University of Nails

Michelle Cordes Pugh~ The Nail Rogue

I have been a nail professional for 20 years, and have a Marketing degree from the University of Washington in Washington State, United States. I do a lot of things in the nail industry and I am pretty outspoken, so who knows what kinds of posts you will find here! The nickname "The Nail Rogue" came from the fact that I am truly independent... I do not accept sponsor funds, and any products reviewed here have either been PURCHASED by me or sent to me for my HONEST review. My vision is:

One global nail family, working together to improve the professional nail services industry, while fostering an industry culture of inclusion and affordable professional education. A rising tide lifts all boats!

The Nail Rogue Blog

  • 11 May 2017 9:30 PM | Michelle Pugh (Administrator)

    Well, here we are again. I have no problem opening my trap and calling out something I think is BS as the BS that it is! In my latest controversial rant on "Nails Over Coffee", I knew that I was going to get some people hot under the collar. And I totally did. Yay me! A goal for this week accomplished. 

    Seriously, if you haven't seen the video yet, you can see it right here...


    So now that you have watched that (hopefully in it's entirety), I can make a few points that I feel strongly about which might have gotten missed in the delivery...

    First off, I am NOT attacking anyone personally. Ok, well, maybe a few people who I don't particularly care for who don't really like me either, but mostly I am calling out the BEHAVIOR, not the person/people. Professionally I have a great deal of respect for a lot of our industry leaders, and personally I think most of them are pretty cool peeps. 

    Ok, that being said, on to the disinfection component of the rant. Basic life lesson here- it is important to know what you don't know. Nobody knows all the things about anything. Stephen Hawking does not know all the things about astrophysics, so I think it's fair to say that no nail industry person knows all the things about nails. So while I am fairly educated in science... from a college... I know that I don't know all the things about disinfection control. What I DO KNOW is that there are people who's job is to know the parts I don't know! 

    Insurance has one part of what I don't know. There are people who sit in tall glass office buildings who's entire job is risk analysis. They examine the facts, the statistics (yuck, my least fave), and the history then make an assessment on how likely there is to be a claim or a lawsuit, and how much that is likely to cost. Then they look at the pool of people who will be purchasing said insurance, and they charge a rate that will allow the company to make a profit even after defending in lawsuits and paying settlements. And those number crunchers have decided that $99-$200 a year, roughly, is sufficient to do that. How much do you pay for car insurance? Medical insurance? Life insurance? Yep, you guessed it, they have decided that we are pretty low risk, and that can be inferred from the prices they charge. AND we HAVE to have it by juristiction law in most places (which generally drives up prices because it is not optional). AND they are trying to MAKE A PROFIT (after all their other business expenses like payroll, advertising, sales, et al). We can infer by how low the price is that we are actually IN FACT fairly low risk. Just for comparison, doctors in the United States pay anywhere from $5k a year to upwards of $100k, and even more if they are in certain states and a specialty surgeon. Most of us pay more than $100 A MONTH in car insurance, even if we have never had a claim. I hope that helps explain my train of thought.

    I also trust our regulatory agencies in places where we are regulated. So here in my state, Washington, our board is pretty on top of it. Remember the fish pedicures thing? It took only about 2 months for our board to say "Fish can't be sanitized and you can't swap out water with fish in it, so NOPE, you can't do that here". Period. Ok. And they said "MMA is causing a problem in nail enhancement services, and the FDA has said it is not appropriate for cosmetic enhancements, so NOPE, can't even have that present in your salon here". All over it. So, if they have deemed that taking an implement, cleaning it of debris in soap and water, soaking it for manufacturers recommended time in a hospital grade EPA registered disinfectant, rinsing off, drying, and storing in a non airtight closed container until use is appropriate.... then I tend to believe them. Especially since I have never once seen a problem from tools disinfected in this manner... from my business or anyone I have crossed paths with. WHAT WE ARE SUPPOSED TO BE DOING WORKS JUST FINE. THE PROBLEM IS GETTING PEOPLE TO FOLLOW THE STANDARD... not creating a new one that really appears to be overkill.

    But see, all that really doesn't matter and is just my opinion. I get to have one of those, and it is based in factual reasoning as I have explained. Here is the point that I think many who have negative things to say about it are missing: if you don't think that disinfection is good enough... then by all means autoclave! If you think sterilization is the only way, all the more power to you! Go for it! Make it a part of your overall business strategy! Do it properly and charge your clients more! Get it, you professional nail tech, you! I have NO PROBLEM with people deciding for themselves that the standard is less than what they want and going over and above. You do you, nail artist! Think jetted pedi spas are the devil? Don't use one! Think that efiles can't be used safely on the natural nail? Don't do it! THESE THINGS ARE A PART OF BUSINESS STRATEGY! Don't look now, but you are plotting your brand! GO YOU!!! I am all for that. Just don't tell me I have to do things the way you do, and treat people like crap with snotty and righteous remarks when they think the standard is good enough. THAT is not ok. 

    There are people leaving our industry in droves because they "can't make any money". Yeah, it is nearly impossible for most nail techs to make a profit AND:

    1. Have a nice place to work in, set up with a $500 nail table;
    2. With $1500 in ventilation;
    3. In a $4500 pedicure throne with disposable liners;
    4. With a $2000 autoclave system and supplies;
    5. To buy quality products from pro manufacturers and attend their training, plus have a workable selection of nail art supplies;
    6. and not charge prices that drive away about 90% of your target market in any given area, and in some areas much more than that.
    Can it be done? Of course it can. Should it be done by everyone? NOPE. The customer segmentation exists whether you like it or not. I may not know everything, but I do know quite a bit about consumer behavior and marketing strategy, and there is a market of salon clients who are PURELY PRICE MOTIVATED. That is why there will ALWAYS BE people who DIY, people who frequent discount salons, people who pay a mid range price for an above par service, and people who pay top dollar for a top experience. Do you know why people don't stop going to salons that are dirty, destroy nails, and do half-assed work? Because they don't care enough to pay more. Right or wrong, that is what it is. Just like some people will NEVER see the value in salon services. And just like some people will pay top dollar for all the things. We DO NOT ELEVATE our industry with excessive regulations, we divide it. That is exactly WHY there is a constant fight to keep us regulated- the powers that be are totally cool with the "invisible hand of the market" letting us sort ourselves out, and we are not helping our cause by infighting. Let's instead set a goal of getting minimum disinfection standards met consistently in every salon regardless of price, and let the other stuff be optional positioning strategy.

    Still with me?

    BUT EVEN SAYING ALL THAT, if that is all you think this is about then you are really missing the big point.... WORDS MATTER AND TALKING SHITTY TO PEOPLE WHO DON'T DO THINGS "YOUR WAY" NEEDS TO STOP. If you think I am talking to you right now, you are probably right. Let's go deeper with a few examples: 
    • social media group #8437 has a post about a funky looking nail. Educator nail tech Jane says "OMG, I can't believe you are even touching that without gloves on!" HOW ABOUT INSTEAD---- "That really looks from the picture like it might be infected. I usually would wear gloves with that, and it may be something you don't want to work on until it gets better." WORDS MATTER.
    • instagram post from @popularnailperson is a short video where they are getting monomer all over the skin. Jane Q Nail person says "Stop slopping monomer all over the skin, that's how allergies happen." HOW ABOUT INSTEAD---- "Your finished work is really beautiful! In my experience, I have seen lots of contact dermatitis from long term exposure to liquid monomer on the skin. If you would like to talk about that, I'd love to go into more detail. Message me! :)" WORDS MATTER.
    • facebook nail group #906 has a post of a set of lonnnnng nails with a lot of art, asking for helpful hints. Manicurist Suzy Q says "EEEEEWWWWW! Those are gross! I would never do those on anyone! And they are really close to the skin, so that's gonna lift." HOW ABOUT INSTEAD ---- preferably, Suzy Q Judgemental would just scroll on by and keep her trap shut, but if not... "Wow, those are long! Long nails are hard to do, so you did a great job with that. I personally don't do a lot of extreme lengths so I can't comment about that, but it looks like you may have gotten a bit close to the skin on some of them. Not a problem in the first few days, but eventually could contribute to some lifting, especially with the weight of the gems added. Thanks for sharing! :)" WORDS MATTER.
    • on a public facebook page on a post about "What primer should I use?", an industry scientist in the process of explaining why we should use the primer that the manufacturer recommends for the system, states that nail techs as a whole are under educated by choice and really don't care about doing nails safely. HOW ABOUT INSTEAD ---- "Of course, my specialty is the science aspect not the salon service aspect. I encourage all technicians to seek out education in their preferred product line and to use their products to manufacturers instructions. The answer is always MORE EDUCATION! :)" WORDS MATTER. 
    Even if you truly believe the tech was crazy for not wearing gloves, the monomer is going to cause a huge problem and how can they not know that, that long nails are vile and disgusting things, and that nail techs are not concerned with education and as a whole are not interested in doing things the "right way".... keep the snarky thoughts in your head and put the polite ones into the world, whether that is on social media, in a classroom, or at a show.

    See the difference? YOUR WAY IS NOT THE RIGHT WAY OR THE ONLY WAY, AND HOW YOU TALK TO PEOPLE MATTERS. If you do not have the time to be polite, save the link to the post or page and come back to it later when you do. If you educate or sell a product, clearly you believe in it, but you need to know that a) your product is NOT the "best" and b) successful people use other products so yours is not the only solution. If you can't say something constructive and in a nice way, then don't say anything at all. Disagreeing is fine; great, even! Disagree respectfully is all I ask. Is that really too much to ask?!? Notice I keep using the word 'polite' instead of 'nice'. It would be, well, NICE if we were all nice but I'm a realist. I'll settle for polite.

    Every time I go off on a tangent like this, I get dozens of private messages from people thanking me for saying what they are too intimidated to, and how they don't really interact in the industry because of the attitudes of the people who are the LOUD MINORITY. When you blast someone who is barely making a profit because they are not doing things a very expensive and overkill way, but they love nails plus HAVE A FAMILY TO FEED and are eeking by meeting standards, it makes you look like an ass and them way less likely to ask for help in the future. And that is a recipe for a short life in the nail industry, and then we complain about turnover and not being able to keep good techs! Our industry has grown so much, can you imagine what it will do if we all work together? Oh, the places we'll go!

    In closing:
    • WHAT WE ARE SUPPOSED TO BE DOING WORKS JUST FINE. THE PROBLEM IS GETTING PEOPLE TO FOLLOW THE STANDARD.
    • I have NO PROBLEM with people deciding for themselves that the standard is less than what they want and going over and above. THESE THINGS ARE A PART OF BUSINESS STRATEGY! Don't look now, but you are plotting your brand! GO YOU!!!
    • WORDS MATTER AND TALKING SHITTY TO PEOPLE WHO DON'T DO THINGS "YOUR WAY" NEEDS TO STOP.
    • YOUR WAY IS NOT THE RIGHT WAY OR THE ONLY WAY, AND HOW YOU TALK TO PEOPLE MATTERS. 
    • We have to find a way to come together, or divided we will fall. That is how we elevate our profession and create a prosperous industry for all of us.
    Thanks for taking the time to read all of this. If you want to reach me, I'm only an email or messenger message away! Oh, and one last thing... not one ounce of my self esteem is tied up in being a cool kid, or in what the in-crowd thinks of me, so trust me when I say that your opinion of me doesn't matter in the slightest. ;) 

    Always first a NAIL TECH, and PEACE, LOVE, NAILS!

    Michelle CP
  • 6 Apr 2017 3:46 PM | Michelle Pugh (Administrator)

    For the March/April issue of Beauty-Addicted Magazine in Italy, my column "Around the World" featured some details and information regarding dipping system nails. While the article is translated (carefully by the editor and myself) into Italian for print, the editor Francesca Torricelli has graciously allowed me to post the articles in English here for my people to enjoy!

    Dipping Systems: A Grand Return

    There is a “new” trend hitting the American nail market for nail enhancements- powder dipping systems. To be fair, there has been certain companies and salon segments that have been using these types of products for nearly 20 years. But there are some new manufacturers, new techniques, new products and new life for this type of salon service technique!

    What is a “dipping system”? At the most basic, it is some sort of a gel or resin with a fine acrylic powder added for strength, plus something to make it “cure”. It is a service designed to be used over tip extensions or on the natural nail; you can sculpt with this type of enhancement as an advanced technique. If the artist prefers to sculpt the extension edge, training classes are recommended. The product line up is very simple, which makes it inexpensive to stock, but it can get expensive to start out if you want to have many color options for your clients. Let us examine what types of dipping systems there are in the market, and what the advantages and disadvantages are of performing this type of enhancement service for your clients.

    Much like acrylic liquid and powder, the most basic and oldest of the dipping systems uses resin and activator as the base for the powder to combine with. For some products, this resin is a gel glue like consistency, while others it is a thinner viscosity like a traditional nail glue. This procedure is much like a fiberglass or silk nail, but instead of fabric mesh, the addition of the powder gives the enhancement strength. The resin, a cyanoacrylate, is brushed on the nail and then the nail is dipped into the powder. The powder combines with the resin, and then an activator is brushed on to cure the enhancement. After the activator step, the nail may be finish filed and completed in the same manner as any other enhancement.


    The newer generation of the dipping system products uses a UV cure base gel instead of the resin. With this system, the UV gel is brushed on the nail like a gel polish, and the powder is poured over the nail. The powder reacts with the oligomers in the gel, and then the nails are placed in a UV or LED lamp to cure for the designated amount of time. After the nails are properly cured, they also may be finish filed and completed as desired.


    The advantages to using a dipping system is that they are very fast to learn and very fast to apply once practiced. As I talked about in the article on acrylic in America, the speed of service can be a huge selling point for nail services in the United States and Canada, where we have a culture of fast! These systems also do not require much preparation to the natural nail, just a simple manicure and buffing to remove the shine from the nail before beginning application. The powders used for these systems are available in a wide range of colors, and some brands can also be used for traditional liquid and powder acrylic nails, increasing a nail technician's service offerings without too much additional product investment. They are virtually odor free (although do not confuse “odor” with “vapor”, but that will be a future topic!). Since the powder can be poured over the nail regardless of which type of system you use, it is easy to do beautiful ombre fades and custom colors, so your artistic ability for color is endless. The end result is a very thin nail that is reasonably strong for it’s thickness. Before you get too excited though, let’s examine the disadvantages.


    The disadvantages to dipping system enhancements are major ones however. The product MUST be used as a tip overlay or on a natural nail until advanced training can be acquired to learn sculpting techniques, and not all dipping system brands are able to create a strong sculptured free edge. The enhancements created with this product are not as hard as liquid and powder acrylic, and not as flexible as gel. There is some concern that dipping the nail into the common use powder is dangerous, if the nail artist chooses to dip instead of pour over with the powder. Finally, being cyanoacrylate based, there has been concern that the enhancement will not hold up well in water long term. As always, consult with product brand manufacturers to determine what they recommend for use, and follow the guidelines of the brand you select to use.


    One size does NOT fit all for enhancement techniques and products for nail technicians, so only the individual artist can determine if offering this system to clients would be the right fit for them and their desired clientele. In the next several issues, we will go through simple acrylic and dipping system nails in step-by-step demos. Knowledge is key to making an informed decision for your business!


    I hope that you found this helpful and enjoyable! The next issue will have a write up on nail service and color trends Around the World! Be sure to follow the University of Nails on Facebook @universityofnails. Until next time, Ciao!

  • 13 Feb 2017 3:00 PM | Michelle Pugh (Administrator)

    Welcome all to The Nail Rogue blog! It is a long and winding road, this thing called life, and now I finally have a home for my nail related blog! There will be SO MUCH to come in 2017, I can hardly stand it...

    While I find two dozen other things to write about, here is the text of the article I wrote for Beauty Addicted magazine from Rome, Italy. The original in italian can be viewed at Beauty-Addicted.it :)


    The question was asked of me "Why is acrylic so popular in America?" The following article is my answer:

    Culture. It defines who we are, what we do, and how we do it. The effect of culture on nails is no different. It can be seen in title: are you a nail technician, or nail artist? Manicurist or nail stylist? And it affects everything we do! Luckily, we are better connected around the world than ever before, which expands the beauty industry and our opportunities for knowledge. There are a few key cultural differences that are worth knowing to make your nail world so much bigger!

    In the United States, everything is fast. Fast food, fast banking, and fast beauty! Drive through coffee bars (shameful, I know!) and drive through pharmacies! Nothing is too sacred to not find a way to do faster. It's our culture. This means there is a large market for fast and convenient nails. And customers expect the fast and easy to be inexpensive too!

    This brings us to why acrylic is so much more popular in the United States as compared to Italy. It is important to remember as we discuss this that even gels are “acrylic”, they belong to the same chemical family. Acrylic as we say is a 2 part system of liquid monomer and polymer powder, whereas gel is monomers and oligomers. It has been said that gel is most accurately described as “premixed acrylic”. However, that premixing comes at a price!

    Even though traditional acrylic has a strong odor, it is very inexpensive to use, and many clients don't care if there is smell. French Manicure, whether the tip is white or another color, is still very popular here. There are salons on every street corner all over America that do a full set of acrylic nails, with white plastic tip and clear acrylic overlay, in 30-45 minutes. This is a technique that can be taught in the salon to new nail techs very quickly, and the customer may only pay $15 for a full set! (Approx €14)

    This is possible because acrylic liquid and powder can be purchased very inexpensively here. There is of course some brands that cost less and some that cost more, but is still less money than most gel. The “discount” salons here, as we call them, use liquid monomer that is $50 USD per GALLON (approximately €46 for nearly 4 liters of liquid monomer!) and by purchasing in quantity, can achieve a cost per service of under $1 of product cost on that $15 service. Some technicians do sculpted acrylic, which fell out of fashion for a time but has made a comeback, and use products that are 4-5 times the price of the products the discount salons use. These advanced technicians also charge 4-5 times as much to the client, making the price difference between their acrylic services and gel services very small. They get to choose which medium to use that will work best for the client. Our consumers want choices!

    Another factor to consider is acrylic is much more universal because of its hardness. While some clients are too rough on their nails for gel, acrylic will stay on their nail without breaking. I say everyone who can wear gel can wear acrylic, but not everyone who wears acrylic can wear gel. We tell clients “your nails are jewels, not tools!”, but they are too busy to listen! Acrylic was also made popular here by nail technicians as early as the mid-1970’s, where gel took until the early 1990’s to make its use widespread. So it has more history in our market. Many of our celebrities with long and bright nails wear acrylic also, and what the famous people have, the clients want!

    Acrylic has a few other differences that make it a choice for some nail artists to use. Polymer powder comes in many colors, allowing to make some very customized nails easily and quickly. There is no need for a UV lamp, so no heat spike while curing and expensive lamps to maintain. And since acrylic cures by heat and not in a lamp, it partially sets while still being moldeable. This makes the artist able to use many different colors on a single nail very efficiently. For many examples of this, search #notpolish on Facebook!

    Next time, we will learn all about nail powder “dipping systems” in the United States and how they fit into what was described here. Such a big nail world!

    Until next time, may all your nails be beautiful and your days happy!

    I hope you have enjoyed this article! The next one will be regarding what the story is with all these dipping systems for nails popping up, and after it goes to print, I will publish it here in english. 

    Don't forget, Nails Over Coffee on Periscope returns MONDAY, FEB 20 at 1 pm Pacific Time (UTC -8:00) @nailsovercoffee, come hang out with us!

    Until next time, CIAO!

    Michelle CP aka The Nail Rogue


Copyright 2015 Michelle Pugh dba University of Nails
Michelle Pugh is a sole proprietor in Washington, United States. 15 S. Oregon Ave Box A-6, Tacoma, WA 98409

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