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Adventures at Nail School Week 1

Posted on 18

The Dalai Lama's Nails: adventures at nail school

A lot of people have expressed interest in life at nail tech school, so I thought it would be a fun feature to do a regular (or semi-regular) summary of what’s going on in my program. I’m also insanely excited about it, and you are my captive audience! Without further ado, here are my reflections on the first week of school.

1. My assumptions were totally wrong (aka I remember biology…)

I had a lot of assumptions about nail tech school, particularly about the kind of people I would meet there and about the nature of the material. I thought that everybody would be straight out of high school and that the theory work would be very simple. The truth is much more complex than those quick assumptions. My school seems to be relatively small, but I was very surprised by the variety of people who attend: career changers, college graduates, people with fascinating life stories. I have met a few people who made it to the top of their career paths before realizing that they didn’t enjoy what they were doing, and gosh darn it they just wanted to go into the beauty industry! Although I wasn’t at the top of my field by any means, I really identify with this sentiment. The nail class is quite small, but I get to interact with the people in other programs, too (esthetics, hair, full cosmetology).

The material we have been learning is also quite technical, and I was really surprised by the amount of biology, anatomy, chemistry, and law that’s required. It makes total sense – you need to be able to care for people in a safe way and in accordance with the laws of the industry! Sitting through one of the biology sections, I remember thinking, “oh my goodness, it’s been over 10 years since I have taken any science classes!” I’ll really have to review my cellular processes…! To be completely honest – I have two masters degrees, and I think that deep down I am a bit of a snob, which informed my expectations. I have been so pleasantly surprised and have really enjoyed getting to meet everyone and learn new material.

2. This is so fun!

My husband and I have been carpooling, since his work is pretty close to the school. We moved to Denver because he got his dream job as a game designer, and since he started his new job, he’s been coming home from work saying things like, “this is so fun! I can’t believe they pay me to do this!” I’ve had jobs that I think are challenging and interesting, but I’ve never come home from work with giddy excitement that I get to go to work. Anyways, I’m still in school, but I the past few days have been simply wonderful. When I look back at how pained my decision was to even go to school –  what was I even worried about? It’s so fun! Also, I get to use professional tools! Sorry for the iPhone pic – but oh my goodness, opening these tools was like a dream. And as the course goes on, I’ll get more pretty things to work with!

The Dalai Lama's Nails: tool kit

3. Doing other people’s nails is really different than doing my own 

This should seem like a really obvious observation, but doing other people’s nails is difficult. Everything is backwards! I think my own nails and cuticles are in pretty good shape, so I thought it would be the same to work on other people. First of all, I want to do a precise and thorough job, but nobody wants to sit there for an hour and a half as I clean up their cuticles! I’m not kidding, my first service was painstakingly slow. But it got better and faster each time I did it again. You may recognize these photos because I posted them on instagram, but here are some of my first manicures (including a MANicure!):

The Dalai Lama's Nails: manicure

The Dalai Lama's Nails: manicure

4. Internet myths get busted

This is something I am loving about nail school: I am learning the technically correct way to do things, as opposed to the random advice I get on the internet. I’ve figured out some ways of making my hands and nails look nice, based on some advice I’ve gotten – but it has mostly been trial and error to this point. At nail school, I’m learning what’s industry best practice:

  • Myth #1: Only ever file nails, don’t clip them. The truth is, clipping your nails is only damaging to the nail plate if you try to clip all the way across in one fell swoop. You should clip in a little bits in order to take down length. It’s crazy to think that if somebody wants to take down serious length that you should only file it down. That takes forever!
  • Myth #2: Only file in one direction, don’t saw. This is partially true – you definitely shouldn’t saw! However, you’re supposed to file from corner to center, on each side, and meet in the middle.
  • Myth #3: Never cut cuticles, only push them back. You should use nippers to get rid of dead skin around the cuticle area. If you push back the cuticles and there’s a really thick layer of dead skin, go ahead and nip that off. What you don’t want to do is break the seal and cut living skin, as that cuticle is a protective barrier and keeps out the bad stuff!
  • Myth #4: Let your nails breathe. Nope, nails are actually made of dead keratin cells, so they don’t need to breathe.

5. My brain is tired and other life adjustments

Being unemployed really sucked, but I almost got used to it. Now that I’m running around with a busy schedule, my brain and body are really tired! First, I’ve felt ravenously hungry all the time. Perhaps that’s because I’m used to eating little bits throughout the day, and now I have a schedule with a set lunch time. Second, after a day at school, I feel exhausted from constantly taking in new material and reflecting on every new moment. I’m sure that as the program goes on I’ll adjust to a busy schedule.

So that’s a wrap, friends! I know this post is much lengthier than my normal – I’d love any feedback! Do you enjoy this kind of post, or is it too much?

Share this article

  • I love this kind of post! I have no idea what goes on at beauty school, and I am taking major tips from your myth busting.

  • great post, I’m really looking forward to read more!

  • I absolutely love this! Keep these posts coming. 🙂 I look forward to you sharing your knowledge with us as you learn, and I’m really proud of you for going after this. 🙂

  • I’m interested in beauty school too so I love hearing from behind the scenes 🙂

  • It sounds like such an exciting program! Can’t wait to read what more is going to come from your class!

  • Really great, & informative! More plsss?!! 😉

  • ha! great myth busters, and i believe every word you said.
    i never thought that nails ‘need to breathe’. thanks for telling me i was right lol

  • THANK YOU for sharing! This is fascinating!! Please post more! I can’t wait to read it!

  • This was a great read, I really enjoyed it.
    I have painted other’s nails a few times and it has made me feel weird every time. I have gotten used to it but the state of the cuticles, different nail shape and length on each finger.. and they haven’t wanted for a slight fix on that 🙁 and then the art doesn’t look that good. And that makes me sad as an artist..

  • Congrats on your decision to go! I’m just about done with my program, and I’m happy to help wherever you’d like! I’ll be taking my tests soon. Eek!

  • katyblognailedit

    By the way…where are you attending?

    • I’m attending the Academy of Cosmetology Arts in Denver. I’m really enjoying it so far! Are ready for your exam? Eeek! So exciting! By the way, I heard there’s another Nail Talk event coming up. I can go this time!