November 2011

Jaime Schrabeck

The Nail Extension | by Jaime Schrabeck


Honoring Older Clients While Getting Better With Age

I am not getting any younger, nor are my clients. As we grow older together, my clients expect me to be their manicurist until they no longer need my services (note: I do not do mortuary manicures). Likewise, I expect them to be my clients for as long as possible. We are invested in each other and I appreciate their continued support of my business.

My clients know that I have no plans to retire because I truly love what I do. My passion for nails has not diminished with time. In fact, whether providing services, managing my salon, teaching classes at beauty shows or consulting with manufacturers, I'm more excited and optimistic about the future of the nail industry than I was when I attended beauty school 20 years ago. I could not have predicted what I would be doing at this age, but I am more satisfied than I could have hoped. Why would I retire?

I intend to work many more years, but not necessarily in the same way that I have in the past. There are two reasons why I do not work alone 10 to 12 hours a day, six days a week anymore. I do not want to work that hard and I do not have to.

It's no revelation that manicuring demands a great deal physically, including manual dexterity, hand /eye coordination, proper body mechanics, strength, visual acuity and stamina. None of these things improve with age, but I have been fortunate. I have never had issues with my joints, like carpal tunnel syndrome, and still do not need glasses, although I know my eyes cannot defy my age much longer.

Besides the physicality of the work, there are also considerable emotional and psychological demands. Manicurists have no training as therapists, yet interactions with clients can be intensely personal. I do not expect my clients to have perfect lives, but I do not allow them to burden me with their problems either. For my own peace of mind, I respect their privacy, limit my personal involvement and direct them to other resources when necessary.

As much as I like to work, I would have burned out long ago if I had continued working 60 plus hours per week. Working that hard does not make sense if it is not sustainable. At a certain point, I would have compromised either my health or the quality of the services, neither of which is acceptable. That is why my salon employs other manicurists; we share the work so that we can do what is best for our clients and ourselves. My employees and I are invested in each other, and I expect them to grow older with me also.

To make our work less demanding, the salon is designed for better ergonomics, easier maintenance and greater accessibility. Accessibility is of particular interest to clients because mobility often decreases as we age. By minimizing physical barriers, or eliminating them altogether, it is more convenient for everyone, and we can accommodate clients who use canes/walkers/wheelchairs.

Despite our efforts to make the salon accessible, we have clients who are physically incapable of visiting us. Their limitations may be temporary, like recovering from surgery, or permanent, like being unable to drive or having a terminal illness. For these clients, I make an exception and provide services in their homes.

Let me emphasize that these appointments are not home spa parties; these clients have legitimate reasons why they cannot visit the salon, otherwise I would not be able to work on them legally. (Before offering services outside your licensed salon, check with your state board and insurance provider to make sure you are compliant.) 

Being mobile does take some planning. I schedule these visits only on Fridays, a day I do not normally work at the salon. When reserving an appointment, I allow for travel time. (It is appropriate to add a travel fee; just let the client know in advance).

I pack my equipment and supplies in preparation, as the only thing I expect the client to provide is an electrical outlet. Because it is not feasible to bring the entire salon experience, it is necessary to revise service procedures and pricing.

For example, I do not travel with a towel warmer or paraffin warmer so those are not part of home service. My comfort is not nearly as important as my client's is, and I often have to adjust by standing alongside a hospital bed, sitting on the floor, etc., while providing services. The inconveniences are minor and I am happy these clients still want to maintain their nails. Even our salon clients appreciate that home visits will be available to them should the need arise.

Providing another 20 years of professional nail care will require that I continue to prioritize my own health and wellness, while adapting to changes in my clients' circumstances. Older clients enrich my life, and they demonstrate every day that age is more than a number; it can be a source of inspiration.

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