Salon Etiquette: No, Your Nail Tech Doesn’t Want To Treat Your Dirty Nails, And Other Manicure Manners

By Ashleigh Cometti
Nail and lash technician Sophie Allen shares how to get the most out of your manicure. Collage / Julia Gessler

For the latest instalment in our Salon Etiquette series, Ashleigh Cometti asked her go-to nail tech for her client do’s and don’ts while in the salon chair.

Welcome to Viva’s Salon Etiquette series, where we glean the inside scoop for every must-do and please-don’t while you’re sitting in the salon

From hairstylists and nail technicians to facialists and makeup artists, we’ll be speaking to Aotearoa’s top beauty experts and calling for their brutal honesty — the juicier, the better. It’s time to brush up on your makeup manners, or home in on your salon social graces. Previously, we spoke to Tessa Burlison about what your hairdresser wants you to stop doing; skin expert and education co-ordinator Kimberley Conboy about what your spa therapist wants you to know.

This week, I spoke to nail and lash technician Sophie Allen, who has built for herself a successful home-based salon in East Auckland. Her booked-out schedule and burgeoning Instagram following (@Beautywithsoph__) is a testament to both her professionalism and expertise.

The qualified beauty therapist specialises in gel, builder gel (or BIAB for the familiar) and Yumi lash lifts and has established a rolling roster of regulars who entrust Sophie with feeling fabulous.

Not only this, but she’s the only nail tech I trust with my digits after one too many cut cuticles and nail infections from franchised nail bars.

Sophie says nail services remain a luxury service, so it’s important they feel this way.

“If you aren’t feeling excited to get your nails done or excited to show them off when you leave, then it might be time to find a new salon, then you may have a more satisfying and pleasurable experience,” she says.

Below, I asked Sophie every burning question (quite literally) about how to get the most out of your manicure and what to do if you’re not happy with the result.

ASHLEIGH COMETTI: This series is all about maintaining good salon etiquette. What are five things people do in your salon chair that you love?

SOPHIE ALLEN: My number one thing with my clients is communication, I love when clients tell me what they love and what they don’t, and how they’re feeling throughout the service. This just means you leave with a smile on your face, which is the ultimate outcome. Other things include:

  1. A warm greeting.
  2. Engaging in friendly conversation.
  3. Discussing and showing me photos of what they’re after, so we’re on the same page.
  4. When clients are excited about their nails at the end of the service!
  5. I love when clients relax their hands in the nail chair, this makes our job as nail technicians much more comfortable as we can move your hands as we need to without straining our hands and wrists.

AC: What are some things people do that you’d rather they didn’t?


  1. Coming in with dirty nails, remember to clean under your nails when you’re washing your hands! This isn’t super common but it does happen occasionally.
  2. Booking in the wrong treatment and being unhappy with the technician if they can’t do what you wanted. Most technicians have busy schedules, which don’t allow time to fit in something you haven’t booked.

AC: Are manicures meant to hurt?

SA: In short, no. If clients are in any sort of discomfort or pain open communication is key, as there can be different methods for people with more sensitive skin or nails.

AC: What are burning sensations (aka heat spikes) caused by? Can they be avoided?

SA: Heat spikes can (on the rare occasion) happen when the gel is first curing under the light. Most gel lamps can be adjusted to a lower heat setting. Communicate with your tech that it is feeling uncomfortable and remove your hand from the light immediately as they can be avoided.

AC: If a client is visiting a nail salon for the first time, what are some red flags they should look out for to ensure the place and practices are hygienic?

SA: Firstly, clients should always check that the salon has a health and safety licence.

When going into a salon some red flags would be: dirty surfaces, when a nail tech doesn’t have clean or manicured hands, along with a lack of qualification or knowledge on products and treatments they offer.

AC: How can Viva readers go about requesting a silent appointment without making things awkward?

SA: Silent appointments aren’t frowned upon; they are usually available on request and give both the client and the tech time to chill out.

AC: If a client isn’t happy with the result of their appointment, how should they go about it?

SA: Message the technician! In a kind manner, of course. They will always try their best to resolve the problem. It’s best to bring it up sooner rather than later.

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