WHAT I LEARNED AT NAIL SCHOOL! + How to do your nails like a PRO!
If you want to take your personal mani game to the next level, whether you want to go to nail school, or are just curious what it's like… this post is for you!
I’ve been out of nail school for about a year now (WOW!) and I have been meaning to write a post about this for a while now! I had a pretty good experience in nail school. I know some people have had medium to bad experiences so I think they can vary so much depending on where you go, who your teachers are, who your peers are, etc. So I want to caveat that while you read through on my personal thoughts!
How do you find a nail school to go to?
I found a nail salon that I really liked in the twin cities area and I DM’d them on instagram and asked where their artists typically go to get their licenses. I highly recommend this because the owner of this salon was literally hiring people out of school and she had a really good opinion on which schools had good curriculums!
Because of this, I didn’t really look into other schools because she gave a great recommendation. But the real reason I LOVED the school I chose was because they had a super flexible schedule, I think this is partly because of the pandemic, but I really hope other schools picked up on this because it was awesome!
This is the program I did!
What is the curriculum like? What are the requirements to become licensed?
So the curriculum was broken out into two sections, theory and practical, all adding up to 350 total hours of schooling. This number of hours depends on which state you live in and can vary greatly (like in Texas it was 600 hours!).
Theory is all of the traditional textbook learning, like reading chapters, filling out workbooks and doing quizzes and projects. I believe it was about 50 hours of theory per section and we alternated between theory work at home, and then practical work at the salon/school.
Practical work consisted of learning the manicure and pedicure process, learning how to work in the salon environment, practicing our skills on other students and models (like fake hands), and eventually taking clients. The whole point of being in the school/salon for the practical work is to 1) get your hours in, 2) complete a specific amount of work that the state requires in order to graduate. I don’t remember the exact amount, but it was like “complete 40 manicures and pedicures on clients, complete a certain amount of acrylic nails” etc.
After we finished all of the theory and practical work/hours, I had to take a test to pass out of nail school, and an additional test to become licensed within the state of MN. There are so many things you need to do in order to pass / test out of school but the school made it super easy to track and we had check points after each section of theory and practical. I didn’t have any issues with passing my tests or completing my work, so overall it took me from January to the end of May to finish everything. I will say that I was working full time for a few months at the beginning, and then I decided to leave my job and do nail school full time in April and May. That really helped me finish quickly.
Also they had a bunch of resources to help you find a job after you graduate! I did a few tours of salons that I really liked, but I was honestly more interested in working for myself so I didn't commit to anything.
What are the most notable skills that I learned?
Going into nail school, I felt pretty confident in my nail painting abilities. You definitely don’t need to have any experience with this because there are so many opportunities to practice, but I felt like it helped with my timing of things.
I learned a lot from the textbook about things I had never known, like nail health and diseases (see THIS BLOG POST for more info about this topic!!). I also learned about what it’s like to work in a salon environment. I rarely get services done so it was interesting to work in this way. You also learn so many other topics like career essentials, nail ecology, basic human anatomy, chemistry, nail and skin physiology, client care, and sooo much safely/sanitation/disinfection info.
I also learned the basic manicuring and pedicuring process which I had never formally been taught but I felt like I had a general idea. I will say the instructor showed me how to do the process, but once some students were further along in the schooling, we became teachers and taught new students the processes and would perform services on them to learn. I really enjoyed playing a role in educating because HELLO I love doing this now too :) The instructors were generally busy helping other students so it was rare to have true one-on-one time with them, though it did happen occasionally.
What are some things I didn’t like about nail school?
I’m going to do rapid fire…
- ACRYLICS! I was so bad at them. I only did a full set on a client one time and it took me FOUR HOURS. Like that is torture. For both of us!!!!
- The main instructor was a cosmetology (specifically hair) specialist. I wish there would have been a nail technician specialist there to help train us. The instructors definitely know what they’re doing, but they are very by the book.
- Taking clients sometimes was chaotic. Like if someone showed up you would have to stop what you were doing and set up a station to take them. It wasn’t the most professional thing, but then again, we are just students!!
- My back hurt so much. It was just not a comfortable setting to work in and to take clients. This can vary so much depending on your school but I had to call it out.
- I honestly feel like I learned more from youtube videos or instagram nail artists I follow about nail prep and how to properly use specific tools like nipping cuticles and all of that good stuff. More on this later!
- I am STAUNCHLY against soaking your nails in water before painting them. I much prefer a dry mani, I think it’s safer and it makes your polish last longer. We had to follow the salon’s steps for a manicure so I couldn’t do the process that I wanted to do, which I didn’t love.
What are some things I liked about nail school?
- Getting pedicures multiple times a week
- Meeting other nail students and seeing what the cosmetology students were learning (like watching them give haircuts and blowouts lol i thought it was fun)
- This might not work well for everyone but we had SO much solo work time (also might have been due to covid restrictions but I’m not sure how much this has changed over the year!), where we practiced on mannequin hands / practiced acrylics on dowels, and we could bring headphones so people watched netflix or listened to music/podcasts/books. I was glad we could do this because otherwise it would be boring!! And this was necessary to complete all of the required manicures that I mentioned above.
- I feel like getting my license was important for me because I was really interested in both doing nails professionally and it also gave me credibility for teaching others and sharing my knowledge!
- Another thing to note, the age range of the students varied so much. There were a lot of 18-19 your olds right out of high school, and also a bunch of people over the age of 40 who wanted a new career change! It was great to meet and work with people of all ages.
This is SO much info but also I know I left a lot out, if you have any specific questions that I didn’t cover feel free to leave a comment or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
WHAT I DID NOT LEARN AT NAIL SCHOOL!
The thing that I always say about nail school is that it is all about putting in the time to get your license, and the real learning / perfecting of your execution comes from either external research or actually working at a salon. I shadowed the owner of Nail Ninja and she told me she teaches all of her artists her preferred method for manicuring and it’s basically like nail school 2.0, but I learned SO much from just shadowing her that never came close to what we learned in nail school too! I highly recommend doing this if you’re interested in a specific salon or want to see what it’s like to work at one :)
The number one thing that I didn’t learn in nail school, which is kind of shocking TBH, is how to SAFELY execute manicure prep. Like the steps in the text book literally tell you to “push back cuticles, nip cuticles if necessary.” How is anyone supposed to learn how to safely do this or what to look for to know if it’s necessary or not with those directions???? Like I mentioned before, our instructors were mainly professionals in the hairstyling world, so they weren’t really going into detail with us beyond what was in the textbook.
Was it worth it?
For me, I think yes. I now have the option to perform services as a licensed technician on clients, I can work at a salon if I want to, or maybe open my own someday??? Who knows lol. And I also have loved becoming an educator on how to safely and effectively execute a professional manicure!! I believe nail school was around $3000 for me, so it’s definitely an investment. If you are just a casual at home manicure enthusiast and you don't want to pursue working in the industry, maybe it’s not right for you, but if you do have interest in working professionally in the nail industry, obviously you need to go, and I want to say I think it’s a relatively painless experience, although it is time consuming.
If you’re not interested in going to nail school, but you still want to learn my exact methods for executing a manicure…
OR maybe you are in nail school or out of nail school but still want to learn my methods!
I created my courses for you to learn how to safely do a manicure, and how to properly execute painting with both regular polish and gel. This is the exact process that I use on myself and on clients, and all of the information combines knowledge that I gathered from nail school, from watching numerous nail artists, and putting everything together into one method that works amazingly on clients or yourself!
Let's break down the courses real quick!!!
(you can get even more info under each link)
This course goes through my entire prep process from start to finish. We cover which tools to use, how to use them, and how to safely execute the entire process. This process is entirely different from what I learned in nail school and I explain WHY it’s SO MUCH BETTER in my opinion :) And safer. You will be armed with all of the knowledge of how to safely and properly prep your nails for either a gel or regular polish manicure.
This course shows you how to properly use gel polish and execute a full manicure with it. It’s perfect for those of you who are new to gel, or those of you who want to take your gel game to the next level! I also go over how to safely remove your gel without damaging your nails. AND I share a method for re-doing your gel nails that doesn’t require soaking off, and this helps you grow your nails out over time and keeps them SUPER STRONG! We learned the EXTREME basics of gel in nail school, and this course will teach you sooo much more.
This course covers how to properly paint your nails with regular polish. Even if you think you know what you’re doing, I promise you will learn so many new tips for how to paint, and how to make your manicure last for even longer with my methods. Someone once told me that they’ve watched a ton of masterclasses about painting and this one was exponentially better. Trust :)
All of the courses are videos in real time, so you can follow along while you’re prepping or painting to practice and execute.
I highly recommend these courses to anyone who is looking to improve their nail game. I honestly wish something like this existed so I could have had additional education beyond what I learned at nail school while I was going through it!! Now that I have these methods, I’m confident that I can execute an amazing manicure every time on myself and clients.
If you’ve made it this far and you want to check out a course, use code NAILSCHOOL for 10% off :)
As always, let me know if you have questions!! If you went to nail school too, I’m curious what your experience was like so make sure to leave a comment with your thoughts!!