All licensed nail technicians are formally trained in correct nail terminology; however, after the licensing exam, many technicians can veer off course. In fact, it’s not uncommon to hear veteran professionals (and even educators!) using an incorrect term simply because the correct term is so commonly misunderstood by clients. Yet, as a licensed professional, it’s vitally important to communicate with clients about foot concerns and service procedures using precise and accurate language. Doing so demonstrates your specialized knowledge, projects a professional image, and educates your clients.
Read on to learn seven terms that are frequently misused by technicians and the professional terms all nail technicians should be using instead.
Frequently, all of the skin surrounding the nail is collectively called the cuticle; however, it’s important to remember that this area is technically composed of three parts. The thin, translucent layer of non-living tissue that is firmly attached to the nail plate and comes from the underside of the eponychium is called the cuticle. The second part is the eponychium, often confused with the cuticle. This is the living skin that covers the nail matrix and the base of the nail plate. The eponychium creates and releases the cuticle, which is the thin layer of dead tissue that will ride the nail plate. The cuticle acts as a seal to close the gap between the natural nail plate and the eponychium to prevent entry of microorganisms, thus helping to prevent infection. Lastly, the perionychium is the skin around the nail. Frequently, the skin around the entire cuticle area is extremely dry and unsightly. The Footlogix Cuticle Softener effectively softens cuticles and skin build-up around the nail fold and under the free edge of the toenail, allowing easy removal of excess debris, while the Footlogix Cuticle Conditioner moisturizes, soothes and protects the skin in this area.
2. Nail Drill
According to Merriam-Webster, a drill is an “instrument with an edged or pointed end for making holes in hard substances.” Does that sound like something a client would want near their toes? Of course not! The term e-file, on the other hand, more properly describes what a technician does with this valuable tool during a pedicure service—which is quickly and safely reduce moderately thick nails and calluses, as well as buff and shape the nail plate. Calling the device an e-file sounds more professional (and less scary!).
3. “You have an infection" and/or "here’s how you treat that”
Most nail technicians have seen it all and can easily recognize common foot-related medical conditions. However, as tempting as it may be to give clients a diagnosis or treatment advice for serious issues of a medical nature, don’t! Only medical doctors can diagnose and prescribe the treatment, so be vigilant to avoid phrases or statements that allude to such. Instead, every professional nail technician should learn the Three R’s with Footlogix: Recognize, Recommend and Refer. Carefully conduct a visual foot and leg evaluation before every pedicure service and make note of any irregularities. Don’t service a client who has broken skin, open wounds, ulcers or abrasions, and immediately refer them to a medical professional.
Sanitization reduces the number of harmful bacteria (pathogens) to the point where it’s non-health threatening—however, sanitizing is not enough to meet board requirements and ensure client safety during a pedicure. Instead, all pedicure implements and tools must be disinfected, which means all pathogens are removed using a disinfectant for a specified period of time, or sterilized, which means all pathogens, fungi and spores are killed using sterilization equipment, such as an autoclave. The Footlogix Professional Stainless Steel File is unique because it can be sanitized and then easily disinfected or sterilized. Its double-sided, multi-directional, etched design won’t shred the skin and the high-quality, stainless steel construction is lightweight, yet durable enough for sterilization in an autoclave.
5. Toenail Gunk or Cheese
Toenail funk, cheese, crud…these are just a few slang terms that are frequently used to describe the material removed from underneath the toenail during a pedicure. While accurately descriptive in some cases, these words can be offensive to some clients and should always be avoided. Instead, techs should explain that this debris is simply skin build-up. In this way, clients understand the cause and no one is insulted.
6. Nail Bed
Many techs will use the terms nail bed and nail plate interchangeably, but they’re actually two very distinct parts of nail anatomy. Most often, techs should be saying nail plate. The nail plate is the hardened, keratin sheet that slowly slides across the nail bed moving toward the end of the finger or toe. Techs shape, buff and polish it during a service. The nail bed, on the other hand, is the living skin that rests beneath the nail plate. Like all skin, the layers of the nail bed contain blood vessels, capillaries, glands and nerves.
7. “Remove Calluses”
Completely removing calluses is out of a nail technician’s scope of practice during a pedicure service. Instead, a professional pedicure will soften and reduce calluses. Not only do these terms more accurately describe what a tech does during a service, they also help manage a client’s expectations. The Footlogix Callus Softener provides an effective, instant softening treatment for calluses (plus toenails and cuticles, dry keratinized skin, hyperkeratosis and fissures/rhagades). After the “spray-on” formula has penetrated the skin, calluses can be easily reduced using the Footlogix Professional Stainless Steel File—greatly improving the foot’s appearance, as well as client comfort. The non-aggressive softener formula doesn’t need to be washed off. It can remain on the skin and will continue to deliver conditioning benefits...even after the service!
Terms Misused by Nail Technicians