificial nails
- Formaldehyde for polishes and hardeners
Although they can pose health risks, nail products are generally safe to use as directed. The chemical ingredients may cause harm when swallowed but are “safe” to use on nails. These products should also be approved by the food and drug organization or any similar institution of your local government.
Before even learning the other areas of study for nail technology, mastering the anatomy of nails is significantly important. This helps you know how you can better improve and design nails on each customer. You’ll be able to understand what you can see, which is the nail plate, and don’t, which is the nail bed.
The other parts of the nail you’ll learn in this area of study are:
- Cuticle – the skin where the nail grows
- Perionychium – the tissue around the nail
- Lanula – the white mark, like a half moon, at the base of the nail
- Germinal matrix – the spot below the lanula where most of the nail production comes
- Sterile matrix – the area above the lanula that makes the nail transparent
On top of that, you’ll also have a better understanding of the potential nail problems that may need medical treatments. Nail conditions, such as flat and yellowed nails, vertical nail splitting, and white spots on the nails, can be symptoms of an underlying health condition. You can advise customers showing these symptoms to seek medical help.
What Are the Different Ways to Study Nail Technology?
What’s great about studying nail technology is you don’t need to own a degree. All you should have is training to get a certification, although you will need to check with the local authorities to know what is required in your area.
You can find nail technology offered in many trade schools and colleges. Considering the nature of the course to be hands-on, some courses may require an internship, studio work, or lab sessions. Upon finishing the curriculum, you’ll receive a certificate and have the opportunity to extend your study by taking an associate’s degree in cosmetology.
However, for you to practice nail technology, your state or region may require a license.
You can also study the course online if this works better for you than the on-campus training. The only downside to this is some online courses may not offer any internship or lab sessions, which may be an important requirement in getting a license.
If you opt for enrolling in an off-campus setup, make sure that the course offers an internship and other similar hands-on activities. You may also be required to visit the campus from time to time to meet with instructors or the program staff.
What Prerequisites Are There to Study Nails?
The prerequisites in enrolling in nail technology vary on the institution that offers it. But the common requirements include:
- Interview with the nail technology program personnel
- Regular school visits for the off-campus study
- Enrollment fee payment
- Completing the application process
- General educational development (GED)
- High school diploma
- Be 16 years old or older
What Accreditations Can You Get by Doing Nail Courses?
Upon completion of the nail technology study, typically, you’ll get a certificate from the school or licensed institution that offers the program. However, to get the license to practice the course, you’ll need to pass a licensure exam and practical test. The accreditations can vary by country though.
In Australia, for example, you need to take and complete nail courses that provide a diploma or certificate, that is, Certificates II and III in Nail Technology, to become a certified nail technician.
In the US, accreditations vary by state. Different accredited course programs are scattered in each state, and to get a license, students must complete the program and pass the licensure exam in their respective states.
In the UK, a nail technician can choose a level of expertise and study it (from Levels I to III). However, to be considered a professional nail technician, you need to complete Levels II and III.
What Will All of This Cost?
The costs for studying nail technology and getting a certificate or license for it primarily depend on the location of the school or institution that offers it and the curriculum. Other factors to consider are:
- Your availability, whether part or full time
- Whether the school or certified institution is an established brand, for profit, or private
- Tools, equipment, and facilities used
- The number of class hours required by the region or state
In Australia, Level III Certificate can cost around $1,050 (AUD) for a full-time course that requires 23-24 hours of class for 18 weeks.
In the US, the average cost ranges from $1,000-$5,000 (USD). The exact cost depends on what the curriculum covers and the number of hours required to finish the program. Expensive programs usually include training for running a salon business.
In the UK, Level III Certificate can cost £300-£500, and again, the exact amount varies on the type of course and organization that offers it.
What Will You Be Able to Do at the End of a Nail Technician Course?
After completing a nail technician course, you’ll get your certificate or diploma. You can then apply for a job at a salon because becoming a nail technician doesn’t really require a license, unless otherwise stated in your state’s or region’s law. However, for a higher chance of getting accepted quickly, especially with popular and established brands, getting a license is best.
You can also practice what you’ve learned in the nail technician course first in your community. You can do home service for your friends and gain real experience.
How Do I Find the Best Nail Technology Course?
To get the right fit for you, take note of these important factors in choosing the ideal nail technology course:
Nail technology courses cover different topics depending on the provider. It’s important to enroll in a course that matches your lifestyle.
Check your availability if off-campus or on-campus is ideal for you. You don’t want to enroll in an on-campus program and find it difficult to keep up with the schedule. If you opt for off-campus learning, be ready to spare time if the program requires a regular on-campus visit.
Part of becoming a nail technician is to learn your state’s or region’s law about nail technology. Your area may require an accredited program for you to work in salons. Choose a course that meets the regulations in your area.
Your local government may provide financial support for studying nail technology, so you might want to apply if you need the assistance. If you’re thinking of borrowing money from the government, you need to understand and be ready to accept the terms for paying the loan.
Licensing and Continuing Education
After getting a certificate or diploma for nail technology, you can decide whether to get a license or continue advanced studies in cosmetology. If you choose the latter, rules, schedules, and costs are significantly different.
Job Placement Assistance
Some nail technology courses may help you land a job after getting certified. Check whether the program you’re interested in is offering this type of assistance if you want to secure a job right after finishing the curriculum.
Enroll in a Nail Technology Course Now!
With our guide to understanding what nail technology is and how you should get started, you now have a better direction on where to begin. Always consider your availability and budget to help you complete the program and get a license successfully. So, start checking available nail technology courses in your area now and become a licensed nail technician quickly!