September 2011

Jaime Schrabeck

The Nail Extension | by Jaime Schrabeck


Continuing (Mis) Education?

Any discussion about continuing education presumes the basic education provided in beauty schools produces licensed manicurists capable of working competently and safely whether your state requires continuing education or not.

If this were true, why do so many licensed manicurists lack basic skills and fail to follow heath and safety regulations?

On the other hand, what will a few hours of continuing education accomplish after hundreds of hours spent in beauty school?

California, Oregon and Washington do not currently require continuing education, but in states that do like Ohio and Texas, are manicurists more informed and consumers safer?

Careers as nail professionals begin with beauty school, where we can apply as few as 200 hours (Ohio) or as many as 600 hours (Oregon, Texas and Washington) to qualify for the licensing examination.

These variations in time confirm the fundamental problem with time-based curriculums: the quantity of time is valued more than the quality of the instruction and the competency of the student. To suggest that beauty school students spend all their time in technical instruction and / or providing services (practical operation) defies reality. Beauty schools rarely devote more than 90 minutes to direct instruction during the day, nor can they possibly supply enough clients to keep students busy.

Some states have considered increasing the hours required in hopes of improving compliance and consumer safety. For example, California's Board of Barbering and Cosmetology recently proposed an increase from 400 to 500 hours. As an expert educator, licensed salon owner and manicurist, I strongly opposed this proposal.

Requiring more hours would likely discourage individuals from becoming students, produce a significant financial burden on those who do and unnecessarily delay their entry into this profession, without ANY guarantee of increased competence or consumer safety.

Students could learn how to disinfect equipment properly; including what can and cannot be disinfected, in 60 minutes or less. The failure of licensees to follow health and safety regulations after they leave school suggests that either they did not learn what to do or were not convinced that it was not optional.

As long as "nail care" is considered distinct from "health and safety," students will dismiss the latter as unimportant when in fact it should inform everything they do. These are NOT separate subjects; beauty schools should teach nail care procedures based on acceptable health and safety practices. A well-designed manicuring curriculum is based on scientifically accurate information. It promotes best practices; it does not perpetuate misinformation and low standards. I consider the competent performance of the following tasks fundamental to manicuring:

Finally, and most important, doing all of the above in a manner that protects the health and safety of consumers and the licensee.

Manicurists that are not trained properly are more likely to deviate from accepted standards of practice, like performing pedicures on clients with questionable health conditions. Manicuring students need to understand the scope of practice of their future license, and they need to know how to determine who can safely receive nail services. Students should realize that making money is not worth risking a client's health or losing their license.

In my experience as an expert witness, I have observed that many consumer complaints involve pedicures, but another common problem is the improper use of drills or electric files. In California, drills are not prohibited, but they are not included in the manicuring curriculum or licensing examination. Given how many complaints arise from drill damage; this may be one of those instances where special certification through continuing education should be required, as it is in Colorado.

The exceptionally poor work done by some manicurists undermines our professionalism and poses a serious risk to consumers. The average consumer mistakenly believes that a manicuring license proves technical competence.

Why do states allow incompetent individuals to obtain licenses? Has the focus on "safety" obscured the benefits of requiring licensees to demonstrate quality work? If we continue to accept mediocrity as our standard of practice, we will continue to produce an incompetent workforce incapable of meeting the demands and expectations of consumers.

Jaime Schrabeck, Ph.D. owns Precision Nails, an exclusive nails-only salon in Carmel, California. She can be reached at