Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Guess the Connection Between Dentists and Nail Products June 17, 2013

Filed under: Nails — askanesthetician @ 7:57 am
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If you read my bio in the “about” section of this blog you’ll learn that since returning to live in Israel this past August I completed both a manicure/pedicure course and an artificial nails course.  In order to finish both courses of study and receive my certification from the Israeli The Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Labor I needed to write a very short research paper about a topic that related to the subject of the course.  Intrigued by some information that my teacher had shared with us at the beginning of our studies about who invented modern artificial nails (a dentist) I decided to try to research that subject more for my paper.  In the end I discovered that there really isn’t that much information out there about the origins of modern artificial/acrylic nails (all the sources I found just repeat the same information over and over) yet I did discover that there is a surprising connection between the dental industry and the nail industry.  Well a surprising connection in my opinion so I thought I would share the information here for my readers.

The Origins of Modern Artificial Nails

Throughout history and across all cultures women have been obsessed with their nails, lavishing attention and time to decorate, grow, and extend them.  The length of your nails could even speak to your status in society as was the case during the Ming Dynasty in China.  Modern, acrylic nails such as we know them today came from an unlikely source – a dentist by the name of Fred Slack.  Dr. Slack, a leader in prosthetic dentistry and a one of the original developers of the process for manufacturing plastic teeth, cut his thumb nail in 1957 while working in his laboratory.  Dr. Slack used aluminum foil to create a platform on which to fix his nail with dental acrylic.  Viola!  The world’s first acrylic nail.  Eventually this act would lead to the first nail form patent.  Though Dr. Slack remained in the dental industry his son realized the application of professional dental product and their chemistry in the nail industry (and he also recognized the great potential for growth in the nail industry) and shifted their company’s focus (the company is called NSI Nail Systems International)  in the 1970s from dental products to nail products.

Other Dentists and Dental Supply Companies and Their Nail Connections

But here is the intriguing thing, at least in my opinion, NSI Nail Systems International isn’t the only nail company that has its origins in the dental industry.  Both CND and OPI started off with connections to dental industry.

CND’s story is as follows (from the company’s website):

Who would have thought the nail care industry’s most innovative company would get its start with a chance discovery in a dentist’s office? That’s where Dr. Stuart Nordstrom, a practicing dentist, got the idea for a new nail enhancement product: A patient remarked that the material used to prepare temporary caps smelled like the material used to sculpt porcelain nails. The result was SolarNail™ Liquid, the industry’s first-ever monomer formulation for greater nail strength and flexibility—and the first product to deliver natural, non-yellowing nail color. SolarNail was a transformative event. It changed the future of the nail industry. It changed the future of the Nordstrom family.

And what about the nail polish power house OPI?

With funky color names like Melon of Troy and celebrity fans like Barbra Streisand, OPI nail lacquer is the Hollywood starlet of the manicure world. But 20 years ago, the company catered to a decidedly more mundane body part: the teeth. When CEO George Schaeffer bought the Los Angeles-based company in 1981, it was a dental supplier called Odontorium Products Inc. that sold dentures and lab equipment. A garment-business veteran, Schaeffer invested in the enterprise because he wanted stability, but he disliked the cutthroat nature of the business. What interested him was the steady stream of women who paid full price for dental acrylics used to make fake teeth.

Schaeffer soon realized those buyers were trailblazers in the burgeoning manicure industry. Products for fake nails weren’t available, so manicurists used his acrylics to create false tips. Then an inspector told him the substance was illegal for that use–a snag could rip the entire nail off. So Schaeffer hired a chemist to create a nail-friendly version. “Nobody made a product with the consistency of the illegal one,” he says. …

Using his wholesaling background, Schaeffer decided early on to stick to selling to professionals, not consumers. In 1985, he gleefully dumped his dental operation, simply abbreviating the brand name to OPI.

(From From Tooth to Nail Once a stodgy dental supplier, nail-polish giant OPI gave itself a radical makeoverCNN Money)


In summary: Remember – the next time you paint your nails or have artificial nails done you have a dentist (or a dental supply company) to thank for the experience.  Who would have thought?


Sources and Further Reading:

  • Each of the companies mentioned above has a page on their website with the company’s history:  OPICND, and NSI
  • Nails Magazine has encyclopedia section on their website with lots of information related to nails: companies, nail health, terms, concepts, etc.
  • Two interviews with Suzi Weiss-Fischmann, OPI’s executive vice-president and artistic director: from W Magazine and from Cosmopolitan
  • Wikipedia’s entry on artificial nails

My Related Posts:

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A Slight Departure: A Little Nail Art April 5, 2013

Filed under: Nails — askanesthetician @ 10:06 am
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If you read my bio in the “about” section of this blog you’ll see that since returning to live in Israel in August, 2012 I did a manicure/pedicure class since almost all estheticians here in Israel also do manicures and pedicures. As a matter of fact it’s pretty much a given that you do these services here in Israel when you tell people you’re an esthetician, and a lot of people assume that you also do artificial nails. Unlike in the US where you learn how to do manicures, pedicures, and artificial nails in the course of learning how to be a nail tech here in Israel the artificial nails class is offered separately. I actually signed up for both courses simultaneously and am now nearing the end of my artificial nails class. If I can be totally honest when I started the class I wasn’t happy; I couldn’t figure out why I was learning this skill. Except for at my wedding I have never worn artificial nails, and I hated having artificial nails at my wedding (though I didn’t hate my wedding, luckily :)). But as the class has progressed I’ve become more and more impressed by the skill level of nail techs who create artificial nails well have. When done at a high level this nail service is really an art form.


The other reason I started to like my class so much was that I was lucky enough to have a great teacher – Oshrat Chen. Oshrat’s skills in creating artificial nails were very apparent from the beginning and her nail art skills are amazing. All the photos in this post are examples of Oshrat’s work. Only today, three months into my course, did I find out that Oshrat has won Israeli nail art competitions and has placed in the top ten in international nail art competitions. So happily I get to learn from the best.

A few words about nail art: practice! It took me forever to learn how to apply nail polish correctly (and I still think I could improve), and I am still working on perfecting my french manicure technique. There are tons and tons and tons of nail art tutorials out there (I pin them like crazy on Pinterest), but you do not realize how much skill you really need in order to create these designs until you try to recreate them yourself. Don’t give up, keep trying. If I can do anyone can do it. Consider taking a class if you can with a skilled nail artist. Hands on learning with a master who can see (and correct) your work is priceless. And above all – have fun! Nail art, though an art form in my opinion, isn’t a strict discipline. Everyone can create something that they love and share it with the world via Instagram and Pinterest (to name just two out of many sources for nail art inspiration). Nail art can be 3D as well. Lastly, nail art isn’t limited to a few different designs. Let your imagination run wild. Designs can be anything from a new take on french manicure, to flowers, geometric designs, or like Oshrat’s designs here for artificial nails – designs that could easily be translated to canvas.

Oshrat was nice enough to share photos of two nail art tutorials with me so I could share them with my readers. If you give them a try be sure to let everyone know how they turned out for you.



Resources and Further Reading:



What I’ve Been Reading: Nails Edition February 27, 2013

Filed under: Nails — askanesthetician @ 7:00 am
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Recently I became certified (in Israel) to do manicures and pedicures.  (In Israel you can take a medical manicure and pedicure course separate from an artificial nails class.  I am currently learning how to do artificial nails)  And if you have any interest in nail polish and manicures at all then you are well aware of the nail art craze that has over taken the world.  Yes, the world.  (Just Google “nail art” or look that phrase up on YouTube to learn more.  Pinterest, of course, an amazing source for nail art images as well.)  Nail art can be an extremely creative outlet for those who love to make a statement with their nails.  It is really amazing what people can do with nail polish.

So with my new-found interest in nails and nail polish I’ve been collecting articles about different issues pertaining to manicures, nails, etc.  So here we go:

For more information about nail health (not manicures) please see my post (creatively titled :)) Nail Health.

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Nail Health May 11, 2011

I can’t remember the last time I got a manicure though recently I did try those Sally Hansen real nail polish strips which say they last 10 days.  Mine lasted about 4 days which made me sad since they did look cool when they were on (I tried the bright flower pattern), and when I went to remove the strips I literally had to scrape/file the nail polish off my nails with a nail file.  Regular nail polish did not remove the strips at all even though that is what the manufacturer said would work.  It was so time-consuming to remove the strips, and my nails were left looking horrible – all beat up and scratched up.  Such a disappointment.  So there went my experiment with those nail polish strips.  I’ve also learned from lots of trial and error that it is best to get professional pedicures during the summer instead of trying to paint my own nails.  The professional pedicures always look better and last longer than any DIY pedicure.  Anyhow, I started thinking more about nails since I scheduled my first pedicure of the season for this week.   My problems with getting the right manicure and pedicure are nothing compared to having real nail problems.  So how does our health affect our nails?  And what is the best way to take care of our nails?

What Our Nails Tell Us About Our Health

It fascinated me to learn how much our nails can reveal about our overall health.  Before I give some explains I think it is important to point out that the growth cycle of a nail is six months.  And what exactly make up our nails?  In her book The Beauty Bible Paula Begoun explains (pages 376-377 , 2nd edition):

 Physiologically speaking, the nail is simply a protective covering composed of dead cells filled with a thick protein called keratin, quite similar in essence to the hair.  Although the part of the nail you can see is dead, the matrix (the part of the nail under the skin) is very much alive.  The white crescent area of the nail is called the lunula and is part of the matrix.  The nail grows out from the matrix and as the growth of new cells build up and dies it is pushed forward and out toward the surface.  The cuticle is the protective layer of skin between the outside environment and the matrix.  Keeping the cuticle intact is perhaps the single most important element in preserving the health of the nail.

It turns out that a lot about your nails is genetically predetermined so you cannot alter the why your nails naturally grow just as you cannot alter how your hair grows.

Ok so what can our nails reveal about our health?  Concave, spoon shaped nails, or koilonychia, can show that you have an iron deficiency.  Those white horizontal line that you sometimes have on some nails but not others?  That is called a Beau’s line and shows that the nail actually stopped growing during a period of physical or emotional stress.  Even a case of the flu can cause those lines to form.  Even the shape of your nails can be informative about a health issue.  Some people have nails’ whose tips are curved and slightly bulbous.  This occurs in people who don’t have enough oxygen reaching the tips of their fingertips because they smoke or have congestive heart failure.  This is actually almost like having a scar.  If the person stops smoking or is able to improve their heart condition their nail shape will change.  If your nails are discolored, for instance blue-gray, that could mean that you suffer from a collagen vascular disease or are having a negative reaction to medication.

 Brittle and peeling nails are chiefly caused by wetting and drying your hands and nails.  Chronic exposure to harsh detergents, water, toluene and formaldehyde in nail polish, and harsh nail polish remover solvents can stress our nails once again making them brittle.  Genes and diet definitely play a role in nail health as do medical conditions (as illustrated above).  And of course many people add to their nail problems by biting and picking at their nails when they are stressed, anxious, or bored.

According to an article in the Fall-Winter 2010 issue of New Beauty – pages 46-48 (New Beauty used to put issues of their magazine online but no longer do which is too bad in my opinion):

    • If your nails have white spots then you may have a vitamin or mineral deficiency
    • If your nails are brittle and separate easily from the nail bed, you may have a thyroid condition
    • If your nails are thin and concave, then you may have an iron deficiency
    • If your nails are overly thick or flakey you may have a fungal growth
    • When nails have a yellow case to them, it can be from a variety of causes, and a common culprit is dark nail polish. …  But, if you don’t regularly wear dark shades and your nails are yellow, it may be the sign of a health condition.  Discolored nails can hint toward fungal infections, psoriasis, diabetes or liver, kidney or lung conditions that require medical attention.

Suffice it to say, if your nails don’t look right go see a doctor immediately to have them checked since your nails could be revealing a larger and more serious health issue.

What Can or Cannot Help Your Nails

Can using a product on top of your nails help them grow or make them stronger?  Sadly no.  You cannot change the way your nail grows by applying a topical product.  In order to see a real change in the health or appearance of your nails you need to either treat a health problem or perhaps tweak your diet.  Remember that no matter what a manufacturer claims neither topical applications of fluoride or calcium will improve your nail health.

According to Dr. Amy Wechsler in her book The Mind-Beauty Connection (page 159):

Contrary to popular belief, our nails do not contain much calcium, so supplementation, while good for our bodies, may not help our nails.  In fact, vitamin and mineral deficiencies are rare causes of nail problems.  More often than not, brittle nails are caused by excessive exposure to harsh soaps, irritants, polish remover, and the wetting and drying of nails (all typical of a busy, kitchen-maven mom).  Brittle nails can also be seen with medical conditions like psoriasis, fungal infections, and thyroid problems.  Age also factors in, and the older you are the more likely your nails will become brittle.

That said, one little nutrient that may help give your nails a boost is biotin.  Found abundantly in foods like cauliflower, peanuts, and lentils, biotin is absorbed into the core of the nail, where it may encourage a better, thicker, nail to grow and prevent splitting and cracking.  In one study, people who consumed 2.5 milligrams of biotin daily had marked increases in nail thickness after six months.  To get this much biotin, ask your doctor about taking it in supplement form.

Nail Care 101

  • Moisturize the cuticle area
  • Wear gloves when washing dishes and doing house work
  • Apply hand cream frequently and especially after you wash your hands
  • Use a sunscreen on your hands – better yet get a hand cream with spf in it.  My current go to hand cream with spf is Boots No7 Protect and Perfect Hand Cream Spf 15 which you can get at Target or online
  • Don’t soak your nails for long period of time
  • Don’t use your nails as tools to open things such as letters or anything else
  • Avoid nail polish with toluene and formaldehyde and nail polis remover with acetone
  • Don’t bite or pick your nails

Sources and Further Reading:


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