Nail School Update: Weeks 1-3


As some of you may already know, I enrolled in the Managing Manicure program at the Brown Aveda Institute in Mentor, OH.  It’s a part-time evening and weekend program that lasts 22 weeks, so I attend the program on Wednesday and Thursday evenings from 5:30-9pm, and Saturdays from 9am-5pm.  The timing allows me to still work and earn a living while advancing my nail knowledge.  I’ve always loved the experience at the local Ladies & Gentlemen Salon & Spa, which is a local Aveda spa owned by Nancy and Ed Brown.  They also own and operate the Brown Aveda Institute, so this seemed like a great fit.

The first week started off a little slow since the first two evenings were devoted entirely to orientation.  I enjoyed hearing the history about the school and the owners and how it all came to be.  The owners of the Institute came in and told us their personal backgrounds and stories which was really interesting.  It also felt very personal and I was impressed to learn that they do this for every new class that starts.

That Saturday was our first day in class and the learning process began!  I have to tell you that I was afraid of being really bored in this program, but I’ve already learned SO much in a very short period of time.  My other worry was that I’d be the old lady in the class and would be surrounded by kids and drama… thankfully that’s also not the case.  Our class is small and has just seven people, and we’re a pretty mature group.  Most of us have kids and/or are starting a second career.  Our instructor is also great, so I’m thankful all around to have a learning environment that is comfortable and positive.

Our program starts off in the classroom and is very heavy on book work.  We’ve already covered several chapters:

  • Personal Development; This was pretty common sense stuff about how to take care of yourself… healthy mind & body, effective communication, ethics, relationships, etc.
  • Salon Ecology; Microbiology (bacteria, viruses, infection, etc), infection control (sanitation, disinfection, sterilization), and safety.
  • Anatomy; This was a pretty long chapter that covered a lot of ground, from cells to body systems.  We learned about all parts of the body but the chapter had a strong focus on the anatomy of the arms & hands, and legs & feet for obvious reasons.
  • Nail and Skin Physiology; Composition of the nail and all of the nail and skin disorders and diseases.  This chapter had a LOT of vocabulary, and we had very little time to take it all in before the test was given.  I stayed up late studying the night before the exam and luckily aced it.  Thank god for multiple choice tests!
  • Nail Services & Natural Nails:  We just started these two chapters and will finish them up in the coming week.

Since it’s an Aveda school, we’re also learning about the company and their rituals.  As I mentioned above, I’ve visited one of our local Aveda spas many times and have always loved the service that I received, so it’s interesting to learn this side of things.  They’re extremely customer service oriented and they want every customer to have an exceptional experience from the second they walk in the door, until they walk back out.  We also learn about the Aveda product lines.  I love, love, love the smell of their products!  I didn’t even realize beforehand that their products are all plant-based and organic, and that they can actually trace most of the ingredients used directly back to the farm where they were sourced.

I also love that the Ladies & Gentlemen locations are non-tipping.  I don’t remember if that is an Aveda thing or if it’s just specific to these locations, but as a customer is takes the pressure off.  I never know how much to tip.  And as the professional that’s performing the service, you know exactly what you will earn on that service and your income isn’t dependent on tips.  The purpose of it really though is to ensure that every customer receives the same exact level of service, and there is no favoritism played depending on how much a person tips.

So as I mentioned, the first few weeks are very book heavy.  Next Saturday we do a mani and pedi on a live model that we bring to class, and the following week we do a Shellac mani and a regular pedi on another live model.  My mom and sister have volunteered to be my models.  The second live model demo is actually a test, and if we pass we graduate to the next level and get to work on clients on the floor.  The next phase has much more hands-on experience and only one day a week in the classroom.  And then our final phase is the management course, and that’s more classroom-oriented again.

kitI’ve always wondered what comes in the manicure kits… now I know!  Above is a picture that I took the night I received my kit.  I swear we were all like little kids in a candy store the day we got them!  I think our kits are different from the ones that most schools give out – I hear that most receive the OPI kit.  Ours is hand-crafted for our course needs.  The implements are all really good quality, which I’m happy about.  We don’t receive much in the way of product since the Aveda products are all provided for us at the school.  We use Zoya nail polish, so our kit included a Zoya color (red for State Board), base, top and remover.  The remover isn’t shown in the picture since it was on backorder.

I’ve only used my fake hand once so far.  We put tips on them in class and practiced filing and polishing.  I forgot to take a picture of the first set that I did – it was just a super simple mani with a solid color.  I did some rounded tips that looked way too wide for the hand.  Below is a picture of my second attempt.  I rounded the tips a little better, though round nails are still out of my comfort zone.  I really want to learn how to work with other shapes so I’ll be practicing on that.  This mani was a simple purple and gold using CND Vinylux – that’s the other RNP brand we use occasionally besides Zoya.  (I don’t remember the color names!)

fake-hand-2nd-manicureToday (I’m writing this on Saturday evening) our instructor did a demo of an Aveda manicure from start to finish and we got to practice on each other, so I did my first manicure on a live person.  I probably sound like a broken record, but I love the Aveda rituals… the manicures include the hot towels and hand & arm massage.  Ahhh…. so relaxing.

I have to say though, there are some major redundancies in the process that we learned today that are annoying as hell.  I think we have to do these things because of State Board, but OMG it’s frustrating.  We have to keep little Ziplock bags for all of our porous items like files/buffers, cotton and paper towels.  We have to keep all of these items in the bags sealed at all times, and every single time you go to take an item out of the bag you have to spray your hands with sanitizer.  I think I had to spray my hands about 50 times, no joke.  I don’t understand why I can’t sanitize my area and then lay the items that I need on a sanitized area for use during manicure.  I’ve never seen anyone in a salon doing it this way.  If I sat down to get my nails done and the tech kept spraying his/her hands, I’d be annoyed.  I think it takes away from the experience.  Just saying… that part sucks!

I’m pretty good at polishing… as you know, I’ve had some practice.  LOL  But I was terrified about filing and nipping cuticles on someone else.  I think I did ok though.  Jessica, my classmate, was very helpful in telling me how I was doing.  I started off a little too gentle and she told me it was ok to use a little more force, which helped make me feel more comfortable with the process.  Here’s a picture of her completed mani.  The color she chose was Zoya Layla, a gorgeous pink.

1st-manicure-jessicaThe first three weeks have flown by!  I’m going to try to post regular updates about my experience, though I likely won’t post about it every week… maybe every 2-3 weeks.

Happy Belated Valentine’s Day too!  I really wanted to do more nail art for the holiday, but I’ve been a little busy  ;)

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18 Responses

  1. Anna says:

    Your pink manicure looks awesome!! Excellent job!!!

  2. Elaine says:

    I am loving hearing your journey. You are good at writing as well. I love your blog and have a question. My question for you is: do you take a tool to clean around the cuticle after applying polish? There seems to be the slightest space and so neat. I’ve never had a professional manicure. Thank you.

  3. shan says:

    Ii am so proud of you. You have talked about doing it and now it’s a reality. So exciting. I’m in Washington State and we have to use a new file on every person, every time. New file, new buffer and we can not have a used file at our station. That one is crazy because i use a file for other things at my station but have to keep it in the dispensory. Anyway, each state has different rules and you get used to them. I personally spray my hands a lot. When people come in sniffling or whatever, it pust my mind at ease that i won’t get what they have. Enjoy your journey…the nail world needs you!

  4. Amy says:

    Your manicures look amazing, well done! Can’t wait to keep hearing how you get on :)

  5. Katie says:

    I am excited to follow your journey because I’m from Ohio and researching nail tech programs right now! <3

  6. Libby in WI says:

    My hometown is actually where Horst resided when he started and ran Aveda. I’m a huge huge fan of all the products. This is making me think I should look into certification!

  7. Sharon Medran says:

    How fun to hear your stories . It’s been 33 yrs since I was in beauty school. Oh the memeries…I was the older one then at 30 yrs.

  8. Laura says:

    I am glad to get to follow your journey. Between you and a few other bloggers, I feel like I may be able to get a feel for the experience. Do keep us posted as you go on. I am interested to know what it is like to move on to a salon later as well and what challenges may go with that.

  9. I’m so excited to read your nail school updates! I think it sounds like our state boards are very similar – it’s annoying as hell. Also, good luck with those diseases and disorders – blech!

  10. Erika says:

    I love Aveda products and am so excited for you! Looking forward to the next update.

  11. Julianne says:

    I am starting nail school this week. I have been doing gel for a few years and have been wanting to go to school and am finally able to start. So excited. Love your site!

  12. JKP says:

    I got my license in CA last year. My school did have silly rules, but they weren’t as strict w/ the sanitizing after touching everything. After taking the State Board Test, I really believe the schools are being overly cautious w/ the steps they teach. In CA there is very little communication w/ the State Board and many of the rules I learned were passed down from one person to another. Many of them were not actual State Board rules. It was very frustrating trying to find out what was true and what wasn’t. When I took my test I was super nervous for no reason. The person in charge only walked by my table 2 times during the entire test. I was on the end of the row and for her to see exactly what I was doing she would have had to have walked up to my table.

  13. Carrie Anne says:

    I hope you post more updates about school! I had considered Brown-Aveda (in Rocky River) but ended up going to Innerstate instead. I just got licensed in February :) You are doing all those things just because of state board. I was so nervous I actually hulk crushed my sanitizer right at the very beginning and had to try to get it out of the cracks and pretend for the rest of the exam.

    • Andrea says:

      I’ve been a bad blogger when it comes to school… I never take any pictures! LOL A couple of the girls in my class went to Innerstate and didn’t feel confident in what they learned so they’re re-taking the course.