Consumers Guide to the Nail Industry, Part 1: The Rules

Consumer's Guide to the Nail Industry

When people ask me what I do, and learn I’m a nail tech, they often ask me questions about the nail industry and I am concerned that some of the basic knowledge I take for granted is not commonly understood.

I created a list of basic guidelines I would personally follow or keep in mind if I were a consumer in the nail industry. I hope you find something useful. Some of these will be the topic of a more in-depth subsequent post, so check them out to see what the guideline conveys.

The Guidelines

  1. Every individual nail tech must post their own, current license to perform services even if their employer carries the business license and shop license, so lookup the license and verify it is active.
  2. Infection Control is regulated, spend a moment to recognize signs that this may be lacking.
  3. A doctor referral is a good thing, really.
  4. There is a distinct difference between beautification services and medical procedures.
  5. Ask questions. Communication is a necessity.
  6. Trust your gut.
  7. Be a smart consumer and watch out for deceptive practices.
  8. Report incidents and concerns to the correct agency or agencies when warranted.

This list may evolve, but it’s a good starting place.

Discussing Guideline 1

This covers areas whose governing bodies choose to regulate nail services.

Regulation is intended to provide a minimum level of safety to the public. Operator’s licenses are issued by the regulatory agency to individuals who have met the requirements for education, training, and exams usually by graduating from a nail course at a cosmetology school and then passing state board exams. This is the basic license each and every nail tech needs. It is separate from an individual’s independent contractor or freelance licenses, a shop’s facility license or a state, county and local business license. I’m primarily talking about the permission to perform nail services.

Locate your tech’s license posted in the salon. It should be in his/her name with a matching photo. Verification of licenses by name and number can be done on the regulatory agency’s website rather quickly on your smart phone or tablet. Please verify the license number goes to that name. I will touch more on this topic when I post on watching out for deceptive practices and be sure to view the list of red flags below.

Operator licenses in the nail industry can be for nails or cosmetology. While cosmetology licenses include nail services, check with your regulating agency to see if your state includes artificial enhancements in the nail tech or cosmetology category. Some states have a separate operator title that authorizes artificial enhancements.

Check with your local regulating agency if you want to learn more about licensing requirements or to learn what is permitted in your area. To locate your state’s regulating agency, perform an online search using the phrase “cosmetology regulation” and your State.

Red Flags to walk away:

  • Only one operator license is posted and workers claim they all work under that person’s license
  • When verifying a license online, the license number comes back to a different person’s name
  • You notice two or more posted licenses have the same number
  • Your service provider does not have a posted license and you cannot verify one online
  • After looking up the operator license online, you discover it isn’t active anymore
  • Lack of posted facility or business licenses or they are expired/no longer active
  • Verifying licenses appears to cause chaos

Why is licensing important?

Learning anatomy, chemistry, infection control, state laws and rules, receiving instruction and mentored practice from school has tremendous value. Licensing allows us to be insured. Registering who we are, what we can do and where we work, as well as paying our license fees to help fund a regulatory agency, is in the public interest for consumer safety and professional accountability.

Additionally, when you make the effort to verify you only receive services from licensed nail professionals, you are ensuring that you are not unknowingly participating in human trafficking. Not every unlicensed person is a victim of human trafficking, but those that are victims are not able to tell you.


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